Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
"LAST OF THE MONSTER KIDS" - Available Now on the Amazon Kindle Marketplace!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Halloween 2013: October 23

Halloween (2007)

When it was announced that Rob Zombie was going to remake “Halloween,” the fandom reaction was mixed, to say the least. The still-not-quite-dead horror remake trend had been going on long enough that fans were sick of it. “Halloween,” for many, is an untouchable classic. Even after the general positive response to “The Devil’s Rejects,” Rob Zombie is a divisive talent. How would someone remake “Halloween?” More importantly, how would Rob Zombie remake “Halloween?”

By turning it into a Rob Zombie movie. 2007’s “Halloween” is as much prequel and reinterpretation as it is a remake. Zombie loves his monsters. “The Devil’s Rejects” followed its monsters and, similarly, Zombie’s “Halloween” follows its monster. The movie focuses on Michael Myers. The previously squeaky clean Myers household is given the Rob Zombie make-over. Little Michael is an ugly, trollish looking kid. His mother is a stripper. His sister Judith wears shorts-shorts and has anonymous sex with a guy she’s just met. Most obnoxiously, Michael gains a vulgar, abusive, grotesque step father. Everyone swears and makes crude sexual references. If the baby could talk, she would probably swear too. Little Mikey lives in a house but his family would fit in better in a trailer park.

Michael’s transformation from normal kid to soulless killer is no longer unexplained. His home life sucks. He’s bullied at school. He shows early signs of psychotic behavior, most prominently torturing animals. His initial murders are no longer unexplained. Michael is striking back at his tormentors. He gains a pathological, Freudian obsession with masks. Even after being imprisoned, his violence is provoked by people being assholes to him. Michael’s time in Smith’s Grove, completely untouched upon in the original, form a major portion of Zombie’s “Halloween.” At first, Michael acts like a normal kid, his violent murders seemingly committed by another personality. Dr. Sam Loomis, child psychologist, spends hours talking with him, analyzing his motives and psychological trauma. The transformation from human to monster is gradual, a boy retreating into his own mind, eventually forgetting how to interact with anyone with something other then brutal violence. The barely human ghost of Carpenter’s classic is not present in this film. Rob Zombie completely reinterprets Michael Myers as his own character.

Zombie reinterprets most everything about the original. Dr. Loomis isn’t a dark knower of evil, a defender of innocents from an inhuman monster. Malcolm McDowell’s Dr. Loomis is a real psychologist. He isn’t terrified of Myers. Instead, he feels sympathy for him. His guilt over failing to heal Michael drives his entire character. Loomis has made millions from a best-selling book he’s written about Myers, something other characters are willing to chastise him for. In the theatrical version, Loomis gives the “Blackest Eyes” speech. However, it’s completely wrong coming out of this Loomis’ mouth. Carpenter worked in archetypes. Zombie delves into his character’s psyches.

The Zombie-fication of “Halloween” extends to the film’s content. Zombie’s trademark over-the-top profanity, extreme gore, and sleazy exploitation fill the movie. “Fuck” is every other word. Even seemingly wholesome characters drop f-bombs. A random trucker describes his bowel movement. The movie is intensely bloody. Throats are slashed and blood pours in torrents. Bones and skulls are cracked. Red is smeared everywhere. Nobody dies easily in Zombie’s universe. Characters suffers, cry, and weep in agony before dying. Corpses stew in pools of rust red blood. Zombie loads the movie with sex and nudity. Judith and her boyfriend rut in bed. Lynda walks around fully nude. Nancy talks dirty with her boyfriend. In the director’s cut, most disturbingly, a pair of Smith’s Grove orderlies rape a female inmate. This was so unnecessary that it was cut from the theatrical version with no effect on the plot. I feel like this remake probably would have been better received if Zombie had dialed back his beloved white trash aesthetic.

Zombie ultimately made Myers too human. It’s hard to imagine a teenage boy decimating his family the way lil’ Michael does in this. A major story turn involves Michael killing the one person who was kind to him in the hospital. This is supposes to show that the kid is too far gone. It doesn’t work and instead seems out-of-character. Daeg Faerch growing into 6’ 9” Tyler Mane seems unbelievable. Despite being very human, Michael maintains his super-strength from the later sequels. He smashes bathroom stalls, explodes through doors and walls, and crushes a man’s skull with his bare hands. Myers adsorbs bullets with ease like no human could.

In general, the director tries to have it both ways. This is when Zombie’s “Halloween” truly falters. After following its killer’s evolution for the first hour, this becomes a standard remake. Laurie, Nancy, and Lynda go about their school days, interacting with their parents and boyfriends. Because this is a Rob Zombie movie, Laurie cracks crude jokes about bagels, Lynda cusses out her teachers, and Nancy calls her friends “bitches.” Zombie recreates sequences from Carpenter’s original, Michael stalking his prey throughout the day. Loomis is suddenly hunting Michael like he’s an evil super-being. Laurie babysits Tommy and Lindsey, even watching “The Thing from Another World” and “Forbidden Planet” on TV with them. The sudden story change disrupts the pace, flow, and intent of the story. Suddenly, 2007’s “Halloween” isn’t a character study but another slasher film.

