You know, I used to really hate this movie for all the ways it deviated from Carpenter’s original. An hour-long Michael Myers origin story? BULLSHIT! More extreme sex and gore? BLASPHEMY! A mask-less, more defined Michael Myers? GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY FACE WITH THAT SHIT, ROB ZOMBIE! John Carpenter’s Halloween is far and away one of my favourite movies of all time so…uh, yeah, any attempt to go near it and alter the DNA would often be met with intense skepticism and/or flat-out rejection by me. But in the ten years since this film’s release, I’ve gone back to it a few times (the Director’s Cut is a better, more cohesive whole) and warmed to Zombie’s alterations and interpretations a hell of a lot.
Honestly, if you’re going to remake Halloween while also trying to retain brand recognition, you might as well go in the complete opposite direction. Why not flesh out Michael Myers? Why not promote him to a lead character rather than an ominous, supernaturally-tinged shape? Let’s give that version of this story a whirl! Carpenter already did the perfect minimalist approach. Might as well go big or go home. This is Rob Zombie after all, and I’m a big fan of Zombie as a filmmaker, so I’ve grown to appreciate this as its own thing; as Rob Zombie’s Halloween.
I actually admire how much Zombie tries to make this material his own. He finally went all the way with his Halloween II but as a first dip in the water, this is pretty solid. I love his whole grimy, hillbilly-grindhouse aesthetic and how utterly squalid most of the environments look and feel. His love for the 70s gives this a weird, timeless quality that can, at times, be confusing on a plot-level (like, when is this actually supposed to be set?) but satisfying on an aesthetic one. His penchant for extreme gore is well-noted but a necessary upgrade for a 2007 take on Michael Myers. Most of the violence is genuinely ugly and harsh, with the rape scene in the asylum being especially harrowing. He’s also very calculating about when not to show something. That slam of the front door to silence during Annie’s attack is gut-wrenching and the addition of blood and nudity to a lot of the murders really enhances the sense of violation. You feel the violence in this movie in a way that you never did with the original.
The film’s weakest spots are when Zombie is trying to actually honour Carpenter’s movie by basically doing a rehash in the film’s rushed last hour. I like this idea as a structural concept but it means we don’t meet most of the main characters until an hour in, leaving them devoid of any meaningful development or attachment. Luckily, Zombie is an ace at casting so the presence of endless genre stalwarts – Malcolm McDowell, Ken Foree, Dee Wallace, Brad Dourif, Danielle Harris among others – in major and minor roles is a handy shortcut to creating familiarity. Having seen where the characters go in Zombie’s sequel, I have more invested in them whenever I return to this one in light of that film – the two honestly work best when binged back-to-back – but I remember seeing this for the first time and really being irritated by and uninterested in the trio of girls.
Aside from Dr. Loomis and Sheri Moon Zombie as Michael’s Mom, Michael Myers himself is somehow the most captivating presence this time around. While the casting of hulking brick-shithouse Tyler Mane in the role might seem an obvious, boring choice, he and Zombie really lean into the idea of this man as a larger-than-life killing machine and run with it. Mane puts in a genuine performance – building on great work from Daeg Faerch as the younger Michael – that most of the stuntman-era Myers’ failed to do. I also really like the design of the character. Easily the best Shatner mask since the 1978 incarnation. That discoloured finish and rotting cracks, goddamn. You go Rob Zombie!
If this movie had a second half less beholden to Carpenter’s original, it could have ascended to something more meaningful and interesting. As it stands it is merely a necessary Carpenter-to-Zombie translation that sets the foundations for what Zombie would ultimately do in his sequel which, for my money, is one of the most fascinating horror movies of the last decade. I don’t like this film as much as I do that one, but I do like it for all the reasons I originally hated it for. Rob Zombie, John Carpenter…the lesson here: it’s fine to like both.
Watched on blu-ray.