Monday, 9 March 2009

Rob Zombie's Halloween

If anyone was in doubt that John Carpenters 1978 film Halloween was a holy grail of modern Horror Cinema, consider the critical mauling that Rob Zombie's remake suffered when it arrived in theatres in August 2007. Of the current crop of horror remakes, Halloween-2007 has seen the most controversy. Remakes of The Omen, Black Christmas and The Fog, all came and went, disappearing from memory, while the modern retellings of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes were greeted with a cautious enthusiasm. However, for Halloween, the film would for months after its release be subjected to intense heat across online message boards of the Horror community. It’s probably fair to say the film was doomed from the outset - when it was announced that Zombie would helm the film horror fans were immediately skeptical, and would scoff at Zombie's arrogance when the term remake was pushed aside in favor of reboot. The film was released in 2007 and did good business, but almost immediately the backlash began. For its DVD release, the film was initially put out in its theatrical cut, and was quickly followed by Rob Zombie’s final director's cut which is the version I saw. I haven't seen the Theatrical Cut myself but I understand the film is best served as the director intended it.

Worth saying at this point that I actually consider Halloween a rather good film, certainly better than the junk that followed Halloween 4. Rob Zombie's screenplay goes back the beginning of the series and is retro-fitted with the missing details from John Carpenter and Debra Hill's original film - the first half of the film concentrates on Michael Myers' early life, while the second half settles into more generic slasher territory. Interestingly the character of Sam Loomis, the psychiatrist assigned to the Myers case has been given a new slant - in the original film Loomis is something a modern day witch-hunter, where as in Halloween, the character has built a lucrative writing career on the psychopathology of Myers and Loomis' final showdown with Myers has a certain karmic resonance. Where the film succeeds is as a mood piece - its dark and edgy, and visually Zombie has kept the prowling Steadicam sweep that gave the original film much of its power at bay in favor of a nervy hand held look (which admittedly includes some rather disastrous framing). Some terrific moments throughout, including the brutal assault on Annie, and if you can ignore a corny false ending, its worth hanging on for the last sequence in the film where Michael Myers literally rips his old crumbling house to pieces in search of Laurie. The cast do a fine job - Scout Taylor-Compton playing Laurie Strode is a great scream queen while a suitably creepy Daeg Faerch plays the 10 year old Michael Myers. With Malcom McDowell as Sam Loomis, Sheri Moon Zombie as Michael's stripper Mom, and look out for Danielle Harris (returning from Halloween 4 and 5), Danny Trejo, Brad Dourif, Clint Howard, Udo Kier, Dee Walace, Ken Foree, Sybil Danning, Sid Haig and a strange cameo by Mickey Dolenz !

In 2008, Halloween was released for the third time on DVD this time as a 3-disc edition, porting over all the extras from the earlier Director's Cut release, but adding a third disc containing the staggering 4 and a half hour documentary Michael Lives, The Making of Halloween, a massive chronicle of the thirty-odd days of the film's shoot plus some additional days of reshoots. Its a hugely impressive work, that one hopes might offer some redemption to the much maligned film, and besides some backslapping by the cast, its absolutely required viewing for film students. Just don't expect this to be a Hearts of Darkness or a Burden of Dreams, despite all the onscreen carnage, it looks like Zombie's film was a relatively stress free shoot...


  1. I think Zombie is a great horror director, but I don't get the recent trend of remakes. For some reason Horror seems like a genre that needs to look forward rather than back, no matter how new the spin on the old material is.


  2. I think You're absolutely right Icastico, I think Rob Zombie should be doing original work... I've heard rumours that he may be doing a sequel to his Halloween, which is a shame...

  3. I appreciate that you appreciate this movie. I like Rob Zombie. I like his music. I like House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects. And I gave this one a real try. But I HATE this movie. If you want all the gory details there's a lengthy review here:

  4. Craig even though we disagree on this one, it's nice to see a review of the film that is lucid, measured, intelligent and meaningful - I've seen so many reviews of this film that hated the idea of the film more so than anything else. For me remakes are annoying because they're mostly bad - the studios tend to hand them out to first-time directors who were previously making stuff for MTV. But fans seem to fear remakes, which is something I don't understand. You're can't really remake a film - to remake Dawn of the Dead, one would have to travel back to 1977 and replicate the same conditions the film was made under - which is impossible of course considering so much of what goes into a film is left to chance (as you no doubt know yourself better than most)...