Friday, November 5, 2010

Something Rank (#24-21)

Continuing countdown...

Four franchise favorites.
36 cinematic crime scenes.

Previous installments:
(#36-33) / (#32-29) / (#28-25)

(#24) Halloween (2007)

Rob Zombie's revisionist take on John Carpenter's classic is an unwieldy object. As blunt as a fist and grimy as a truckstop bathroom. It's part origin story, part remake... mostly a mess. But there's some intrigue in trying to grasp what exactly Rob Zombie was thinking. His Michael Myers is a battered child, bullied by peers and family. His only touchstones his soulful stripper mom (Sherri Moon Zombie) and bouncing baby sister, Boo (see: Laurie Strode). Living amidst the absolute smut and degradation that seems to pervade every facet of Zombie's worldview, little Mikey Myers turns to murder.

A large span of the large runtime is devoted to Michael's maniacal beginnings, but it adds no more to the outcome of his killing spree than if he had remained the faceless void that began this series. By the time the film enters full on remake territory, it functions as a film divided in two. Infamous scenes are streamlined, made gratuitous, and then the film ends. If Zombie had stuck to his vision, it may have been hideously ugly, but it would have seemed less trivial. His characters would still have the chance to say "fuck" ALOT.

A sample of Zombie's redneck "wit":

  • "Maybe I'll choke the chicken. Purge my snorkel all over them flappy ass tits."
  • "Bitch, I will crawl over there and skull fuck the shit out of you!"
  • "Man, that bitch got herself a nice little donk."
  • "He's probably a queer. Gonna grow up, end up cuttin' his dick and balls off and changin' his name to Mee-shell."

Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor Compton) and her babysitter's club of slutty friends are no more compassionate than the white trash we've seen parading elsewhere in Haddonfield. I don't believe for one second these girls would spend time in a library. And I certainly want no part of their inane clique, which is most troublesome when I'm supposed to fear for their fates. Take for example the girls first sighting of the brooding boogeyman. It can't be fearful when they're so quick to be crude, "It's some pervert cruising school poontang... Hey freak, you want some of the young stuff?"

Zombie's take is infuriating and fascinating for all these reasons, and admittedly he's gone further with originality than most in the slew of recent horror remakes. He never glamorizes the violence, he strips much of the suspense for visceral repulsion, and treads a very nihilistic tone. It's his greatest weakness (along with the completely extraneous rape and murder), but also his greatest strength. Cool cameos (Dee Wallace, Udo Kier, Ken Foree, Brad Dourif and Danny Trejo) and unrelenting grimness are his forte. It worked smashingly for The Devil's Rejects, but Halloween has always seemed a more subdued scare. The few strengths of this otherwise depressing sequel are the images of a frighteningly small Michael Myers weighed down by the infamous mask, or Laurie crossing the street to find her friend Annie (Halloween veteran Danielle Harris) still alive but just barely. These sorts of changes play on our knowledge of the original while spinning new terror out of its scenarios. Something fresh amongst all the rotten.

Killer Looks:

Michael has "the blackest eyes, the Devil's eyes..."
And a great eye for decoupage.

My Thoughts Exactly...

(#23) Friday the 13th Part V:
A New Beginning (1985)

Little Tommy Jarvis, scarred from the last Crystal Lake slaughter, grows up and enters Pinehurst Rehab (and ironically is no longer Corey Feldman). As Jason's legacy haunts the surrounding area, Tommy struggles with the psychotic voices in his head. The pseudo-inmates flirt, fuck and run afoul of a maniac whose sole agenda is to off anyone caught flirting or fucking. But if Jason's really dead, who's this new man behind the mask?

With little to no suspense and just adequate death scenes, this fifth entry's meager moments of pleasure are largely its most questionable -- like Ethel Hubbard and her hick children. They'd feel right at home in a Rob Zombie film, but there's limitless love behind their redneck ways. It's the kind of terrible that can only be described as terrific.

"You big dildo, eat your fuckin' slop."

A New Beginning? Maybe. Same old story? Undeniably. The only thing revelatory is that Jason's not actually Jason, but Roy. Just one of the many madmen that populate the area. While that surprise reveal would seem a nice detour from the series cliches, the entirety of the film is as bloated and soggy as Jason after years of being lodged in the middle of a lake.

Killer Looks:

Will the real Jason Voorhees please stand up?

(Left: Jason, Right: Roy)

Roy immortalized Jason.
Too bad Roy's not immortal.

My Thoughts Exactly...

(#22) Halloween 6:
The Curse of Michael Myers

Like her mother Laurie Strode before her, Jamie has become the repeat target for her uncle's unplanned family reunions. And much like Laurie she's knocked off in reel one without any sense of sympathy, innovation, or respect for her role in the franchise. Jamie's death merely spurs the film's plot of a new baby -- new to the cursed bloodline and about to meet her less than well-wishing Great Uncle. Perhaps it's not Michael's fault. He's apparently at the whim of a Druid cult known as "Thorn" -- a powerful group tied to an ancient supernatural evil and the Haddonfield, Illinois medical community. The new tangent tries to keep the plot threads and franchise expanding, but it ultimately makes the series seem more simple-minded than when Michael was merely a shape stalking babysitters. Confounding, stupid... but arguably more ambitious than several of these sequels. And look, Paul Rudd!

Paul "Stephen" Rudd to be more accurate. It's pretty Paul's introductory role and it's... a role. Not yet at the height of his talents, Paul's awkward narration made him seem clueless before he was ever in Clueless, but at least it's a part central to Halloween lore. He plays Tommy Doyle, once babysat by Laurie Strode, now a twenty-something stalker to Michael Myers the stalker. Tommy tags along as Michael severs ties with his few remaining family members and tries to put an end to the (embarrassing) curse.

"Little Lindsey Wallace won't know what hit her."

(Much like her babysitter Annie, it seems the
Haddonfield press also forgot about Lindsey.)

The film's final cut was left in tatters and thus an infamous "Producer's Cut" remains in circulation amongst fans. The theatrical cut the more flashy, the extended more subdued, but both exchange moments of good for bad and vice versa. Combine the two cuts and see some of the series most memorably graphic deaths (electrically exploded heads, a security guard's splitting headache), Donald Pleasence putting a bitter end to a beautiful doctor/patient bond, and a crush-worthy Paul Rudd in danger of being crushed.

Killer Looks:

"The Druids made me do it."

My Thoughts Exactly...

(#21) Friday the 13th Part VII:
The New Blood (1988)

Tina, a telekinetic teen with daddy issues, returns to the lake where she unwittingly caused her father's drowning. Amidst some therapeutic amends, Tina's mental mojo causes Jason to rise from the waters and wreak havoc once again. Imagine if Carrie White had taken Jason Voorhees to prom...

Jason's back and more of a brute than ever. Featuring some of the series best makeup effects, number seven in the series is by-the-numbers but embracing. Tina, too, makes for a mindful match with Jason. Her mental prowess offsets his mindless massacring of all the one-note characters. Although much like the hapless cast, the film suffers some serious cuts. Many of the death scenes are series highlights, but they feel like the wraith of the MPAA as much as Jason. Girls in sleeping bags battered against tree bark and machetes mangling heads left and right, it's a brutal outing to be sure. While numbing to some degree, it also exploits the franchise's most fun elements: obnoxious people, nudity and unnecessary cruelty.

Killer Looks:

1) Back from the dead...

2) But still dead.

My Thoughts Exactly...

Up Next: (#20-17)

"It's a boy!" -- Freddy Krueger


Anonymous said...

Where are you!? I need more!

Adam said...

Thanks for counting down till the countdown!

Jaime Grijalba said...

I love number V of the Friday the 13th series, and consider it one of the best. Why? I HAVE NO IDEA.
I find it better than number 7!

Adam said...

Fair enough, Jaime. It's all a matter of bad taste, and "Part V" has a few standout moments. I think it feels more dated as well, which works in its favor. And Ethel Hubbard. Always Ethel.