A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that director Rob Zombie's "re-imagined" slasher flick, Halloween (2007), leaves no blood, gore, or sex to viewers' imagination: It's all here in spades. Savage stabbings, slayings, and bashings are presented in ugly close-up. Most (though not all) of killer Michael Myers' victims seem to be sexually active teenagers, and viewers see female characters in various forms of undress, including nearly full nudity. In the unrated version, two sanitarium workers sneak into the sanitarium drunk and attempt to rape a female patient before Myers kills them. Characters -- including kids -- use profanity; with the exception of racist slurs, every curse word in the book is used, including "f--k" used several times, and a teen character spelling out "c--t." Unlike the original, where Myers is shown as a mostly unknown force of evil, this remake attempts to craft more of a backstory for Myers, painting the picture of a home life in which a drunk stepfather never works and makes lecherous comments about his stepdaughter, his teen sister would rather sneak off and have sex with her boyfriend rather than take Myers trick or treating, and a school life where Myers is the target of bullies who have discovered that Myers' mother works in a strip club. While these scenes momentarily suggest that Myers is an almost sympathetic character and a victim of circumstance, it doesn't take long to see that this backstory is really just a device to heighten that Myers was born the way he was and not a product of how he grew up. Families might use this opportunity to talk about how often crime, antisocial behavior, and evil acts are rooted in environment, how often it's a product of extreme mental illness, and to what extend "nature versus nurture" guides individual behavior.
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What's the story?
Early on, it seems like director Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN (2007) is trying to do for Carpenter's blank-faced mass-murderer Michael Myers what Hannibal Rising did for fiendish Hannibal Lecter, showing viewers his upbringing and explaining how he came to be a monster. Michael starts out as an innocent-looking, blond-haired 10-year-old (played by Daeg Faerch) living in a family that includes an exotic dancer, her abusive live-in boyfriend, and a hyper-sexed sister. Bullied at school near Halloween, Michael ambushes and fatally batters a classmate (though that's not his first victim -- he's already killed plenty of small animals as practice). And then, after trick-or-treating on October 31, Michael slices up his stepfather, his sister, and his sister's boyfriend, sparing only baby sister Laurie. Police lock up the maniacal kid, who claims to remember nothing, in an institution. The plot then skips to 15 years later. Michael's mother has killed herself, and his longtime psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) has given up on him as a hopeless, unreachable psychopath. The adult Michael (Tyler Mane) is a hulking, silent figure obsessed with wearing masks. Near the October anniversary of the murders, he escapes, slaughtering several guards and even a gentle orderly who befriended him. Dr. Loomis believes Michael is heading home to kill again on Halloween, and he guesses the target is his surviving sister, Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton). Now a teenager, Laurie was adopted into a stable family years ago -- but she still has plenty of sex-minded girlfriends to hang around with, providing Michael with a plethora of victims as night falls.
Is it any good?
The violence in this film is appallingly in-your-face. Horror fans claim, not without reason, that the original Halloween wasn't just a sicko slasher movie that caught on, but an artfully suspenseful masterpiece that expertly played on viewers' nerves. You barely see any real violence or blood -- you just think you do. Not so much this time around. This graphic Halloween remake from rock musician-turned-filmmaker Rob Zombie is positively drenched in blood and carnage, along with smashed faces, impalings, bashings, strangulation, crude sex, and vile language, all in shaky-camera close-up. In other words, it's full of everything that original director John Carpenter merely hinted at, letting our dread and elemental fear of a lurking marauder in the dark fill in the blanks. There have been worse slasher movies than the original Halloween (the first Friday the 13th, for one): Carpenter's finesse with the film's uncluttered, low-budget plotline made it look so easy that all kinds of hack moviemakers (many lacking even Zombie's level of directorial acumen) filled theaters with knives and butchery throughout the 1980s. The 2007 Halloween, besides pushing the gore to dare-you-to-look extremes, seems to want to cadge some sympathy for the ghastly Michael, making his victims (at first, anyway) foul sadists who deserve no mercy. But then characters who are inoffensive -- and even kind -- to Michael die just as gruesomely, so what's the point? Probably the dollar figures brought in by the combined earnings of some seven or eight (depends how you do the counting) Halloween sequels -- that's the point, and this movie's open ending leaves the door open for further installments. Judging by the movie's record-setting opening weekend, there will be an audience. Ugh.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about which types of horror movies are scarier -- ones like Halloween (2007), that show all the gruesome details, or those like the original 1978 Halloween, which left more to the imagination. Why? Why do you think audiences are drawn to gory movies in the first place? Is it fun to be scared at the movies? Why? Families can also discuss whether this movie makes killer Michael Myers sympathetic in any way. Are any of his crimes rationalized or explained? Why is that significant?
How did the movie incorporate elements of the original Halloween movie, and how did it find a new way to tell the story?
How did this version of Halloween use music--to set the time and place, to create and build suspense?
- In theaters: August 31, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: December 18, 2007
- Cast: Malcolm McDowell, Sheri Moon-Zombie, Tyler Mane
- Director: Rob Zombie
- Studio: Weinstein Co.
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 109 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong brutal bloody violence and terror throughout, sexual content, graphic nudity and language.
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