Halloween (2007) dir. Rob Zombie
Starring: Scout Taylor-Compton, Malcolm McDowell, Sheri Moon Zombie, Tyler Mane
I respected Gus Van Zant’s remake of “Psycho” and personally feel any film can be remade. Of course tackling the great films makes it that much harder to do. Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” is a noble attempt to re-envision John Carpenter’s film. Clearly Zombie didn’t want to make just another sequel. Though I didn’t like the film, “Halloween” is a film unique to Mr. Zombie. If you’re a fan of his films and his sensibilities then his “Halloween Rebooted” succeeds. For others, including me, it was a mixed bag with more shocks than scares.
The film is structured in two clearly defined halves. The first is the domestic story of Myers as a child. His home is the abusive nightmare you would expect from a soon-to-be serial killer. His mother (Sheri Moon Zombie) is a stripper who works hard to put food on the table. His stepfather (William Forsythe) is a freeloading son-of-a-bitch who continually puts down Michael and gives sexual glances to his sister. We also meet the students, teachers, councilors of the school. The bullies, of course, harass Michael constantly. As a result of all this emotional and physical abuse he retreats behind a mask, which he wears to hide his fears. Michael indeed does go crazy and kills his entire family except for his mother. Michael goes to a sanitarium where he meets Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) who spends the 15 years trying to understand his deranged mind. In the second half, it’s 15 years later. Myers escapes from the psych ward where he proceeds to do all the killing we saw in the original film.
Essentially the first half is Zombie’s film, the second half is Carpenter’s film. And trying to fit these two together is like putting a square peg into a round hole. Zombie’s half is particularly effective at justifying and giving context to his murders. Though there’s nothing profound about the psychological analysis Zombie’s storytelling ability is very strong - if you don’t mind spending an hour with the vilest people on earth. It’s a dirty and repulsive world.
To help create this repulsive world, Zombie shoots the film in the same style as his previous “The Devil’s Rejects”. DOP Phil Parmet, who lensed both films, employs a similar grainy and oversaturated look using long lenses and a handheld camera. Zombie also casts some of the same actors as in “The Devil’s Rejects”. William Forsythe is hillbilly deadbeat extraordinaire, and Sheri Moon Zombie is… well… perfectly cast as a stripper MILF. Perhaps my loyal Illinois readers can enlighten me on what the local accent of Haddenfield should be. I kinda doubt it was the southern twang we hear from everyone’s mouths in this film. Therefore for Zombie to resort to the stereotypical redneck abusive characters is a shame.
Where the film just doesn’t work is the second half and the actual suspense. The scares in the original Halloween had a deft and simplistic touch which helped create the general creepiness. “Deft”, “simplistic”, or “subtle” is not in Zombie’s toolbox. Therefore the actual killings shock us more than scare us. Much of the action is choreographed exactly as it was in the first film. The death scenes are drawn out beyond the simple stab to the heart or strangulation. Zombie’s victims writhe in agony and suffer longer more painful deaths than Carpenter’s.
Zombie’s “Halloween” may have worked if he told his story without remaking Carpenter’s film. The situation and characters he creates in the first half are strong enough on to warrant a treatment of their own, without the need to fit it into the “Halloween” story Carpenter and Debra Hill created.
I think Rob Zombie is talented filmmaker, with a unique visual style. And though he may be influenced by the original “Halloween” it was a mistake for him to remake it. It’s not his story to tell. Assuming you don’t mind the idea of remaking one of the greatest horror films of all time, ultimately it’s a matter of personal taste whether the film succeeds or not. For me, I despise the taste of bile.
"Halloween" is available from The Weinstein Company and Alliance Films on December 17. Buy it here: Halloween - Unrated Director's Cut (Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition)