Director: Rob Zombie
Cast: Scout Taylor-Compton, Malcolm McDowell, Tyler Mane, Sheri Moon Zombie, Brad Dourif, Danielle Harris, William Forsythe
Screenplay: Rob Zombie
109 mins. Rated R for strong brutal bloody violence and terror throughout, sexual content, graphic nudity and language.
We’ve reached the conclusion of another year of 31 Days of Horror, and I’m sad to see it end, but horror’s never far from this site, so you’ll see more. Today, as is traditional, we’ve reached the final day, and on Halloween, we talk Halloween. Looks like this year is a double-dip for Halloween installments and Rob Zombie (The Devil’s Rejects, The Lords of Salem) films, so let’s talk the much-maligned and baffling remake to John Carpenter’s original horror classic.
15 years after Michael Myers (Tyler Mane, X-Men, Troy) murdered three people, including his sister Judith, he breaks out of Smith’s Grove Sanitarium to return home and find his sister, now named Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton, An American Crime, The Runaways) and continue his roaring rampage of slaying. For the first time, we also see the events that led to that horrific first killing and Michael’s time at Smith’s Grove with Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell, A Clockwork Orange, Bombshell).
After Halloween: Resurrection underperformed, there were a number of potential projects thrown about, including (but not limited to) a Michael vs. Pinhead crossover (following up on the precedent set by Freddy vs. Jason) and a prequel called Halloween: The Missing Years, about a young Michael Myers. The studio decided to take a traditional route in the era of excessive remakes with a more interesting director at the helm in Rob Zombie. Zombie had two films in mind, a prequel about the events leading up to the 1978 killings, and a more traditional remake, but these two ideas ended up merging into the finished film we ended up with. When Zombie asked Carpenter for his permission to remake the film, it has been reported that he was told to make the remake his own instead of something shot-for-shot.
Now, I’ve always been more of a fan of reboots and sequels over remakes. I happen to find that horror films get their most creative when they have to continue the story, but the Halloween chronology and mythology had gotten very confusing, so I understand the ask of a remake, and Zombie is a very unique choice as director. In recent years, though, I’ve become more open to starting over, having seen the James Bond franchise tackle this task as well as the Godzilla and Universal Horror characters get jump-started again and again for the next iteration. One thing I prefer in remakes is at least getting a unique voice in the director’s chair and pick the greatest hits of what works and what doesn’t in the previous series to streamline and reinvigorate the franchise for what comes next. That’s where Zombie wins here. He takes elements from the first two films that he likes and incorporates them into an interesting story, and he wins when he’s tackling new elements over when he’s hitting the familiar beats.
There are a lot of interesting directions taken in this remake, things that never could’ve been attempted in the previous iteration, and that keeps the film fresh. Looking at relationships like the one between Michael and Loomis, or the one between Ismael (Danny Trejo), which sees the brutality of Mane’s Michael in this new take. Zombie fought hard to keep Trejo’s death in the film, and I think it adds a lot of intensity to the narrative.
Where Zombie struggles is when his dialogue and characters feel plucked out of House of 1000 Corpses instead of a Halloween movie. That’s not to say this writing could’ve worked, but his execution behind the camera makes moments like Laurie sticking her finger into a bagel sexually or William Forsythe (Dick Tracy, Raising Arizona) threatening to skull-fuck someone incapable of landing as intended. It’s that chicken-fried grease that just never felt natural to the proceedings. It almost makes me pine for Zombie’s take on a Friday the 13th film instead, and his Michael seems more influenced by Jason Voorhees at times.
Halloween does have some standout performances, though, primarily with the inspired casting of Malcolm McDowell as Sam Loomis, Brad Dourif (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) as Sheriff Brackett, and Tyler Mane’s take on Michael. All three performances become something new, interesting, and alternative to what’s come before, and each one earns an iconic status within the franchise.
I’ve never understand the complete hate of Rob Zombie’s Halloween. It’s a flawed film, and some aging to the finished product has been less kind, but I still really appreciate Zombie swinging for the fences and trying to evolve the mythos in order to keep it alive. More than anything, I’m surprised that the finished film works at all, hearing all the behind-the-scenes difficulties of working with the Weinsteins and the Akkads to deliver this with Zombie’s vision. It’s one of the longest Halloween films (the director’s cut is the longest Halloween movie of all) which may weigh on some, but I’m still a fan.
-Kyle A. Goethe