Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Scout Taylor-Compton, Tyler Mane, Sheri Moon Zombie
“These eyes will deceive you, they will destroy you. They will take from you, your innocence, your pride, and eventually your soul. These eyes do not see what you and I see. Behind these eyes one finds only blackness, the absence of light, these are of a psychopath.” (Dr Loomis, Halloween)
The most effective remakes are not those that simply try to update the original film so it fits in with today’s society and technology, but those that actually attempt to give a unique take on its predecessor and handle the same story in a different way. This is what Rob Zombie’s version of Halloween does, and in doing so it makes it abundantly clear that the filmmaker has an intense respect for John Carpenter’s original.
While the original film focused mainly on Jamie Lee Curtis’s character Laurie Strode and her ordeal throughout the movie, Zombie’s take is very much all about the killer instead. Far more time is spent on Michael Myers – his violent upbringing at the hands of his father, his time at the asylum as he grew up there, his loving mother’s desperate attempts to get through to him and cure him from his psychosis, and his eventual escape years later as a young adult. Rather than going down the “look at what’s happening to this poor girl” route, the message of Zombie’s Halloween is more “look at what this young boy has become”.
This shift of focus isn’t the only difference between the remake and the original, however – Zombie’s version is also far more shocking and visceral. Whereas the few killings in the original film are very ‘clean’, swift and to-the-point, when Myers attacks his victims in the remake it makes for extremely unsettling viewing.
Many films of this generation have similarly grisly and graphic death scenes, but Halloween is impressive in that they never feel glamorised. These killings are raw, they’re shocking. They’re not some big-chested bimbo getting a knife in the tit as she pulls a hammy pained expression, they’re unflinching and realistic – and it’s to Zombie’s credit that they’re presented in this way rather than the ‘torture porn’ many of today’s horror films are accused of offering.
The cast for the most part are effective. It would be easy to accuse Zombie of nepotism by casting his wife Sheri Moon as Michael Myers’ mum and also putting his friend Bill Moseley in the film, and it would be similarly simple to suggest the casting of Halloween 4 and 5’s Danielle Harris as one of Laurie’s friends was simply Zombie’s attempt to pander to the fans, but they all put in solid, realistic performances to ensure the film remains as plausible as possible. The addition of strong character actors like Malcolm McDowell (playing the Dr Loomis role almost as well as the late Donald Pleasance did) and Brad Dourif as the sheriff makes for some compelling moments too, particularly when the two are in the same scene.
Oddly, the only real negative performance is that of Scout Taylor-Compton as the ‘heroine’ Laurie Strode. Stepping into Jamie Lee Curtis’s shoes is a big enough feat as it is, but she’s barely even able to do the laces up. It’s not a bad job by any means but it’s almost impressive how forgettable she is and how unimportant Laurie becomes because of this. Indeed, this underwhelming version of Laurie is one of the reasons Michael Myers is the key focal point of the remake rather than the terrified babysitter.
It also helps that the Michael Myers in this film is one of the best in the history of the lengthy Halloween series. This guy isn’t just a simple crazed killer, he’s a proper monster in every sense of the word. Played by the 6’9” Tyler Mane he’s simply terrifying to look at, and that’s just in the asylum scenes before he even escapes and finds the iconic white mask and jumpsuit. Once he does pop them on he’s a truly frightening sight, a Myers with obvious strength to back up his intimidating appearance.
Rob Zombie’s Halloween may not boast the effective simplicity of the original film but it almost makes up for it with its rawness. It’s the original story told in a far more aggressive manner, yet one that still clearly holds Carpenter’s classic in high regard. A success.