Friday, September 07, 2007

The Devil's Eyes

Art Boy and I celebrated Labor Day by going to see the “Halloween” remake. We are both pretty big fans of the original (as we demonstrated with our South Pasadena field trip last fall; still pretty much the only movie-fan-type thing we have done in L.A. so far). Neither of us expected it to match the original; I think both of us were ready for an interesting exercise in “Halloween” fandom. And that is what we got. Would I recommend this? Not really. And yet it was interesting.

Rob Zombie takes John Carpenter’s beautifully spare slasher film and turns it into Act III of a psychological drama. Act I is young Michael Myers, unhappy in a rotten home, working up to the slaughter of his older sister that opens the original movie. Here we see him tormented by a dysfunctional family life and taking his pain out by torturing animals. I have not got much patience for this sort of thing. The very first image is Michael picking up a pet rat, so I spent the first five minutes of the “Halloween” remake with my eyes covered. Kind of a drag. But the look of Act I is absolutely gorgeous. Rob Zombie and his genius cinematographer have a beautiful white-trash sensibility - a filthy kitchen becomes a work of art in their hands. And young Michael is very creepy in his clown mask. There are some nice in-jokes, too: one of the first lines in the movie is a scream, from the baby who’ll grow up to be Laurie.

Act II is young Michael in the institution with Dr. Loomis. It’s just nothing like I imagined it from Donald Pleasence’s monologue in the first movie: “I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized what was living behind that boy's eyes was purely and simply... evil.” The image that gives you is so chilling… and here we have Malcolm McDowell, sitting across from this blond kid who’s saying “Can I go home?” just like any kid would. This is the part that’s sort of a shame, I think. You don’t really see evil behind this kid’s eyes. If anyone’s creepy at all, it’s Dr. Loomis. But still, these scenes are just riveting, somehow. And the adult Michael coming out of his cell in his orange mask, oh my God. That’s new, and that’s scary.

Act III tries to tie all this together with the original storyline, and of course it doesn’t work. You don’t really worry about anyone or feel sorry for anyone, and it all happens so late that you don’t even really identify with the Laurie character the way you’re supposed to. I spent this whole segment completely distracted by the contrast between the 1970s teenagers and the girls from 2007. Annie and Lynda are so badass in the original. They say “shit”! They wear blush in straight lines across their cheekbones! I don’t know, these girls today are so sensitive, all falling over each other and calling each other “baby.” It really annoyed me when Lynda called Laurie and said “I care what you think.” They just don’t seem as cool. What does this mean? I’m not sure. It also bothered me that Annie’s fate is left a bit up in the air.

But again, the look of the first act is absolutely gorgeous – it’s like looking through your parents’ faded Polaroids, or listening to Boards of Canada. (I bet Rob Zombie hates Boards of Canada.) The moment when tiny Michael puts on his iconic William Shatner mask for the first time is pretty good – I love the image of him walking down the hallway, looking like a hideous dwarf version of the famous killer. You laugh but it gets under your skin. Rob Zombie’s cameos are pretty fun: here’s Brad Dourif! Here’s Dee Wallace from “The Howling”! Here’s, ah, Micky Dolenz! (I completely forgot that Adrienne Barbeau had a cameo and missed her. We are both still annoyed about this.) And, while the final showdown went on way too long, I loved the final shot of Laurie screaming and screaming. Not for Rob Zombie the fetching trickle of blood at the corner of the victim’s mouth: his stabbing victims are absolutely covered in gore. Laurie’s blood-drenched shrieks were operatic.

So yeah, we liked it. I’d watch parts of it again if it ever came on TV. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to anyone besides us, but as we expected, it’s an interesting exercise. I really can’t wait to see what RZ does next.

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