Calling the 1978 horror classic “Halloween” beloved might sound a little warped, but considering the local ties with writer/director John Carpenter, that statement isn't a stretch.
Now almost 30 years - and seven sequels - later, Rob Zombie tries to do the unthinkable by remaking Carpenter's original.
He darn near pulls it off.
Zombie's version - more of a reimagining than a shot-for-shot remake - features a fascinating opening hour, but ultimately falls apart in the second half, with too many scenes failing to live up to the high standards of the original.
“Halloween” tells the story of Michael Myers, a disturbed young boy who brutally murders his sister and stepdad when he is 10 years old.
Michael is sent to a mental institution, where Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) tries in vain to figure out what made him snap.
After 17 years, Loomis decides it is time to move on. But he's drawn back to Michael when he escapes and heads home, determined to continue his killing spree.
This is Zombie's third feature film and I have to say he has taken great strides since his dreadful directorial debut, “House of 1,000 Corpses,” in 2003. Zombie seems to have a keen eye and an affection for the horror genre, and his skills continue to improve.
I really enjoyed Zombie's decision to dig deeper into Michael Myers' early years - he devotes nearly half the film to this. The early scenes are an intriguing look inside the mind of a very disturbed young man, made even more relevant by recent incidents like the Virginia Tech massacre.
Zombie even manages to create a touch of sympathy for the killer, creating an anti-hero much like he did in “The Devil's Rejects.”
But as good as the opening hour of “Halloween” is, it all falls apart when Zombie is forced to retread the same material as Carpenter in the second half. Zombie does everything he can to stage some menacing and scary death sequences, but the film never achieves its lofty goals because the bar was set so high by the original.
The biggest problem is that the victims just don't get the same amount of depth and development as Michael and his family, so there really isn't much rooting interest. Part of that stems from the fact that the cast isn't really that good.
McDowell fills in admirably for Donald Pleasence and Zombie's real-life wife, Sheri Moon, is pretty effective as Michael Myers' stripper mother. But Scout Taylor-Compton is no Jamie Lee Curtis, with the three names being the only similarity between the two actresses. The rest of her teenage co-stars fair just as bad (with one exception - Hannah Hall as Michael's sister Judith).
Compared to recent horror films, this “Halloween” isn't really that bad, but when you put it next to the master, it pales in comparison.
DVD dandy of the week
This week's dandy is “Away from Her” (A) the touching directorial debut from actress Sarah Polley that is my current pick for best film of 2007.
“Away from Her” tells the story of Grant (Gordon Pinsent) and Fiona (Julie Christie) - a couple in the twilight of their lives still deeply in love after 40 years of marriage.
When Fiona is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, Grant is forced to put her in a nursing home that has a no visitors policy for the first 30 days of the patient's stay.
When Grant finally is able to see Fiona again, he is devastated to learn that she has not only forgotten about their relationship, but has taken up a courtship with a fellow patient named Aubrey (Michael Murphy).
The subject matter in “Away from Her” is complex, but the 28-year-old Polley does an astounding job. Polley's direction is simple, yet assured, with a vision that allows the actors to shine.
The cast is more than up to the task.
Pinsent and Christie both give Oscar-worthy performances (Christie shows why she was in such demand during the '60s and '70s). Murphy and Olympia Dukakis (as Aubrey's wife) are also very good in supporting roles.
“Away from Her” is rated PG-13 for language and will be available Tuesday on DVD.
- Sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton … Give him the business via e-mail to email@example.com.