4 Weeks of Halloween: Week 4

Coming down the homestretch, this week's lineup:
  • Slither (trailer)
  • Halloween Awakening
  • Tremors (trailer)
  • The Host (2006): This Korean creature feature garnered a lot of critical praise earlier in the year, so I was looking forward to catching up with this when it came to DVD. Unfortunatly, my expectations were thwarted by an uneven, poorly integrated mish mash of horror cliches. The monster movie portions of the film are fun enough to watch, but it's the other elements the filmmakers attempt to weave into the story that ultimately sink this film. There's a strong social/political commentary subplot that's poorly developed and boring. There are several awkward attempts at comedy that don't seem to fit with the other elements of the film. The disfunctional family united by a crisis shows promise, except that none of the main characters are particularly likeable (especially the dimwitted father of Hyun-seo), nor are any of them three dimensional. Hamfisted attempts at slapstick don't help advance any of these plot elements. Add a lackluster ending into the mix, and I have to admit that I'm just not seeing why this movie has such a good reputation.This movie is certainly ambitious; it's trying to do a lot of things... unfortunately, they seem to conflict with each other. The movie isn't awful though. Fans of the genre will like the monster sequences, and the scenes in the monster's lair are the best in the film (shades of Tremors and Godzilla, though not as good as either). The film is energetic and fun when the monster is on screen... but it grinds to a halt when the monster isn't. I'm guessing that there are some cultural things that I'm just not getting here or that are lost in translation. Probably only worth it for fans of the genre. *1/2
  • The Evil Dead (trailer)
  • Hostel (trailer)
  • The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror IV: Bart Simpson's Dracula (1993)
  • The Devil's Rejects (2005): Rob Zombie's second film is... not especially good. I liked it better than James Berardinelli, and I think there are flashes of talent in this film, but it's still not that good. The primary problem with the film is that none of the characters are even remotely sympathetic and the ones we're supposed to be rooting for (I think?) are the most vile of them all (The titular Devil's Rejects, a family of murderers). There's not much of a story going on here, and the characters are all kinda boring cardboard cutouts (the most developed character is Sheriff Wydell, whose brother died trying to apprehend the Devil's Rejects and thus is looking for revenge - a tired plot device if I've ever seen one, though it works well enough I guess). Zombie seems to be in love with his characters though, and sometimes that helps... but it also means he lingers a little too long on just about everything. Zombie is also in love with the horror films of the 1970s, and so we get a lot of cheesy grindhouse effects like grainy hand-held film and freeze frames. In a movie with a more rousing story or protagonists we could get behind, these 70s throwback techniques would probably work well. As it is, they're not enough to overcome the lack of interesting characters. Hell, the Rejects aren't even that badass. They seem to coast by on luck half the time. The other thing that bothers me about the film - it's not scary at all. At no point did I ever feel any tension or suspense. I guess there are some good gore bits, and there is a place for anti-heroes in horror, but this didn't click for me. There are some hints of talent in Zombie's filmmaking, but hints of talent do not a good film make. *1/2
  • Scanners (trailer)
  • Dawn of the Dead (2004) (trailer)
  • Pickman's Model by H.P. Lovecraft (short story)
  • Halloween (2007): I actually saw this a while ago (and before I saw Devil's Rejects), but my impression here is that Zombie has grown considerably as a filmmaker... but I wish this wasn't a remake. In a vacuum, this could be a decent movie. However, it being a remake demands a comparison to one of the greates horror movies of all time, and this movie absolutely pales in comparison. Compared to other remakes, this isn't terrible... but it also seems to be striving to destroy everything that made the original Halloween special. In the original, Michael Myers is simply evil. There's no explanation for it, but it's clearly there, and it's horrific. In the remake, Myers is given an ample backstory. He exhibits the steriotypical signs of a serial killer (tortures animals, etc...) and lives in a broken home with a horrible drunk father and constantly gets bullied by other kids at school. His homicidal exploits are thus explained away by his environment and that removes a huge element of fear from the film (in all fairness, this is a mistake made by all of the sequels to the original Halloween as well...). In the original, the ending is brilliant and mystifying, with hints that Myers is driven by supernatural forces. In the remake, the supernatural abilities seem to come earlier and are more explicit, thus nullifying the ambiguities of the original. In the original, Dr. Sam Loomis is a almost a raving lunatic, but he's positive that Myers is evil and must be stopped. In the remake, Loomis is low key and conflicted. The original slowly built to a tension filled climax. The remake opts for more gore and Boo moments. Here's the thing, if this wasn't a Halloween remake, it would have been a fine homage to the slasher film. The thing that really bothers me is that it really didn't need to be a Halloween remake... it could have just been a movie about a crazy kid with a mask fetish who grows up and returns home to kill again. The only things you'd need to change? Characters' names, no shatner mask (he could have just kept using one of the many other masks he makes for himself in the movie), and different music (this film takes advantage of Carpenter's eerie theme). It wouldn't have been a great film, but it would stand much better on it's own than as a remake. As a remake, it's passable, and Zombie does a reasonable job establishing tension and even though he's ramped up the sex and gore, the film is still worth watching. Just don't expect anything even remotely close to the original Halloween. **1/2