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Monday, October 31, 2022

‘Halloween’ – How Rob Zombie Made a Horror Classic Entirely His Own [Revenge of the Remakes]

In discussions about slasher infamy, all roads lead to Haddonfield. The Halloween franchise has amassed a convoluted franchise canon since the late 1970s, filled with retcons and redos as recently as Halloween Ends — including Rob Zombie‘s universally divisive 2007 remake. Countless horror screenwriters, including Josh Stolberg (no stranger to “Revenge of the Remakes”), attempted to plot an angle that’d continue Michael Myers’ story after Halloween: Resurrection — but the tragic 2005 death of producer Moustapha Akkad left the franchise in his son Malek’s hands and veered into a new direction. It was only a matter of time before Halloween would become another 2000s remake statistic, with no shortage of filmmakers lining up to pitch their spin on Haddonfield’s boogeyman.

In terms of “remake justification,” finding standout filmmakers to inject their potent flavors into long-standing intellectual properties is the ultimate reason. Zombie’s carnie-sleaze style slathered in grime, gore, and repugnance is synonymous with the do-it-all entertainer’s namesake. Nothing like John Carpenter‘s streamlined stalker tension. David Gordon Green’s 2018 Halloween rebootquel is endlessly indebted to Carpenter’s original, paying homage through recreation down to decaying pumpkin credits visuals — Zombie has no interest in mimicking what already exists, instead going all-in on Rob Zombie’s Halloween. Dimension Films gambled on Zombie, knowing Zombie’s aesthetic choices ensured his Halloween would be fresh, bold, and impressively mean-spirited. It’d be his Halloween, which is the approach all remakes should strive for; versus something like Cabin Fever that chooses stale replication over creative expression.

The Approach

Rob Zombie’s Halloween remains faithful to John Carpenter and Debra Hill‘s storytelling structure, aside from additional sequences that build Michael’s backstory with homelife abuse and serial killer attributes. Oh, also — Laurie Strode is Michael’s sister? Carpenter’s direction is more about the looming specter of Haddonfield, who peers at Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) through drying laundry, where Zombie unleashes the animal that is a hulking Michael Myers. Character dialogue drops more obscenities in William Forsythe‘s limited lines than in Carpenter’s entire babysitter-killer thriller, as we’re thrown into Zombie’s universe with intense yet enveloping introductions.

Zombie’s screenplay introduces Michael Myers as a ten-year-old loner (Daeg Faerch), spending more time keying into his relationship with his mother Deborah (Sheri Moon Zombie). Michael frequently wears a clown mask, exhibits violent tendencies, and tortures animals like psychologists have long detailed as worrisome behavior signaling would-be serial killers. After Michael slaughters homophobic, womanizing, perverted stepfather Ronnie White (William Forsythe), selfish sister Judith (Hanna Hall), and Judith’s mask-wearing boyfriend Steve Haley (Adam Weisman) — sparing baby sister Angel — it’s off to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) spends fifteen years talking Michael through his traumas, but there’s no saving evil incarnate. Adult Michael (Tyler Mane) is to be transferred away from Smith’s Grove, and you know how the story goes — Michael escapes using brute force, sets his sights on his abandoned Haddonfield home, and starts searching for his lost sibling, now known as Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton).

Michael goes from the mute clown-faced killer to a KISS-loving murderer in training whose troubled upbringing creates the “perfect storm” of mistreatment and psychological instability. His obsession with mask-making highlights why Michael always covers his face — Michael hates his ugliness; he hates himself. There’s more thought put into why Michael Myers becomes a ruthless marathon stabber who terrorizes Haddonfield. Not to say Carpenter and Hill ignore backstory. It’s more that Carpenter and Hill are more focused on Laurie, Michael’s victims, and Haddonfield’s community, while Zombie turns Michael into a focal character, not just a soulless shape. Zombie runs his Halloween over two hours because Michael’s psycho-analysis segments are added to Carpenter’s model — it’s comparable to The Hills Have Eyes, taking Wes Craven’s cannibalistic detour and putting a bit more meat on licked-clean bones.

Does It Work?

Halloween Rob Zombie clown

As a remake, especially for a pillar horror franchise with dug-in fanbases ready to tear anyone who dares threaten their nostalgia bubbles? Yes, Rob Zombie nails what remakes should strive to accomplish. Zombie’s mannerisms take center stage yet build atop John Carpenter’s foundational blocks. Michael Myers is still the spitting image of William Shatner with a kitchen blade, yet Tyler Mane’s performance is unique in its more 2000s ferocity like Jason Voorhees’ faster, stronger, bullheaded 2009 makeover. Even when Zombie recreates sequences from Carpenter’s original — horndogs Lynda Van Der Klok (Kristina Klebe) and Bob Simms (Nick Mennell) are slaughtered by Michael in his derelict home, complete with the sheet-ghost gag — it’s still in Zombie’s tone.

The entire ensemble is expertly cast, down to Bill Moseley as transfer guard Zach “Z-Man” Garrett. Malcolm McDowell’s mastery of vocabulary as Dr. Loomis brings formidable presence à la Donald Pleasence, while 2000s scream queens like Danielle Harris and Scout Taylor-Compton sell their fearful squeals and painful yelps with emphasis. Character actors like Ken Foree and Danny Trejo appear briefly to evolve Michael’s descent into massacre notariety (or provide trademark clothing). Brad Dourif endures policeman burns about piggies and greasy bacon with a veteran smile. Zombie always attracts a murderer’s row of genre talent, and Halloween is no exception. Hell, Halloween II might even be more impressive.

