“… any praise that this movie is going to get, unless it’s for the amazing performance given by Rob Zombie’s wife (haha), should really go to John Carpenter.”
So I’ve finished with all of the original Halloween movies, which may seem like a good thing to you. No longer do I have to put up with campy stories, acting that makes me want to gouge my eyes out, or laughable editing. But I don’t see it this way. Those traits are commonplace in slasher movies, and even though Halloween started off as a horror franchise there is no denying that it rests firmly in the slasher category now. But unfortunately there is nothing I can do about it becasue when I pledged to watch all of the Halloween movies, that meant all of them. Including the Rob Zombie ones.
I’m not what you would call a ‘fan’ of Rob Zombie. A few years ago I watched his two most popular films, House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects, and they were fine. I didn’t hate them, but I did have some problems with them, and in turn with Rob Zombie’s filmmaking style. All movies are reflections of the real world. The reason movies differ from each other is becasue directors have their own opinions and views of what the real world is. Rob Zombie sees the world as a sex-obsessed, hyper-violent cesspool and his movies reflect that. This isn’t a bad thing if that’s what you’re into, but it gets old fast. My limit was two movies. So suffice it to say I was not looking forward to watching Rob Zombie’s Halloween.
Right off the bat Rob Zombie did something different for his take on the horror classic, and this didn’t really work for me. He humanized Michael Myers. In the original film, and even the original series, Michael Myers is seen as this almost mythical, unstoppable force. He’s scary because you know nothing can get in his way, but also scary becasue he does things that a man shouldn’t be able to do (like walk through a sliding glass door without breaking a sweat). There is an air of mystery that surrounds the character, and becasue he uses that air to kill people it is translated into horror. Rob Zombie decides to do away with all of that by giving what is essentially Michael Myers’ entire life story at the beginning of the movie.
In the first Halloween we learn all that we need to know about Michael Myers in the first five minutes. This gives us context, but also keeps the character mysterious. Rob Zombie takes an hour for this same purpose, but of course this removes the mystery. I’m not going to lie, I did enjoy the talks Michael had with Loomis because I felt that was one thing that interested me the most from the original story, so it was nice to finally see it. This section of the movie would be fine if we weren’t already so familiar with the character. As soon as the movie starts and we hear “go get your brother from upstairs”, we know what is going to happen. Rob Zombie disregards this fact and decides to take us on a self-important journey all the same.
Rob Zombie also made a few a changes to the character that weren’t alluded to in the original film. He continued to humanize Michael by giving him purpose. In the original film Loomis said that Michael spent his fifteen years in the hospital waiting silently, plotting his escape. That’s scary. That shows his unstoppable nature even in a scenario where he is hopeless. Rob Zombie decided that having a dude sitting silently in a cell for an hour would be boring, so they gave him an affinity for masks. Michael makes hundreds of papier-mâché masks that line his cell and keep him busy. I know it isn’t much, but this once again showcases that Rob Zombie tried to do too much with the character.
Michael Myers also grew about three feet since the last time we saw him, which once again gets rid of a lot of the mystery surrounding the character. Sure, a hulking eight foot-tall man is more scary than a thin average-sized man, but it also explains away all of Michael’s feats of strength. Later in the movie when he punches through a wall, what would be a terrific moment of surprise is turned into a moment of acknowledgement; “Oh, that makes sense. Did you see that guy? Of course he could punch through a wall”.
Going back to what I said about Rob Zombie’s view of the world being sex-obsessed and hyper-violent, let’s talk about the idea of ‘horror’ in general. Rob Zombie movies are what I would call ‘gorror’; they rely on gore and shocking subject matter to ‘scare’ the audience. You can have a horror movie without any gore. Hell, you can have a horror movie without much else than a character in front of a camera (The Blair Witch Project comes to mind), but Rob Zombie’s world view infects his view of the horror genre. What I’m trying to say is that I don’t find this movie scary, but needlessly disgusting. Let’s talk, for example, about Michael Myers’ escape from the psychiatric hospital.
