Friday, August 28, 2009

In defence of Halloween

Much to the consternation of raving and foaming fanboys, Rob Zombie's Halloween 2 opens tonight. As it stands, I was and am completely perplexed by the moaning over what was described as an absolute bomb of an opening weekend for the first one. How the hell does anyone put “only” and $4 million” in the same sentence? Sure, that isn't Transformers 2 cash or anything, but for the movie that it is that is a hell of a draw for two days. Especially since many fans of the raw brutality he was aiming for tend to just wait for it to hit video. That bit of bitching aside, I wanted to take a moment to defend that film against the apparent hordes declaiming it.
Regardless of your opinion of the film as a whole, pacing issues, you being pissed off that Michael is too big or his background in a stereotypical white trash home, there is a moment of absolute genius that raised it far above damn near everything to to roll through theaters this decade:
The First Kill.
We all know the drill. We're shown a complete douche that no one in their right mind would bother defending. In this case, it's the standard school bully who makes the mistake of talking shit about poor Mikey's mom. The guy might as well have had “dead” tattooed across his forehead.
No-one is at all surprised when he gets ambushed in the woods (especially with those F13th esque camera angles) and the entire theater erupted in cheers and laughter when that first whack fell. The little shit had it coming and we NEED to see him pay. This is a fairly standard trick that allows us in the audience to enjoy brutal slaughter guilt free. We came to see some people get fucked up and dead, but we aren't sick people because they deserve it. This is precisely what everyone paid for and we are all comfortably happy.
The pure genius that I mentioned before comes in how the scene plays out. Normally, no matter how brutal, a kill scene in a slasher will be over quick. Slice slice, splatter splatter, we're done and on to the next. But Rob just keeps going with this. We see this dickhead turn from belligerent to cowed but he just won't fucking die. By degrees, the noise in the theater faltered and by the end everyone is dead silent. This boy who is probably just as miserable and fucked up as the kid we were siding with is pathetically begging, pleading for his life and Micheal just keeps pounding away while we sit and stare. This ride isn't fun anymore mommy, I want off.
For the first time in my life, I'm in an audience that is truly horrified.
Sure, most of them have seen worse than what just happened on the screen. The scene wasn't particularly gory. The horrific aspect isn't the image or even the act itself but the fact that we wanted it to happen. This bastard made us feel safe in a trope that we all knew and then forced it down our throats. The effect was similar to the ages old approach of forcing young Jimmy to smoke an entire pack of cigarettes on after the other because he thought he was old enough to handle smoking.
That stunned, absolutely silent audience experienced true art and they probably never even noticed.

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