Being completely outside the world of film, when it comes to the business of Hollywood, I only know what I read in the entertainment press. However, while I'm no inside authority, the news that Bob and Harvey Weinstein's Dimension Films - along with the entirety of The Weinstein Company - is facing grim times (as reported by Deadline Hollywood) has me thinking of the often-exasperating history of what began as a genre label of Miramax Films. In the early '90s, when I first started noticing the Dimension logo on films like Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice and Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (both 1992), even though the movies themselves weren't stellar, it was still encouraging to see a dedicated new provider of horror movies at a time when studios were reluctant to embrace the genre. At the time I thought, hey, give 'em a chance - these guys are bound to start putting out better films.
And from time to time, those better films did come along. Thanks to Dimension, I got to see at least one Stuart Gordon movie in the theaters (Fortress, 1993). And in 1994, they released The Crow which was pretty sweet. In the mid-'90s, they were on kind of a roll with The Prophecy (1995), Scream (1996), and From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) and in recent years, there's been favorites bearing their imprint like The Others (2001), Grindhouse (2007) and The Mist (2008). However, over the course of all these years, the ratio of quality to shit in Dimension's catalog has been impossible to ignore. And their handling of franchises like Children of the Corn, The Crow, Highlander, Hellraiser, and (in particular) Halloween has often been infuriating.
But history may show that the Weinstein's all-time fuck-up move was to roll the dice on Rob Zombie a second time with Halloween II. While the Weinsteins had some success with Zombie's 2007 reboot of Halloween, that film had the novelty of being the restart of the franchise - an event that was going to bring in a flock of curious fans regardless. And by telling the origin of Michael Myers, Halloween '07 also had the semblance of a story to it. But Halloween II is a disaster on nearly every level and the Weinsteins have only themselves to blame for letting it happen. Was the negative reaction to Zombie's first Halloween (not a universally negative reaction but more than enough to be a cause for concern) something they thought they could completely discount? I can't blame Rob Zombie for making Halloween II his way but I can't believe that this project ever looked to the Weinsteins like anything but a death-knell.
Maybe the debacle of Halloween II just at the moment when their company needed a big success is karma for the Weinstein's long-running abuse of the Halloween franchise (1998's Halloween: H20 being the rare Halloween under their stewardship to respect the series' history and gild its legacy rather than trash it) but regardless, making a Halloween that was only appealing to the Rob Zombie faithful looks a lot like suicide. And to put Halloween II in a game of box office chicken with The Final Destination when they could've easily moved to a more advantageous release date was just begging to lose and to lose hard.
While Zombie's sequel has found some admirers, I think most paying customers feel that Zombie fucked them in the ass and to quote The Big Lebowski (1997), "This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass!" What's galling about both of Zombie's Halloween movies - but II especially - is the contempt that it shows for anyone who is so conventional-minded as to actually come to the theater hoping to see a Halloween film that is suspenseful and scary. I mean, there hasn't been much luck on that front in awhile but for Zombie to at least have tried would've been sporting of him. And personally, I don't see anything in Halloween II that makes me think he did. It's not a bad film because it's not Carpenter's vision of these characters, it's bad because Zombie is a capable visual stylist who has a poor aptitude for writing.
Zombie has said that he wanted to make Laurie and Annie come off as traumatized by their previous run-in with Michael Myers but apparently the entire population of Haddonfield was also attacked by a serial killer as there's nothing to differentiate Laurie and Annie from the rest of the town. Everyone looks and talks exactly the same (and I defy anyone to tell me how the squalid living quarters of Sheriff Brackett's house looks any different from the squalid apartment of Laurie's friends, the dishevelled record store that she works at, or the trashy interior of the Rabbit In Red Lounge). If Zombie really wanted to show how Laurie and Annie have been drastically altered by their ordeal, he needed to show how their lives now contrast against the 'straight' world. To have Laurie and Annie attending college classes or working jobs side-by-side with peers who are optimistic about their lives and their futures, oblivious to the darkness that Laurie and Annie carry with them could've set up a poignant portrayal of both girls (as would the introduction of new romantic relationships, hampered by the girl's emotional baggage). But if anything, it looks as though Laurie and Annie (particularly Laurie) have finally found their niche in the world thanks to their lives taking a dark turn. It makes one wonder how these girls ever fit into the Haddonfield social scene before.
Zombie's done with Halloween now (well, at least it looks that way - remember that he swore up and down after the release of Halloween that he wouldn't do a second film) but rather than hiring Zombie and letting the chips fall where they may, I think Dimension should've shown more concern from the start towards rebooting the Halloween franchise the right way. I know some believe that Zombie should be commended for doing something different but I think his revisionist approach only put the series into a worse corner than it already was (and it didn't result in very good films, either - even if assessed strictly on their own terms). There's no reason why a venerable horror series like Halloween couldn't be relaunched with the same quality control that James Bond and Batman were shown with Casino Royale and Batman Begins (I can imagine directors like The Stepfather's Joseph Ruben or The Strangers' Bryan Bertino doing well with Halloween) but as long as companies like Dimension don't care enough to match the right talent with the right franchise, it won't happen.
And to me, that just seems like bad business.