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Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween (1978 & 2007)

I'm doing something a little differant today in order to celebrate Halloween... I'm doing a Double Bill Review of the classic John Carpenter movie "Halloween," and Rob Zombie's 2007 remake.

First up, let's look at the original John Carpenter movie from 1978.  Simply put, this is classic horror movie storytelling at its finest.  The story is tight, interesting, and well crafted.  It's simple and bare bones- it doesn't try to bring in unnecessary plot twists or even try to make the world complicated.  It knows what it wants to do- and does it.  It scares you.

The acting is great in this movie.  Donald Pleasence was simply a pleasure to watch as the Dr. Sam Loomis.  His eyes at the end express so much that it's just amazing.  P.J. Soles as Linda and Nancy Loomis as Annie were well cast, and looked great in the roles.  Their characters were unique, well formed, and likable.  Nick Castle, who played Michael Meyers, was simply awesome.  With no lines, he was able to project menace and evil and purpose simply with the way he walked and moved.  The scene just after Laurie's stabs him in the eye with a coat hanger and she flees into the bedroom door way worked so well because of the way Castle sat up and turned his head behind her.  Just a chilling scene.  And of course, we can't forget Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie.  For an actress in her first film, Curtis did a great job.  She didn't have the "hotness" that's associated with so many of the horror movie actresses these days- though she was still nice to look at.  She LOOKED like an average, everyday, North American babysitter, which made her role much more believable and made the character one that people could relate to better.

As I said before, this movie is a well crafted piece of movie storytelling.  The camera work is amazingly well done.  The opening sequence is just phenomenal in that it only had one edit involved.  The use of wide angle shots at the start, and progressively tighter, closer shots near the end of the movie was creative, innovative, and effective.  It made the story more tense and personal, echoing the approach of the climatic scene.  One of my favorite pieces of wide angle camera work involves the scene where Loomis has just talked to the Sheriff, and you can see Michael Meyers in the stolen car in the background.  As Loomis turns his head to look down the street, Meyers turns on to the road and drives away in Loomis' blind spot- just great timing on that scene.

In summation, John Carpenter's "Halloween" is one of those masterpieces of horror that deserves it's place on honour in both horror history, but cinema history as well.  I'm definately giving this movie a spot in 'The Good".

Now, let's skip ahead to 2007, when Rob Zombie's remake came out.  A lot of "Halloween" fans felt that it was an abomination and a bastardization of Carpenter's work.  Personally, I like it... though I have to admit it has its flaws.

Rob Zombie's "Halloween" decided to look at the story from another perspective- that of Michael Meyers himself.  It deals with his childhood, and how we became the killer he did.  I have always maintained that IF you're going to do a remake/reboot, you NEED to bring something new to the table.  Rob Zombie's version did that in its exploration of the Michael Meyers character.  For that, I applaud Rob Zombie, and can appreciate the film for it.

The acting, while not top notch, was fairly good.  Malcolm McDowell was good as Dr. Loomis, though to be honest,  I felt he looked "wrong" for the part, and I didn't care as much for the character since he was a bit of a dick.  Daeg Faerch- who plays the young Michael Meyers, did a phenominal job in the role.  He brought a real sense of detachment from reality to the character, and potential menace as well.  Just a wonderful job that brought depth to the character.  I also really like Tyler Mane's portrayal of the older Michael.  He's an imposing person that towered over all he stood next too.  With just his eyes, he conveyed hate, and rage, and the desire to destroy all that exists around him.  His long hair really helped as well to create a truly scary, scary character.  Even though he didn't have a huge role in this movie, I did enjoy seeing Brad Dourif as the Sheriff... though I will confess that, just like McDowell, he just didn't look "right" for the role.  Scout Taylor-Compton did a passable job as Laurie in my opinion, and certainly looked the role.  I wish I could say that I liked all the characters, but I can't really.  Most of them were less than likable.  The most engaging and likable was Meyers himself.

The film also looked good too, but there really weren't all that many shots that stick out in my memory as being outstanding.  The camera work was still engaging and well done... just not outstanding enough to become iconic.

I'm torn in my opinion about the pacing of the story.  I liked the first half, where they're exploring Meyer's youth and time in the institution, but felt it was a little longer than it needed to be- almost as if it was another movie spliced onto another.  Once it kicked into the actual retelling of the "Halloween" story, I liked it a bit more as it the pace of the story picked up and kept me interested more.

While I may not be a big fan of remakes/reboots, I have to say that I did enjoy Rob Zombie's "Halloween"- just not enough to put it on the same level as Carpenter's.  I'm going to have to place the 2007 version in 'The Bad".

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