Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Series to Reboot: Pushing the Envelope of Credibility with Halloween (part 2)

Continuing first of the Series to Reboot articles is a personal favorite series of mine, the Halloween franchise.  For the background on this concept read the series intro: Series to Reboot: The Intro.  Assuming you've done that and are prepared, and without further ado, here is part 2 of Halloween franchise.

Possibly the most hated film in the entire series, or possibly a wild claim I can't back up with paperwork
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers or Halloween 666: The Origin of Michael Myers (1995)- This is going to make you lose your mind.  See, a film was shot and practically in the can that was to be called Halloween 666: The Origin of Michael Myers which has its own problems because, it's not like he's Spider-Man.  I'm pretty sure his 'origin' is Mrs. Myers hoo-hoo.  Anyway, Miramax decided to reshoot the bloody thing, or at least huge chunks of it.  The same thing happened with Hellraiser Bloodline, I know, I've read the Fangoria articles from before release with the pictures of what it would have been.  So this film was made, then much of it reshot and the final release was Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.  What is this curse you ask?  Not sure.  It is either the curse inflicted upon Mikey that makes him a killer or him, saying that he is the curse inflicted upon us or sequelitis.  Hard to tell.  So we have two films.  Both films have a very old and haggard Donald Pleasance (still amazing though) as Dr. Loomis, now mostly retired.  Both films delve deeper into Halloween lore than the previous films, which restricted themselves to parties, trick or treating, and a mention of Samhain, by going into great detail about druids and fire festivals.  And both films screw that up as well by talking bollocks about runes.  The major differences are in the final reel and endings.  In the "Origin" film (bootleg called The Producer's Cut) grown up Tommy Doyle uses blood and rune magic to defeat Michael, Loomis goes back to 'make sure' Mikey is done for only to be rune marked and thus tied to Mikey forever.  In the "Curse" film (theatrical release), adult Tommy Doyle drugs Mikey up, beats him down, and escapes, Loomis goes back in to 'make sure' we hear his screams and assume Mikey finally killed the old man.  There is a lot to not like about the film.  It's credibility is blown early by introducing a bunch of hitherto unknown Strodes.  Jamie Lloyd is killed at the beginning after giving birth to Michael's baby (eeewww), which is possible, plausible and disgusting.  Again it is full of unlikable characters you really WANT to see die and a few that you don't want to see die but really don't care if they do.  The introduction of a new kid in peril to possibly inherit the mantle of Michael is a lame red herring.
Overall Credibility: 4 out of 10
Series Credibility: 1 out of 10 (for theatrical release) or 2 out of 10 (producer's cut)
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)- This film takes as its premise that 4-6 never happened.  It follows the life of functioning alcoholic, drugged up, academy headmistress Keri Tate (Laurie Strode, faked death, hiding from brother Mike) who lives with her long suffering son John.  As feared by Laurie, Mikey decides to make his way to California to kill his sister, after tracking down Marion Chambers, the nurse that took care of Dr. Loomis in his final infirm years.  Mikey steals the files, gets the notes, heads to Cali and clashes with LL Cool J.  After killing John's friends (2) and Keri's beau, he chases John, his girlfriend and Keri/Laurie around the school until finally being mortally wounded.  Laurie watches her brother get loaded into an ambulance, steals it, he pops up awake, they tussle, ambulance wrecks pinning Mikey to a log.  A touching moment and Laurie decapitates her evil bro with a fire ax.  A fitting 20 year reunion, I think we all can agree.  The film is surprisingly credible. Laurie's alcoholism is her awake time coping mechanism and her battery of pills for sleeping disorders, nightmares, personality conflicts, all show a woman with deep emotional trauma; just what you'd expect from someone who survived H1 and H2.
Overall Credibility: 8 out of 10 (a few minor moments that are plausible instead of credible, but overall good)
Series Credibility: 8 out of 10 (it accepts part 2 as canon, which is rough given the ending, but ignores the mistakes of 4-6, so points back on, it was rough)
Halloween: Resurrection (2002)- The first Halloween  of the 21st century and a post-Scream film to boot, this film was intended to relaunch the franchise by killing Laurie Strode and introducing a new final girl for Michael to menace.  The premise is completely tied to the webcast and reality TV genres with a group of college students entering the Myers house on Halloween night for a live broadcast ala Ghost Hunters.  However the film opens with Laurie in a mental hospital because when she killed her brother it was really a paramedic whose crushed larynx prevented his telling her that Mikey had disabled him and dressed him up as Mikey so...okay, you get the picture, right?  Totally implausible, total loss of credibility, only remotely in the realm of possibility.  Then Laurie pretends to be drugged up, Mikey comes for her, she traps him, he tricks her, he kills her and that was the first 10 minutes of the film.  Cut to a college near Haddonfield and Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks running a reality TV show.  Wackiness, and Busta Rhymes Fu (kung fu fight with Mikey at the end) ensues.
Overall Credibility: Hard to say...the beginning discards credibility in favor of a contrived exit for Laurie and a method of bringing the definitively dead Michael back to life, but the rest of the film plays to the reality TV trope by pointing out that people would watch a girl being murdered and believe it to be a stunt or set-up simply because it is reality TV.  Rather than use the old "there's no reception here" trick the film incorporates all of the media into the experience.  Let's say 5 out of 10.
Series Credibility: Following the high score of H20 with such an opening loses cred points and then contriving a new girl to stalk when the rest of the family is gone (Laurie had hidden Mikey's nephew, John, away) lowers the value, but it was intended as a sort of restart so let's give it a 6 out of 10.
Halloween (2007) and Halloween II (2009)- I'm putting these two together as they are the reboot films written and directed by Rob Zombie and as of RZH2 they are really best discussed together.
Zombie rebooted the franchise with Halloween and expanded upon it by giving the audience an extended origin story showing a disturbed young man, older than 6, but not a teenager, whose mother is a stripper (played by Mrs. Rob Zombie) and whose dysfunctional family includes an out-of-work drunken mom's boyfriend, trampy older sister and baby sister.  Michael has an obsession with masks.  After his murdering several people and the subsequent trial, Michael is put under the care of Loomis who seems compassionate at first but eventually uses the disturbed boy as the subject of a successful book.  Eventually young Michael kills a nurse, his mother commits suicide and he becomes a catatonic who grows into a hulking adult with a mask obsession.  He escapes, returns home to Haddonfield to continue his grisly work.
Then it's pretty much the Carpenter film with more T, more A, and F-bombs away.  A good, in-your-face horror film, but not an ideal remake, in my opinion.
My chief complaint was actually all the info on why Mikey is so disturbed.  I actually prefer the original where Loomis keeps describing Michael as pure evil and then, surprise ending...he is pure evil.  That, to me, is a more satisfying ending.  RZH1maintains possibility, plausibility and basic credibility throughout.  Nothing supernatural except Mike's gigantic muscle growth between childhood and adulthood.  Clearly they have a world class gym at Smith's Grove Sanitarium.
Then came Halloween II...and everything just flipped 180 degrees.  Laurie is a basket case suffering severe emotional trauma from her ordeal of a year before, Loomis is again pushing his publishing career and Michael is a bearded mountain man (you can see it sticking out of the damaged mask).

