Retro Review: HALLOWEEN (2007){0}

It’s just amazing how many things Rob Zombie gets wrong in his resoundingly pointless remake of John Carpenter’s Halloween. The original film could be used as a freakin’ textbook on how to craft a dark thriller that will toss an audience into a frenzy — but Zombie just sort of staggers drunkenly through the source material, pissing on some things and stuffing other material into his pocket for later. He starts out trying to forge a little new ground (by making the legendary killer’s family a bunch of vile scumbags) but his “creativity” sort of wears off at the mid-way point — at which time Mr. Zombie just steals everything he can from the original film and delivers nothing more than one of the stupidest remakes you’ll ever see.

What began with two surprisingly strong remakes (those would be Dawn of the Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) has rapidly devolved into a feeding frenzy. Just about every half-decent horror title from the past thirty years has been dusted off for a shamelessly money-grubbing remake parade. So in exchange for making Dawn and Texas big hits, we’re now being punished with unmitigated garbage like When a Stranger Calls, The Fog, The Hitcher, and Black Christmas. And as if it weren’t bad enough to recycle a bunch of cult-flick favorites, the great-grand-daddy of wretched remakes has finally reared its worthless head: Rob Zombie’s mindless mangling of Halloween. Mark my words: This is the flick that kills the horror remake cycle. For this decade, anyway.

Since anyone who’s reading a website called FEARnet has already seen the original Halloween (about a dozen times), I’ll just skip through the plot synopsis and break things down for the fans: 40+ minutes. Yep, that’s how long it takes for Rob Zombie to give us a grown-up Michael Meyers, on the hunt and really pissed off. But hey, that means that the first half of the movie must be stuffed with “new ideas,” right? Yeah, sure. If watching a strangely-bewigged Malcolm McDowell whine at a pudgy-faced little boy for nine minutes at a time sounds like fun, then you’ll probably love the astoundingly obvious “backstory” that Zombie’s cooked up here. (Apparently Michael Myers isn’t an evil force of nature at all; he’s just a fat little white-trash kid who snapped when his slut sister refused to take him trick-or-treating while his stripper mom ran off to polish a pole. And don’t even get me started on the foul-mouthed slug of a stepfather. Zombie doesn’t just paint his characters in broad, ugly brush-strokes. I think he actually uses a filth-coated steamroller.) Anyway, this first half of this wretched heap feels like Dr. Phil’s version of Halloween. By giving the legendary stalker such a pointless, generic origin story, Zombie not only sucks all the mystique out of the character — he turns the monster into some sort of sympathetic anti-hero. And while sure, it’s sometimes fun to cheer along with a villain, the way Zombie does it is just plain embarrassing.

Which leads us to the other thing that Zombie gets wrong, and it really confuses me a lot. You’d think that a guy who made his millions as a blood-soaked “horror rocker” would know how to deliver a scare! One! There’s not one scary moment to be found in this movie. Since Zombie wants us all to ROOT for the knife-wielding maniac, he telegraphs EVERY potential scare — just so we can root for Michael as he stalks someone from behind. And there’s nothing scary about watching a guy slash a girl’s legs over and over. Zombie seems to think that baseness, bile, and degradation is the same thing as “scary,” which just goes to show how much he really knows about his beloved genre.

But once we get through all the “new & improved!” Myers crap, the director simply runs out of ideas, energy and/or drugs. The second half of the remake is nothing more than a trip through pathetically familiar territory. But instead of focusing a little more on Carpenter’s approach to mood, tone, character, and suspense — Zombie just throws a bunch of really boring kill-scenes onto the screen before wheezing to a close with a patently forgettable finale. What began as a project described by its director as “NOT! A! REMAKE!” becomes one of the most slavishly sycophantic photocopies ever produced.

And I know what you’re probably thinking: “Hey, this writer didn’t like EITHER of Zombie’s earlier flicks (The Devil’s Rejects & House of 1000 Corpses) — plus he REALLY loves the original Halloween. So obviously he was going to hate this remake no matter what!” And that’d be a fair concern — but the honest truth is that I walked into this remake seriously hoping to be proven wrong. As is always the case, I actively wanted to enjoy this horror movie. (Nothing would have made me happier than typing “Dang, I was wrong. Good for you, Zombie!”)

Unfortunately, Rob Zombie seems to be devolving as a filmmaker at a very rapid clip. The guy was handed the keys to one of the coolest horror houses ever built — and he couldn’t even muster up a half-decent effort. This film is riddled with terrible acting, dialog that’s as wooden as it is pointlessly vulgar, editing mishaps that scream of hasty reshoots, a noted lack of atmosphere and intensity, and a complete lack of regard for the original story. This retread is 35% worthless “new stuff,” 15% extra kills and gore (because surely that’s what the original Halloween is known for: body count and gore), and 50% material stolen direct from the source material.

It’s the pointlessness of Van Sant’s Psycho remake mixed with the blatant worthlessness of all the other remakes we horror fans have been assaulted with recently. Pick the lamest Halloween sequel out there and you’ve just found a better movie than this one. At this point I’d rather see three new Uwe Boll movies than anything Rob Zombie has to offer.