Zombie loads his cast with cult actors new and old. Malcolm McDowell actually gives a thoughtful performance as Dr. Loomis, making the character his own. Danny Trejo shows his softer side in his small supporting role, a highlight of the film. Dee Wallace excels at mother roles, given her natural warmness. However, more often then not, the stunt casting is distracting. William Forsythe, Lew Temple, Ken Foree, Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, and Leslie Easterbrook go way over the top in their small roles. Brad Doriff, Richard Lynch, Udo Kier, Clint Howard, and Sybal Danning, all actors I love, are mostly in the movie so you can point at them and say, “Hey, I recognize that person!” The young talent isn’t much better. Danielle Harris and Kristina Klebe can’t make Zombie’s unseemly dialogue workable. Only Scout Taylor-Compton wins the audience over. Her Laurie has a lovable back-and-forth with her family and the young kids. Taylor-Compton actually works far better as a normal teenager, as her scream queen routine is mostly unconvincing. She’s cute as a button too, which helps.

Zombie’s “Halloween” is too long by about ten minutes, an additional act being added to the climax. Ultimately, I admire Zombie’s film more then I like it. All the sequels were beholden to Carpenter’s original. Zombie, mostly, does his own thing. Is the movie good? At times. The real question is “Is this a Halloween film?” I’m not sure. It’s not scary, only grotesque. It’s not atmospheric, only gritty. Zombie has warped these recognizable characters into his own creations. His remake is far more interesting then any of the sequels but, ultimately, pales in enjoyment to the best follow-ups. Admirable as his effort is at times, I don’t think the director was a good match for the material. [6.5/10]

Slugs: The Movie (1988)

Some horror movies have goofy premises. Killer trees, killer worms, a killer bed. No list of absurd horror premises is complete without “Slugs: The Movie.” Slugs, as a species, are known for being slow and easily killed with salt. They do not inspire terror, unless you’re a cabbage. Building an entire horror movie around slugs seems ill-conceived. It is and yet, not only is “Slugs: The Novel” a real thing, so is “Slugs: The Movie.” (As opposed to “Slugs: The Collectable Dinner Ware?”)

There’s not much to the story of “Slugs: The Movie.” A small town in the rural United States is threatened by a plague of flesh-eating slugs. The slugs were mutated from normal garden pest into man-eating killers by toxic waste. Our heroes are Mike Brady, a health official, and Don, a sewer inspector. The script gleefully indulges in cliché. Despite the dead bodies piling up at their feet, the town politicians refuse to acknowledge the threat, laughing killer slugs of as silly. Go figure. This impedes the heroes, forcing them to do things by themselves. The focus is more on the town then the people. Slowly, very slowly, the slugs claim clumsy, dimwitted victims. Will the heroes stop the threat in time? Or is the town doomed to be destroyed by slimy, slow gastropods?

How do you make a horror film about killer slugs? The film compensates for the premise by doing two things. First off, it pumps up the gore. “Slugs” is way bloodier then you’d expect a movie about garden pest to be. A boy is pulled into a lake, blood erupting at the surface. A man swallows a slug, parasites eating him from the inside out, and his eyeball exploding. A fountain of gore flows from a corpse. The slimy creatures latch themselves to their victims, slowly gnawing them to death. If you can overlook the sheer goofiness of the premise, the film can easily be enjoyed for its over-the-top gory special effects.

The movie is almost knowingly ridiculous. How would anyone fall victim to a slug? In several different, contrived ways. While a teenage couple has rowdy sex, the slugs unknowingly fill the bedroom. Just one step on the floor and both teens are claimed. (I feel so sorry for the actress who had to crawl around in the nude, covered in fake blood and fake slugs.) A man lays down on a couch without noticing the slug infestation on it. A woman, chased by a masked rapist, leaps into a hole in the ground, unaware of the slugs filling. No scene is more ridiculous then when a single slug explodes a house. Yes, you read that right. While in his green house, an old man is bitten by a slug. Instead of just pulling the critter off, he writhes around in agony. In his blind panic, he crushes a table and pulls down a shelf. Jars of flammable chemicals are smashed, gas filling the air. The singular slug drives the man so nuts he thinks chopping off his hand is a good idea. His clueless wife in the room over lights a cigarette, igniting the gas, and exploding the house in a massive fireball. It is hilarious. Words don’t do the scene justice.

The movie is actually full of giant explosions. The performances are badly dubbed and hilariously over-the-top, most notably the ridiculous asshole sheriff. When the sheriff starts yelling at his deputy for asking too many questions or the local teens brush off all the recent deaths, you start to wonder if “Slugs” is in on the joke. And yet, that ending is so totally earnest. Oh no, the lackluster teenage Halloween party will be ruined by the murderous slugs unless we blow up the local sewer system and a few houses!

Bad movie lovers should walk, not slowly crawl in their own mucus, to watch “Slugs: The Movie.” It is totally ridiculous but never boring. The nudity is frequently and bouncy, the sleaze is honest and up-front. The score, performed by the Philharmonic Orchestra (seriously!), is dramatically overwrought. In our era of pre-fab B-flick laughers like “Sharknado,” “Slugs” is here to remind us of what a hilarious, B-flick can truly be. [7/10]

No comments: