In 1978, John Carpenter’s “Halloween” burst onto the scene, widely popularizing the slasher genre while becoming one of horror’s most iconic films. Now nearly 30 years later, rocker-turned-director Rob Zombie (“House Of 1,000 Corpses,” “The Devil’s Rejects”) offers his own interpretation of the classic story.
This is the ninth film in the “Halloween” canon, and the first to attempt a retelling of the original. When Zombie, whose first two features generated a small cult audience, was announced as the man behind the project, fan reaction was decidedly mixed. After viewing the final result, it seems their misgivings were entirely justified.
The new tale of Michael Myers picks up during his childhood, where we witness his dysfunctional family, his encounter with the school bully, and his attraction to killing animals. One day he snaps, going on a killing spree and murdering four people, including his father and sister. We then fast forward a number of years, watching as Myers escapes from prison and returns to haunt his hometown.
Zombie proves to do a better job at directing than thought possible, though he never rises above a passable threshold. Favoring close-ups and shaky camerawork too heavily, he hasn’t figured out how to convey a sense of geography, which makes some of the scenes unnecessarily confusing. He also chooses to go for an increase in gore rather than psychological tension, discarding the very element which made the original so successful.
Still, his directing is far superior to his skill as a writer, which is immeasurably limited. The dialogue is clunky and poorly constructed, with several one-liners painfully sticking out. The storyline lacks depth and originality, never gelling cohesively or offering substance to keep the viewer interested. It seems he does little more than move aimlessly from one killing to the next, especially in the second half, never bothering to develop any of the characters or provide us a reason to care about their deaths or peril. This results in a story both shallow and empty, with an emotional center nothing more than a hollowed chasm.
The acting, while an improvement over the writing, remains far from first-rate, and none of the cast members accomplish anything of note. Daeg Faerch, who plays the younger Myers, portrays a kid with serious problems well enough, but never gets under our skin or exemplifies the chillingly evil we expect. Tyler Mane, the older Myers, is reduced to a giant in a mask, and it’s curiously never explained how he managed to transform his body from a little kid into one resembling a wrestler. The Jamie Lee Curtis character from the original, played with little skill by Scout Taylor-Compton, is reminiscent of an annoying Lindsey Lohan, and she is never able to generate sympathy or likeability in her role.
The big deal with this remake was supposed to be how it was going to shed light on Myer’s past, giving us an inside look at the man behind the mask. Unfortunately, the lengthy back story affords no real insight into the matter, succumbing to several movie clichés instead. What is left of the remainder is a condensed rehash of the original, with an increase in sleaze factor and a much higher body count. Gone with it is the possibility of anything innovative or entertaining, and ultimately a reason to watch, leaving “Halloween” nothing more than the latest in Hollywood’s long line of remakes which never should have been made in the first place.