Directed by: Rob Zombie
Premise: A remake of John Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic. In this re-imagining, Michael Myers grows up in a dysfunctional suburban household and is committed to an asylum after murdering members of his own family. Fifteen years later, the adult Myers escapes and returns to his hometown to hunt down his surviving sister (Scout Taylor-Compton).
What Works: The first act of the film is very good and successfully reinvents the franchise by exploring the background of Michael Myers. Zombie’s screenplay creates a credible psychopathology for Michael Myers. The disintegration of Michael’s personality while he is incarcerated is very interesting and very grounded in reality, which makes it much creepier. The young Michael Myers is played by Daeg Faerch and the actor does a good job of portraying a burgeoning psychopath, selling the madness by playing the role calmly and using the horror of his actions and the situations to create the madness. The relationship between Michael and Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) is portrayed a bit differently in this version and fleshing out their relationship helps to illustrate Michael’s growing threat and aids the ending of the film. McDowell brings a sensitivity to his role as a failed nurturer that differs from Donald Pleasence’s Captain Ahab-like take on the character in the original film. Sheri Moon Zombie stars as Michael Myers’ mother and she really sells the tragedy of Michael’s descent in monstrosity.
What Doesn’t: After Michael Myers’ escapes from the asylum, the film abandons a lot of its innovative ideas and ends up repeating a lot of the original film but in a faster, watered down, and far less suspenseful imitation. In House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects, Rob Zombie demonstrated his ability to stage violence in savage and brutal ways, but he comes up short in this film. Many scenes of violence are poorly staged and edited so that it is difficult to tell what is happening. On top of that, Zombie still hasn’t mastered the ability to create dread and tension, which this Halloween severely lacks. The three female leads are obnoxious, overly hormonal, one-dimensional characters whose life or death is ultimately inconsequential and that kills audience investment in the conclusion. While the remake appears to be trying to separate itself from the cliché of the virginal Final Girl by making the victims and the heroine sexually savvy, the result is that the sexuality comes off as redundant and superfluous. In the third act, this Halloween plays more like the sequels to the original film than a reinvention and rehashes a lot of sequences seen before in this franchise and the slasher genre in general. This is most apparent when Michael becomes an indestructible killing machine, impervious to bullets and other damage, even though the whole point of this version’s new approach was to get away from this pseudo-supernatural and ground Michael Myers in reality.
Bottom Line: The remake of Halloween is a disappointment, more so because it is a product of Rob Zombie, whose sophomore film, The Devil’s Rejects, was a brilliant piece of film. This remake falters because it jettisons the novelty of reinvention in favor of recapitulating what has been seen before.
Episode: #115 (September 2, 2007)
In preparation for the release of Halloween II, I took another look at Rob Zombie’s Halloween and I found my analysis of the film had changed. Looking at the film initially, I held it against John Carpenter’s original Halloween rather than judging Zombie’s film on its own merits. This was a mistake of methodology on my part, which ultimately led to a review that missed the point.
More than anything, I criticized the remake for adding a radically new back-story to the first half of Halloween but then recapitulating the events of the original film in the second half. On closer inspection, and given the events of the sequel, Zombie’s reasons for this are fairly obvious. Rob Zombie’s Michael Myers is more than a mask; he’s a boy, and then a man, who is abandoned by everyone in his life and for him murder and violence are his only means of expressing himself. In the remake, Michael’s rage stems from his desire to experience familial love and all of this is quite clear from the back-story of Zombie’s film. By buttressing this opening up against the original story, Zombie created a commentary on the original film and on the slasher genre as a whole. His film challenges the “bad seed” take on evil and the film shows how the desire for love may be perverted into acts of violence.
The other major criticism I made on Zombie’s Halloween was directed towards the female characters, who I found obnoxious, overly hormonal, and one-dimensional and I felt that the overt sexuality of their story was superfluous and redundant. In retrospect, I can only stand by the former argument but not the latter. I still find them rather obnoxious but there is also a very earnest attempt by Zombie to distance himself from the conservative conception of punishing sexual liberation and create a contrast between the healthy and normal sexuality of the teenage women and the way Michael’s own desires have been twisted. How sexuality plays into Michael’s boyhood murders and the way it resurfaces in his attacks as an adult shows a great degree of forethought on Zombie’s part.
Rob Zombie’s Halloween is not perfect but it is one of the gutsiest and most psychologically sophisticated slasher films ever made. Whatever its faults, the film does fulfill its duty as a remake to bring a fresh perspective to the material and reinvent the franchise for contemporary audiences.
Update Added: Episode: #254 (September 6, 2009)