Directed by Rob Zombie
"Behind these eyes one finds only darkness."
Just about every theatrical, ham-fisted speech we hear from Malcolm McDowell’s Dr Loomis serves as a fair description of the new Halloween: It’s a hollow bastard child that fails to elicit any emotion whatsoever. Gone is the thrill of suspense, replaced with empty style and wall-to-wall violence that recalls the ho-hum remakes of Platinum Dunes (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hitcher, etc). If it was Rob Zombie’s intention to put us inside the head of Michael Myers, then he absolutely succeeded, because from beginning to end, I felt absolutely nothing.
Now before I get into this, let it be known that I’ve loved Zombie’s work, from top to bottom, from music to film. I consider House of 1000 Corpses the perfect midnight movie and The Devil’s Rejects a classic blend of art and exploitation. Anytime the man tours, I’m there in the crowd. Hell, you could easily call me a Rob Zombie fan. But with Halloween, it’s safe to say that he’s made all the wrong choices. The problem here isn’t so much Zombie the director as it is Zombie the writer. Instead of making an honest attempt to reboot the franchise like, say, Batman Begins or Casino Royale, he just rehashes familiar territory while retreating into his safe zone of Rejects-style trailer-trash talk, shaky cams, and over-played 70’s songs.
To recount the plot at this point seems absurd. As everyone knows, this Halloween is divided into two parts. Act One follows the twisted origins of lil’ Mikey Myers in the seventies. We know right away that the kid is disturbed since he wears masks, tortures animals and is a card-carrying member of the KISS Army. He also comes from a broken home of redneck stereotypes: Sis is the town slut, Mom is a stripper, and her abusive beer-swilling boyfriend lives on the sofa. When Michael snaps on Halloween night, blood is spilled and the tyke is confined to a mental institution under the care of shrink Dr Loomis. Act Two more or less plays out like a cliff-notes version of the original only with a higher body count. 20 years later, Michael (wearing paper-mache masks like a rejected member of Slipknot) escapes from the institution and begins a bloody rampage through Haddonfield, looking for his adopted baby sister, Laure Strode.
Yup, that ridiculous brother-sister connection from Halloween II (something even Carpenter regrets) has now been pushed to the forefront, making Michael Myers less frightening than ever before. The problem isn’t his look or actor Tyler Mane’s performance, but in how the character is envisioned. In this version, Michael isn’t some enigmatic supernatural killer and Zombie goes for the nitty-gritty realism, painting a sort of “Myers as Jeffrey Dahmer” scenario. But this approach gets more absurd as the film goes on. Like all real-life serial killers apparently, Myers grows to behemoth size with the ability to break his shackles like the Incredible Hulk and effortlessly take down entire squads of armed police officers. Personally, I’ve never met a real psychopath, but according to Mr Zombie, it takes more than a round of bullets to stop one.
If it sounds like I’m describing two different movies, then you’ve cut to the heart of Halloween’s problems. Not only do the halves suffer massive gaps in logic and tone, neither story gets enough time to have any real impact.
Since this project was announced, Zombie has been coming up with colorful terms to describe his version. “It’s a re-imagining. No, no…it’s a prequel/semi-reinvention! Well, it’s kind’ve a remake, but not really.” As much as I would love to believe the man has coined a new genre (a “pre-re-quel-vention?”), the fact remains that this is a remake and as one, it’s not a pimple on the ass of the original. People can argue how it’s a different animal and how it shouldn’t be compared with Carpenter till the cows come home. But at the end of the day, the title on the marquee reads “Halloween” and when you re-use characters, set-pieces, and full lines of dialogue, you’re automatically working in the shadow of the original. Why someone like Zombie (who has gone on record as despising the very idea of remakes) decided to redo the original still baffles me. If he wanted to re-invent Myers, why not start from scratch? As is, seeing these iconic moments re-enacted is like watching Anne Heche in the Psycho shower scene – all it does is remind you how much better it was done the first time.
There are even several unintentional laughs throughout the flick. For example, when young Michael stalks and murders his sister (a scene built up by the monster ballads of Nazareth) he puts on the adult Myers mask which is several sizes too big. We’re supposed to be disturbed by the bloody slaying, but the entire scene becomes instantly ridiculous since young Mikey looks like a midget bobble-headed version of The Shape.
Of course, that’s nothing compared to the laughs that come from Zombie’s wretched dialogue. Try this on for size:
Loomis: He’s come BACK, Sheriff!
Brackett: To do what?
Loomis: I don’t know but ... (dramatic pause) it can’t be good.
What? Is this for real? How could anyone say, let alone write this stuff? This is why you can’t fault the cast one bit. Everyone from Malcolm McDowell to Danielle Harris tries their best, but they don’t have much to work with here. No character gets enough focus to register especially since they’re given less than half the time of the original film (would PJ Soles have been memorable if she had only been on screen for 3 minutes?).
This leads me to another problem - the masturbatory use of cameos. Virtually everyone who isn’t in the main cast is a genre veteran or part of some Rejects reunion and each appearance takes you right out of the movie. It feels like you’re watching “Rob Zombie’s Spooktacular Variety Special” instead of a bonafide Halloween movie.
So what’s good about this flick? Well, the cinematography and production design are both excellent while Myers sports the best mask since the original film. There are also a few nice moments featuring young Michael in the asylum where the kid’s final breaking point (arguably the only effective scene in this mess) gives us a glimmer of what Zombie was trying to achieve all along.
The new Halloween may not be the worst film in the franchise (that honor still goes to Resurrection), but it’s the very definition of a moron movie that takes itself too seriously. No doubt its style and ultra-violence will score big with the teen crowd - particularly those numbskulls who thought the original was boring – but genre and series fans will be far less forgiving. It’s a shame, because Rob Zombie has proven himself to be a talented filmmaker and if he had strived to once again push himself in new directions, we might have had something here.
Now can we stop these fucking remakes already?
2 out of 5
Discuss Halloween in the Dread Central forums!