It’s something that I often don’t outright admit about myself.
It’s something that you can see in my own personal films – however, I’ve never been one to outright admit it to close friends; a cocktail of shame and an endless desire to better myself for the sake of my future.
Often, we get a bit existential when reacting to movies, or even a bit pretentious.
But that’s what makes us all cinephiles.
This is going to be my admission – a film review that is less a review, and more of a retrospection on my own self - and an illustration of film with the kind of personable effect it can have.
They say that once you’re an addict, you’re always an addict – and the only thing that changes is whether or not you’re still using or not. I have been blessed to have avoided the fate of my brothers and my sisters – from a young age, I avoided drugs. But, the concept of being “white trailer trash” is in the same ballpark. Once you’re trailer trash, you’ll always be trailer trash.
Because of my history, I can’t have anything but empathy for people who are ignorant… people who are broken… people who don’t even try… people who aren’t contributing anything to society… people who are abusive, disgusting… people who are addicts and people who traumatize their children and then their children’s children. I have nothing but a grudge on everyone I’ve ever grown up with; cutting ties with almost all of them. I haven’t spoken to my own mother in seven years. But I understand why they're in the positions they're in.
This may be why I understand, in some fashion, Rob Zombie as a filmmaker. Critics and cinephiles alike bash his dialogue, but I’m sitting over here finding it as natural as can be. I grew up with people who talked like that; the accent, the limited vocabulary, the vulgarity. To deny that exists in Appalachian areas here in the States is turning a cheek to a society that exists - and why wouldn’t we? It’s absolutely terrifying to acknowledge such people exist – however, not as graphic as Zombie himself depicts, but still there.
Which brings me to my rewatch of Zombie’s Halloween remake this evening. I had issues with this film back when I first saw it, but I’m now going through some sort of epiphany. I also found myself tearing up a few times. And why is that? Because it finally clicked with me how this film works. It finally clicked with me…
It finally dawned on me that this is the most interesting…
the most fascinating…
the most emotional…
the most inventive…
the most psychologically impressive… and, the most brutally tragic remake of a classic film Hollywood has ever had the balls to release.
and, the most brutally tragic remake of a classic film Hollywood has ever had the balls to release.
I’m going to always love John Carpenter’s Halloween for its influence – and for its iconography on the American horror genre, in general. But, I have to be honest… I didn’t expect it to do this, but Rob Zombie’s Halloween is, in my eyes, the better film – and I say that without detraction to everything that Carpenter’s classic stands for.
Zombie’s “white trash” origin story for Michael Myers is something that shouldn’t exist in the Hollywood movie world, but it does. Has there ever been a film that explored this territory to such an extent?
What people need to accept is that Zombie’s version of Halloween does exactly what they attack other horror remakes for not doing. It’s not just some sort of shot-by-shot or slight re-enactment of everything the original stood for. It’s a literal reconstruction of the film – with new material – and a new psychological approach that never existed in the original to begin with. Yes, it can irritate hardcore fans that Michael Myers is no longer “The Shape”, and is now a flesh-and-blood monster created by a stigmatized society. But, that’s exactly what Zombie does with this film that makes it the kind of remake we should want from the Hollywood machine.
Zombie’s auteur traits are all over this film, and it’s a beast. It treats the insanity of Myers with a delicate, human understanding of his condition without sugarcoating or asking us to really sympathize. It’s more of a pity. A tragic understanding. We don’t stand by him like a Jason Voorhees, or a Freddy Krueger. We can’t stand by this cold-blooded killer. His violence is not fun. It’s animalistic… it’s of a person who eventually lost his moral compass. After decades of jump scares and violent setpieces, here comes this version of Myers, psychologically and sociologically damaged, walking into frame and simply killing people without sensational, colorful death scenes. It’s a rebranding of the “horror film”, and it makes Zombie the most important one working today.
But, I connect with Michael.
Not because I’ve developed into some socio-turned-psychopath – but because I lived in that environment.
I understand why this has happened to him, and so does Zombie.
Michael’s mother reminds me of my own. She’s stuck in that lifestyle, because it’s all she’s ever known. But when tragedy hits her, a beacon of light emanates from her. My absolute favorite thing about Zombie’s development of Michael’s mother is that, once she’s lost everybody in her family, she starts to dress with more class. Like a soccer mom. Does she still strip? We don’t really know. But she’s traumatized, and because of it all, she’s just as much a victim of “white trailer trash” lifestyles as Michael. (There are good people in this "culture".) She turns a gun to her head, and leaves her children behind to a cruel world – not realizing that Laurie will be blessed with the privilege of a middle class world.
Filmmaker Salem Kapsaski recently wrote a piece on my film Warwick and discussed the themes of class that I intended with it. Maybe that was still fresh on my mind, but it helped me see Zombie’s Halloween in a way I couldn’t when I first watched it.
You see, when I first saw the film, I was still living in that two-bedroom trailer home in Upper Michigan (the one I shot The Vaughn Sister and Cleaners in).
My mentally unstable mother, my physically and mentally abusive (drug dealing and using; gun dealing; alcoholic; pedophilic) stepfather (may he rot in hell), my three siblings I watched go from innocence to tainted drug addicts, my stepfather’s awful uncle, eight dogs with their feces and urine on everything (including the pillow I’d sleep on the floor with), and lines of pills smashed on the kitchen table and dresser drawers. Nobody worked – money was made through drugs and guns. Confederate flags in our windows... and on our walls. Because racism.
Me - Georgetown, Ohio; circa 2008.
I didn’t feel anything toward these people… felt like an outcast… felt lost and without direction… and then we were raided, and I was nineteen years old living on the streets.
I was one of the lucky ones. I now live in a Cincinnati suburb with my fiancé, just five years after all of this. And I’m sitting here, reeling in the first half of Zombie’s Halloween and having a difficult time looking at young Michael’s innocent-and-tainted face… and not seeing my family, the neighbors, and everyone who ever lived in a drug-infested trailer park.
When Zombie, as usual, splices in that 8mm footage throughout the film (an auteur trademark) – especially following the pinnacle gunshots that bookend the final half of the film… I sat back and cried.
Because like Laurie, I can’t seem to move on from where I came from. It’s following me like a nightmare. I feel the repercussions of it – and all I want is one less panic attack, one less depressive episode, and to just be myself… the truly grateful and happy self that I am underneath the trauma.
I’m not sure I’ll even be able to get through a Halloween II rewatch… since I recall it not letting up on the themes of haunted history and post-trauma.