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The Devil’s Advocate #1: ‘Halloween: Resurrection’ (2002)

There’s an old song by Crosby, Stills & Nash which sagely urges that “if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” With so many horror films in recent years failing to deliver the sort of thrills that made us genre fans in the first place (Consider the bulk of this year’s theatrical output, if you need proof!), the Schlockfinder General has long labored to heed the advice of those old hippies and try to love even the least lovable of contemporary scare screeners. Of course, some movies are just so awful that they’re destined to be shunned and ignored until they fade from existence. Another old song declares that “you’re nobody until somebody loves you,” and some celluloid stinkers wholly deserve to remain nobodies forever. But often, even the most seemingly indefensible clunker has merits which can be appreciated – and even savored – by an open-minded, fun-loving fright fan. For this reason, I give you THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE… The first defendant in this court of public opinion? HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION.

THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE – HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION (2002)

Despite the merciful absence of Druid cultists in trench coats and cowboy boots, white trash histrionics, revisionist histories, shape-changing Shape masks, shaggy facial hair, Josh Hartnett, temporary tattoos, and ethereal visions of dead strippers on white horses, the eighth film in the HALLOWEEN franchise remains the most reviled and lambasted of all the follow-ups to John Carpenter’s seminal 1978 classic. Its contrived, threadbare plot (which could be fully detailed on the back of one flap of a Rabbit-In-Red Lounge matchbook) and painfully annoying characters don’t sit well with any sect of the fanbase. To lovers of the original film, it’s just another moronic, unnecessary sequel. To fans of the original HALLOWEEN II, it demonstrates that even bringing back director Rick Rosenthal won’t restore the series to its former glory. Devotees of the Thorn trilogy feel it insults the franchise by continuing the practice (begun in HALLOWEEN: H20) of ignoring the mythos established in parts 4-6. H20 fans consider it a colossal letdown and a missed opportunity. Fans of Rob Zombie’s remake and its sequel cite RESURRECTION as irrefutable evidence that the series was in desperate need of a reboot.

(I believe members of all these factions would agree that a root canal performed by a blind epileptic on PCP without anesthetic would be less painful than watching Busta Rhymes’ wise-cracking Freddie Harris inexplicably survive after bitch-slapping Death himself in the forehead! To say nothing of Freddie’s groan-inducing “killer shark” closing speech…)

While much of what has been written by RESURRECTION’s detractors is spot on, the movie is not without its charms. As noted, the filmmakers finally get the Shape mask right, presenting the closest approximation of the old white Bill Shatner head since 1981′s HALLOWEEN II. A long-haired Jamie Lee Curtis returns for a very cool opening sequence in Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, a familiar locale that nicely establishes the theme of Michael returning “home”. I also can’t completely dislike any movie that features eye candy like RULES OF ENGAGEMENT’s Bianca Kajlich, redhead Daisy McCrackin, and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA fanboy favorite Katie Sackhoff.

But lots of really bad horror movies feature hot chicks and fan-friendly callbacks to better films. Those elements alone are insufficient to save a real crapfest. What makes HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION worthwhile is the fact that it features, in this writer’s estimation, the most realistic victims ever portrayed in a slasher movie.

I’ll pause for a moment while you fall on the floor in hysterical laughter, or bend over to vomit…

Now, hear me out. The victims in RESURRECTION are shallow, one-dimensional, self-centered, cardboard ciphers. Right? They are not likable, sympathetic, intellectually stimulating, or interesting in any way. Correct? These characters are all complete phonies, would-be actors playing roles they’ve created for themselves in a pathetic effort to get noticed, become famous, and “be somebody.” Agreed? Good. Now go turn on your television and tune to BIG BROTHER. Flip over to SURVIVOR. Switch to ROCK OF LOVE. Check out THE BACHELOR, THE HILLS, and JON & KATE PLUS 8. Make sure you catch THE GIRLS NEXT DOOR, ELIMIDATE, and THE SIMPLE LIFE. SHOT AT LOVE marathon, anyone? I LOVE NEW YORK?

The paper-thin characters picked to spend the night in the old Myers house in RESURRECTION could easily step straight from the fictional town Haddonfield onto the set of any one of the reality shows listed above (or thousands of others just like them) and no one would question them for a second. In our contemporary culture of voyeuristic, “unscripted” entertainment, actual people just like the characters in this film are welcomed into our homes just about every night of the week. They are celebrated, praised, worshipped, and covered by our “news” media as though they were royalty or heads of state. Networks rely on living, breathing people just like the imaginary ones Michael kills in RESURRECTION to survive in the digital age, and gluttonous consumers can’t get enough. This is what Rosenthal was attempting to send up with his return to the franchise, and even if you hate the movie, it’s hard to argue that his obnoxious “Dangertainment” cast is about as accurate a parody of the “real people” on reality shows as you could hope for without incurring a lawsuit.

As a child of the 70s and 80s, the Schlockfinder General finds great satisfaction in watching a horror icon of that era mercilessly hacking the vapid, so-called stars of today into so many slices of bad ham. After all, who hasn’t flipped past AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL or THE TYRA BANKS SHOW and thought to themselves, “If I only had a machete…”? Admittedly, the aforementioned sparing of Busta Rhymes puts a major damper on the festivities, since the implication is that the reality show phonies will win in the end. However, Rosenthal offers a glimmer of hope in the obligatory, sequel-teasing coda – Fake, talentless stars come and go, but the Boogeyman will live on forever.

I wouldn’t dare argue that HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION is great satire, nor would I call it a great film by any critical standard. But after years of primetime TV dominated by people who’ve done nothing whatsoever to earn their fame, after decades of Puck, Speidi, the Kardashians, and Ryan Seacrest, it’s nice once in a while to sit back and watch these paper dolls get what’s coming to them. Reality show cretins are a sort of spiritual kin to nameless slasher movie victims anyway, in that both represent forms of intellectual cannon fodder. RESURRECTION brings the two equally hollow groups together and gives the most unforgiving of movie maniacs a chance to mete out some much-deserved justice. No matter how bad the movie is as a movie, as an exercise in cultural palate-cleansing, it’s a lot of fun.