Director: Rob Zombie
Writer: Rob Zombie
Producer: Malek Akkad, Andy Gould, Rob Zombie
Stars: Malcolm McDowell, Brad Dourif, Sheri Moon Zombie, Tyler Mane, Scout Taylor-Compton, Danielle Harris, Daeg Faerch
Psychopath Michael Myers escapes a mental institution and returns to the home of his original crimes where he plans a deadly reunion with his little sister.
NOTE: The Director’s Cut of Rob Zombie's "Halloween" was reviewed.
It is kind of a funny concept that movie remakes are limited exclusively to films that worked right the first time around. Everywhere else in life, people generally only redo the things they failed, like a driving test or a marriage. Seems like it would make more sense to remake bad movies.
In any event, “Halloween” was not a movie in dire need of a redo. Among the many reasons why the 1978 original (review here) remains a classic is that it is relatively undated for a movie far older than the remake’s target demographic. Bellbottomed fashion aside, “Halloween” possesses no technological or cultural references that root it to the 70’s. Decades later, teenagers still talk on the phone and take jobs babysitting. Children still trick-or-treat and fear the boogeyman. And serial killing psychopaths are still capable of terrorizing any presumed safe suburban community.
Rob Zombie had an uphill battle cut out for him in crafting an update that could stand near John Carpenter’s original in both substance and resonance. Vocal fans were divided by the very concept of a reboot before a single reel of film even threaded through the gate. That divide grew wider after the movie was released. Yet those who can see past the steam from their heat over an honored horror benchmark being molested by damned-no-matter-what hands might have their misguided preconceptions rattled. Zombie successfully created a remake that establishes its own identity while retaining the core of its inspiration.
Before Laurie Strode was retroactively made a long lost relative to explain his murderous rampage, Michael Myers was simply The Shape. The Shape wore a plain white mask because he was a faceless killer. He had no identity. Dr. Loomis said it himself upon Michael’s sanitarium escape: “The evil is gone.” This was not a man. This was a thing.
In the time since, cinema slashers have become anti-hero icons. Freddy Krueger has vinyl dolls. Jason Voorhees has action figures. Scattered office cubicles, bedrooms, and curio cabinets all over the world probably have an adornment of some kind memorializing these fictitious murderers. Zombie realized that reestablishing The Shape’s identity as an anonymous force would not be as accepted by a contemporary audience. This is an era where senseless acts of violence from school shootings to spree killings result in a media eager to point fingers and to explain. Trying to comprehend the incomprehensible brings about questions of blame and fault. How and why become greater topics than the acts themselves.
Zombie steps outside the lines of the original by delving into what could possibly contribute to the genesis of a madman. The authentic depiction of Michael’s white trash home life is delivered down pat from dialogue to décor. It is a disturbing scene to see a lecherous stepfather (William Forsythe seethes sleaze in the role) emasculating young Michael at every opportunity. It is more disturbing to see that same man lusting after his wife’s teenage daughter. Michael retreats into a world where he hides himself with a mask and redirects the animosity funneled at him into the torture of animals. But there are no definitive answers, as there never could be any true explanation. There is no singular cause for Michael’s predilection towards apathetic violence. What is portrayed is a small brushstroke in a complex portrait of how evil might be manifested. Michael could be anybody, just as Haddonfield could be anywhere.
Whereas the focus of 1978’s “Halloween” was primarily on victim Laurie Strode, the 2007 version clearly centers on Michael. Although the first act of the movie illustrates his motivations and develops his character as Michael, he very much becomes The Shape by the film’s end. Michael may have the broader goal of finding Laurie, but there is no discrimination for whomever stands between him and his quarry. He is a frighteningly unstoppable force devoid of compassion and it makes his rampages that much more intense.
As Michael’s target Laurie Strode, Scout Taylor-Compton stands out as modestly overplaying her quirky charm. She giddily smiles and faux pouts so often that her cheeks seem poised to explode. She makes Laurie very likeable and sympathetic though, even if she lays on the teenaged tee-hees a little overmuch. The rest of the cast is a hall-of-fame who’s-who of genre veterans that fit their roles to a proverbial tee. Dee Wallace adds another credit to her list of perfectly played movie moms. Ken Foree delivers memorable comic relief during his brief appearance. Malcolm McDowell might be having slightly too much fun playing up Dr. Loomis’ unique personality, but Michael’s psychologist always was somewhat mental. There is a subtle exploration of a possible madness in Loomis as well. Through a modern lens, Loomis fits the role of media-savvy health professional/personality whose goals may be noble, while his creed might be skewed.
What Zombie retains of the original vision is all that is required. Of course, the iconic soundtrack remains intact, while Tyler Bates’ musical additions also score the right tone to Zombie’s disturbing atmosphere. Zombie also keeps memorable moments such as the glasses-wearing ghost sheet, while restaging slightly to provide unexpected scares.
But the bulk of the film is pure Zombie. It feels like “Halloween.” It feels like Michael Myers. It also feels unique and it also feels frightening. Gone are the karate kicks from hip-hop artists and cameo appearances from supermodels. This is a brutal depiction of a terrifying figure. Tipping over two hours in screen time, it does run too long in several spots, particularly the climax. Although often when a lull approaches, raw jolts follow close behind to keep things away from boredom. In no place is this more evident than in the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”-esque end scene.
Recreating “Halloween” was a thankless task. But Rob Zombie’s reboot is a remake worthy of its title’s legacy. More importantly, it is a movie that stands independent from its source, as fearless and as unwavering as Michael Myers himself.
Review Score: 80