Dir. Rob Zombie (2007)
Michael Myers returns to Haddonfield after 15 years in an institution to look for his baby sister Laurie.
I have long been a proponent of remakes, even if they decide to go a completely different direction with the series and despite the general horror community's hatred for anybody that tries to redo their favorite films. To me, more horror is always a good thing, because even if it's not everybody's cup of tea, it's going to be somebody's, and more folks drawn to horror is exactly what the genre needs. I'm certainly not saying that every remake is good, or even that they're necessary, but they're valuable real estate in horror and they give fans the opportunity to see more of the characters they love, especially if they delve into a backstory that the series has never really spent any time on. Cue Rob Zombie's Halloween, a new take on the series that tries to make Michael a sympathetic character by showing his tragic backstory before dashing all of that by presenting him as an even more brutal and monstrous killer.
Make no mistake about it, this is Halloween as told by Rob Zombie. White trash family (and sense of humor), brutal, graphic violence, and more gratuitous nudity and sexual innuendo than the original dared to show on-screen. It's also a very different story, one that eschews the mystery of Myers' compulsion to kill for an explained, and perhaps overwrought, modus operandi. Michael's life of abuse, perpetrated by everyone from sister to stepparent to school bully, is a heartbreaking but ultimately useless exploration of motive, as he eventually turns against even those who are most on his side.
The soundtrack of the film was clearly put together by someone who loves the original and its sequels, with constant callbacks to its predecessors. Judith listens to Don't Fear the Reaper before she dies (as does Lynda), stabbed by a young Michael who has traded his clown mask for the classic Myers face. There's even a brief Mr. Sandman interlude after Michael steals Ken Foree's outfit. And, of course, there is the iconic score, overlaying some of the creepier scenes in the film and used sparingly enough to where its still incredibly effective. It makes sense, as Zombie is a musician first and a filmmaker second, that his film would have an excellent soundtrack, and this one definitely does.
Halloween lacks a lot of the fear of the original, depending on your taste at least. Michael is a hulking monster, a humanized version of the original who towers above his victims and dispatches them with ruthless force. It has the highest bodycount of any movie in the series up to this point, with a total of 20 kills credited to Michael during the film. By refusing to make Michael stalk the shadows and instead bathing him in light as much as possible, Zombie makes a film that is much more appealing to a modern horror audience while missing a lot of the charm of the original. They're two wildly different styles, and if you go into this one expecting a modern update of the original... well, you've probably never seen a Rob Zombie movie before, because he's pretty damn consistent.
The cast of the movie is also phenomenal. You've got legitimate horror (and sometimes Hollywood) royalty in seemingly every role. Malcolm McDowell does a great job as Loomis, Brad Dourif is phenomenal as Sheriff Brackett, and the rest of the cast is made up of people like William Forsythe, Udo Kier, Clint Howard, Danny Trejo, Bill Mosely, Sid Haig... the list literally goes on and on. If Rob Zombie can do one thing as a director, it's to fill his film with legendary performers in fan service roles. Of course, the trio of babysitters is excellent as well, with Kristina Klebe (Brooklyn 45) playing Lynda, Danielle Harris as Annie, and Scout Taylor-Compton delivering a career-making role as Laurie Strode. Just an outstanding cast from top to bottom. And to be honest, I actually thought Daeg Faerch did a fantastic job as the creepy-ass young Michael Myers as well.
What's interesting about RZ's first entry into the Halloween series is that most of the negatives are more of a matter of taste than a matter of record. The dialogue, which is most people's main gripe, is cheesy and juvenile, especially during the beginning of the film, but it's part of Zombie's oeuvre. You're either going to like it or not. The violence, turned up to 11 compared to the previous film, is unflinching and realistic, a complete 180 from Carpenter's film. You either like that, or you don't. The big man himself is, indeed, a huge dude. Tyler Mane's Myers is enormous, a mountain of a man who brutalizes his victims like a real serial killer, rarely stopping with just one swipe of the knife. If your opinion of Michael is based on the supernatural ability of a regular man to become an unstoppable killing machine, Mane's performance is not likely to be a favorable comparison to Castle's take on Myers.
For me, I loved the changes. It's a different movie, but if you didn't walk into ROB ZOMBIE'S HALLOWEEN expecting it to be different from the original, then I don't know what to tell ya. The changes are exactly what the series needed after several stale entries, a complete reboot that focuses more on Zombie's storytelling style than it does on becoming another photocopy of the series. Rob was smart to tell the story as an entirely new thing unto itself, a tactic that David Gordon Green perhaps should have taken for his trilogy. This isn't exactly a Halloween movie, at least not in the same respect as all of the other sequels, but it is a good movie, a genuinely terrifying and vicious slasher movie that few could tell like the Astrocreep himself.
Who this movie is for: Halloween fans, Remake stans,
Bottom line: Rob Zombie's Halloween is not for everyone, especially those who don't enjoy especially brutal slasher movies. While it's more of an homage to the original than a straight remake, RZ's Halloween is excellently shot, delightfully gory, and has more star power than just about any film in recent memory. For fan service alone, it's one of the better Halloween movies, which is a fact but also one that might get you beat up for believing. The fans who like to talk shit about it are wrong, but you can decide that for yourself. It's streaming on Peacock, so give it a shot. It might just surprise you. And check out my discussion of the film with the The Killer Point of View Podcast!