Halloween (2007)

Synopsis: Rob Zombie (The Devil’s Rejects) reinvents the ultimate slasher classic, unleashing Michael Myers for a bloody rollercoaster of a rampage like fans have never seen. Including a retelling of the original story that unfolds at a breakneck pace, as well as a chilling new introduction that finally reveals the secrets behind Myers’ disturbing childhood, Halloween breathes new life into one of film history’s most terrifying tales. “It will leave you speechless” (Bloody-Disgusting).
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Halloween (2007) 8.0

The original ‘Halloween’ is the mother of all slasher films. While one could reference ‘Psycho’ instead, the tremendous success of Carpenter’s film created a blueprint for the genre and was quite literally recreated time and again ever since. Long-lasting series such as ‘Friday the 13th’ and ‘Scream’, for instance, owe their success to the bloody prints ‘Halloween’ left.

So it’s hardly surprising that such a successful film and series would eventually be rebooted. What was surprising was the choice of helmsman to revamp them: Rob Zombie.

It’s a name that may not seem that obvious to people who don’t listen to metal or watch horror films but, for those who do, Rob Zombie is an intriguing choice. He had attained enormous success in the music world, yes, but had also been directing his own music videos for well over a decade.

He had also written and directed two feature films by then, including a surreptitious ode to the ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ series. His first, ‘House of 1000 Corpses’, was largely a misfire: stylish, but immature. His follow-up to that film, ‘The Devil’s Rejects’, however, showed tremendous improvement and essentially promised us a new talent in the genre: it was gritty, well-conceived and pleasantly unsettling.

So the news that he was remaking ‘Halloween’ had certainly piqued my curiosity. At that point, I was completely jaded with the series; in my mind, there had been three good ones, and almost a half dozen lacklustre ones – not a good count, by any measure. Rob Zombie was an x-factor, certainly, but at least it gave hope that something exciting could happen.

Indeed it did.

What Zombie did was to retell the original film. He started from scratch with the same characters, as played by different actors, and injected a very different tone. He also instituted some serious changes:

-for starters, he decided to add a completely new intro that delves into Michael Myers’ background history. It’s much grittier than the original, which was in an average suburban home; in here young Myers is from a broken, dysfunctional household. While that helps to explain his seething anger and rage, it also shatters the mysterious aura of evil from the original – something which is arguably scarier.

-the movie is also much more brutal than the original. It’s not just a sign of the times, it’s also part of Zombie’s affinities – so that was hardly a surprise. But it’s amazing how much suspense he managed to create with his style: screen violence is frequently something you can detach yourself from, because it’s processed and unreal that it doesn’t get under your skin. In ‘Halloween (2007)’, there’s no escape. The problem with Zombie’s versus Carpenter’s style is that it may very well be visceral, but it’s much less menacing – Carpenter scared you in more subtle ways.

-similarly, the new Michael Myers is less superhuman, but much more monstrous; he is a towering giant beast. In Zombie’s version, it can easily be believed that he is unstoppable – quite unlike Carpenter’s Michael Myers, which was always a little inexplicable. However, it also feels like a little bit too much, as though Zombie was trying too hard to create a monster. Watching this Michael Myers feels more violent and less intense.

-finally (spoiler alert!), another significant change comes at the end: just when you expect the movie to wrap up, it doesn’t. This is a great move because fans who’ve seen the original countless times wouldn’t expect it – so it added a surprise for them as well as for the first-timer. However, I must admit that the movie felt like it was and should have been over. While I applaud Zombie for the surprise, I think that the film would have been a stronger whole without the extended ending.

Which leads me to another point: the ‘Halloween’ reboot is not as suspenseful as the original one was. For one, we already know the story – so there are few surprises in store for us. Secondly, Carpenter used cinematic tricks to scare us (the perfect example comes towards the end, when Michael Myers blends into the frame, slowly out of the shadows, while the protagonists lie in wait), whereas Zombie is more direct in his intentions. Granted, his style is more realistic, but it’s not as spooky or scary.

He did bring a great look to the film, however: his version is not as clean, as slick – it’s much more realistic-looking overall. He also added to this realism by incorporating a tremendous soundtrack of classic rock tunes. This makes the world we’re watching feel believable. And, frankly, his choice of tracks was simply awesome. As well, he got an excellent motion picture score from Tyler Bates, who found a way to amp up the Halloween theme with the proper reverence; it’s familiar yet more muscular.

He also brought aboard a fantastic supporting cast of familiar faces from all sorts of films, including the previous Halloween films. It’s no exaggeration to say that every other scene contained someone I recognized and liked. That was an awesome lot of fun.

My only real issue with this film is with his choice of actress to play the new Laurie Strode. She is cute in a girl-next-door sort of way, sure, but she was a little too sassy for my taste (that first scene she’s in made me want to choke myself). She also has less personality than Jamie Lee Curtis’ version of Strode did (which, let’s face it, is hardly surprising – Curtis is hard to match). Anyway, she’s quite alright, but she’s the definite weak point here, as you don’t really feel like rooting for her as you did for the original character.

As a whole, however, I was pleasantly surprised with this retelling of the Hallowe’en horror classic. It may not be the original, but it holds up exceptionally well under some mighty high expectations. Rob Zombie has proven his worth as a director: he has vision and skill. He brought both fully, completely, for ‘Halloween (2007)”s exploration of the root, and brutal consequences of, unconstrained evil.

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