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Why remake a classic film? Are the Hollywood flim studios and their various offshoots really that hard up for new ideas? The answer increasingly seems to be that yes, they are. One high-profile example of this trend was Gus Van Sant's remake of Hitchcock's Vertigo in 1998, for which he employed a method that was an almost shot-for-shot recreation of the original, inspiring some pretty brutal reviews. Almost a decade later and it is John Carpenter's classic and oft-imitated 1978 film, Halloween, that is being given a reworking.
But rather than xeroxing the original, horror auteur and thrash-metal kingpin Rob Zombie has chosen an alternate method of remake, christened a "re-imagining" by the studio's press machine. Zombie's reworking attempts to augment the original by adding a lengthy back-story in an attempt to explain why Michael Myers morphed into the murdering psychopath at the center of Carpenter's film. It also adds a great deal of unnecessary gore, absent from Carpenter's original, to tell the story of Myers' return to Haddonfield, Illinois. The results are a mixed bag; while the film's first third offers a pretty interesting and fresh take on the iconic character's origins, it rapidly devolves into a predictable gore fest that feels boringly familiar to horror movie viewers. The one thing that Zombie faithfully employs is Carpenter's classic theme music, meticulously reinterpreted by composer Tyler Bates. For better or worse, the film is now available as a two-disc set featuring an unrated director's cut with optional commentary from Zombie, and bonuses including deleted scenes, an alternate ending, a "making of" documentary, and bloopers.
Zombie's Halloween kicks off with the young Myers, played by Daeg Faerch, immersed in a world of shit. His stepfather (William Forsythe) is a drunken asshole and his sister (Hanna Hall) is slutty and mean. Only his stripper mom, played by Zombie's wife and frequent collaborator Sheri Moon Zombie, shows him any love. But alas, it's not enough, and the shunned little Michael starts off by killing animals, graduates to beating a school bully to death with a stick (a brutal scene that is one of the more disturbing of the movie's many kills), and finally murders his stepfather and sister, as well as his sister's her boyfriend, an extension of the murders that kick off the original film.
Blood having been let, the young Myers is shipped off to a psyche ward, where Dr. Loomis, sportingly played by Malcolm McDowell (who claims to have not seen the original but channels Donald Pleasance remarkably well nonetheless), tries to break through his psychosis. The boy's case is of course useless, and Loomis soon realizes that Myers is only a "shape of a human being." He is essentially pure evil, and the eerie masks that he makes do little to hide his murderous rage. Flash forward 15 years, and Myers is now played by Tyler Mane, a hulking, huge, intimidating presence, who does as good a job as one can do playing their character entirely from behind a mask. Myers breaks free from the institution, returns to Haddonfield to hunt down his now grown up baby sister, Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton), and the rest is horror movie history.
This is precisely where the story loses any hint of scariness. Zombie was successful in creating an ominous atmosphere throughout the first third, but when Myers begins his adulthood rampage, the film sinks back into typical slasher film territory, minus the twisted humor of the director's earlier films, House of 1000 Corpses or The Devil's Rejects. Zombie is still decidedly on the Tobe Hooper/early Wes Craven side of the horror fence, but he fails to inject enough of this mentality into the proceedings here. Myers is also shown to have a weirdly human element when, in a climactic scene, he responds to Laurie Strode in a way that deviates from the inhuman killing machine as portrayed in Carpenter's original. It's a worthy attempt at adding to the story, but ultimately seems forced out of place.
Kudos to Rob Zombie for keeping the theme music and other elements from Carpenter's original intact, including the use of "Mr. Sandman" and classic horror movies playing on TV sets in people's houses throughout the film. But this version of Halloween would have fared better with more of Zombie's personal style and less catering to commercial conventions. Still, I hope Zombie keeps cranking out scary movies, because his unique style and devotion to the genre make him one of the most interesting and potentially promising directors working in the horror genre today. SEE ALSO: www.halloween-themovie.com
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.
See other articles by Jonah Flicker.
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