This is an ugly remake. Totally unnecessary, too.
Rob Zombie’s Halloween is an unpleasant mess, an excessively gory, shamefully recycled desecration of one of the best horror films of all time. Whereas John Carpenter’s tightly edited original was beautifully photographed and imaginatively restrained, this depraved, overlong update drowns you in pools of its own bloody mediocrity.
There are significant departures from the original story, at least at first. When we first meet him, Michael Myers (Daeg Faerch) is now a talkative 10-year-old mask-wearing deviant already screaming to be locked up. He has a very dysfunctional family: an embattled stripper mom (Sheri Moon Zombie), her injured, verbally abusive, deadbeat, live-in boyfriend (a scenery-chewing William Forsythe), a jerky, older teen sister (Hanna Hall) and his two pet rats, one of whom meets an early demise. (Poor Elvis.) We have no idea what happened to his biological father.
Michael’s also being terrorized by some of the kids at school who want to publicly shame his mom for being a sex worker. (Nice guys.) Already an expert at killing animals (he takes Polaroids of their carcasses), he graduates to humans once he beats one of his tormenters to death with a shovel.
Shortly thereafter, it’s bye-bye to all but two members of his family plus his sister’s long haired boyfriend.
Convicted of first-degree murder, he’s sentenced to a mental institution where he’s under the care of Dr. Loomis (an old looking, ineffective Malcolm McDowell in a really bad wig) who has painfully unproductive sessions with him and makes redundant observations to an audience well aware of the character’s long cinematic history. His guilt-ridden stripper Mom makes weekly visits but not for long.
Realizing he can’t reach him (young Michael eventually clams up for good) but sensing a financial windfall all the same, Loomis writes a best-selling, exploitative book about his charge which makes him a very unsympathetic character indeed. I’m amazed Myers doesn’t target this charlatan first. Who was his mentor? Dr. Phil?
Years later, a now grown Myers is a towering Cousin It who has become consumed with creating masks that hide the ugliness inside his blackened soul. (Because of his long hair, when he wears one he looks like a member of Slipknot.) In a grotesque scene that turns an average film into an awful one, two men, one of whom is a hospital employee who treats him like shit, forcefully drag a new admission, a poor young woman, out of her new home and into Myers’ cramped cell as they proceed to rape her hoping he’ll join in.
The silent prick could care less. He only intervenes when these misogynistic assholes touch two of his precious homemade masks. That’s a big no-no, so I don’t have to tell you what happens next.
More hospital employees bite the big one including a soon-to-be-retiring Ismael Cruz (Danny Trejo in a good performance) whose only crime was always showing compassion for the big jerk. “I was good to you,” he correctly pronounces to no avail.
Once out and about, Myers seeks a wardrobe change. The truck driver admiring that nude pictorial in a public stall picked the wrong time to take a dump.
And, as before, we’re back in Haddonfield many years after Myers went on his first human killing spree. We meet a less likeable, now bespectacled Laurie Strode (a seriously miscast Scout Taylor-Compton) and her obnoxious friends, Annie (Halloween 4 & 5’s Danielle Harris) and Lynda (Kristina Klebe). It’s at this stage in the film that Zombie decides to take famous scenes from the original and tweak them to the point where they stop working altogether.
An ordinary conversation about learning new cheers during a busy day is now turned into a moment of unnecessary rudeness. An early encounter with the masked Myers involves more obnoxious teen behaviour and no car. Laurie’s requested envelope drop off at the abandoned Myers house has no suspense now because we already know the killer’s inside before she even gets to the door.
We meet Laurie’s housewife mom (the ageless Dee Wallace) and her realtor dad (Pat Skipper) who later on this Halloween evening, in one of the few effective scares in the film, meet grisly ends. As in the original Halloween II, we learn in this remake that Laurie is actually adopted. In a departure from that film, Myers doesn’t want to kill her (they were close when she was just a baby), he just wants a family reunion with his younger sister. Maybe he should’ve sent her a nice note instead of kidnapping her against her will. (She understandably doesn’t remember posing for that pic you’re showing, Mikey.) As you can imagine, things get awkward and a pissed off Myers has a new target.
One of the best elements of John Carpenter’s Halloween was the extraordinary patience of its villain. He lived to psychologically torture his victims long before he killed them. The timing and the location had to be just right before he acted.
In the Zombie remake, Myers hates waiting. Consider the scene where Annie is getting it on with her boyfriend on the couch (and proceeds to complain about how he treats her “expensive” clothing). Look closely in the background. Myers is already there lurking, basically waiting for the director to cue him already. When the inevitable bloodshed ends, somehow Annie survives this time which doesn’t make any sense. Why does Myers spare her?
And then there’s the shameless recycling. Remember when Myers wears the white sheet with glasses to fool Lynda into thinking he’s her lover? Remember when Laurie asks Loomis if that was the boogeyman and he confirms? Remember how he explains Myers’ absence of reason and goodness to the sheriff? They’re all here again to remind you that Carpenter did it better the first time.
Speaking of recycling, we even get covers of the classic musical score from the first film. Do you really want to remind the audience that they’d rather be watching the original?
When the movie begins, it seems like Zombie wants us to root for Myers to get vengeance on all the awful people in his life (not unlike the future Dr. Lecter in Hannibal Rising or TV’s Dexter). But during the escape scene when he snuffs out Danny Trejo, that’s completely abandoned which muddies how he wants us to view him. (Then again, he does kill innocent animals early on.) Zombie can’t decide whether Myers is an anti-hero or just a relentless psycho and that’s a big mistake.
Another big error in judgment involves those pointless shrink sessions with Loomis. (McDowell can’t make you forget about the great Donald Pleasance.) They just drag on without offering any new insight that would distinguish this wretched update from its original inspiration. As a result, the film is easily a half hour too long. Really, stretching things out for the purpose of half-hearted ambition slows everything down to a hopeless grind. A mysterious Michael Myers is a scarier Michael Myers.
Daeg Faerch, who plays the masked killer as a demented 10-year-old, looks too much like Win Butler of The Arcade Fire to generate much fearful intensity. Also, as a rule, I don’t hate villains who dispose of lousy, uninteresting characters (not that I actually liked this unrepentant psychopath). God knows there’s too many of them in this version of Halloween.
The coarseness of the dialogue might be even more disturbing than the murders. (Believe it or not, there’s barely any cursing in Carpenter’s original.) Just hearing the words “faggot” & “bitch” again and again grows numbing after a while. There’s almost nothing to like about many of these characters.
Was there really a demand for this sloppy remake, a collective outcry for a new story? For those who asked for it, I hope you’re happy. For everybody else, stick with the original.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, October 9, 2015