I have wanted to introduce something like this on the site for a little while now. It’s not a particularly novel idea or anything but I thought it would make for a good read, comparing and contrasting two similar films. The title is pretty self-explanatory, I’m sure we all remember completing countless Venn diagrams in school. If you’re not aware, a Venn diagram is a diagram  used to compare to items: visually, two circles are next to each other with some overlap. The outside space of the two circles represent the two items individual traits while the center overlap lists the similar characteristics.

For my first Venn diagram, I decided to tie it in with this month’s Lamb director John Carpenter, by comparing one of his most famous flicks to the updated reimagining of the films from 2007.

Halloween (1978) Directed by John Carpenter. Starring: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis and Tony Moran.

Halloween is a movie proceeded by its immense reputation in the horror genre. Carpenter’s ultimate classic is largely considered to be one of the scariest films of all time and is part of one of the biggest horror franchises to date. Halloween made way for a total of 7 sequels, a remake and a sequel to that remake.  The original film centers around Michael Myers, a boy that is sent to a mental institution after violently stabbing his younger sister to death at the age of six. Fifteen years later, real life Boogeyman Myers escapes from the institution and begins to terrorize the small town he grew up in, attacking local babysitters with a knife, wearing just a jumpsuit and altered Halloween mask.  Here are some of Halloween’s major notes:
  • This film provides us with the introduction to Michael Myers. Although the character is only credited in this film as “The Shape”, his plain jump suit, matted hair and emotionally devoid mask create a character beyond chilling. The mask is actually a modified William Shatner mask, but you can’t tell by looking at it.
  • Michael is given little backstory in the film other than a few explanations for his former therapist. He is meant to be symbolic to the audience. This creates a real sense of fear for viewers because they can relate in any number of ways to what evil lives inside of him. There is something very terrifying about the unknown. Killing without reason is hard to comprehend so it’s even harder to understand how to overcome the malevolent force.
  • Myers is described as ‘purely and simply evil.’ John Carpenter and co-writer Debra Hill started the story with an idea that you just couldn’t kill pure evil. So the Michael character becomes an icon, standing for something more than a psychopath. He is untreatable, unrelenting and completely unstoppable. Sequels focus a lot on making a point that Myers won’t die but this original tale sets up the legend.
  • The movie is very atmospheric, relying on music, visual scene composition (in the background and foreground) and perspective camera work to set the suspense of the film. The film’s main musical theme is beyond iconic at this point, the simple piano tune consisting of only a few notes, works just as well today as it did during the films first run. Also deploying the use of layered scenes added to the film’s impending feeling of terror. Often there are shots from a distance, only displaying Michael’s character partially. The audience knows he is out of place and is scared to see what happens when he appears closer. In the same vein, the movie uses camerawork from the killer’s point of view, making the audience feel like a voyeur of the gruesome events.

Halloween (2007) Directed by Rob Zombie. Starring: Scout Taylor-Compton, Malcolm McDowell and Tyler Mane.

Flash forward through all the sequels to 2007. It’s prime time for remakes, and budding horror director and longtime fan Rob Zombie finds his chance to reboot the extremely popular film. Classic horror fans groaned collectively at the notion of remaking a classic, but Zombie promised to treat the film as a reimagining and a new vision.  Anyone paying attention knew that Rob Zombie’s film was sure to have a whole different feel if it was going to be anything close to his previous work – which included House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects. Here are some of Rob Zombie’s Halloween’s major notes:
  • First off, Zombie is aware that we know Myers just as well as he does. So his intentions with the film are to craft a different story for the character. In this film, most of the characters are more developed than in the original. We spend tons of time with young Michael at home and school, then later in the institution. We’re essentially given a backstory for the makings of a serial killer. Myers is now much more than just pure evil. He is a troubled child that had one too many things working against him – a perfect example of the worst mix of nature and nurture.
  • We see in detail the relationship young Michael had with his family and therapist growing up. He is abused at home by everyone but his mother, bullied at school by peers and also has an unhealthy obsession with killing small animals. He shows kindness to his mother and baby sister, but rage builds. The kills are amplified in this universe as he beats and slashes a bully, his stepdad, his sister and her boyfriend. This is his snapping point he never recovers from. He grows more volatile and hides his face under handmade masks.
  • Also in Rob Zombie’s version of the story, the legend is addressed from a ‘what if’ stand point. The mystique of the original ‘Shape’ character is gone. The film completely lifts the veil and let’s you into the character. There are answers for most of the previous film’s ambiguities. For instance, why he wears the mask, his brute strength, and his reason for murder.
  • The most diametrical aspect of the 2007 film is the style. Scares and tension are presented through heavy gore and violence. The camerawork is unflinching and much more gritty than before. Zombie conveys a vastly different tale by trading in ominous atmosphere for in your face bloodshed.

The Similarities

In summation, these are two very different films. John Carpenter’s Halloween is a favorite of mine that I can watch repeatedly, every year. But I don’t dismiss Rob Zombie’s version of Halloween because I appreciate what angle he examined the story from. What I love about the original is the style and manner in which it presents the suspense, so I don’t need someone to try and recreate that same tension. 2007 takes it from the plot, which is very much the same in the two films. We have a similar string of murders and victims, and at the core the same villain. You can argue that Myers in the original is scarier (I will agree) because he has no motive for his actions but Myers in 07 in undoubtedly more brutal. Both films share the goal of slasher, but take the opposite ways getting there.