A young boy grows into a killer, and Haddonfield trembles.
After making two horror films that he’s penned himself and gotten reasonable reviews for them, musician and filmmaker Rob Zombie managed to secure the rights to the franchise film Halloween for a remake of the classic horror tale. In some respects, it is a good homage to the horror classic, but in many more respects it isn’t. The original film was an independent release made on a shoestring budget. It featured filming and story techniques that made it more of a suspenseful thriller than a horror film, turning the mask-wearing antagonist Michael Myers into a silent stalker who could pop up at any moment. Rob Zombie takes a more Hollywood approach; his film is a polished slasher flick. What we gain in terms of insight into Michael’s character history, we lose in terms of suspense in favor of bloody violence.
The film opens with ten year old Michael (Daeg Faerch) torturing and killing his pet rat while his parents argue downstairs. His family situation is atrocious; neither love nor respect abides at home between family members. His father (William Forsythe) turns out to actually be his mother’s deadbeat boyfriend, and is verbally abusive, taking advantage of his mother and dragging the rest of the family down with him. His mother (Sheri Moon Zombie) is a kindhearted, yet harried individual, who spends her nights working at a local strip club. His sister (Hannah R. Hall) is a foul-mouthed teenager who shuts out the rest of her family with her strong sense of independence. The only one young Michael really relates to in his family is his baby sister, although he does show some love and respect for his mother, who sympathizes with him. At school he is tortured by bullies and staff. In fact, it is after one such encounter that the school principle uncovers evidence of Michael’s torture of animals, and a psychologist named Doctor Loomis (Malcom McDowell) is summoned to help him. However, his mother doesn’t believe them and young Michael is left to his own devices, tracking down and beating one of the bullies to death even as Loomis tries to argue with Mrs. Myer’s about her son’s mental state. The following night is Halloween night, and his mother must work. Knowing her boyfriend would never take him out trick or treating, she charges his sister with doing so, who becomes upset that she is being saddled with caring for her younger brother. After their mother is gone, she refuses to take him trick-or-treating, opting to have sex with her boyfriend instead. A disheartened Michael wanders around by himself on Halloween night, and coming to the conclusion that he’d be better off without them, he returns home to murder his entire family with a kitchen knife.
From there, the film picks up more or less where the original did, though we are shown Michael’s progress in the psychiatric ward under Dr. Loomis…or more accurately the lack thereof. Michael doesn’t seem to understand what he did wrong and comes to resent being held at the ward. After he realizes that not even his own mother can take him from the place, he shuts out the rest of the world, causing Dr. Loomis to give up. The trouble starts when, 17 years down the road, a hulking adult Michael (Taylor Mane) takes the opportunity to escape prison and return to his hometown of Haddonfield. At this point the film begins to parallel its predecessor pretty faithfully in terms of story; though in terms of style and approach the films are both very different. Rather than stalking his younger sister through the streets of town, an ever present danger like in the first film; he goes on a Hollywood-style murder spree, using his great strength and old kitchen knife to kill anyone unlucky enough to cross his path. In this, Zombie’s film is more successful than the original in making Michael Myers seem like an unstoppable monster, but unfortunately, it means that Zombie’s iteration is lacking much of the suspense that the original had.
Halloween done in a Hollywood style.
Aside from that, the film suffers from a number of inconsistencies and quirks. For example, the story is supposed to take place during the 60’s and 70’s, but everyone swears like they’re in the 90’s and dresses like they’re in modern times. While the inclusion of sex is par for the course for a Zombie-film, for the story this film presents it felt like there was one sex scene too many.
So, while I think Zombie did a good job giving us insight into the character of Michael Meyers (which the original filmmakers went out of their way to make characterless), if you are a fan of the original film, you probably aren’t likely to appreciate this remake unless if you can see it for what it is: a parallel to the original done as a Hollywood-style slasher film. They both tell the same essential story; it’s just that they take approaches to it that are wildly different. Many fans of the existing films will obviously prefer the original with its more suspenseful filmography, but I believe both films have their own merits, and one isn’t necessarily any better or worse than the other.