Mania Grade: C+
Maniac Grade: C-
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- Reviewed Format: Theatrical Release
- Rated: R
- Stars: Tyler Mane, Scout Taylor-Compton, Malcolm McDowell, Sheri Moon Zombie, Daeg Faerch
- Writer: Rob Zombie, based on the screenplay by John Carpenter & Debra Hill
- Director: Rob Zombie
- Distributor: M-G-M/Dimension
A remake with a quasi-psychological angle...
By Abbie Bernstein
August 31, 2007
There is something almost breathtakingly counterintuitive about trying to psychoanalyze Michael Myers, one of cinema’s great boogeymen since director John Carpenter first introduced the indestructible psychopath in 1978’s uber-slasher film Halloween. Since then, Halloween has spawned multiple sequels, not to mention innumerable copies by other names. Now director/screenwriter Rob Zombie is here with a remake, staying fairly faithful to the original structure (and music score), while adding a handful of innovations that are mostly head-scratchers.
The big change in the new Halloween is that, instead of a brief prologue, the section examining the childhood of Michael Myers (played as a youngster by Daeg Faerch), before and after he stabs his older sister to death. Michael is a normal-seeming kid, something of a feat given the toxic atmosphere in his household, where loving mom Deborah (Sheri Moon Zombie) and nasty, disabled stepfather (William Forsythe) scream constant abuse at one another, with stepdad also making cracks at Michael, older sister Judith (Hanna Hall) and even the baby. Secretly, Michael is torturing and killing animals – even ones he likes – and playing with a mask. Things escalate to the point where Michael attracts the attention of psychiatrist Sam Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), who is however unable to intervene before tragedy strikes. Michael is delivered into Dr. Loomis’ care at a mental institution, where he expresses feelings of being ugly and wanting to go home. There are more incidents, Michael goes mute.
Fifteen years later, around Halloween, the now-grown Michael (played as an adult by Tyler Mane) breaks out and heads for his hometown, where his baby sister, Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton), adopted by adoring parents, has no idea about her biological family history.
The first half of the new film is relatively interesting, even if it just about never feels scary. However, if one is going to attempt to explore a psychotic character, introducing the notion that Michael kills animals (and eventually people) he has good relationships with is something worth a bit more examination than it gets here. Then we get to the second half of the film, which essentially conflates the original Halloween and its immediate sequel, Halloween II (fans will remember that the filial relationship between Michael and Laurie is revealed in the second film, not the first), and Michael is in full unstoppable killer mode – which again would be just fine if we hadn’t spent an hour going into what made him the way he is. We’re no wiser about his interest in masks, let alone how his childhood environment caused him to become supernaturally strong and indestructible. It’s possible that Loomis going back and forth between trying to help Michael and denouncing him as Satan is meant to be a darkly comical look at a therapist who a) doesn’t know what he’s doing and b) can’t resist giving a good sound bite, but it doesn’t really play right. Taylor-Compton, while agreeable, is playing a role where screaming more than strategizing is emphasized this time around. This kind of movie tends to lose something when the main character acts this much like a victim.
To give Zombie his due, his Halloween is very well-photographed and overall well-made, and a mini-army of genre names show up in small roles: Danny Trejo, Brad Dourif, Ken Foree, Sig Haig, Bill Moseley, Udo Kier and others add some spice to the proceedings. Mane does a remarkably good job of conveying subtle changes in affect through posture and McDowell is enjoyable as the out-of-his-depth Loomis.
The first Halloween codified a formula that has been repeated so many times that it begs for experimentation. Zombie can’t be blamed for trying something a little different – it just doesn’t often work in the way that seems intended.