In an aging house with peeling pain and broken shutters, in the part of town where rusted cars on cinder blocks occupy driveways and chain ink fences replace white pickets, a monster has grown. Young Michael Myers, aged ten, has developed a taste for violence. Starting with rats, progressing to dogs, and today, Halloween, he will graduate to people.
Writer-director Rob Zombie has remade John Carpenter’s original film as a Michael Myers biopic, decompressing the original opening sequence into a half hour.
We follow Michael from his dysfunctional home where he’s abused by his stripper mother’s sleazy boyfriend Roy, to school where he’s bullied by a kid twice his size. After school, he stalks the bully and murders the older youth. Later that night, when his teenage sister refuses to take him trick-or-treating so she can have sex with her boyfriend, Michael sulks around for a bit before murdering her, her boyfriend, and Roy. When his mother returns home from work, she finds Michael sitting outside cradling his baby sister.
Zombie’s not done. Where the original jumped forward in time, we follow Michael after the court convicts him to a sanitarium under the care of Dr. Loomis. Time passes via visits with his mother and sessions with Loomis. Michael becomes obsessed with masks and stops speaking. His mother and Loomis grow fearful and frustrated. This section culminates in two further deaths.
Now we fast-forward seventeen years. It’s again Halloween night and a now full grown Michael escapes the institution. Zombie shows us this part of the story as Michael brutalizes the sanitarium staff to make his escape. From here, the film hits the original’s story beats. Michael sets upon a group of babysitters, who prove too distracted by sex to notice. All save the virginal Laurie, who faces down the killer.
Where Carpenter’s original was nihilistic, Zombie’s remake is cynical. In deconstructing Myers, Zombie removes the ambiguities that made Carpenter’s original so effective. In imbuing Michael with a seething anger and brutal rage, Zombie has removed some of the character’s edge.
But the film has grown on me. I saw it during its original theatrical run (at the AMC Hoffman Center) and remember disliking it. It’s still problematic, but this time around I appreciated the cinematography 1 and the stacked supporting cast. It’s not a bad movie, just a bad Halloween movie. Had Zombie taken this approach to remaking something like Maniac, the result may have been outstanding.
- Zombie paints the daylight scenes warm, almost sepia and the night scenes cold, ice blue—just like the differing home video transfers of Carpenter’s original.↩