In the original film Michael Myers escapes from the hospital due to unseen events. Loomis arrives at the hospital and everyone is outside. In Rob Zombie’s movie he of course had to show that escape, becasue he showed everything else. What came to his mind was a gratuitous rape scene that was honestly disgusting to watch. And what makes it more disgusting is that he could have written it out so easily. He obviously filmed that rape scene becasue he wanted to. Now I am in no way insinuating that Rob Zombie advocates rape in any way, shape, or form, but I am saying that it is a good showcase of Rob Zombie’s values pertaining to the horror genre. He doesn’t try and scare the audience, he tries to make them squeamish. To him these emotions are interchangeable, but I don’t agree with that.
This brings us to the rest of the movie. That’s right. We’ve only been talking about the first half. I have a lot of opinions about this movie so buckle-up! About an hour into Halloween Rob Zombie suddenly remembers that he is supposed to remaking Halloween, and not some bastardized version a of sex-crazed America; this is when you see a dramatic shift in the film. When Michael Myers returns to Haddonfield, Halloween almost becomes a shot-for-shot remake; and due to this fact it improves tenfold. Seeing this part of the movie made me realize how different Rob Zombie’s filmmaking style is from John Carpenter’s; and it also makes the movie feel really segmented. It’s weird to me that Rob Zombie wanted to stay so faithful to the original film, while at the same time doing his own thing.
Halloween feels very segmented becasue of the inclusion of what is essentially John Carpenter’s original film, but don’t be mistaken; Rob Zombie still has a firm grasp on this movie. There are more constant ways that you can see his influence, like the overt sexualization of the teenage main characters, but there are other tells as well. What I’m trying to get at here is Rob Zombie’s improvisation is painfully obvious. Even if you hadn’t seen the original film, it would be obvious. Michael Myers goes from silently stalking his prey in the background of every shot, to brutally stabbing a teenage girl and covering both himself and her in blood. It’s not a stretch to say “Oh, that was weird”. And the movie does get scarier during this half, but only becasue the original movie is scary. Essentially what I’m trying to say is that any praise that this movie is going to get, unless it’s for the amazing performance given by Rob Zombie’s wife (haha), should really go to John Carpenter.
One thing I do have to mention is Malcolm McDowell as Dr. Loomis. Donald Pleasence is one of a kind. He brought so much to the character Dr. Loomis, and he truly made it his own. I was sad to see that Halloween 6 was his last film, but in terms of the story it was quite fitting. Of course Dr. Loomis is a huge part of the Halloween franchise, so Rob Zombie had to come up with a replacement. If it was me I probably would have written around it, not wanting to try and fill the shoes that Pleasence left behind, but Rob Zombie is not me. He tapped Malcolm McDowell to play Dr. Loomis, and honestly I was impressed. It’s not that McDowell is a bad actor, but Dr. Loomis is such a distinct character. He is Donald Pleasence. With that being said I found McDowell did a great job of not only portraying the character like we’re used to, but also injecting some of his own style into it. He was no Donald Pleasence, but he wasn’t terrible either.
Because of the segmented feel of the movie you are essentially watching two feature-length films. This proves to be exhausting when Michael Myers escapes from the hospital and you find out you are still an hour from the sweet release of the end credits. I don’t know that I’ve ever been this close to falling asleep during what was supposed to be a horror film. It really was an uphill battle for Rob Zombie if I’m being fair. During the second half of the movie he is essentially remaking John Carpenter’s film, so the audience is less invested becasue they already know what’s going to happen. During the former part of the film Rob Zombie has to attach the audience to this character, and it can go one of two ways: Either, like me, the audience will reject the idea that Zombie is trying to humanize Michael Myers and will be eagerly waiting for it to be over, or the audience will be bored becasue much like the last point they know what is going to happen. I will admit that I left out the ‘people will like this movie’ option, but that’s only becasue I was trying to be as true to life as possible.
Overall Rob Zombie’s Halloween is not a good movie. It relies on gore and shocking sex scenes to alienate the audience instead of using tension to scare them. The second half of the movie is the best part, but only becasue it is almost a shot-for-shot remake of the 1978 original.
I give Halloween a D