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Face-Off: Halloween (2007) vs. A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Nice to see you again, fans of the cinema! This is the Face-Off, where two movies enter and both movies leave, but one leaves in a slightly better light. Yes, here we take two competitors and compare their key elements and see who comes out the champion. It's a fierce competition that results in blood, tears, and online arguments, but the more brutal the battle, the sweeter the victory.

This week sees the release of the newest HALLOWEEN movie, and this one brings back Jamie Lee Curtis as Laure Strode as she takes on the killer Michael Myers after surviving his killing spree 40 years ago. So, for this week, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at another attempt to reboot the franchise with the remake of the 1978 classic, Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN from 2007. A suitable and equally violent competitor is yet another remake of a horror classic, the 2010 redo of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET with Jackie Earle Haley taking on the role of the sharp-fingered, sharp-tongued, dream-invading and always-ready-for-a-steak-dinner baddie, Freddy Krueger.

Both movies were released to much fanfare but were met with middling responses upon release, although they did fare well at the box office (HALLOWEEN even managed to get a sequel). No matter how much cash they made they still fell into the same sad, depressing, cabbage-smelling dustbin so many other remakes have fallen into. However, one does remain supreme over the other, and it's time to sharpen your weapon of choice and jump on into the fight to see which comes out the victor. 

The Ensemble

Scout Taylor-Compton as Laurie Strode
Malcolm McDowell as Dr. Samuel Loomis
Tyler Mane as Michael Myers
Daeg Faerch as Young Michael Myers
Sheri Moon Zombie as Deborah Myers
Danielle Harris as Annie Brackett
Kristina Klebe as Lynda Van Der Klok
Brad Dourif as Sheriff Lee Brackett
William Forsythe as Ronnie White
Hanna Hall as Judith Myers

Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy Krueger
Rooney Mara as Nancy Holbrook
Kyle Gallner as Quentin Smith
Katie Cassidy as Kris Fowles
Thomas Dekker as Jesse Braun
Kellan Lutz as Dean Russell
Clancy Brown as Alan Smith
Connie Britton as Dr. Gwen Holbrook

Direction

Zombie's approach from the start was to go back into Myers' past and add some depth to his character, revitialzing and making him seem fresh and scary for new audiences. In the first half of the movie he succeeds in telling a brutal, unsettling story of a child turning into a murderer, with Zombie unflinching from the heavier elements. We've that same appraoch in HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and DEVIL'S REJECTS, and it works nicely for this movie's first half. He gets good performance out his cast, too, and I imagine his advice to a lot of his actors is to go all out, as nuance is never really a hallmark of Zombie movies. But that's okay, though, because it's fun to watch Forsythe, Dourif, and McDowell chew up the scenery. But while he succeeds in handling the darker, more grounded elements of the first half, his movie loses some of that spark toward the end, becoming more of the typical "slasher-fest".

Samuel Bayer, an award-winning director in the music video and commercial world, has one movie under his belt, and it's this one. He initially rejected the movie twice, until producer Michael Bay insisted, and he finally took the gig. On a visual level the movie has notable moments, but they're mostly restricted to the dream and murder scenes. Aside from that the movie looks and feels like any other teen-geared horror flick, with any other name being inserted into the credits. This is the case with many of the other horror movies produced by Michael Bay and Platinum Dunes, which at that point included the remakes of AMITYVILLE HORROR, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, FRIDAY THE 13TH and more. All those movies took on the "take the money and run" approach to filmmaking, and thus was the case here. There were attempts to make the character and the concept scary again, going down a more grounded root by turning Freddy into a more brutal killer than the joke-cracking figure he'd become. But Bayer's work can't lift the movie above typical, bland horror movie fare, no matter how cool the kills are. 

