Happy Halloween, Coffin Hoppers! I can’t believe the day is finally here. Today I want to try something new…
I have to give my wife credit for the concept. “Why not compare something old to a remake?” she suggested, and I thought, yeah, why not? Why not do it on Halloween, in fact, and about Halloween, since I seem to be one of the few people on earth who enjoys Rob Zombie’s take on the franchise (at least, the first movie, the less said about its sequel the better). I’m going to be breaking it down in several categories to declare the winner, but I’d like to say a word or two about the remake, as I know it’s a controversial topic.
The original Halloween is a touchstone film for me; in many ways, it defines what I consider a horror movie. I’ve been a Halloween fan for as long as I can remember, since I saw the movie as a very young child. I’ve seen just about every Halloween movie that there is to see (save Resurrection, I couldn’t bring myself to go there). I say this to establish my fan “cred” and to underscore why I had reservations when I learned that Rob Zombie had been brought on board to reboot the franchise. I had enjoyed Zombie’s first movie, House of a Thousand Corpses, in the same way that you might enjoy a goofy, fun haunted hayride. Sure, it was silly, but I had a lot of fun with it. His second movie, The Devil’s Rejects, had a decidedly different tone and I just found the whole thing mean-spirited. I never made it through the movie despite numerous attempts. This led to my reservation with the Halloween remake.
Still, it looked good enough that I would give it a chance. After all, hadn’t I sat through a screening of the Curse of Michael Myers? I figured I owed the remake at least that courtesy.
And…I found that I actually enjoyed it. A lot. And then was further surprised to learn that so many people disliked it, especially the long-time Halloween fans. I heard their criticisms and saw their point of view, but I wondered if some people had missed what made Zombie’s version compelling for me. Let’s talk some about that today. We’ll start with…
We’ll look at the major characters and actors first.
Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis/Scout Taylor Compton). I’ve heard people say that the new Laurie is a little too world-wise, a little too aware of sexuality and related “mature” topics, but I think that’s a reflection of the different eras in which these films were created. By today’s standards, Zombie’s Laurie is a relative innocent; the original Laurie would be completely unrealistic if created today. I think the Zombie version manages to stay close to the essence of the character while respecting generational differences. Still, I give Jamie Lee Curtis the edge here. Her performance is a genre-definer, while Compton’s solid performance is simply “enough”. Winner: Carpenter
Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance/Malcom McDowell). I like Malcom, even if he’s made some huge missteps in his career. His version of Sam Loomis has some positives, but he also has the advantage of showing us his transformation from someone who genuinely wants to help Michael into someone who’s horrified by the monster that leaks beneath Michael’s facade. Pleasance didn’t have that, and yet he still managed to outshine McDowell’s Loomis. My problem with the latter-day Loomis is one of credibility. I simply didn’t know what to make of his behavior. Was he just out for publicity, or did he really care about Michael? What motivated him to chase down Michael that night – was it guilt or a desire to put himself into the spotlight? Ultimately his sacrifice spells it out for us, but Pleasance’s Loomis plays it much straighter, and I think his role calls for that. Winner: Carpenter
Michael Myers (Will Sandin, a cast of thousands/Daeg Farche, Tyler Mane). This is a tough one. It cuts right to the heart of the differences between the films. John Carpenter believed that no person should ever identify with Michael Myers, while young Myers in the new version is at times sympathetic. A lot of long-time fans felt this was a betrayal of the character, but I think if you’re going to do a remake right, you have to add new touches and examine the concept from a different angle. Otherwise, why even bother? In a lot of ways Carpenter’s take, while well-done, is the safer choice. You can sidestep some of the thornier questions of characterization and turn the character into more of a force of nature, something that drives the plot along. It works really well in the original, and I wouldn’t downplay it in the slightest. Zombie, on the other hand, attempts to make Myers into a more rounded character, if not entirely human. He doesn’t completely succeed, but he does make the effort. In the end, I feel that this is a push between the two – it’s just too different to declare a flat winner. But boy, wasn’t young Myers a lot creepier in the original? Look at that vacant stare and imagine seeing it stabbing you. Brr. Continue reading