Ever since the announcement that Rob Zombie would be re-imagining John Carpenter’s slasher classic Halloween, critics and horror fans alike have been picking sides, alternatelyÂ at arms over what they saw as a modern travesty and supportive of Zombie’s ability to recreate and update the thrills of what many consider the original slasher flick (though Black Christmas – recently reworked for 2006′s Black Xmas – appeared in Canada over four years earlier than the original Halloween).
The film’s release in late August did little toÂ quell the controversy: critics panned it and audiences showed up in droves to push the film to a record-breaking Labor Day weekend opening. Regardless of critics’ words and filmgoers’ money, though, where does Rob Zombie’s Halloween stand in the annals of horror movie history? After viewing the unrated director’s cut of the film, along withÂ a second disc packed full of special features, it’s not a clear cut (no pun intended) victory for either side. If anything is clear, it’s what ZombieÂ attempted to do with his re-imagining: 1. Propel his film career forward by exposing himself to a wider fanbase, and 2. Attempt to psychologically deconstruct one of American horror’s most infamous killers. It’s obvious from the film’s box office numbers that Zombie accomplished his first goal, but the second goal is a little more difficult to assess.
Opening in 1978 (a clever nod to the year the original film came out), the audience witnesses a young Michael Myers (eeriely portrayed by young Daeg Faerch) navigating his way through an abusive household, getting bullied by older kids at school, and being neglected by his stripper mother (played by Zombie’s own wife Sheri Moon Zombie). Though the opening scenes are raw and gritty – Zombies specialty – the foulness and crassness of the Myers household actually begins to take away from the assertion that Michael Myers, likeÂ Damien from The Omen,Â was simply born disturbed and evil. The incessant ranting by his mother’sÂ boyfriend, and the older punks at school may serve asÂ worthy impetusesÂ for Michael’s repressed violent nature and help explain his desire to hide behind a mask, but ultimately this takes away from the simple horror of a psychotic killer arising from a typical, run-of-the-millÂ household.
As Michael tortures and kills his pet rats, it’s clear Zombie is drawing on real serial killer history (animal torture is an early sign of sociopathy).Â The reworking of the initial murder scene from the first Halloween is also strikingly impressive. In fact, for the first hour of the film, as Zombie’s Myers unfolds before a bewildered audience, it starts to feel as if Zombie may have done the unthinkable and successfully created a back story that both evokes the original and adds new haunting layers to it. Malcolm McDowell’s intense Dr. Loomis provides a credible foil to Myers’ silent stoicism, and playing on the mask theme works in Zombie’s favor as little Michael quietly tells his mother that the mask “hides [his] ugliness.”
Unfortunately, once the inevitable fast-forward 15 years occurs and an older Michael Myers is accidentally let free of his sanitarium cell (in one of the most overly and unnecessarilyÂ perverse scenes in recent history) all hell breaks loose – both on and off screen. Michael sets off on his rampage of violence and Zombie’s screenwriting prowess is tested beyond its breaking point. As anyone who saw The Devil’s Rejects knows, Zombie is somewhat of a master at the disturbing, the subversive, and the grotesque, but when it comes to writing dialogue for suburban families and teenie bopper girlfriends, Zombie is out of his element, and his film suffers for it. Rather than continuing along the semi-realistic slant he had been following, suddenly Zombie begins to flounder. The conversations are stilted and unnatural and no character manages to evoke even a hint of redeeming qualities.
Meanwhile, Myers roams the street in broad daylight, with nary a frightened pedestrian in sight. This concept may have worked if Myers were of normal stature, but the casting of theÂ 6′ 8″Â WCW star Tyler Mane as Myers makes his bemaskedÂ public appearances on quiet suburban sidewalks a little too imposing to go unnoticed. That’s not to say that Mane’s portrayal of the masked killer is at all faulty. His hulking physical presence and vacant stares provide more than enough chills to go around. But by the same token, those same qualities almost demand that Myers remain in the shadows as he did in the original.
Scout Taylor-Compton has little to offer as Myers’ sole surviving relativeÂ Laurie Strode. A few painful scenes as a babysitter and some even more painful screaming and crying will leave audiences feeling more pain than perhapsÂ Laurie herself feels. The fact that she can never find her way out of a mess and insists on constantly running up stairs do little to endear her to audiences. In fact, she made such a minimal impression in Zombie’s original script that he changed the ending to ensure that she “grew” as a character. (The original ending is included in the special features).
Zombie’s film does up the gore factor considerably, and the nudity factor as well. TheseÂ unneeded additions could be nods to the unillustrious history of the horror/slasher film, or they could just be softballs to a built in audience Zombie is seeking to connect with; either way they’re taken straight out of the Horror 101 handbook. Still, this 2007 Halloween towers over the recent glut of horror classic remakes that have hit theatres: The Omen, The Amityville Horror, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Fog, House of Wax, The Hitcher, Black Christmas, The Wicker Man… etc. Only The Hills Have Eyes and Halloween have had the audacity toÂ do more than simplyÂ remake the originals withÂ glossier film.Â Instead these films have taken the original concepts andÂ expanded on them for a new generation of viewers.
While Rob Zombie’s HalloweenÂ has done nothing to tarnish his name, it’s also done nothing to improve upon his filmmaking cred. Perhaps the leap from House of 1000 Corpses to The Devil’s Rejects was so vast that audiences should haveÂ expected a bit of levelling out with his newest film, but here’s hoping he’ll continue to push the envelope that he opened with his impressively unique and startlingly darkÂ foray into the world of film.
The second disc of special features is exceptionally broad, and even includes a six minute blooper reel (mainly featuring Malcom McDowell’s superbly un-PC riffs). A breakdown of the mask construction and a discussion with director Rob Zombie on his re-imagining offer a good deal of information for anyone interestd. The deleted scenes are here, but of course it’s clear that they’ve been deleted for a reason.Â There’s a brief breakdown of the entire cast, as well as clips from casting sessions. Much like the film itself, this special features disc leaves little to the viewer’s imagination, but if you don’t want to know, don’t watch it.
Zach’s Rating: C
Perfect For: A disturbing revisiting of Michael Myers’ childhood
Stay Away if: You don’t want to see John Carpenter’s classic touched
To purchase theÂ Halloween Unrated Director’s Cut visit Amazon
To play the online slasher game, visit the Halloween website
For information on Tyler Mane’s autographing appearance at Halloween Town in Burbank, visit their homepage
For more reviews by Zach Freeman, visit HubPages