Halloween comes early (the film, that is)

It was with a certain trepidation that I attended an advance screening of Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN in Hollywood last night (”advance” being a relative term – the film opened in the theatre at midnight). The charm of John Carpenter’s original 1978 film mostly eludes me, and there is little about Zombie’s career that would have led me to think he could do anything interesting with the subject. Still, hope springs eternal, so I went to check it out.To pump up the already eager fans in the audience, Tyler Mane – the new Michael Myers – put in a pre-show appearance, autographing posters from the film. Then radio DJ Leon Quinones (who hosts something called “The Film Freak Show” on 97.1 FM) took the microphone and conducted a brief interview, during which we learned:

  • No one from the original HALLOWEEN was involved with the remake
  • The film would be filled with “buckets of blood.”
  • Tyler Mane’s children would not be allowed to see the film “for a very long time.”
  •  Mane is getting married this weekend (”although I don’t know who the hell would want to marry Michael Myers!”).

Throughout this exchange, Quinones indulged in a stream of rabble rousing, dropping names (”Rob Zombie personally told me…”), promising that the film would terrifying viewers (even though he had not seen it yet), and announcing several times, “Fuck the critics – this is for fans!” He exhorted the crowd to text message all their friends immediately after the film, recommending that they see it. By the time the lights finally went down, one couldn’t help wondering why everyone was so desperate to drum up excitement – where they afraid the film itself couldn’t do it on its own?

Once the film started, it immediately became apparent why there might be concern. For reasons best known to himself, Zombie opted to turn the first part of his remake into “The Origin of Michael Myers” – an unnecessarily lengthy section that takes the brief prologue from the original and expands it into an entire first act. Rather like Peter Jackson when remaking KING KONG, Zombie seems to have thought long and hard about everything he did not see in 1978, and he seems determined to put all those thoughts up on the screen, regardless of how tedious.

The best line I heard in the theatre last night was,  unfortunately, not on the soundtrack: When Danny Trejo meets his fate at the hands of Michael, someone in the audience shouted, “You can’t kill Machete!” (a reference to Trejo’s appearance as the titular character in the faux trailer at the beginning of GRINDHOUSE).

In any case, the primed and eager Hollywood audience sat through the film mostly in silence, seldom screaming – although there were occasional whispers of “Nice!’ over particularly brutal moments. At the end, they awarded the film with a big round of applause, and several were eager to wax enthusiastically for the guy taking a survey in the lobby. What - if any – lesson to draw from this, I’m not sure. The new HALLOWEEN has little to recommend it on its own terms. It’s a bit like hearing a recording artist cover a familiar tune; it doesn’t replace the original, but you’re curious to hear what the new guy did with the standard classic. In this case, the reinterpretation consists mostly of pumping up the volume of the percussion as loud as possible in order to cover the off-key singing. Little or nothing has been done to reach the ears of an audience not pre-disposed to like the film. The theory here seems to be that success as an artist is not a matter of honing your craft or having something new and interesting to say; it’s just a matter of finding an audience that wants to listen to you, no matter what. Personally, I think it’s a bloody shame that this film is getting national distribution, while Adam Green’s far superior, far scarier HATCHET is doomed to a limited platform release on its way to home video.

You can read a longer version of this post (which contains a detailed account of what’s wrong with Zombie’s film) here.

About the Author

Steve Biodrowski

Steve Biodrowski owns and operates Hollywood Gothique. Since graduating from the University of Southern California's School of Cinema, Steve has worked as a film critic, script analyst, journalist, and interviewer. As a film journalist, his work has appeared in Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage (in France) and The Dark Side (in England). He served as the West Coast Editor of Cinefantastique magazine in the 1990s, then worked as the Vice President of Editorial Content at Fandom.com and, more recently, as the Executive Editor at Cinescape Online. He is currently the Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online, the website incarnation of Cinefantastique magazine.

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