Rob Zombie is back for more horror, and by that I mean both the content of his film and the execution of it. Rather than continue on with his maladjusted House of 1000 Corpses / Devils Rejects characters, Zombie is tackling a remake of a more classic movie: John Carpenter’s Halloween. The remake is very much in the vein of another recent remake of a classic horror flick: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In fact, the two remakes are so similar, at times I felt like I was watching that movie over again.
Michael Myers is the striking figure of the Halloween movies, not to be confused with the SNL actor of the same name. Over time and seven sequels Michael has been through a lot, although none of that really matters since this is a remake instead of another sequel. Zombie’s addition to the franchise is more time spent on the disturbed youth of Myers, which completely explains his sadistic behavior by surrounding the character with characters who curse every other word and fit as many sexual references into their speech as possible. The cursing is probably supposed to show the characters have no love, but it just comes across as sloppy writing that is desperately trying to show how horrible Michael’s childhood was. The result is yet another attempt to demystify an icon by showing their youth, a la Hannibal Rising and Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.
As a youth Myers slays his family and those who oppose him in several different gruesome methods, from beating them to death with an aluminum bat to slashing his sister seventeen times. Yes, in a Zombie flick the gore does flow, but it’s all irrelevant. Camera shots are so tight that the audience has no frame of reference for what it’s seeing a lot of the time, so that bloody mess on screen could be a broken face or a smashed cat, or possibly even just a nasty plate of spaghetti. Mixed with yet another movie that tries to make things “more real” by refusing use of a steadycam, the cinematography is one of the movie’s worst enemies. It’s called a “motion picture” but that doesn’t mean the picture should literally always be moving. Sadly, here, it frequently is, and with shots so tight the result is you have no idea what you’re watching or where characters are in relation to each other.
This becomes especially frustrating later in the film, as an adult Michael Myers breaks out of the sanitarium and returns to his family home for reasons unknown, pursued by his psychologist, Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell). Unlike the original, this time it’s fairly clear the pursued girl, Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) is related to Michael – after all, there’s an entire franchise that has established this and Zombie isn’t straying that far from familiar territory. What’s unknown is why Michael feels the need to return there of all places. Somehow, Dr. Loomis knows that’s where he’s going and follows, desperate to stop the killer.
Zombie damages his own attempt at a remake by exposing so much of Michael’s childhood. Frankly, once we’ve seen Michael commit such atrocities as a youth, there’s really nothing surprising or shocking about the acts he commits as an adult. It’s just a matter of time.
Unfortunately, time, or the pacing of the movie, is another serious problem. Part of Michael Myer’s threat is that he’s always been this slow, lumbering yet unstoppable force. Here he feels less like a lumbering character and more like a plodding one. Part of the reason is because the movie doesn’t really build towards any sort of climax. It’s just one quick encounter with Michael followed by an eternity of boredom. Instead of a curious terror we know nothing about, he’s far too familiar to us by the time the slaughter really begins, and the pauses in between that would normally heighten anticipation just kill everything.
On top of everything else, I really hate what Zombie attempts to do with the movie’s sound editing. Some scenes feature music with no sound effects, others feature sound effects and no dialogue. Michael’s typical threatening breathing is inconsistent, which, again, removes some of the menace from the character. It felt like Zombie just went into editing on a daily basis with a “this seems like fun today” approach. The result is just flat-out annoying.
I really didn’t mind Zombie when he was making cinematic disasters with his own characters. After all, he created them. Let him mess them up however he sees fit. There is no excuse for messing with this classic character, however, especially when so many sequels have already messed things up. If Zombie had decided to throw another sequel in, I probably wouldn’t have minded, but this needless remake is barely watchable, annoying on the ears, and a snoozer of a story that deconstructs another character that was better left as an enigma.