Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Director: Rob Zombie (House of 1000 Corpses, Devil's Rejects)
Screenplay: Rob Zombie
Producers: Andy Gould, Malek Akkad, Rob Zombie
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Brad Dourif, Tyler Mane, Scout Taylor-Compton, Daeg Faerch, Sheri Moon Zombie, William Forsythe, Danielle Harris
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 109 min
read my spoiler disclaimer

reviewed by Andrew James
     Those looking for the same scare factor they get from John Carpenter's Halloween of 1978 are going to be sorely let down. Those looking for a by-the-book slasher pic with some good scares mixed with Zombie's trademark brutality will enjoy themselves enough to at least warrant the price of an admission ticket.

      Obviously, as this is a remake of arguably the best (or at least scariest) slasher picture of all time, comparing the two is ludicrous; but at the same time unavoidable. Rob Zombie has taken this "beloved" franchise and started over with his own vision that is almost a prequel in a lot of ways. Young Michael Meyers is troubled at home and on the school yard. He's bullied long enough that one Halloween evening he finally snaps and kills most of his family. He spends the next 15 years of his life locked in a mental institution under the care of Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell). After all this time, Loomis realizes that Michael is beyond help and abandons all hope of helping the troubled kid and vows to never return. During a routine transfer, Michael escapes and goes on a blood thristy rampage looking for his baby sister (his only surviving family member) in a small suburb in Illinois.

      As many readers of know, I am not much of a horror fan; but I have to say, as the genre goes, you could do a lot worse. The first 35-45 minutes of the film are by far the most interesting. Whereas in the original film we just get a glimpse of Meyers' childhood, Zombie lets us spend much more time gathering details and examining Meyers' troubled psyche. Watching him slowly deteriorate into a madman is truly a lot of fun and this in-depth examination of a killer is easily the best part of the film.

      The second half of the film is less interesting, but much more intense with your standard, run-of-the mill slasher flick that we've seen before; almost quite literally as several of the scenes and lines of dialogue are taken directly from Carpenter's original film. The main difference though are the kills in this one are obviously much more brutal and visceral than the original. Zombie has put his stamp on this one quite hard and there is plenty of bludgeoning, stabbing, slicing and many pints of blood are spilled. This can be a positive or negative depending on your point of view.

      Even in the early scenes, with the probing of Michael's past, the script does leave something to be desired. It is mismanaged and doesn't sound authentic or believable. The family life is supposed to be troubled and abusive, but it is a bit over the top and the actors don't help it to ring true at all. In fact, the acting overall is mediocre at best; but I guess you can't expect perfection of a movie from this genre. Although I do expect a little more from the likes of Malcolm McDowell. His presence works well enough, but as with the other characters, he just doesn't "bring it."

      Another bit that normally drives me UP THE WALL with action or horror films, is the use of the shaky cam. Greengrass destroyed part 2 of "The Bourne" franchise with this tactic and several horror films spring to mind that follow suit. It's a tactic that shows a director can't properly direct a scene or doesn't have the talent or patience to pull it off correctly, so they just shake the camera all over the place and waste a few minutes of the audience' time; since we can hardly see anything at all. But Zombie seems to have utilized the tactic fairly well with Halloween. The method is only used a couple of times during a couple of key attack sequences. The camera, instead of shaking uncontrollably, seems to almost vibrate. It really gives us this sense of an alarming rage bell going off inside Michael's head. It was noticeable and surprisingly delightful.

      For me though, what was most noticeable throughout the movie, was the sound. Besides the music (which I'll touch on in a minute), was the awesomeness and loudness of the sound effects. Most notably, whenever Michael would bust through a wall or smash something, it was loud and jolting. This is not the kind of effect used to get you to jump out of your seat after a moment of suspenseful silence (a cop out in my opinion). Instead, it was used to get our attention and keep our attention - and it worked and sounded awesome.

      The classic Halloween theme song is present more than once throughout the movie and it brings back those old feelings of fright and foreboding evil. Zombie has little or none of his own musical material within the film. This was a good thing I thought at first, but as we are forced to listen to tracks from Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, Bachman Turner Overdrive and Peter Frampton, I found myself longing for a bit of Zombie's edgier sounds to give us some meat grinding power, rather than sugar coated cheese.

      All in all I think it was a good effort. Part of the fun is pointing out to your friends and smiling at several of the noticeable and semi-high profile cameos (that I won't spoil). As I said before, going in hoping for something as great as the original and you'll be disappointed. If you want a horror flick that builds suspense, has some good kill scenes and delves a bit deeper into a horror icon's derangement, this film delivers in spades. This is not the "torture porn" film that has plagued our cinemas as of late; maybe that's what seemed so refreshing to me and it may be Zombie's best work, looking at the picture as a stand-alone piece of film making. And while some may think, what's the point? Why make this? After a skeptical viewing myself, I thought, "why not?"

Press "PLAY" to watch the trailer

Links: - full cast and crew
Official Site
FLIXSTER PROFILE for Death Sentence

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