Directed by: Rob Zombie
Written by: Rob Zombie
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Sheri Moon Zombie, Tyler Mane, Daeg Faerch, Scout Taylor-Compton, Dee Wallace
Recently, Hollywood has persisted to display an irksome habit of remaking good movies instead of re-envisioning and improving bad movies. I heard the other day that someone is remaking the Seven Samurai, but not with cowboys or space rangers, but with samurai. Um, why? I think it’d be a no-brainer to redo Plan 9 from Outer Space as a post-9/11 zombie holocaust with a mega-budget, spectacular effects, and an abrasive religious subtext that would send funny pontiff hats floating. Hell, sign me up.
Rob Zombie’s mangling of John Carpenter’s slasher classic Halloween continues this nasty trend like an irritating rash. Sure, for various reasons, Carpenter didn't show a lot of blood, gore, or backstory in the 1978 original. And sure, he didn’t necessarily want to assault us with gritty viscera and expose the motives behind super-slasher Michael Meyers with twenty minutes of exposition. And hell if Carpenter didn’t end up dishing up an awesome horror film and an instant classic of the genre.
Given that, I can admire Zombie’s motives to take on the legend of Meyers and the challenge to reboot this franchise, which has suffered since Halloween 4, and died a gruesome death with the visual rape that was Halloween H20. Unfortunately, he takes a step back from his impressive The Devil’s Rejects, a knockout of an exploitation flick, which was a rebound from his disappointing debut House of a Thousand Corpses. In this latest outing, he attempts to regenerate the excitement and horror of the original Halloween while trying to modernize it for contemporary audiences, but defies logic and contradicts himself when trying to make the Michael the uber-killer a more realistic and believable evil force. And in the process he ultimately sacrifices a crucial element to enjoying horror: suspense.
The first act is perhaps the main culprit of the film’s failures. Zombie spends way too much time establishing young Michael (Daeg Faerch) as a victim of a horrific white trash family headed up by a stripper mom (Sheri Moon Zombie) and sleazeball stepdad, gleefully portrayed by William Forsythe. The ten-year-old mega-slasher-to-be is a greasy-haired chub who is abused at home and school, soon snaps, and is treated by a surprisingly boring Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), who makes me yearn for the reincarnation of Donald Pleasance. Unfortunately, Zombie treads upon all-too familiar territory here, and the scripting is marred by cliché upon cliché. But on a positive note, this segment firmly establishes Zombie as the Yasujiro Ozu of white trash households.
After a grueling first act, it’s time to cut 17 years later to the present day and Zombie presents us with an almost shot-for-shot remake of the original. The attempt is admirable and respectful, but I was hoping for a lot more. Locked away in an asylum, Meyers (Tyler Mane) has completely traversed to the dark side, has gone mute, and has apparently grown nearly seven feet tall. Loomis has made his millions selling books about him, and Meyers finally decides enough is enough and breaks out of the nuthouse, kills Machete, and heads back to Haddonfield to find long-lost sister Laurie Strode (the instantly headache-inducing Scout Taylor-Compton) and her horny fellow babysitters which includes Danielle Harris, the child star of the fourth and fifth Halloweens). Is it me, or is it wrong to get a little aroused seeing little Jamie get banged?
Michael "I ain't no f*cking Austin Powers" Meyers
The latter part of the film gets particularly uninspired, with the tribute to the original growing a little too obvious. But this time there’s Zombie's achingly stilted dialogue killing the fun, and seasoned horror fanatics and newcomers alike will find no surprise at the plainly spelled out “twist” ending. Most disappointingly, nowhere to be seen is Loomis’ obsession of Ahab-like proportions with Meyers to be seen. Instead of focusing so much on Meyer’s childhood, Zombie should have focused more on his “treatment”, and maybe showed some sort of effort to comment on American mental health care. (What?) Anyway, even as a horrific exercise, this remake falls flat and it’s unfortunate that viewers already know what scares are coming and are not treated to Zombie's usual strengths.
Fortunately, Zombie retains the eerie echoes of Carpenter’s original score, but not nearly often enough or even at the appropriate times. And an additional treat for horror fans is the many cameos from horror vets such as Brad Dourif, Richard Lynch, Dee Wallace, Mickey Dolenz (the Monkees was a horror piece unto itself), and many others.
Now I know this movie will make a mint this weekend and all the Zombie apologists will emphasize that this is a reinvention of the original, but the sad fact is that the filmmaking here is ineffectual, no matter how Meyers slices it. This is a prime time misguided bastardization of a groundbreaking horror film, a personal favorite of yours truly.
Carpenter doesn’t need to spin in his grave (wait, he’s alive?) and I’ll probably forget this film the time Halloween rolls around this year, when the REAL SHIT comes to theaters. This Halloween is like finding one of those gross Circus Peanuts in your trick-or-treat bag: sure it’s got sugar, but it just doesn’t sit right.