Thursday, September 03, 2009

'Halloween is a powerful trigger point for you'

*opens windows, blows dust off blog... coughs violently, having briefly forgotten powerful allergy to dust*

um. Hello! Is anyone still here? Lord, this place looks as bad as the old Myers house.

Well, it has been a lovely summer break, but here in LA the days are growing shorter, the shadows are beginning to lengthen and the fragrance of wood smoke is in the air -- ok, that would be due to the immense and horrible fire continuing to burn above the city. Still, summer is clearly drawing to a close, meaning horror-movie season is about to return. Of course, around here it never really stops.

Rob Zombie's "Halloween" remake was so ballyhooed -- I had mixed feelings about it but thought it was an interesting exercise, if nothing else -- that I felt bad for this one, sneaking into theaters without any advance reviews or any love. And then I heard Margot Kidder was in it. So the ever-patient Art Boy and I gave it a shot, and WOW. It's a hoot and a half, people. It's bizarre, sure, and it's hampered by awkward Rob Zombie dialogue, and a lot of it doesn't make any sense, but it is *never* boring. And it looks great. It's got the same gorgeously worn, lived-in patina as all Zombie's movies, making it feel beautifully raw, almost "Texas Chain Saw Massacre"-style. I had to run out for a minute when a dog got killed (I had to pee anyway, so it worked out) but otherwise I was just glued to the screen.

What helps a lot is that Zombie's not remaking a classic this time. The action starts, like the first "Halloween II" did, later the same night, with Michael reappearing to wreak some hospital havoc. But things move forward fairly quickly, and from then on, it's an entirely new movie. It's a huge relief to bid the specter of Jamie Lee Curtis farewell and just enjoy the performances on their own terms. Yeah, performances -- I kinda dug Scout Taylor-Compton as Laurie this time around. The girl is a great screamer! And Brad Dourif is quite subdued and heartbreaking as the long-suffering Sheriff Brackett, to whose little town Death is about to return. All he wants is to protect Laurie and his daughter, but we all know how well that's going to go. (The girl who plays Annie, inexplicably allowed to survive the last film, is fine, but it's hard not to think about Nancy Loomis and how great the first sequel would've been with her.) And of course Malcolm McDowell is back as Dr. Loomis, chewing the scenery even more maniacally than before.

Most of the action takes place a year later. Laurie is living with Annie & Sheriff Brackett, who are both incredibly protective of her and feed her healthy breakfasts even after she keeps them up nights screaming in her sleep. Her therapist (Margot Kidder!) helps her work through her grief over her parents and cautions her that she'll have a lot to deal with, emotionally, as Halloween rolls around, bringing the first anniversary of Michael's massacre. Laurie still doesn't know she's Michael's biological sister... but Dr. Loomis, who has once again morphed into a self-obsessed celebrity author, is about to come out with a tell-all book that might destroy Laurie's peace of mind forever! Oh noes!

Well, the movie doesn't build up much tension about that. And you're not really afraid of Michael, either -- he'll show up and stab someone every few minutes, but that's just what he does. Yet somehow this movie just never stops being entertaining. Rob Zombie's slices of domestic life are, once again, a hoot; as Laurie sulks around the Brackett house in her black T-shirt and eyeliner, with her Alice Cooper posters, you imagine Zombie thinking wistfully "Here's the daughter I never had." Malcolm McDowell is, of all things, the comic relief -- snarling at interviewers and reluctantly sharing talk-show space with Weird Al Yankovic (whom he addresses as "Mr. Weird"). Yes, there's Weird Al. There's also Sheri Moon Zombie as a ghost, leading a white horse. What is up with that? This movie makes no sense. And yet it is never boring, right up to the "Psycho"-inspired finale. It's the perfect summer slasher film. I can't believe I'm saying this, but don't miss it.

Another reluctant admirer is over at BloodyDisgusting.

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