Posted on September 5, 2007 by Flames
Reviewed by: Jason Thorson
Hands down, the worst trend in the relatively recent horror movie resurgence is the incessant green lighting of unnecessary and bad remakes. It’s indicative of a larger financial problem plaguing the entire industry and while remakes may guarantee a built-in audience for the short term, they will erode the genre over time. So needless to say, I was none too pleased when Dimension Films first announced that the next classic in line for a rebuild would be John Carpenter’s seminal slasher flick, Halloween (1978). But a funny thing happened upon my learning about Rob Zombie’s involvement – not only did my steadfast opposition to the remake disappear, but I became down right excited to see the movie being made by a film maker who takes his horror very seriously.
Unfortunately, the road to hell is often paved with good intentions.
Zombie’s film throws us into the middle of the Myers’ chaotic household located in the fictitious town of Haddonfield, IL. It’s clear that this Haddonfield is not John Carpenter’s homey suburbia. Zombie’s Haddonfield is a grimy and depressed enclave of Midwestern cultural atrophy. The Myers family is comprised of white trash archetypes: Ten-year-old Michael (Daeg Faerch) is a disturbed loner whose teenaged sister, Judith (Hanna Hall), is mean, manipulative, and armed with weaponized sexiness. His mother, Deborah (Sheri Moon), is the classic stripper with a heart of gold while his stepfather (William Forsythe) is a lecherous and abusive good-for-nothing drunk whose screaming is only rivaled by that of Michael’s perpetually crying baby sister.
As the story begins, Michael is victimized by bullies at school, and before long he brutally turns the tables on them. Then school officials find out that he’s been mutilating animals, prompting a meeting between his mother and a psychologist. Halloween night arrives and these red flags come to a head when Michael’s big sister ditches him in favor of some sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll with her boyfriend. While his mother is out stripping, Michael goes on a murderous rampage, sparing only his baby sister.
Michael lands in Smith’s Grove Sanitarium under the care of Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) where he regresses even further. Hiding behind homemade masks and ceasing to speak, he quickly becomes a lost cause before finally murdering a sanitarium staff member. Flash forward fifteen years: Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) is a nearly seven foot tall monster of a man, still masked and still silent. On Halloween night he seizes an opportunity to escape the sanitarium and heads toward Haddonfield.
Rob Zombie’s 45 minute elaboration on the ideas put forth during the opening moments of the original movie is both ambitious and interesting. Unfortunately, it leaves less than an hour to tell the story of the night the “bogeyman” comes home. The result is a disjointed movie that feels like two distinct films.
The fist half of Halloween is odd because, by default, the protagonist is actually Michael Myers. This is problematic for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that he’s the film’s iconic antagonist. We don’t meet Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton), the original film’s protagonist, until the movie is nearly half over and little is done to establish her as the object of our empathy. Instead, we’re given the events of the original Halloween in high speed and without any characterization. Subsequently, the movie’s two halves – Zombie’s explanation of what happen to young Michael Myers followed by the straight forward remake of the original movie – do not fit well together because there is no unifying narrative component. The movie unavoidably falls victim to this glaring structural flaw.
The cast is full of Zombie regulars, all of whom are cast against type. Fans of both House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects will have a field day picking them out. Then there’s Halloween 4 and 5 veteran, Danielle Harris, cast in a fairly substantial role, albeit a stark departure from her young character in the earlier films.
Unfortunately, many of the performances, most obviously that of Sheri Moon, leave much to be desired. Zombie’s usually vibrant white trash verbal artistry seems stunted and awkward, often times delivered flatly by these horror movie pros. Some of the dialogue early in the film is so bad it elicits laughter, unintentionally I’m sure.
Malcolm McDowell as Dr. Loomis, Brad Dourif as Sheriff Lee Brackett and Danny Trejo as orderly Ismael Cruz are the exceptions as their performances are all dynamic and believable. It’s a shame that Dourif and Trejo aren’t on screen more than the few minutes in which they appear.
Zombie’s penchant for realistic on-screen mayhem is on disturbing display all movie long. Like the original, this Halloween is not particularly bloody, but rather it is powerfully and viscerally violent. Michael Myers is not the slow and lumbering monster who manages to ensnare his victims via the slasher film laws of physics. Instead, he moves with the speed, power, and agility of a very large and strong man and it results in several frightening and intense adrenalin-fueled moments throughout.
There are times when Halloween almost works, but it never quite does. The problems it has are the results of something too big to overcome, despite Zombie’s ambition to do something fresh with this well-worn series. His reverence for the material is obvious and it may have prevented him from committing fully to his unique vision. We’re left with a very flawed movie, the only positives of which are confined to a few well-concived individual scenes.
The issue here is this: Halloween is another rudderless ship in a sea full of them. In taking on the daunting task of remaking a classic, Zombie has become the next in a long line of film makers who’ve tried and failed to take something that already works and make it work better. And that’s the point, right? Failure is easy when for the most part the films being remade are not outdated. They’re not ineffective. They’re not old fashioned. Ironically, the only thing that now detracts from these classics is the fact that their remakes are bad enough to pollute their legacies. That’s a shame.
I truly believe Rob Zombie is a talented film maker and an asset that the horror genre desperately needs. I look forward to seeing him get back to doing original material. Hopefully, we’ll see the studios do the same, but judging from the financial returns at the box office for these retreads, it won’t be anytime soon. Interestingly, Zombie’s initial gut reaction to doing this project was an emphatic NO. I just hope that next time he follows his gut, because I plan to follow mine.
Rating: 2 out of 5