Horror franchises, like burger ones, are successful. There is consistency and sameness. And like their restaurant counterparts, most of the time you wouldn’t want to eat there (unless your car broke down on a deserted highway nearby…).
There’s not much to distinguish between many gore films other than execution—and we’re talking both director as well as the killer’s MO.
In the original Halloween, Michael Myers in a way launched a template many would follow: masked killer, (minus a back-story), dispatching nubile teens with a knife. Never has a film’s premise been more easy to explain unless it’s Nail Gun Massacre.
The movies that appeared in Halloween’s wake offered typically little in the way of variation: homicidal maniac unleashed on unsuspecting public, who fail to heed warnings of some form or another from authority figures.
In his book, The Culture of Fear, Barry Glassner points out that Halloween sadists were “useful diversions from truly frightening realities, such as the fact that far more children are seriously injured and killed by family members than by strangers.”
Uh oh. Now I’m afraid of my family!
In the Halloween reboot (Rob Zombie directs), Mike’s troubled childhood is explored and a child psychologist is consulted after the young, creepy, antisocial mask-obsessed Myers drops an F-bomb on the school principal. He’s hauled into the office and we learn about Myers’ stripper mom who is not quite the model parent. When confronted with creepier evidence of her son’s incorrigibility says “big deal, so he found a dead cat.” Now there’s a mom you’d want to sign your report cards sight-unseen!
Permissiveness seems like a family trait. In the first 5 minutes Zombie runs through a nasty list of film taboos involving his sleazy step-dad and raunchy sister.
Accosted by a bully at school, Myers, in mask regalia, later trails his assailant into the forest and pummels him with a tree branch while the camera woozily swings to and fro in the forest canopy and later, he wraps his drunk step-dead from head to toe in duct-tape and slits his throat (must be a heavy sleeper). The young killer then takes a baseball bat to his sister’s sleazy rocker beau in the kitchen, wherein the only sound is the aluminum bat on skull and parquet floor. His trashy sister gets hers later, but not before a finger lingers on her naked thigh. Rob Zombie is no John Carpenter and nobody said he was Frank Capra.
Poor Malcolm McDowell plays Dr Samuel Loomis, a silly character whose portentous quote launches the movie (it’s a bad sign when a movie quotes one of its own characters instead of, I don’t know, Othello) and regularly visits Myers in the sanitarium—along with the doting stripper mom. The fact that the kid butchered her boyfriend, her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend’s doesn’t phase her.
Loomis, apparently not shortlisted for a Dr Congeniality award, says to the young mass murderer, who soon fills out a 6’5 frame resembling a WWE main-eventer, “though you haven’t said a word to me in 15 years, in a way you’ve become my best friend!!!”
And later, after a body count rivaling all The Bard’s tragedies put together the now self-aware head shrinker bawls “I’ve failed you!” The opportunist Loomis then proclaims from behind the lectern at his book launch that Myers “is the perfect psychopath: he knows no boundaries and has no boundaries!“ (??!)
Amazingly, Rob Zombie retained screenwriting credit. We can only hope Loomis had a decent book editor.
Loomis’s “no boundaries” decree is proven accurate when Myers inexplicably busts out of the world’s least secure sanitarium staffed by drunk hillbilly rapists and indifferent nurses (who knew sleepy Illinois was home to so many drunk, southern stereotypes?)
Myers then tries to reunite with his baby sister while laying waste to the townsfolk, one of whom a trucker on the can who quotes Cool Hand Luke (you just can’t make this stuff up, nor would you want to) and another, a 10-year old kid consumed with the bogeyman, who complains to his babysitter “I need closure on this topic”. From the mouth of babes.
Speaking of babes, there’s an unusual amount of nudity, even for films like these. And where are the cops? The bikers in Sons of Anarchy get away with less when they blast rival gangs with machine guns in front of the local ice cream shop.
** (out of 5)