In the town of Haddonfield, Illinois, something evil and destructive is brewing. Young Michael Myers is the disturbed product of a highly dysfunctional family: an abusive drunk who’s his “father figure,” a stripper mother who harbors no respect from anyone, and a promiscuous sister, who shows him little regard, all he truly has is a baby sister who he does love and a festering and destructive anger, that one Halloween night, comes to a boil in dramatic fashion… and from there a rain of horror falls.
And that’s the opening part of Rob Zombie’s re-imagining of the classic John Carpenter film Halloween, and I use the term “re-imagining” deliberately as a lot of others are referring to it as a remake, and yet there’s some huge differences here. Make no mistake, this certainly does owe to John Carpenter’s legendary original in huge ways, but Zombie has made it his own. Carpenter’s film is very much a product of it’s time, and what Zombie has chosen to do is the same thing, come back with this and make it a product of his time and his worldview, creating a very nihilistic world, with little to no redeeming value in it whatsoever. He’s also chosen to give Michael Myers a very human persona, in his own way- whereas the original keeps Myers as almost this mythic force, Zombie chooses to deconstruct the myth. In John Carpenter’s film, you were always seeing things out of the corner of your eye, in Zombie’s, he shows it to you full one and often lingers over it.
The first hour of the movie is pretty damn good and pretty damn intense. This focuses on Michael’s childhood, his incarceration and his dealings with Dr. Sam Loomis and it’s pretty magnetic stuff. The second hour of the movie comes back to the familiar ground of the first film, and though it’s all covered in about an hour, it actually feels slower in comparison to Carpenter’s original. In particular, the last 15 minutes of the film has a little too much to it, mostly trying for more terror thrills when it could’ve been tied up a little more tidily.
The other thing that bothers me a bit here is that really there’s not a whole lot of anyone to really side with in the film. I tended to think that most of the people were pretty loathsome, and while that pretty much makes sense for the first hour of the film, to me anyway, it decreases the horror of the second hour. The only time when it does veer away from that is with the Laurie Strode character and her parents. But the other thing that happens here is that this is pretty loyal to the events of Carpenter’s original, and I can certainly commend Zombie for wanting to keep it that close, but I think if he would’ve done something a little more different than that, he could’ve come away with something more effective.
The other thing that I commend him with is the music of the film. Tyler Bates provides the film’s music and there’s a good creepy score here that certainly does reference John Carpenter’s original music. It’s quite well done.
Zombie’s got his most eclectic cast yet in this movie- Oh, his regulars are certainly back, Sherrie Moon Zombie, Bill Mosely, Sid Haig and William Forsythe are all here, and you’ve also got other parts filled out by Brad Dourif, Richard Lynch, Clint Howard, Udo Kier, Danny Trejo, Tom Towles, Leslie Easterbrook, Sybil Danning and Mickey Dolenz (of The Monkees). Daeg Faerch is the name of the young actor who plays the young Michael Myers, and this kid is absolutely terrific. Scout Taylor-Compton steps into Jamie Lee Curtis’ shoes to play Laurie Strode, and she sort of reminds me of a cleaner Lindsay Lohan. Tyler Mane plays the adult Michael Myers, and he’s physically quite the change from the original. Big, hulkish and in your face, his presence is certainly one facet of Zombie’s re-imagination. And the always great Malcolm McDowell steps into Donald Pleasance’s shoes to play Dr. Sam Loomis, and he does a great job, certainly playing Loomis in a more down to earth manner, whereas Pleasance’s character was literally a harbinger of doom for what was coming to Haddonfield, convincing you that what was coming was pure and utter evil, McDowell’s Loomis does the same thing of a sorts, but he’s definitely playing this as more a real psychiatrist than what Pleasance did.
Now I am a Rob Zombie fan, I love his first two movies and I still think that this year he’s given me anyway the screen’s best moment with his Werewolf Women of the S.S. trailer in Grindhouse. I’d rank Halloween as third in my order of preference in his films, even though I do think he’s displayed some tremendous growth as a filmmaker here. But, he is re-imagining a genuine horror classic here- and make no mistake about it, John Carpenter’s original film is indeed just that, a true classic. For Zombie to really do it justice he can’t really make any misfires, and yet here he does make a couple. In the end, I still think it’s a worthy view, especially if you’ve seen the original, but it doesn’t carry the same impact as the original- Carpenter literally made your pulse race at the end of the film, but Zombie is just making you wait for the end of his film, and for re-imagining a genuine horror classic, if there’s anything that should be true to the original, it should be the true sense of terror that came out of it. It’s still a worthy effort, it just falls a little short.