“Reworking,” “reimagining,” and “reinventing” are popular words these days as studio heads and directors alike struggle to defend their choices in projects. Even occasional moviegoers have to have picked up on the creative bankruptcy that has plagued Hollywood for the past, oh, ten years or so. Plenty of egregious horror remakes have come down the line recently (The Hitcher, When a Stranger Calls, Black Christmas), but few of those even hold a candle to Rob Zombie’s desecration of John Carpenter’s 1978 classic, Halloween.
Made for literal pennies and with a no-name cast at the time (I think we all know Jamie Lee Curtis these days), Carpenter’s original created genuine suspense and terror through masterful direction. The atmosphere was thick, the compositions perfect, and the haunting soundtrack was the topper. Contrary to popular belief, Carpenter’s vision contained next to no blood and a small body count. It was the anticipation of violence that was the true horror.
Most know the nuts and bolts of Halloween. On Halloween night, a 10-year-old Michael Myers (Faerch) goes on a killing spree and is sent to a mental institution. Fifteen years later he escapes and returns to his stomping grounds for another round of terror. Writer/Director Rob Zombie establishes from the outset that his version needs more exposition than the original, and this is a critical error. I suppose it fits right in with the current yearning for a clear answer for everything, but this cliché-ridden back story to serial killer Michael Myers is pathetic. Little Michael kills animals, gets picked on at school, and has a morbid fascination with masks. Dr. Samuel Loomis (McDowell, in the film’s only decent performance) does his best to try and rehab the young boy, but it’s to no avail. Michael is pure evil, but we know that going in. That Zombie populates the entire first half of the film with this nonsense is inexplicable.
The excessive first few reels make the second half a frustrating and, dare I say, boring experience. Once Michael (played as an adult by Tyler Mane) escapes from the hospital the film basically turns into a retread of the original, though it contains no suspense but a whole lot of spurting blood. Once the killing really begins the entire first half is canceled out almost immediately; we feel nothing. Worse yet, the hero of the original, Laurie (played here by Scout Taylor-Compton), is reduced to a supporting player. Since we don’t even get to know her until the hour mark, how much can we care about her?
What Zombie has ultimately done is turn Michael Myers into the protagonist. The rest of the characters are so despicable that it’s impossible to root for them (save for a decent cameo by Danny Trejo as a janitor who befriends Michael). Was it really necessary for Zombie to inject his trailer trash humor and all-around filth? It adds nothing and is only in place to elicit a smirk or tiny sense of disgust in the viewer.
I know, I know; this is Zombie’s reworking or reimagining or reinvention, name your poison. The sad fact is that this is an incompetent film no matter how you examine it, and that The Weinstein Company felt compelled to finance this disaster is scarier than anything contained herein. This is brand name bastardization in the name of a quick buck – and the complete debasement of a groundbreaking picture. John Carpenter can rest easy; any self-respecting horror fan will forget this film even exists by the time the real Halloween rolls around this year.
Studio: Dimension Films
Length: 109 Minutes
Rating: R for strong brutal bloody violence and terror throughout, sexual content, graphic nudity and language.
Theatrical Release: August 31, 2007
Directed by: Rob Zombie
Written by: Rob Zombie. Based upon the 1978 screenplay by John Carpenter & Debra Hill.
Cast: Daeg Faerch, Danielle Harris, Malcolm McDowell, Danny Trejo, Sheri Moon, Dee Wallace-Stone