The JOE-DOWN Reviews Rob Zombie’s ‘Halloween’

This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Sports Editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, I picked Rob Zombie’s “Halloween.”

The info:

The Movie: Rob Zombie’s “Halloween”

Starring: Scout Taylor-Compton, Malcolm McDowell, Tyler Mane

Director: Rob Zombie

Plot Summary: (From IMDB) After being committed for 17 years, Michael Myers, now a grown man and still very dangerous, escapes from the mental institution (where he was committed as a 10 year old) and he immediately returns to Haddonfield, where he wants to find his baby sister, Laurie. Anyone who crosses his path is in mortal danger.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 25 percent

Our take:

Froemming: All right, here we are at the final movie review for “Halloween Month” here at the JOE-DOWN. And for this last instalment, I decided to go with a tried and true classic: “Halloween.” But, with a catch.

Since we have already reviewed two John Carpenter films this year, and the fact the original is not streaming anywhere, I went with Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake. A remake I gave a positive review for in Brown and I’s college newspaper. Now, almost a decade removed from that, I approached this remake with fresh eyes. Eyes that kept making me refer to this as “Halloween: The Unwanted and Over-Explained Origin of Michael Myers.” But before we dig into this very confusing reboot, Brown, what are some of your first thoughts on this film?

Brown: This film encapsulates the old idiom of not caring how the sausage is made.

I get what this movie was trying to do, to delve deeper into a character in Michael Myers that has been a horror movie icon since the 70s and show how he became the deranged monster he became. George Lucas did it with Darth Vader. And guess what? It didn’t work for “Star Wars” and it doesn’t work here.

Here is good visual of how I felt when this exposition dump of a movie tried telling me about Michael Myers’ childhood.

Froemming: The real crime of this movie was making Myers just a plain old serial killer, and not a force of pure evil, which is how I always interpreted the character.

So the film starts off with the childhood of young Michael Myers: A broken home, his mom is a stripper, he kills neighborhood animals, has a couple of sisters…. Right away I did not care about any of this. And, I am saying it right now: Sheri Moon Zombie can’t act. Never has, never will. Rob needs to knock it off with putting her in his films.

Brown: Look man, I’m just glad Rob Zombie didn’t put the Dragula in this movie. Otherwise I would have shut it off.

Froemming: What is frustrating is that this followed the one good movie Zombie has made, “The Devil’s Rejects.” And I like how he uses the same actors from that film here, but man this really doesn’t work well and I felt bad for Malcolm McDowell, because he is the only interesting aspect of this slog.

Anyway, young Michael is obviously troubled. He is unpopular, weird, has terrible taste in music because he listens to KISS. The cards are stacked against him from the get-go. And he gets into a bathroom brawl with a couple of bullies. Now, I might have been more sympathetic to this mopey kid being bullied had I not just seen him torture and kill a mouse. All I thought was this kid deserves this.

Brown: Yeah, it’s a weird mix because you see the kind of environment Michael grows up in with a caring-but-absent stripper mom, a bratty older sister who high-school kids think is a whore, a vulgar drunken step-father and a baby that cries bloody murder all the time.

But yes, then we see he mutilates animals for fun, which is textbook for budding psychopaths.

The part that bugged me is when Dr. Loomis (McDowell) talks to Mrs. Myers about this behavior, they leave Michael UNATTENDED and he just wanders off into the woods to beat (or kill, the movie leaves it ambiguous) a bully with a tree branch.

Then we get to… HALLOWEEN!

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Froemming: Well, we know Dr. Loomis is a terrible doctor because he leaves Michael alone with a nurse later on, with the same results. But that’s farther ahead.

It is Halloween, and since Michael’s mom is terrible at both mothering and acting, she allows him to go unpunished for killing the neighborhood pets.

Brown: Well, she’s like any good absentee parents from ‘70s/’80s movies where she’ll worry about the problem tomorrow. But tonight, go get candy, young Michael.

Froemming: But, his older sister rather bang her boyfriend than take her sociopathic/whiney little brother trick-or-treating. To which we see more of mopey Michael looking sad as “Love Hurts” plays on the soundtrack. Look, me and my friends went trick-or-treating alone all the time. Why can’t this little snot go it alone?

Well, Michael starts going all insane because he is wearing a mask (he is obsessed with masks, because….I really didn’t care. More unwanted over-explaining from Zombie here). He straps his abusive step-father to a chair and cuts his throat and Negans the hell out of his sister’s boyfriend with a bat as the guy is making a sandwich. The whole time I was rolling my eyes wanting the movie to be over.

Brown: Lesson learned: Take your little bro trick-or-treating. Your teenage sex can wait after your brother passes out from either a diabetic coma or a sugar crash.

After this brutal string of murders by Michael’s hands, the cops and media show to the house and the TV reporter talks about how this is worse than anything the Mason family could have done and was “more horrific than anything Hollywood could imagine.” … This is a Hollywood movie, but OK, I’ll ignore your dumb statement, movie.

So now, convicted of first-degree murder, Michael is sent to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium where we get more exposition we don’t need/want. … Look movie, sometimes what you don’t know about a character is way scarier. No one should feel sympathy for Michael Myers.

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Froemming: That is the very baffling angle this movie tries to take. It is like everything that was fun and terrifying from the original was completely lost on Zombie. So we sit through way too many scenes with him and Loomis. This is a slasher flick, nobody cares that Michael is troubled. WE ALREADY KNEW THAT FROM WHEN HE KILLED EVERYONE IN HIS HOUSE!

Just to speed this along: Michael kills a nurse as his mother and Loomis are walking to her car. This scene leads to his mother killing herself, which is both sad and made me glad I didn’t have to sit through anymore Sheri Moon Zombie for the rest of the film. Also, Michael befriends Danny Trejo, who is a janitor. Which should have been way cooler than it was.

Brown: We also find out that Michael has gone completely silent for 15 years as he goes from a chunky long-haired KISS fan to this seemingly 7-foot gargantuan that is obsessed with wearing masks as a way to shield himself from the world. He looks like the world’s biggest Slipknot fan.

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Froemming: Kane. He basically turns into WWE’s Kane. For a film that over-explains everything, the one thing I wanted to know was how Michael got into pro-wrestling shape while painting goofy masks in his cell. The film failed me right there.

Brown: Remind me that one day, we need to do the horror movie that Kane did.

And because we’re supposed to believe Michael is this soulless monster instead of the misunderstood kid the movie (deep breath) TRIES HAPHAZARDLY TO CRAM IN THE FIRST ACT (exhale) … He murders a group of guys who rape a female patient and kills Danny Trejo. And after escaping Smith’s Grove, he goes and murders a trucker for his Dickies.

Froemming: Which I think truck driver getting killed scene worked well for a horror film. But, like Zombie’s “House Of 1,000 Corpses,” the tone shifts dramatically from the first half to the second half. That film went from a horror movie to a science-fiction film, which is why I hate that movie. This goes from a kid with serious mental issues into a super powerful entity of evil. Zombie, just keep it consistent. We are not asking “The Godfather” from you. This was a pretty simple premise to follow, yet somehow went awry. Myers has always been some sort of evil entity. The first half of this film is pointless to the rest of the film.

Brown: You know what else Zombie should work on? First, quit shaking the camera. Yes, it adds a little frantic imagery to the movie but I started to feel some motion sickness when the action kicked up.

Second, and this is the big one: Learn how people actually talk to each other! High-school kids will be crude, but this movie takes it way over the top. And not the fun over the top. More the cringe-worthy over the top. Like, have you ever talked to teens before, Rob? And if you’re like me, Froemming, you’re never looking at bagels the same again.

Froemming: So now Michael is back in his hometown, looming around so people see him from random vantage points for whatever reason. The hospital won’t call the authorities and tell them that a seven-foot homicidal maniac has escaped their care with a trail of blood following him. They send in Loomis, who like Murtaugh in “Lethal Weapon,” is too old for this (REDACTED). Good thing Loomis wasted years sitting in silence with Michael, because he knows exactly where Michael is heading: Home. How he knows, well at least we didn’t get a 20-minute explanation about that.

Brown: Yep, Dr. Loomis’ extreme leap of logic proves to be true as we are whisked away to Haddonfield, Illinois, where we get introduced to Laurie Strode (Taylor-Compton) and her horny, horny friends. Again, I understand teen lust is a real thing but this movie acts as though Spanish Fly is in Haddonfield’s drinking water.

And off in the distance, we see Michael peering at Laurie and her friends. Watching, staring, judging.

This is in broad daylight, does no one call a policeman about a 7-foot weirdo in a Will Shatner mask that’s loitering in this quaint suburban town?

Froemming: The thing is, I suspended that kind of thinking with the originals. But since Zombie wanted to thrust weird realism into this world in the first half of the film, now I can’t. The cops would have tried to arrest this mental patient in the first hour he popped into town. But since Zombie wants to add the surreal movie monster ethics in the second half, everything gets muddied.

Well, we soon learn that Laurie has a connection to Michael: She was the wailing infant sister of his from the first half. Shedding the very same tears I had watching this hot mess.

But Laurie has been adopted. In secret. See, the authorities didn’t want her saddled with the baggage of adoption agencies. They wanted her saddled with the one-day-to-be-revealed baggage that she is the kid sister of the town’s answer to Charles Manson. Which, by the way, how on earth was this pulled off? Oh, look. You have an adopted child with no paperwork. Eh, that sounds on the up and up.

Brown: Well, that’s not the most absurd thing brought up. There’s one point where they see a dead animal and a missing headstone at Mrs. Myers’ grave. And Loomis is convinced that Michael Myers lifted the half-ton headstone and stole it. … No. I get monsters are supernatural, but no. I’m not buying that (REDACTED). I don’t care if Michael Myers hulks up, he’s going to break his back before he moves that headstone an inch.

