The early numbers are in and to absolutely no one’s surprise around here The Final Destination is murdering Michael Myers at the box office this weekend. But the battle of the confusingly titled horror installments — The Final Destination is actually the fourth chapter; Halloween II is the ninth — was never really a fair fight to begin with. Why? Read on…
Halloween II‘s Rob Zombie is a good director (maybe even a great director, if you go back and watch the last five minutes of 2005’s The Devil’s Rejects), but even the most talented auteur couldn’t possibly make Michael Myers scary (or hip) again. It’s time to face the fact that no matter how you try to reboot the Shatner-masked slasher franchise, no matter what kind of new backstory or shocking new pinnacles of gore you want to ladle onto it, Halloween is over. Dunzo. Deader than Jamie Lee Curtis’ promiscuous high school gal pals. Ditto with Freddy Krueger…and Jason…and Chucky. In fact, they should all move into the same retirement home together, park their tired bogeyman butts around a card table, and play some Canasta.
The Final Destination, on the other hand, actually gets what teenagers and twentysomethings want to see on a Friday night. Namely, other teens and twentysomethings who are better-looking than they are and who serve up snappier comebacks than they do getting offed in fun, awesomely clever, byzantinely unexpected new ways. The first FD was a giddy joyride in which the acne-free cast (including Heroes‘ Ali Larter), who somehow managed to escape the grim reaper’s clutches on an airplane, scrambled until death caught up with them. It was fresh, funny, and, thanks to some slow-boil suspense that would make Hitchcock smile, actually scary. And unlike Halloween and its male, Fangoria-reading demo, it appealed equally to guys and gals. The second FD smartly moved the action to a new, equally gooseflesh-inducing setting — an insane, Rube Goldberg-ian highway accident that lets you know you’re in good hands in the first 10 minutes. And the roller coaster fiasco in the third FD proved that the sick bastards behind the franchise hadn’t run out of ideas yet. This time, not only have they added a 3-D hook (inspired, but what’s even more inspired is that folks will pay more to see it in 3-D), but they also knew how to stamp their brand of gruesome giddy-up on a Nascar race, a swimming pool drain, and a car wash… What 18-year-old wouldn’t cough up 10 bucks to see that? Heck, what 38-year-old wouldn’t?
If Hollywood studios want to keep getting kids to fork over their allowances and babysitting money for their bloody hijinks, they’re going to have to get more inventive than just nostalgically trotting out the same old masked maestros of murder and mayhem that they’ve been trotting out since the Reagan era. The Weinstein Company’s decision to hire Rob Zombie to re-energize the Halloween brand wasn’t a terrible idea. But the belief that it was a franchise that people still cared about was. John Carpenter’s 1978 original was an awesome film. Revolutionary, even. But in 2009, it feels as ancient as Nosferatu. What’s worse is that the indie studio thought it made sense to open Halloween II on the same weekend as FD (a game of chicken they can’t possibly have thought they’d win) instead of a few weeks later, or even…call me crazy…closer to Halloween. But maybe the biggest misstep was that by opening their film this weekend, the Weinstein Company siphoned off potential ticket buyers from their other film, Inglourious Basterds instead of giving Quentin Tarantino’s WWII epic some more room to breathe and rake in as much dough as possible. Forget Michael Myers or Final Destination. For my money, that’s the scariest thing that happened this weekend.
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Photo credit: Jim Sheldon