Rob provides an ugly picture of ugly people doing ugly things.  Gone is any of the Halloween lore save the time of year and a party, and provided is a ghostly motivation for Mikey's ambitions...dead mom ghost.  And she is mean.  Apparently Mike needs to kill his baby sister so they can all be a family or something or he's crazy or she's really a ghost.  I honestly don't know.  If we treat it all as a shared hallucination it is plausible, except that hallucinations aren't shared like that...Mike would have to verbally describe it to Laurie...unless they are psychic siblings...and there went all credibility, plausibility and, for rational people, possibility.  If mom is a ghost, well now we are supernatural, which removes the credibility based on RZH1, but saves the plausibility because we have to accept the supernatural within the series reality.
So it's your call really.
Overall Credibility: RZH1 9 out of 10; RZH2 6 out of 10 summed and divided by Alice Cooper = 7 out of 10
Series Credibility: As reboots they get to reset the bar, but they can't exist in a vacuum to franchise fans, so let's say 7 out of 10 (par with Halloween II

The entire Halloween franchise includes multiple comic books, novelizations, and an Atari 2600 video game. The comic books are not "canon" but try to keep with the lore, which can be confusing as of H20.  Fans of horror movie franchises are, in my experience, as dedicated as Trekkies or Star Wars fans, and do their best to reconcile the inconsistencies within a favored series.  As such I afford them respect as I have also tried, in my time, to justify the inconsistencies with back story or ad hoc solutions.  Did the Halloween franchise need a reboot?
Yes, I think it did.  The series was over 20 years old.
Did Rob Zombie do a good job of it?
Yes and no.  As a horror film writer/director I think Zombie is great.  He has a love for the old stuff that shows in his setting RZH1 and RZH2 in a nebulous time that has elements of modern day and older 70's era stuff.  Like Tim Burton's vision of Gotham in Batman it could be any time, anywhere, and by not pinning it down you don't date it.  Carpenter's original film is dated in that its setting is obviously 1978, but it says so right on the screen.  The film itself, however, does not feel dated.  The Hitchcockian style in which Carpenter shot H1 still provides a consistently moody, suspenseful and scary, if not gory, horror film.  If anything, excepting H3:SotW, which is more of a sci-fi/fantasy picture, it is the sequels of Halloween that date the work.  Starting with H2 and moving forward, each picture was a product of its time, a pedestrian outing using tested and proved film making styles, techniques and tropes, but H1 was setting that standard.  Thus I say the series needed a reboot to survive.  However, it looks like Rob really sewed up the entire series with two films and now I can't see any more films in the series being made or making any real money.  So either Rob did such a good job no one can follow it, or he screwed the pooch.  Again, it's your call.
TRIVIA NOTE:  In the novelization of the first film the author opens with a chapter set in ancient Ireland where a Celtic man murders a young couple because he has been slighted, then his spirit is cursed to walk the earth forevermore.  The next chapter shows little Michael visiting his grandmother where we learn that hearing voices that drive you to kill runs in the family.  The novel then proceeds like the film but the last words echo back to the first chapter suggesting that a supernatural reason was the cause of the madness all along.  Makes part 6 seem less crazy now, does it not?
Maybe he is simply evil...

Until next time, keep your pumpkins lit.

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