Much like Friday the 13th, The Hitcher, and other successful 2000s remakes, Halloween easily translates to post-Saw, “bleak and gritty” 2000s horror appearances. Zombie’s one of the most recognizable contemporary horror filmmakers and especially thrived on gore-heavy, nihilistic, raven-dark presentations that are brightened with big-top color palettes and the reddest eruptions of blood. Halloween is a little dimmer than Zombie’s nightmare-neon House of 1000 Corpses and sunburnt The Devil’s Rejects, but that goes along with Michael Myers’ shadowy lurking to reveal his figure watching from afar. It’s a seamless translation that dials into genre movements of an era that still feel very Hellbilly Deluxe, for sure.

The Result

Rob Zombie Rob Zombies the heck out of Halloween. That’s either a tremendous joy or insufferable failure depending on your taste for sensational death-dealing and endlessly cruel bastards. Michael’s childhood feud with Ronnie chatters without mercy, as Ronnie tastelessly questions Michael’s sexuality to mama Deborah while directly threatening Michael. Zombie’s screenplay overflows with “f” slurs, “r” words, and other less fortunate markings of 2000s pop culture, included as characters spew the dirtiest Urban Dictionary entries to formulate the nastiest, crassest insults imaginable. There’s no dancing around Zombie’s love-or-hate reactions, which have become more and more cemented over the decades — Halloween is no different than The Lords of Salem or 3 From Hell in that regard.

Laurie’s bloodline connection to Michael is another point of contention, which I tend to appreciate as added motivation behind Michael’s Haddonfield spree. Tyler Mane deserves a shout out for becoming the superbeast version of Michael Myers like Derek Mears brought out of Jason Voorhees and Andrew Bryniarski pulled from Leatherface. Mane turns Michael into a bulky monster, crashing through glass doors to amplify frights atop the nods to Nick Castle‘s stealthier hide-and-seek material. Not to insinuate Castle isn’t an imposing Myers who doesn’t smash some closet doors — but Mane finds that primal gear that goes beyond slashers walking behind co-eds for a quick dispatch. Zombie’s Myers has a blood-in-the-water demeanor, and his casting department gets an A+ for their impeccable efforts.

You can sense Zombie’s affinity for the material based on what beats he refuses to alter. Bob Simms’ gravity-defying death when he’s staked to the wall with a knife or Lynda Van Der Klok’s line delivery when asking for a beer is aces. Zombie happily aligns with Carpenter’s introduction of slasher subgenre tropes from topless victims becoming stab fodder to Blue Öyster Cult needle drops — for better or worse. Zombie pushes harder, whether that’s Annie Brackett’s naked body covered in slash wounds or children who run screaming from crime scenes with jack-o’-lantern corpses. Carpenter emphasizes tension through superior soundtrack cues, while Zombie sensationalizes Michael’s predicament, vile methods, and family drama. Carpenter isn’t erased — Zombieisms are emboldened.

The Lesson

Halloween Rob Zombie remake

Rob Zombie’s approach to Halloween is commendable in its ability to honor existing legends while letting a filmmaker’s voice sing. Execution is a different story — an out-there frontman like Zombie isn’t here to cater his art to anyone. Zombie stays true to himself throughout Halloween in ways that I respect more than David Gordon Green doing Carpenter Lite. Horror needs more divisive titles that cause conversation because that means filmmakers are staying ambitious, telling their stories, and not giving into studio checklists influenced by bottom lines. We didn’t and still don’t need another Halloween lookalike — Rob Zombie’s Halloween was always going to be unlike the rest, and that’s correct.

So what did we learn?

● Singular filmmaking voices deserve remakes — what’s the point of recreation?

● Add Tyler Mane to the list of 2000s slasher actors who brought the thunder.

● Like him or not, Rob Zombie loves horror and helped define 2000s horror trends.

● I’m also glad we’ve evolved past some more unfortunate trends that were too prevalent in the 2000s.

Listen, do I like Rob Zombie’s Halloween from an execution standpoint? It’s got a detrimental length problem caused by overexplaining Michael’s origins and stretching Laurie’s final confrontation with Michael as he smashes their rotting childhood home for what seems like forever. It’s not great, but we’re here for the remake analysis, and that conversation is far more favorable. It’s the same discussion about filmmakers like James Gunn finding ways to make Marvel or DC movies pop while others become lost in the mechanical blockbuster process. Give me divisive and aggressive over fundamental and serviceable. Keep rockin’, Mr. Zombie; I’ll always be there through the good and the bad because when it’s good, it’s gold-plated.

In Revenge of the Remakes, columnist Matt Donato takes us on a journey through the world of horror remakes. We all complain about Hollywood’s lack of originality whenever studios announce new remakes, reboots, and reimaginings, but the reality? Far more positive examples of refurbished classics and updated legacies exist than you’re willing to remember (or admit). The good, the bad, the unnecessary – Matt’s recounting them all.

The post ‘Halloween’ – How Rob Zombie Made a Horror Classic Entirely His Own [Revenge of the Remakes] appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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