The thing is with a lot of the current slew of horror film remakes is that the originals either weren’t very good, or were, but were so cheaply made they have enough rough edges that a remake isn’t necessarily a bad idea. If you look at how cheap, for example, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre looks, you can see why remaking it for a modern audience with a bigger budget seemed like a good idea. It wasn’t though, it really wasn’t. Not so Halloween, if you look at the 1978 original now, it is still a slick, beautiful bit of film making. There’s some big hair and bad fashion choices but the lighting, camera work and amazing music still stands up today. Also it is a perfect horror film.
I mean it really is, it can’t be bettered.
So if you are going to remake it, and lets face it if you have the rights nowadays you will remake pretty much everything sooner or later, then the only approach is to hire someone like Rob Zombie who is not going to just make slicker and newer, but add his own spin to the story. And as far as I’m concerned this works for me.
The story is essentially split into two main parts: part one is the killer Michael Myers as a child, murdering his family and ending up in a mental institution. Then, part two is the night HE comes home. So oddly, as a remake, the vast majority of the film is a remake of the opening five minutes of the original, and the rest of the first ones story is crammed into the back end of the feature. This makes for a slightly uneven story arc as the a number of characters aren’t even introduced until way over the half way point, but it also makes 2007 Halloween unique and its own beast.
Rob Zombie does have a tendancy to have lots of white trash folks kicking around in his movies, and this ones no different. I don’t know anything about Rob Zombie upbringing but I presume he must have come from, or known this kind of angry, messy under class lifestyle because he seems to know an awful lot about them. While it comes as no suprise that Michael Myers childhood consists of being a bullied outcast at school and verbally abused by his step father at home, what is different here is that his mother isn’t an unhinged Norma Bates-type but a caring, loving parent (nicely underplayed by Sheri Moon Zombie) who’s trying to the best she can for her family (whether this involves stripping or making tea). She still visits Michael in the hospital even after he’s butchered her man and her daughter, still loving her son, even as he withdraws from his own humanity. Its a different take on the psychopath’s upbringing, perhaps saying that even with love some people cannot be saved.
And that is certainly the case with Michael Myers in the second half of the film, when he breaks free and returns ot his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois. There is no denying that this recreation of the original babysitters murders is not as good as John Carpenters masterpiece, but could it ever have been? However, the groundwork of the first half of the film has been done and done very well, so Rob Zombie deserves a pass for that. Also, he does get a lot of things right. Michael Myers himself really is “The Shape” (the name given to him in the credits of the original). He’s a huge, bulking monster of a man. In fact not a man at all anymore, just a thing, a killing machine. He picks people up a smashes them into walls like they are flies. The mask he wears seems to have a much more sinister, stoney blankness to it, compared to all those old sequels where it became quite boring and forgettable. Maybe because the mask now looks old and rotten like Michaels soul is old and rotten.
Then there’s the action stuff late in the film with final girl laurie hiding in the walls of the old house and an empty swimming pool which is creepy and exciting. There are a few moments which surprise like Michael suddenly coming back from his evil insanity, albeit briefly when he tries to reconnect with his sister by showing her a photo of them together, something she can’t understand because she doesn’t even know she ever had a brother. And Malcolm McDowell plays Doctor Loomis with a poppy eyed shoutiness that rivals old Donald Pleasance in over the top lunacy which is a much welcome from all the seriousness as everyone else.
The best decision made though was to keep the original film’s music. Its great, simple, heart thumping stuff, helping the atmosphere and excitement no end.
Its not all good though, there’s some bizarre character decisions. For example, surely the orderly at the hospital would not think it was a good idea to have a rape party with one of the female inmates INSIDE Michael’s cell, with him there, and the door open? I know the guy was new and everything, but even on my off days I’d know not to torment a seven foot tall mental patient in his own room while he’s making masks to wear while he’s killing people. It just seems like asking for trouble.
But other than that, its all surpisingly good. A remake with its own voice, some smart ideas and Malcolm McDowell being annoyed and superior with everyone. Certainly a hundred times better than the dreadful Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street remakes. I mean, I watched both of them and I can’t remember a thing about them. Not one thing. So souless and without depth, they are instantly forgettable. Here, Rob Zombie has tried to get to the meat and Bones of an evil person. And while we never have any true and straight answers about why Michael Myers became bad, maybe that is the point. Some people, sadly, are just evil.