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Notes from the back row

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“I think a lot of movie fans ruin the experience for themselves in advance,” director Rob Zombie said in a recent interview with moviefreak.com. “They learn everything possible. (From the internet) they know everything. I remember when I was a kid going to see movies — from Halloween to Jaws to Raiders of the Lost Ark — I literally walked in and didn't know anything. Nothing. I had no idea. Even Star Wars, I didn’t have a f&cking clue, I just knew it was a science fiction movie. You’d just sit there and be blown away. But now, everyone scrutinizes everything.”

Zombie’s re-imaging of Halloween opens Friday and if you are looking for that kind of experience stop reading now. But I get his point. The best films, or the most enjoyable, are often the ones that come out of left field and surprise the crap out of you. Superbad , still playing at the Village 8, is that kind of flick. Balls of Fury , opening Friday, is not. It’s surprising all right, surprisingly crappy. Also surprising that a film like this could get Christopher Walken to act in it. (He’s by far the best part.)

Walken plays Master Feng, a criminal bigwig who holds an annual to-the-death ping-pong tournament. Randy Dakota, ex-child prodigy is convinced by the FBI to enter the tourney undercover so they can get a crack at Feng, who also killed Dakota’s father over old gambling debts. From this half-baked premise we’re given a cheap, poorly lit, mash-up of a kung-fu flick and an inspirational sports drama littered with Asian and gay stereotypes and the obligatory hit-in-the-nuts jokes. The numerous filmic references (everything from Karate Kid to The Matrix ) aren’t all that funny because that sort of stuff has been done a million times before (and better) by parodies like Scary Movie 4. You know you’ve got problems when Scary Movie 4 is considered better.

“Better? Or not?” is the debate surrounding the new Halloween. Unlike John Carpenter’s classic, which relied on pace, tension and waiting for its chills, Rob Zombie has re-imagined the story, focusing more on Michael Myers and bringing a bloodier, grislier sense of frantic violence to it. With new backstory elements Zombie hopes to shed some light into the darkest regions of Myers’s mind and the pure evil that resides there. “This is a movie about Michael Myers,” Zombie says. “The other one was about Laurie Stode.”

Not to say Laurie isn’t in the film, she’s played by young star Scout Taylor-Compton, but the film spends more time with Michael as a child being raised in a white-trash, foul-mouthed home (with Sherri Moon-Zombie as his stripper mom) as well as more scenes and carnage within the maximum security sanitarium with Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell). Naysayers will claim Zombie’s focus on who Michael is and how he ends up as a deranged, evil psychopath detracts from what made the original so chilling — his essence-of-evil anonymity. But Zombie knows you can’t touch the original and therefore aims for something different, more modern. The violence is brutal, but real, and while this version of Halloween may not be as freaky as the original, it certainly stands on its own. Not better, but different. And still pretty awesome.

And yet the question remains, are we ruining the cinematic experience by watching clips and trailers online, by reading interviews and reviews? Probably we are. Ignorance is bliss and surprise, as they say, is the heart of creativity. Of course, follow this argument to the end and… surprise! I’m out of a job. So forget it, I’ll see you at the Village 8, in the back row.

AT VILLAGE 8 Aug. 31-Sept. 4: Halloween; Balls of Fury; Superbad; Bourne Ultimatum; Mr.. Bean’s Holiday; Nanny Diaries; Hairspray; Simpsons; Rush Hour 3; War.

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