Script

Zombie also takes on scripting duties here, so naturally it's filled with white trash, foul-mouthed degenerates, at least at first. Myers' family is our introduction to his grisly, tragic upbringing, and Zombie seems to have studied real life killers like John Wayne Gacy or Ed Gein so as to inject some realism into his script. As I said before, this in of itself would've been a great movie. But, come the second half you begin to see it has to settle for being simple, added context to the story we already know. Once it gets to teen-hunting bits Zombie's script becomes less and less praiseworthy, as he concocts nothing more than a rehash of the original movie. Sure, there's more complexity to Michael, but we have to juggle that with familitarity of the story, and it's hard to find the positive in the proceedings. As for characters and dialouge, he's better at writing for nasty people, making them truly dispicable and genuisly foul-mouthed. Seriously, no one quite swears as they do in Zombie movies. But when he gets to writing for other characters, like the teen girls, for example, he doesn't know what to make them talk about other than having boys and being besties with each other. That's what happens when characterization is crammed into the final hour of the movie. 

In creating the story of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET the movie borrows A TON from the franchise itself. Some of the kills are imported (still awesome, though), and the story remains much the same. The differences include changing Krueger from a child killer to a child molester, as the victims eventually begin to remember a time when Krueger did terrible things to them. Riddled with plot holes, cheap dialouge and unegaging characters, the lone bright spot in the script from Wesley Strick and later Eric Heisserer (Yeah, the dude who wrote the brilliant ARRIVAL wrote this thing) is that there's a glimmer of an attempt to make the movie scary by making Krueger more of a monster than just the guy who kills you in your sleep. In a better movie the child molester angle would've landed harder and given Haley something better to work with. But, if you aren't trying to do the same story of the original it's not really a remake, and if it's not a remake. then where's the money in that!?

Best Bloody Bits & Lines

The First Signs
Michaels First Kill
The Massacre

Loomis: "You can't go home."
Myers (10): "Why?"
Loomis: "Because you've done terrible things."

Loomis: "His eyes will deceive you; they will destroy you. They will take from you your innocence, your pride, and eventually your soul. These eyes do not see what you and I see. Behind these eyes one finds only blackness, the absence of light. These are the eyes of a psychopath."

Killing the Guards

Ismael: "Mikey, please don't, buddy, please. I was good to you. Please, I'm your friend."

Truck Stop Kill

Big Joe Grizzly: "Hey, buddy, just to give you a heads up, I got a taco supreme talking back at me, so I'm going to be a while. So do you mind waiting somewhere else and let me pass this beast in peace?"

Four-Eyes Gets Pegged
Ghost Nerd/Girl #1 Down
Strode Family Killed
Girl #2 Down
Taking Laurie
Brother
Laurie Makes Her Move
Michael Gunned Down
The Last Stand
Laurie Shoots to Kill

Slitting His Own Throat
Through the Wall
Nightmare in Class

Freddy: "I was just petting him."

Thrown Around the Room

Jesse: "Oh God."
Freddy: "No. Just me..."

Freddy: "Why are you screaming? I haven't even cut you yet!"

Freddy: "Did you know that after the heart stops beating, the brain can function for well over seven minutes We got six more minutes to play."

Chest Burst!
Bath Tub Redux
Snowfall
The Truth About Freddy
Burned Alive
Pharmacy Nightmare
Hallway of Blood

Freddy: "How's this for a wet dream?"

Trapped in Bed

Freddy : "Your mouth says no...But your body says yes..."

Freddy: "Did you really think your boyfriend could wake you up? I'm your boyfriend now.

Bringing Freddy Out

Nancy: "You're in my world now, bitch!"

Freddy’s Dead
Through the Mirror

Rebirth of the Killer

While other horror remakes simply give their leading villain a new makeover, HALLOWEEN's claim to fame is the approach to explore Michael's childhood and journey to becoming a true psychopath. I would've loved to see this play out in true prequel form, because as a fan of true crime stories I always find myself engaged in this aspect of Myers' life. It gives the villain some context and allows viewers to step into the mind of a madman, getting a glimpse at what can make a killer. On a more superficial note, the character's mask gets a gritty new look, with some scar marks on the surface and some scraggly new hair. The look of the character is perfect in his simplicity, and Zombie's team does just enough to make it their own without ruining that aspect. As I said, I would've liked to see the younger, serial killer element play out the way it was in the beginning rather than go back to the originals' story, but hey, the movie gets points for even starting down that route in the first place. 

Poor Jackie Earle Haley. The man is such a talent, and is caked under so much makeup in this to the point where he looks like the one Orc that escaped Middle-earth when the Ring was destroyed. In trying to turn him into a more grounded, less goofy character the writers made this classic baddie such a bore to listen to, made worse by the fact he's not even creepy to look at. He looks like silly putty pulled over a cat's face. He gets a few one-liners in there, and the fact he's on screen so much does make the final moments a bit more worthwhile,  but for the most part this character had been neutered in an attempt at a big change, when really it should've been more of a balancing act between zany and menacing. What we got was filmmakers telling Haley to do Rorsahch from WATCHMEN again, but this time in a striped sweater. 

Kills, Blood & More Kills

The kills that occur in the first half of the movie are incredibly brutal and unrelenting, which is a hallmark of Zombie movies, made all the more gruesome by seeing a little kid committing such heinous acts. The brutality of the crimes really sells the fact the Myers is a true psychopath and a born killer. However, after Myers gets out of the detention center and heads back home the kills become rather typical, and lack the kind of visceral punch they do at the start. Naked girls are stabbed, others are thrown about, and it's all not unlike anything you'd find in any other slasher flick. Along with the familiarity of the story at this point, the lack of fun kills is yet another reason this movie begins to falter at the halfway mark. 

While everything else in NIGHTMARE may range from disappointing to pure dumpster fire, let it not be said that this movie has some awesome kills and buckets of blood. I got a lot of enjoyment out of watching Kellan Lutz slit his own throat (probably too much fun), and the proceeding kills of the teens in their dreams are always fun and shocking to watch, especially when that deep red blood starts to flow. Freddy slices and dices, and full-on shoves his knife-clad fingers through victims' faces and torsos. If there is any reason -- any reason at all -- to watch this movie it's to see people get cut and watch the literal hallway of blood flow. 

Awards, Praise & Money

2 wins, 2 nominations (per IMDB)

Praise:

Rotten Tomatoes: 25% (59% Audience Score)

IMDB: 6.1

Metacritic: 47 (5.6 Audience Score)

Money:

$58 million ($80 million globally)

Golden Schmoes:

Nominee:

- Worst Movie of the Year

- Biggest Disappointment of the Year

2 wins, 11 nominations (per IMDB)

Praise:

Rotten Tomatoes: 15% (43% Audience Score)

IMDB: 5.2

Metacritic: 35 (5.1 Audience Score)

Money:

$63 million ($115 million globally)

Rank in the Franchise

The HALLOWEEN franchise doesn't have many bright apples on its tree. After the first movie it was a quick descent into mediocrity, and then into sheer unwatchability. SEASON OF THE WITCH, THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MEYERS, THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS -- all unwatchable. H20 ain't terrible, but it isn't very good either. In that regard, Zombie's HALLOWEEN actually rises above many of the other entries in the series thanks to a slight, temportary shift in approach and focus on brutality. In fact, I think the case can be made it's the best entry since the original, a spot it's likely to lose once this new movie comes out. Still, top 3 or 4 ain't bad.

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchise has fared a bit better than the HALLOWEEN movies. DREAM WARRIORS and NEW NIGHTMARE have some definite bright spots, and even FREDDY VS. JASON is kind of fun when you're in the right mood. The pressence of Freddy takes these movies a long way, with major props going to actor Robert Englund for giving the baddie life. It stands to reason then that this movie, with a lack of Englund, can be considered one of the worst -- if not the worst -- in the whole series. Gone is the fun for the most part, and in it's place is a horror movie starring teens who look like they're auditioning to join Panic at the Disco, making it a disappointment on a litany of levels. Oh, my kingdom for a wise-cracking Freddy. 

Halloween

Aside from a few kills and one-liners from Freddy, the A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET remake is about as useless as most other remakes you're likely to find. It adds nothing new of value to the series and makes you long for everything about the Englund-led movies, even if they themselves aren't that much better, on the whole. Compared next to it, HALLOWEEN, which is also not a great outing, looks like a masterpiece. Zombie at least tried to switch things up and brought his own sensibilities to the movie in a noticeable, affecting way. It fails when it gets into the final half, and then it becomes such a disappointing rehash that it fails to validate the first half, which is far more interesting and brutal. With a few exceptions (LET ME IN), horror remakes either need to be taken in wildly different directions from their predecessors or they shouldn't be made at all. HALLOWEEN, at least, gets half right.

HALLOWEEN hits theaters October 19.

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