Watching Rob Zombie’s Halloween in theaters in 2007 was the single most depressing experience of my movie going life. A two-hour deluge of synthetic grit and raucous vulgarity that made every effort to tarnish even the fondest memories of John Carpenter’s classic.
The Shape was reinvented as a madman with human underpinnings. Dime store psychology absolved him of his murderous sins by rendering him a product of a dysfunctional environment. John Carpenter’s boogeyman was a force of nature, but Rob Zombie’s is a victim of nurture. Growing up in a household where William Forsythe drops f-bombs instead of parental advice can do that to you, apparently.
Nothing about the movie works. Not its hackneyed stunt casting or its conceptual failure of fusing remake and prequel. The original movie is renowned for its suspense; yet, Zombie doesn’t muster a single drop of it. New take, you say? Okay, but that doesn’t explain the ineffectiveness of nearly every scene. By the time Michael has cornered Laurie at the bottom of an old swimming pool, the stalk-and-slash bits are wrought with such sterility that it becomes clear how indifferent the entire production is.
Even the most ardent Halloween fans despise a sequel or two. For me it’s Halloween: Resurrection, and while it’s terrible, it’s nowhere near as offensive as Zombie’s remake. For starters, it’s simply another in a long time of diminishing follow-ups. Worse than all others, yes, but easy enough to ignore (as I have done every day since that miserable summer day in 2002). It was almost a stake through the franchise’s heart and perhaps indirectly responsible for the reset that followed.
I’m not sure there’s ever been a mismatch between the material and a creator that’s as disagreeable as Rob Zombie and Halloween. One day in another life, I was a technical writer for a large technology company and was asked to get on the phone and help the sales team move some product. Yes, I was familiar enough with the product, but that did not in any way qualify me to convince other people to spend money on it. In that sense, Rob Zombie traffics in the horror genre, sure; but that doesn’t automatically make him the right man for Halloween any more than asking Stephen King to pen the next Friday the 13th.
What makes his Halloween more offensive than the sequels is that it never rises above them. If you’re going to go back to square one, you need to have more than a “new take.” That new take needs to succeed. Rob Zombie’s does not. Not in its “realistic” depiction of a greasy-haired serial killer who happens to be indestructible, not in its swath of detestable characters, and definitely not in its reinvention of Haddonfield, Illinois, as some white-trash netherworld incapable of evolving beyond the 1970s.
So here we are talking about another Halloween. This one coming through a partnership between Miramax and Blumhouse. There have been previous efforts to get this franchise back on track, and I’ve been on board with all of them. Years ago, the team behind My Bloody Valentine 3D (Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier) were going to bring us Halloween 3D, and their previous chops proved they were a good fit for it. Last year, Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan were slated to make Halloween Returns, which was to pick up where 1978’s Halloween left off, albeit with characters from part II used in a new context.
Either of these would’ve been a step in the right direction. But last night’s announcement has something that no Halloween has had in over 30 years, and that’s at least a tangential involvement from John Carpenter himself.
For many, there’s nothing else that needs to be said. Carpenter returning to Halloween in any capacity is fantastic news. The Horror Master has been stepping up his presence over the last few years through a series of genre comic books and the release of two completely kickass records of “lost” themes. He’s having fun again, and so what better time to return to Haddonfield? I’m not naive enough to assume he’ll be heavily involved, but this is a ceremonial show of good faith at the very least. He may wind up doing the music, which means we could be looking at an entire album of NEW John Carpenter-composed Halloween music. At that point, would the movie even have to be any good?
I’m kidding. The folks at Blumhouse are incredibly savvy, and they’re not going to allow Halloween to wallow through the mire again. The last Halloween movie I truly liked was released in 1995. The last Halloween movie I had any anticipation for was released in 1998. Until now. With yesterday’s announcement, I’m beginning to get excited about Haddonfield again, and that’s a cool feeling. Whether this winds up being a straight remake or a loose sequel doesn’t matter because it’s the first time Halloween has been in the right hands in a very long time. Yes, everything is a business decision to a certain extent, but Blumhouse has worked hard to brand itself as a trusted name in the genre. Whatever this winds up being, it’s going to be more than a cash-in.
That’s all we can ask for.
More importantly, it keeps Halloween in theaters where it belongs. My heart sinks each time someone threatens Michael Myers with a small screen demotion, as if he’s irrelevant and no longer worthy of modern ticket-buying audiences. I feel like Big Mike is about to reclaim his throne as the king of modern day boogeymen, something I had all but written off on that dire August 31 evening in 2007. Of course, this also has me thinking about an entire new wave of slashers that could follow in its wake, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself with those possibilities.
I will, however, make one humble request, if I may. Can we please get back to releasing these movies in October? A Halloween movie in theaters for Halloween? It used to be a magical thing. Let’s do it again.