It’s been stated elsewhere that indie horror demigod Rob Zombie being selected to direct a Halloween remake was tantamount to Peter Jackson doing-over King Kong. Both had a deep seated connection with their respective originals at a formative age and both managed to aggressively retro-fit the materials to synchronise with their various styles but where Jackson viewed Kong through 3 hour long, rose tinted glasses, Zombie attacked John Carpenter’s 70’s classic with a harsher eye.
It makes sense on paper; the original followed mute murderer Michael Myers as he slipped between shadows and slit him some throats, all the while stalking Jamie Lee Curtis’ virginal Laurie Strode and her friends in a simple but incredibly impactful template which locked down the rules for the slasher genre for decades to come. It’s pretty light on actual plot or character arcs however (unless you count being strangled by a telephone wire a character arc) as quite honestly, it doesn’t need them and this is where Zombie hits the major conundrum when remaking this movie.
The whole point of Halloween is that it’s insanely stripped back, mostly letting it’s shot composition, tone and iconic score do the talking for it so to do a remake in this day and age requires some slight reconstruction work in some character’s backstories.
Of course, when I say some, I mean primarily Michael’s back story which is now fleshed out substantially to reveal (ho hum) that he’s a chubby, white trash kid with bullying problems and a shithole stepdad. We shouldn’t really surprised that Rob Zombie goes out of his way to panel-beat Myers’ mythology into making him, well, a Rob Zombie character, but the entire first third of the movie deals with his early life, the primary murders, his subsequent incarceration and his inevitable escape; something Carpenter achieved in under 15 minutes.
However, while listening to odious, abusive crackers scream at each other for what seems like an eternity is it’s own reward (hey, Zombie had to cram his wife in there somewhere), Michael’s shift from a withdrawn, mask obsessed weird kid to a hulking engine of destruction is fairly riveting, if utterly unnecessary and even slightly detrimental.
Dialling back on any supernatural essence the character once boasted, Zombie also goes all out on Michael’s grown up physicality, making him resistant to bullets and other forms of punishment simply because he’s matured into a “6.9 tank (the Myers family has good genes, apparently) and although it’s impressive, once again it systematically erases a lot of the mystery that makes the character so appealing in the first place.
So after setting up all this history (with Malcolm McDowell alternating depending on his mood between overacting and phoning it in as Dr. Loomis) it’s time for the actual remake where we actually cover the stuff from the original movie and this is where the movie really has problems. Say what you will about Zombie but he is an original voice in the genre and he always does his best work when matching to the beat of his own drum, but when forced to follow in someone else’s footsteps he opts to turn in a faded photocopy of the orginal with only far more brutal kill scenes to hold our attention (and presumably, his), which again is something the original didn’t need to do.
The main cast is good (extra points for the casting of Halloween 4 & 5 actress Danielle Harris), but as is his style, Zombie’s supporting cast is a virtual who’s who of b-list cinema and it’s pretty entertaining spotting Sybil Danning from The Howling 2 here and Ken Foree from Dawn Of The Dead there, but again, it’s unnecessary. In fact the only major plus point (aside from a creeping sense of nihilism) is Tyler Mane’s turn as Mr. Myers himself, who gives an entertainingly energetic performance through those various face coverings (it’s nice to see a follow on from the original that actually gets the mask right).
By turns adding new stuff that’s vaguely fascinating but ultimately unnecessary, or simply retreading familiar ground without much enthusiasm, Rob Zombie’s Halloween repeatedly misses the target and consistently thwarts itself regardless of whether it’s trying to be a bold reimagining or a faithful retread to end up with a finished product that’s ironically pretty Shapeless…