"It's my fault, Michael. I failed you." -- -Dr. Loomis
It's hard being a horror fan. Back in the '70s we had a pretty good run of some groundbreaking horror flicks. I talked about this before, and how these flicks became foundations for horror that are still being built on. Now, with Rob Zombie's version of Halloween, all of them have been remade.
The original Halloween is a true classic, setting the mold for every slasher flick that followed. Screaming teen girls in peril. A merciless, relentless masked killer. Bodies everywhere. What really put the original over the top, though, were Carpenter's visual style, the visceral, taut story, and Jamie Lee Curtis's performance. Not to mention that classic score.
However, I've heard a lot of people say that the movie is slow, that the "kills" aren't that thrilling (or gory), and other complaints that I don't agree with. But because of them, Halloween was ripe for a redo in the eyes of the studios.
Remakes can either be a fun revisit of an old friend, or it can be a pointless retread that doesn't break any new ground. Since Halloween was handed over to Rob Zombie, a true genre hound with a unique voice, I had cautious hopes for this movie.
Sadly, Rob seems to have missed the forest for the killer stalking in the trees.
Rob wants to examine Michael's origins, and give us his motivations. To show us what made him the soulless, relentless killing machine that stalks through the movies, putting pointy things in teenagers.
The first third of the movie shows us his redneck family home life, with his stripper mom (Sheri Moon Zombie), abusive drunk stepdad (William Forsyth) slutty sister Judith (Hanna Hall) and baby Boo. Young Michael (Daeg "Freakshow" Faerch) seems like a good kid in a bad home life, until we see how he's already killing animals and keeping trophies, right out of the psychopath textbook.
Rob is trying to make us sympathize with Michael, yet at the same time, paint him as young sociopath in training. It's jarring, and doesn't really work because it's hard to empathize with a kid carrying around a dead cat in his backpack.
Myers doesn't become a "tragic monster," which I think Rob was going for with all this. The "good kid driven bad" and "young killer of animals" vibes do not mesh at all. We may understand what created Michael now, but it's nothing new. It's the same serial killer shtick we've seen over and over again. It would have been more disconcerting if Rob had stuck to the original, where young Mikey had a pretty normal family before he went crazy killer on them. Instead of yet another abused kid turned abuser, there was just something wrong with Myers. Something dark and evil that needs to kill.
The worst part is the first third of this movie seems to take forever. Instead of feeling sorry for young Michael, I couldn't wait for him to kill these jerks and get into the mental ward.
Once there, we get long scenes of Dr. Loomis (Malcolm "Dropper of Bridge on Kirk" McDowell) trying to reach Mikey, and see how he's withdrawing into his head while making a crapload of masks.
We then jump to 15 years later, when Loomis tells adult Michael (Tyler "X-Men" Mane) he's retiring, which seems to be what sets him off to make his escape back to Haddonfield. There we meet good girl Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) and her two bad girl friends Annie and Judith.
From here, the movie is pretty much the original, except on speed. Michael picks off Laurie's friends, their boyfriends and others, while Loomis tries to convince Sheriff Brackett (Brad "Wormtongue" Dourif) that there really is a killer on the loose in his town. The movie hits all the high notes of the original, then moves past the original ending into the new territory of an ending all its own.
It's in that beginning third and the new end sequence that the movie really feels like Rob's work, with all of his trademark bits from House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects. There are shaky cameras, "ironic" music playing in the background, and enough cameos to make a drinking game out of, with Sid Haig, Sybil Danning, Danny Trejo, Mickey Dolenz, Ken Froee, Clint Howard, and Udo Kier. And that's only about half of them.
There are a lot of places where the movie works. Mane is imposing as Myers, and his kills are frighteningly brutal. The classic score is used very effectively. McDowell is good as Loomis and there are some fine performances from the supporting cast. The ending itself is also very good. It's pure Rob Zombie.
Where it doesn't work, aside from Myers' new origin, is that when he finally gets to Haddonfield, the movie moves so quickly that there's no real suspense. There are hints of it, like when Myers stands behind a young girl as they both watch The Thing From Another World (a nice callback to the original flick), but the rest of the time, everything is happening too fast to build any real tension.
The fatal flaw, though, is Laurie. In the original, unlike most of the screaming victims from the following movies, she was a real teenage girl, who was scared out of her mind, yet was strong, determined and fought back. Here, she's just another teen cipher who pretty much just screams and runs. She's not the hero in this movie; you get the feeling that Rob wants that to be Myers.
Rob Zombie's Halloween could have been a great flick, and there are moments where it shines. But too much time is spent trying to make Myers into some kind of sympathetic monster. But maybe now that he's got the setup out of the way, when Zombie does the eventual sequel, we'll get the cool movie that hid behind this one.