Initially, I didn't get all bent out of shape when I heard about the Halloween remake, or "re-imagining," that was in the works. The Halloween sequels have been sucking, and a fresh start could be interesting. But when I heard Rob Zombie was directing, I got a little worried.
My trepidation multiplied when I heard Zombie intended to make Halloween an origin story, showing us how Michael Myers became a ruthless killer. One of the reasons Myers, or "The Shape," as he was known in the original, was such a scary bastard was his almost supernatural, demonic status. There was no explanation for why the monster was doing what he was doing. Treating him like a Charles Manson-type serial killer sounded a bit odd.
Then I started to warm up to the idea a little bit. With the exception of Halloween 2, which was passable fun, no sequel has managed to make Michael scary, as Carpenter did in the original. I liked Zombie's The Devil's Rejects after hating his debut House of 1000 Corpses. Maybe he could come up with a way to inject some life into a horror icon who has been meandering about in useless sequel after sequel.
The results are a mixed bag. I actually liked the Michael Myers origin story more than the adulthood killing spree it precedes. Zombie gives care and--dare I say--a sick sort of nuance to Michael's childhood and sanitarium years. Then, it's almost as if Zombie runs out of time, because the Halloween-night baby-sitter massacre whips by with the speed of a movie preview.
In the movie's fictional universe, young Michael Myers spoke to and interacted with family and classmates before he started slashing. Zombie cast a creepy kid (Daeg Faerch) as the young Michael, who takes pleasure in disemboweling his pet rats. After a few too many clashes with school bullies, Michael puts on a clown mask and dispatches their leader (Daryl Sabara, the little guy from Spy Kids). When Myers' older sister would rather have sex with her boyfriend than take Michael trick-or-treating, most of us know what happens next.
One of the more surprising aspects of the story would be Zombie's wife, Sheri Moon Zombie, as Michael's mom. She played Baby in Zombie's other films, a role that called for her to be outrageous. Here, she shows some decent chops as a stripper mom with a crummy husband (William Forsythe, perhaps a bit overbaked) and an obvious love for her troubled kids. Yes, it's nepotism, but it's good casting, and Sheri Moon handles the emotional bits nicely.
An example of not-so-good casting would be Malcolm McDowell taking over the role of Dr. Loomis, Michael's caretaker, from the late, great Donald Pleasence. McDowell seems to have missed the boat with his interpretation. The great thing about Pleasence was that his Loomis was a bit demented, with his Michael obsession fueled by genuine fear. While the original Loomis wanted Michael dead and buried, the new Loomis cares for Michael and wants to make him better. Rather than having fun, McDowell comes off as a stiff.
When talking to Loomis in the asylum, the young boy admits that he doesn't recall killing anybody, suggesting that something or someone might've possessed him. I liked this idea, because it implies that something evil within is trying to take over. After an unfortunate moment with a nurse, Michael goes silent forever. He's no longer Michael Myers. He's The Shape.
So far, so good, but after spending so much time with the origin story, Zombie filmed himself into a time-constraint corner. The Shape's rendezvous with his sister, Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton), feels abbreviated and tacked on, as if Zombie had to make cuts for time. I wouldn't have balked at an extra 20 or 30 minutes of movie so that the second half of the film could've had a little more substance and suspense.
I'll say this for Zombie: He got it right with the mask. Myers looks great during the last chunk of the film, wearing a mask that resembles the one from Carpenter's original (alleged to be a William Shatner mask painted white). There are some eerie shots of Myers standing stoically in the moonlight, bathed in shades of gray-blue, and I honestly felt like the horror icon had returned home for the first time in many years. The masks have looked awful in many of the sequels.
Cool mask and all, I can't really recommend the film. It has some strong points, but Zombie's ambition got the best of him in the end. His movie tries to do too much in two hours--although a super-long DVD version of the film would be an interesting venture. As a diehard Halloween fan, I didn't hate Zombie's movie, and that's somewhat of an accomplishment.