HALLOWEEN THE REMAKE


Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN being, among other things, a gritty parody of the mass media phenomenon, we see Michael Myer’s mask composed in the style of pop culture tabloids. The poster already tells you that in this version of HALLOWEEN, the evil is not a metaphysical force, but society itself: Michael’s social mask was created by all the Middle Americans who abused him. Ever since the famous 1980s cartoon HEAVY METAL, this cultural style has been a great source of blackly comic satire.

In a welcome contrast to standard Hollywood remakes, HALLOWEEN repeats the plot and the major themes of Carpenter’s original, but plays against them to create something entirely different. The film is still about Michael Myers, a serial killer who stalked baby sitters in Haddonfield, Illinnois on Halloween night. We still see literal repetitions of scenes from the original film. But there are twists and displacements that change the scenes just enough to create the effect of the Uncanny: for example, the introduction is longer than in Carpenter, providing the killer’s full motives in place of inferences; the murders are brutally graphic, leaving little room for imagination; the relationship between the killer and the psychologist takes center stage, etc.

Most importantly, Zombie’s version drops suspense in favor of psychic intensity. The film plays out like a dark psychological drama instead of a 1970s slasher. To accomplish this effect, Zombie makes clever use of the mise-en-scene.

Composer Tyler Bates created a powerhouse mix of Carpenter’s legendary soundtrack with orchestral dissonance. Supported by a neo-metal bass line, the music reminds one of bands like Xashtur. Its relentless presence carries the film, creating an atmosphere of entrapment that violates every corner of your mental apparatus. It’s as if the film were an emanation of the killer’s young mind, developing through his death wish and not by classical means (identification, subjective tracking shots or associative editing). The murder scenes are all static, but the soundtrack opens the portals of Hell; there is constant nausea, a sense of being filled by and overflowing with the killer’s anger.

In Carpenter, evil was a mythic force that mirrored society’s various repressions. In Zombie, evil is the resentment of a wounded Middle American child faced with society’s ugliness. While the original film worked on tension, Zombie’s re-envisioning operates more on the force of a deadly emotion. This resentment comes as a reaction to an indifferent society too absorbed in mass-mediated narcissism to show any affection for its youngest members. Michael Myers could just as well be a symbol of all the Columbine shooters. His is the rage of the lonely American child.

We see Myers’s formative years, how his psychopathy came from abandonment, first by his biological family, then by a media-savvy psychologist (Malcolm McDowell). The psychologist interrupted Michael’s therapy because he couldn’t deal with his own reflection in the boy’s gaze. He then profited handsomely from Myers’s misery by writing a pulp psychology book about the killer’s ”evil eyes”. Though in the end the therapist manages to control him, you get a sense that Michael did the right thing in slashing all the Bush voters & Columbine shooters. In fact, that Myers may be more human than any of his human victims.

By invoking sympathy for the devil, Zombie infuses the HALLOWEEN series with exciting new life.

NOTES ON A SCANDAL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The plot revolves around the predatory sexual pursuits of an aging lesbian teacher (Judi Dench), working in a typically conservative British school. She sets her eyes on the new employee, a younger burgeois woman (Cate Blanchett) trapped in a boring marriage. When the new girl starts an affair with one of her underage students, the lesbian teacher sees an ideal opportunity to alleviate her loneliness.

Judy Dench plays her character as a cross between a feminist activist and a male chauvinist. The genius of Dench is that she never hesitates to show the teacher’s desperate malevolence. No amount of feminism can explain  her frustration, or the obsessive demand for love that it triggers. Yet simultaneously, Dench lets you feel just how much the teacher’s intelligence make her an outsider in the men’s power games. This ambiguous representation strongly contrasts equal work by actresses like Glenn Close. Her enraged woman in FATAL ATTRACTION was a one-dimensional monster than Dench’s performance in NOTES ON A SCANDAL exceeds on countless levels.

Cate Blanchett is very good in the role of the younger woman. There’s something special about the actress’s fox-like face. Already in THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY, she exuded a mixture of Snowy White innocence and kink that begs for transgressive roles. Blanchett is just right as she tries to escape the clutches of the class society by sleeping with her students, only to end up undergoing heterosexual ”adjustment” in prison. Meanwhile, Dench chooses the queer path of continuing her predatory pursuits regardless of societal judgement. And on some level you feel her choice is more courageous than Blanchett’s.

You can excuse both women’s shenanigans as a result of male repression, but you can’t really forgive them for what they do to each other. When Blanchett refuses her advances, Dench acts as an evil matriarch, revealing the girl’s transgressions to the public as well as compromising her marriage by trapping Blanchett in a co-dependent relationship. She doesn’t do it in an open confrontation, as a man would, and her goal is not to punish the Blanchett, but to own her forever. Though brutal and unpleasant, the men in this movie aren’t  nearly as dangerous as the women.