Halloween: Trick or Treat?
Rob Zombie's new spin on a horror classic hits theaters
By Adam Frazier
(Sept. 3) In 1978 John Carpenter ("The Thing") introduced the world to Michael Myers and the 'slasher film' with "Halloween," starring Jamie Lee Curtis as one of horror's first scream queens.
The horror franchise, which features a sadistic killer named Michael Myers, spawned seven sequels, all of which fell short of their predecessor's box office glory.
Now nearly 30 years later, musician-turned-director Rob Zombie ("Devil's Rejects") is telling the story behind Myers with his re-imagining of Carpenter's classic. In Carpenter's film, we met Michael Myers as a six-year-old boy who stabbed his sister to death on Halloween and was sent to a sanitarium, only to break out 15 years later and head back to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois to finish what he started.
Back then, we were to assume Myers was simply insane, as no depth to his character is given - leaving him a soulless entity. Zombie's adaptation brings the young Myers to life, played (creepily, may I add) by newcomer Daeg Faerch. This Myers is the victim of a horribly dysfunctional family. Zombie leaves his white trash calling card with Michael having a stripper for a mother, an abusive stepfather and a slutty older sister that couldn't care less about him.
Myers, who is bullied insistently at school, tortures animals in his spare time. He seems to gain a sick pleasure from skinning his pet rat alive - an early warning sign of what is to come. We feel sorry for this young Myers, as if he is almost justified in murdering his sister and stepfather, which would later cause his mother to commit suicide.
Myers is sent away to a mental institution where he is counseled by Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), who attempts to reach the troubled young man. As he grows up, Michael begins to amass a collection of papier-mâché masks to hide his face as he distances himself from the world.
Having not spoken in 15 years, Myers is abandoned by Dr. Loomis. Myers is to be transferred to another facility, where he breaks free during the exchange and makes his way back to his hometown.
The rest is a clean-cut (almost shot-for-shot) remake of Carpenter's film. Myers procures his signature mask, jumpsuit and butcher knife and begins stalking the nubile high school girls of Haddonfield.
One thing can be said for Zombie's "Halloween," he certainly makes it his own. I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of the film, as we learn how truly demented and sick Myers really is. It was classic Zombie at his best, gritty and sadistic and so over-the-top it bordered parody.
But then, something happened - I lost interest. As soon as Myers put on the infamous mask he lost all his identity to me, and what followed was a carbon copy of the 1978 film (even using huge portions of the same dialogue).
It seems that instead of wanting to remake "Halloween," Zombie wanted to make "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," substituting the mysteriousness of Myers with a big, brooding monster that crashes through walls and doors in search of his victims.
Gone is the slow, methodical walking of Myers. Tyler Mane (Sabretooth from "X-Men") is huge, and his size works against the character in my opinion. All the high school girls are pretty (and quick to take their tops off, which I'm not arguing about) but their characters are two-dimensional and barely indistinguishable.
Overall, Zombie's take on Halloween isn't a complete miss. It's certainly the second best film of the franchise, but I don't guess that's really saying too much. For everything that works in his favor, Zombie shoots himself in the foot with something he got wrong.
It's not as sadistic or truly disturbing as "Devil's Rejects" and certainly doesn't display Zombie's potential as a horror filmmaker, but "Halloween" is a step in the right direction. Zombie is beginning to put together an impressive catalog of films, becoming unique and truly discernible from the current crop of horror flicks.
If you're a fan of slasher films, then by all means give Halloween a look. It's big, loud and clumsy but it's a lot of fun too. It'll make you cringe and look away from the screen, and after all - isn't that what you want out of a horror movie?
"Halloween" is Rated R for strong brutal bloody violence and terror throughout, sexual content, graphic nudity and language. 109 minutes.