After de-beautifying the world with his uniquely ugly vision in “House of 1000 Corpses” and “The Devil’s Rejects,” Rob Zombie has found an actual purpose for his vile, hateful characters: to serve as backstory for a psychopath in the “Halloween” remake.
Most remakes are pointless. Zombie’s redo of the 1978 horror classic — the prototype of the modern slasher film — feels even more pointless than usual. When he’s not ruining the story with unnecessary interpolations, he’s spinning his wheels by simply re-filming the same plot, scene by scene, that was found in John Carpenter’s original.
It gives Zombie too much credit to suggest he had a “point” in mind, but here’s the closest thing the movie has to one: No wonder Michael Myers became a killer; just look at his family! As a 10-year-old in what appears to be the early 1980s, Michael (played by Daeg Faerch, whose name I have not misspelled) must contend with an abusive stepfather, Ronnie (William Forsythe), who leers at Michael’s teenage sister Judith (Hanna Hall) and hurls bilious insults at Michael’s mom (Sheri Moon Zombie, the filmmaker’s wife). Mom, Ronnie, and Judith all hate each other and speak their minds freely on that point. Stepdad and Judith hate Michael, too, though Mom (who is a stripper, I feel compelled to mention) is nice to him. Nonetheless, Michael spends his spare time killing animals.
Everyone at school hates Michael, too, largely because of his stripper mom and his general white-trashiness, and probably the animal-killing, although maybe they aren’t aware of that. All of this is why Michael wears a mask most of the time (to hide himself from the world), and of course why he starts killing people. Ta-da!
It’s his family members who bear the brunt of his lashing out, with the implication that we should be glad, because they were so mean, spiteful, and unpleasant anyway. (But if that’s the case, why wasn’t Michael Myers on hand to murder every single character in Zombie’s other films, since they all talked and acted in the same off-putting manner?) He’s sent to a sanitarium and observed by Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), who can barely get the boy to speak, let alone explain himself.
Fifteen years pass. A hospital caretaker (Danny Trejo) says he’s been watching over Michael for “almost 20 years,” although considering the words on the screen just said “FIFTEEN YEARS LATER,” you have to wonder about his memory. I mean, I guess 15 is “almost” 20. It’s closer to 20 than it is to zero. So, hey, whatever.
Anyway, as you might have expected even without having seen the original film, Michael — now a very tall, silent beast who wears a homemade (cell-made?) mask all the time, and now played by Tyler Mane — gets past the five most incompetent security guards who ever peed their pants during a crisis, flees the hospital, and heads back to his hometown of Haddonfield, Ill. It is Halloween, although none of the students wear costumes to school. (Maybe that isn’t done in Haddonfield. They weren’t doing it in the 15-years-earlier scenes, either.) One of the students is Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton), a fairly ordinary girl whose girlfriends have sex-based plans for the evening while she’s going to spend it babysitting.
In the original film, this point arrives about 15 minutes into the running time. In the remake, it’s nearly an hour. And by focusing so much attention on Michael’s early history, Zombie removes any hint of scariness or menace from him. Just as “Hannibal Rising” ruined Hannibal Lecter by trying to explain him, Zombie’s “Halloween” remake sucks all the thrill and mystery out of Michael Myers. Knowing his origins in depth makes it hard to swallow his superhuman strength and apparent immortality — things we could accept much more easily when he was just an enigmatic boogeyman.
A few brief moments of mild scariness aside, this is largely a tedious, unimaginative endeavor. But Zombie sure can film naked women being terrorized! In the Special Olympics of moviemaking, filming naked women being terrorized is Zombie’s gold medal event! It’s good to have a skill, I suppose.
I knew I hated Zombie’s brand of crass, heartless brutality from seeing his previous films. In “Halloween,” it’s interesting to see, once he moves past the repellant nastiness into straightforward horror-movie territory, just how unremarkable he is as a filmmaker. When the characters aren’t speaking in over-the-top cruel raunchiness or casually slaughtering one another, they’re just boring, and the film is listless. Zombie is a one-trick pony. I don’t like the trick or the pony.
D- (1 hr., 49 min.; )