While nothing will compare to the shock of the original, Rob Zombie reminds us why John Carpenter’s “bogeyman” is no laughing matter.
After 10-year old Michael Myers is sentenced to a psychological hospital for treatment, Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) discovers that behind the child’s eyes is an unstoppable, amoral killer. Years later, an adult Myers (Tyler Mane) escapes the asylum to terrorize the small town that still remembers him as the Halloween bogeyman.
If you need more of an explanation than the above description, you’re probably not a fan of the original Halloween by John Carpenter and Debra Hill. Back in 1978, the idea of a mindless, unstoppable killing machine bent on mayhem became a very real fear as a masked Michael Myers racked up a body count. The success of Halloween has often been attributed to being the right original idea at the right time, so when it was announced that, like so many other John Carpenter films, someone wanted to do an update or “re-imagining,” groans of The Fog remake surfaced quickly. But with horror-rocker Rob Zombie at the helm, could this new vision actually have a chance?
The good news is, Zombie in no way diminishes our nightmares. While not so much a unique vision as a loving tribute, director Zombie updates the classic with a tighter script, re-thought locations for some key scenes, and a decent cast willing to to make a true slasher film, teen nudity and all. Unlike The Fog remake that threw out all the elements that made the original so scary and watchable, Zombie lifts scenes and lines from the original while making better sense and setting a better pace. Amazingly, Zombie’s Halloween is an improvement over the original film, exactly the kind of film one expects when lamenting, “Wow, can you imagine what this movie would be like if they made it today?”
Plot elements are better explained and character motivations are given more depth. For example, Dr. Loomis in the original film (Donald Pleasence) spent a lot of time standing around waiting while cryptically hinting at the mayhem to come. By comparison, Malcolm McDowell’s Loomis has a sense of urgency and even more of a sense of responsibility concerning Myers. Sadly, today’s audiences may be desensitized to much of the mayhem only because it’s been almost 30 years since the original and plenty about it has been spoofed or ripped off since then, but in a Hollywood that insists upon turning out remakes like The Fog, When a Stranger Calls, and the dismal Black Christmas, Rob Zombie’s Halloween shines as a tribute to the slasher genre instead of proof of its passing.
If you’ve never seen John Carpenter’s Halloween, see Rob Zombie’s version first before going back and experiencing the original that inspired it. If you have seen it and are a fan, follow the exact same instructions.
(a three and a half skull recommendation out of four)