I will say this: I like Laurie in this movie. I think Taylor-Compton was cast well and does the Jamie Lee Curtis imitation well. The friends of hers that are getting slaughtered, ehh. By the way to our readers, lots of frontal nudity in this movie because why not.

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Froemming: No, the most unbelievable thing occurs during one of the sex romps with one of Laurie’s friends. No, not the ridiculous way they meet their end or how Myers seems to not make a sound for being over seven feet tall and built like a truck.

The most unbelievable thing occurs when a local radio station is playing “Halloween II” by The Misfits. Nope. That would never happen.

Brown: I’ll chalk up the lack of noise due to post-coital bliss… Yeah, that’s not a good excuse.

One by one, the teenagers are getting knives through their bodies thanks to Michael Myers, who slowly works his way to Laurie, who is babysitting a couple kids while her friends go have sex.

Moral of the story: Hang out with your younger siblings. Go do your thing when they’re asleep. Because if you don’t, Mike Myers will make you watch “The Love Guru” gut you like a fish.

Froemming: Which goes with another issue I had with this: There are no real good jump scares in this film. And the “Halloween” films were always good for a few jump scares. It is like the cast and crew are slogging along just as painfully as the viewer. The murders are not very imaginative and nothing really stands out as scary here. Zombie sapped all the fun out of these films and replaced it with “The Medical History of Michael Myers.”

Brown: I’ll disagree on the jump scares. They do a lot of good panning shots where you see Michael hiding and stalking his next victim. That build-up and uneasiness is a lot more scary and unsettling to me than cheap jump scares. Even when Myers was a kid, they do a good shot where the boyfriend is making food and you see Michael sneak into frame that really made me tense up.

Eventually, Michael gets to Laurie and hides her in the basement of their old house with one of her dead friends and their mother’s headstone that, again, HE COULD NEVER EVER LIFT.

Froemming: Even his creeping around didn’t scare me because we know he is going to kill everyone anyway. With that knowledge, the film became a slog, at least for me.

But yeah, nobody noticed a seven-foot man carrying a two-ton headstone from the cemetery to the old, infamous Myers house. *Sigh*

So we have Laurie running and hiding from Michael, who suddenly becomes loud when he is bashing walls and ceilings trying to find his kid sister. Thank goodness Loomis decided to go to the gun store to pack some heat before confronting his former patient. If anything, at least Dr. Loomis learned a valuable lesson here: We need to kill Michael Myers.

Which brings us to BRAND NEW LOGIC in this film. Up until now, Michael was a mental patient who jacked himself up like he was in prison for 17 years. Now, on top of his newly discovered super strength, he also no longer bleeds and is bullet proof.

CONSISTENCY, ROB! WE NEED SOME CONSISTENCY HERE!

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Brown: But he still has a heart! Because *sigh* we STILL try to push the humanity of Michael Myers when he shows Laurie a photo of them as kids. She, of course, has no context about this photo because he doesn’t speak and stabs Michael in either the neck or the shoulder, I’m not sure.

You can’t push Michael Myers’ heart when he has impaled a man and left him hanging on the wall. You can’t sell me on that, Rob. Just stop and let him be a mindless Slipknot fan murder machine.

Froemming: But wait, Rob has one more card of inconsistency up his tattooed sleeve! Michael rushes Laurie and the two of them fly out a window! This, obviously, does not stop Michael. He doesn’t bleed or get broken bones. Until….HE IS SHOT IN THE FACE! Yes, apparently an entity we are just learning is unstoppable, suddenly bleeds like stuck pig when he gets shot point blank in the face.

Brown: Wait, Michael bled? The only shots I recall are Loomis shooting Michael in the torso, then at the very end, Laurie does shoot him point blank. But I don’t remember any blood. Only an abrupt ending that just… stops. Hey Rob Zombie, the writers of “The Sopranos” think your ending was terrible. Not enough onion rings.

Froemming: It is kind of ambiguous, but more blood is suddenly on Laurie when she shoots him. I don’t know, I thought it was his blood. Where else could it have come from? I…nope. No. I am done talking about this movie. Let’s grab or pillow cases and trick-or-treat on over to recommendations.

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?

Froemming: Nope. This movie just headed into a weird direction. While I like the premise of the creation of Michael Myers, it didn’t add up. It was baffling, and at times frustrating. I will say I enjoy how Zombie uses music in his films, but if you want to see a good Rob Zombie film, watch “The Devil’s Rejects.” His “Halloween” remake is terrible. And from what I saw from the trailer, this film’s sequel looks even worse.

Brown: No. Go watch the original instead of Exposition Theater here. The unknown is very scary and yet, Rob Zombie tells us everything about Michael Myers. And like Anakin Skywalker before him, I do not care. And Rob, reunite White Zombie so I can relive the ‘90s.

Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down: