August 31st, 2007 by Beth Accomando
Mikey’s back! Halloween (Dimension)

Being a horror fan, Rob Zombie decided to make a courtesy call to John Carpenter as soon as Zombie got the directing gig for the remake of Halloween.

“John, this is Rob Zombie.”
“Hi Rob.”
“Just letting you know I’m re-making Halloween.”
“So what do you want me to do?”
“I’m not saying you should do anything, I just wanted to tell you I’m re-making the damn thing!”
“Well have fun.”

Zombie apparently took Carpenter’s advice. And while some may consider Zombie an upstart (or worse) for daring to remake Carpenter’s seminal slasher film, the new Halloween (opening August 31 throughout San Diego) serves up solid genre fare that reveals metal rocker Zombie is serious about his second career as a horror filmmaker.

Remaking Halloween wasn’t Rob Zombie’s idea; he was just hired onto the project. Various studios have been figuring out how to make money off the first Halloween movie for more than two decades, churning out multiple sequels including one, Halloween III, that had nothing to do with Michael Myers. Of late, Dimension had apparently been mulling over such ideas as Halloween: The Missing Years and a scenario in which Michael Myers meets Hellraiser’s Pinhead. Oliver Stone was even mentioned as a possible director! Thank goodness Stone didn’t accept or else we might have had a 3 hour film that unearthed evidence of Michael Myers’ role in the Kennedy assassination. Mercifully all those ideas were rejected and Zombie was asked to direct and write the remake. Zombie calls his approach a “re-imagining” of Carpenter’s original.

In Zombie’s film, half the screen time is spent with the young Michael Myers and then the second half of the film condenses the material of the original film involving the adult Myers stalking some teens on Halloween night.

Sheri Moon Zombie and Daeg Faerch in Halloween (Dimension)

Zombie’s film opens on Halloween day but no year is given. It could be the 70s but maybe the 80s, it’s deliberately non-specific. We find ten-year-old Michael (played by Daeg Faerch) dissecting a rat in his room. His slutty-sexy stripper mom (played by Sheri Moon Zombie, Rob’s wife) fights constantly with degenerate, wheelchair bound Ronnie (William Forsythe) and Michael’s older sister (Hanna Hall). Home life, to say the least, is not pleasant, and at school, little Mikey gets picked on by bullies. So he decides to move from killing animals to killing people. The bloody mayhem he causes on Halloween night gets him locked up in an asylum where Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell taking over the role that Donald Pleasance originated) takes on his case.

Seventeen years pass and we come to another Halloween. Myers escapes from the asylum and heads back home. That’s where Zombie’s film picks up the storyline of the 1978 original. Now Myers dons the famous William Shatner white-faced mask and begins slicing and dicing some promiscuous teens.

Zombie’s Halloween doesn’t surpass Carpenter’s original and part of the reason why is that there is no way a remake like this could possibly surprise and horrify us in the way the original’s film did back in 1978. The indestructible masked killer/boogeyman has now become a horror movie cliche but when Carpenter created Michael Myers and let him loose on unsuspecting teens, it was a fresh idea. Plus Carpenter was working on a low budget film and had the creativity to use that to his advantage. He composed a stark, creepy score and implied more than he showed (check the original, there’s hardly any blood yet you think you’ve seen a lot). Carpenter’s film caught audiences by surprise and jolted them.

But with a remake we can’t help but know what to expect, at least in a general sense. That means Zombie is working at a disadvantage. So Zombie’s decision to focus on Myers as a kid turns out to be a wise choice. Daegh Faerch is key in making these early scenes work. He delivers a truly chilling performance as a surprisingly sweet, soft and feminine looking ten-year-old Myers. His physical appearance contrasts with his brutal actions and it’s only in his eyes that you perceive his true nature. Zombie gives an early murder extra creepiness by having little Mikey try on the Shatner mask which proves to be way too big for his pre-teen body, the absurd but lethal figure he cuts has a surreal quality. But then Faerch’s Myers can be like a normal kid one minute and a monster the next. These early scenes don’t explain why Myers became what he did. Sure his family life was screwed up, but we see that his mom loved him and that some people were nice to him but none of that matters. Myers is presented not as a kid who goes bad but rather as a kid who’s evil from the start and just gets worse.

One of the things that Zombie does well is that he actually makes some of the victims sympathetic. Myers begins by killing people that you almost applaud him for taking out but later he kills people who treated him well, are innocent victims and some who are even truly good people. That’s actually daring on the part of a filmmaker. Too often the victims are throwaway characters that are either obnoxious (so we cheer on the killer) or careless (so we can feel superior to them) or just too insignificant to even think about. But by making Myers’ victims increasingly likable we realize how just purely evil Myers is. There’s no psycho-mumbo-jumbo to explain his behavior, excuse it or make him some victim of society. He is simply evil. Yet he’s not exactly the boogeyman of Carpenter’s film. He’s something more human but equally lethal and unfeeling. Zombie’s take on the Myers character is where the real “re-imagining” comes in.

If you are expecting Zombie to simply reshoot the original film, than this will be disappointing. But if you go in with an open mind, you will find that he has tweaked some of the original elements in an interesting way. In contrast to Carpenter, Zombie spills quite a lot of blood, which is not to say that he’s gratuitous but he’s certainly not squeamish about showing the damage Myers inflicts. Zombie’s approach makes the film grittier and more gorey, but not necessarily more scary. The film doesn’t really build tension as much as it makes you feel the inevitability of what’s to come. Zombie doesn’t scare us in the something-jumps-out-of-the-dark tradition but rather he scares us by showing us someone who just kills without emotion. Myers doesn’t even seem to derive pleasure from the killings, he just kills. And it’s the other characters’ inability to comprehend that that allows him to keep on killing.

Michael Myers’ new victims? Halloween (Dimension)

This new Halloween also brings a more overt sexuality back to horror. Sex and horror have always gone well together–both offer something that seems forbidden. For awhile Hollywood was making a lot of PG-13 horror films that cleaned up both the sex and the gore. But Zombie adds them bot back in.

Zombie also sprinkles some clever cameos throughout his film. You’ll find longtime B-movie actor Richard Lynch as the principal, Dawn of the Dead’s Ken Foree as a trucker, Andy Warhol fav Udo Kier, exploitation queen Sybil Danning as a nurse, E.T.’s Dee Wallace as an adorable mom and Child’s Play’s Brad Dourif as the sheriff. This fun casting makes small roles memorable and helps to make us care about some of the victims who are sometimes barely onscreen for a couple minutes.

Since Halloween wasn’t a project that Zombie initiated, it doesn’t seem to be entirely his own in the same way that The Devil’s Rejects was. I have to confess that I hated Zombie’s first attempt at film horror, House of a 1000 Corpses. That film committed the worst offense of any horror film–it was bland and boring. But The Devil’s Rejects showed improvement by leaps and bounds. It impressed me and made me think that Zombie was not only serious about horror but he also had a flair for it. Halloween doesn’t do anything to make me think any less of him but it falls short of what he accomplished in The Devil’s Rejects. And I think that’s because The Devil’s Rejects was his baby and he invested in with more of his own style. Halloween, while it bares his mark, also feels like an homage to the original. Zombie doesn’t put the first film up on a pedestal but there are definite moments when Zombie pays respect to Carpenter’s original film.

Halloween (rated R for strong brutal bloody violence and terror throughout, sexual content, graphic nudity and language) may cause a rift amongst horror fans. I’m sure there are many who hold Carpenter’s Halloween in such high regard that they will have nothing but contempt for Zombie’s remake. But there will be other horror fans who will embrace Zombie’s bigger budgeted, more grisly rendering of Michael Myers. The original and the remake need to stand alone and apart, and Zombie’s film has merits of its own that should be appreciated. I just hope he does less work as a hired gun and more projects that he originates.

Companion viewing: John Carpenter’s Halloween, Halloween II, The Devil’s Rejects

You can check out all the sequels at Halloween Movies and Rob Zombie’s own MySpace Halloween Page.

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21 Responses to “Halloween”

Pages: [1] 2 3 »

  1. This movie was poorly made. Half the time it is so dark, you can’t even see what is going on.

    Rob Zombie needs to stick to what he does best. Films like Devil’s Rejects…..now that’s a good film.

    Live the immortal classics alone!!

    Posted on September 2nd, 2007 at 7:46 am by Matt Johnson

  2. ok - eeevverryone is knocking this film, true ‘bandwagon bashing’- I applaud the above review not only for taking the unpopular stance, but for giving sound reasons for giving it at least some merit. Yes I liked it too, and I’m old enough to remember and love the original - but I do think there were some fresh ideas in this (namely the first half) - you all surely will bash me too for siding with it, but I didn’t post this to win any favor with anyone - I just wanted to be among the very few who have something positive to say about it. you all may not have loved this, but c’mon - it wasn’t half bad, and there are wwaaaayyy worse movies out there to trash.

    Posted on September 2nd, 2007 at 9:41 am by michael

  3. I saw this movie and let me tell you :”thank god i did not pay to see it”

    i really did love the first hour of this movie.
    it was something that needed to be seen and could have made it lots beter if it had stayed with the
    pre-quel ideal.

    after that not much surprise but a lot of shock value.
    that is not bad at all liked it for that reason.

    however i did not compare it to the first one because it is a new age and time and need not be.

    it does stand on its own far better than the first one.

    i just did not like the rape sceen and they could have shown more voilence. i mean really off camera cutting stabbing and hitting is all very well and good but i would have liked more shown.

    but i just did not like the dirtiness of it.
    what i mean by that is the people that are bad in this move dont have a shower or a bathtub?

    what i get from this is that evil people are dirty and clean people are good but they all bleed and die just the same.

    the direction is of it isnot so good sceens are far too dark

    but i say see it at a reduced price.
    watch it for the first hour and the last 15 minutes of it and you will like it i think.

    the rest of the movie that is a remake of the first one is shocking for content alone but it is a fast forward of the first one.

    but the set up is good poor direction tho makes it pointless

    so even tho i would say see it i would say go for it.

    ?B? movie

    Posted on September 2nd, 2007 at 2:21 pm by atex

  4. Great flick. True to the story yet filled with new ideas. Zombie also made all the studio’s duckets back in the first weekend. Now it’s all gravy for a month and a DVD and cable release. Nice show dog. Can’t wait to see what’s next. And to all those haters out there that want their 5 bucks back - one word:
    Go see the 200 million dollar sheit pile Transformers again.

    Posted on September 2nd, 2007 at 7:07 pm by Jeff

  5. Rape scene?

    I saw no rape scene… someone want to explain this to me?

    Anyway, I saw it and though it was well made. But I prefer it when Zombie does his own thing. Devil’s Rejects is a masterpiece.

    Posted on September 3rd, 2007 at 9:36 pm by J Martin

  6. i ejoyed the effort and am glad to see the slasher flick make a comeback, thanks to Rob Zombie, my favorite is still the original halloween, but this will be up there.

    Posted on September 5th, 2007 at 6:34 am by Burke

  7. He must have seen the original or working cut of the movie where some of the hospital employees attempt to rape one of the female inmates and that is how Michael escapes. That review is basically for a different version of the movie.

    I went into this movie expecting the worst, and it wasn’t quite that bad. But it also wasn’t “Halloween” either. Everything special, scary or unique about Michael Myers was taken away. And you don’t even know any of the three girls long enough to care he is stalking them. Other then maybe Danielle Harris, and that’s partially because Horror and Halloween fans love her to begin with. Visually, it was good looking movie, but it still was a bad idea.

    Posted on September 5th, 2007 at 12:00 pm by Mark

  8. The original halloween was in instant classic, It�s considered one of the best horror films of all time, so most people go in expecting the new Halloween to be just as good or even better, so naturally they spend the whole time comparing the new one to the original, why didn�t Michael do this, oh that wasn�t in the original, oh that character doesn�t look like the old one, so instead of going in with an open mind and viewing it as zombies remake/prequel, audiences are going in expecting carpenter all over again but better! and no excuses! doing a remake is a difficult task for any director let alone a remake of a classic, I think the new Halloween is an excellent film, I think zombie did an great job capturing Michael as a troubled child, giving you more of a back story as to how everything started, as the movie went into Michael�s adulthood he pretty much kept It the same but with a new twist, it�s like you knew what was going to happen but at the same time you didn�t, zombies Halloween is not carpenter�s Halloween we all know that, but it�s still a great film PERIOD!

    Posted on September 5th, 2007 at 1:37 pm by David

  9. Great movie Zombie is one of the great new horror directors

    Posted on September 5th, 2007 at 4:36 pm by chris

  10. An observation…

    After having had to moderate and respond to posts for Ocean’s 13 where obscenities, bad grammar, insults, and a frequent lack of logic prevailed, it is a pleasure to see the comments here.

    Having a lot of friends who are horror fans and having interviewed a lot of horror directors, I have concluded that for the most part they are a smart, funny, articulate group of people. Thanks to all for the comments and the discussion. I look forward to what Zombie does next and I hope it’s something that’s totally his own. Whether you like Halloween or not, you have to give Zombie credit for taking the genre seriously and not making a jokey horror film.

    Posted on September 5th, 2007 at 10:28 pm by Beth Accomando

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