Halloween Review

Poster Art Country : USA
Year: 2007
Genre: Horror
Format: Cinema
Running Time: 109 minutes
Distributor: Dimension

Rob Zombie presents his own vision of John Carpenter's classic terror tale, with a new interpretation of the iconic Michael Myers and an upgraded backstory about the method of his madness....

Directed by Rob Zombie. Screenplay by Rob Zombie. Based upon characters created by John Carpenter and Debra Hill. Starring Malcolm McDowell, Scout Taylor Compton, Tyler Mane, Sheri Moon Zombie, Daeg Faerch, Danny Trejo and Brad Dourif.

As the recent advent of the "horror remake" shortly fell out of favor with the faithful of the genre, a few PR people got the neat idea of gussying up the notion by applying new descriptors like "reinvention" (i.e. Marcus Nispel's harrowing 2003 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) or even "reimagining" (Alexander Aja's effective The Hills Have Eyes from last year). With Simon West's tepid When A Stranger Calls (maybe we could call that one a "reinterpretation," for lack of a better word), all bets seemed moot. And after months of speculative back-and-forthing, leaked script reviews and reports of rewrites and reshoots, comes Rob Zombie's take on John Carpenter's 1978 masterpiece Halloween, untouchable source material if ever there were.

That the former White Zombie frontman and horror auteur made a Halloween that simply entertains is certainly not overreaching; Zombie's previous two films House Of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects enjoyed enthusiastic acclaim and--the latter in particular--even critical accolades, a somewhat rarity for the genre. But that Rob Zombie fully accomplishes what he set out to do, which was to take the original blueprint of Halloween and reconstruct it into a masterful picture which not only "simply entertains" but stands proudly on its own, shoulder to shoulder with Carpenter's original, indicates a major achievement.

Danny Trejo, Tyler Mane and Lew Temple in HALLOWEEN.

Rehashing Halloween's plot or even the three-act format which Zombie utilizes here is old-hat these days. Still it's admirable that instead of simply replicating the structure of Carpenter's film, he spends the lion's share of the running time with the "prequel-esque" material. And some remarkable performances are to be found, particularly with the filmmaker's wife Sheri Moon Zombie as Deborah, the tormented mother of Michael Myers. Here she is saddled with a difficult role which is lightyears beyond her sadistic Baby character from Corpses and Rejects, and she plays the tragic yet determined mom with applaudable aplomb. It is especially gratifying to see her in a role which demands high-end dramatic acting chops, and then nailing it. Another surprise role is Daryl Sabara, grown up (and barely recognizable) from the cherubic Juni in the Spy Kids series into a foul-mouthed teenaged bully who soon meets a grisly fate.

But the standout performance is young Daeg Faerch as the ten-year-old Michael Myers. His Hopkins-like (as in Hannibal Lecter, folks) ability to go from charming to demonic, while continually exuding incessant creepiness, makes this a breakout role for the lad. Meanwhile Malcolm McDowell has a fine time filling the Donald Pleasence void, making Dr. Loomis (who insists that Michael call him Samuel) a complex figure whose bestselling book about his psychotic charge soon becomes an albatross to his perceived motivations when he tries to warn Haddonfield about Michael's impending killing spree.

Fans of Zombie's earlier films will enjoy seeing some noteworthy cameos from his cast alumni. The largest role goes to William Forsythe, whose coarse, stringy-haired trailer-trash turn as Deborah's live-in boyfriend is 180 degrees from the righteous-but-unhinged Sheriff Wydell from Rejects. Elsewhere, Danny Trejo elicits a sympathetic performance as a kind-hearted guard at Smith's Grove Sanitarium. Also look for brief appearances from Bill Moseley, Tom Towles, Lew Temple, Leslie Easterbrook, Daniel Roebuck and Ken Foree. The adult Myers himself is even played by Tyler Mane. Then there's Sid Haig's scene-stealing moment, complete with unconvincing hairpiece, as the grumpy cemetery caretaker who just might, in a bizarro universe, be a cousin of Captain Spaulding. Later in the film, genre favorite Brad Dourif turns up in a surprisingly straightforward interpretation of Haddonfield's Sheriff Brackett, with Danielle Harris (the Jamie Lloyd character from the late 80's Halloween sequels) now playing his promiscuous daughter Annie.

Michael Myers stalks Laurie Strode.

Throughout the film, composer Tyler Bates makes restrained yet effective use of John Carpenter's own classic musical cues. Besides the insistent and instantly recognizable Halloween theme (that thumping keyboard arpeggio in 5/4 time that we all know and love), there are the quieter piano pieces commonly referred to as "Loomis' Theme" and "Laurie's Theme." Bates' own cues consist largely of ambient and vaguely industrial pieces which beset the viewer with an eerie, almost claustrophobic shroud of impending doom. The period rock music scattered throughout (to include Nazareth's "Love Hurts" and KISS's "God Of Thunder") help establish the mood of frustrated youth of late 1970's during the first act; later, Rush's much-loved "Tom Sawyer" turns up to campily underscore a truck stop sequence.

When the third act finally kicks in, the film begins to mirror the structure of Carpenter's original. Scout Taylor Compton's rendition of Laurie Strode is another breakout performance, and she thankfully doesn't replicate Jamie Lee Curtis' choices, which would have been a distraction. This Laurie, while still virginal and vulnerable, also possesses an impish streak, complete with girlie-girl tendencies which thankfully don't get in the way of eliciting sheer terror during the final confrontation between her and long-lost brother Michael. And as the adult Michael Myers, Tyler Mane comes closest to the best amalgam of all the incarnations of Michael we've seen thus far; the slick walk of Nick Castle, the brooding of George Wilbur, the brutal rage of Don Shanks--all here, plus more. Mane truly makes this Myers his own. And throughout the film, Zombie has stayed true to making this tale his own vision, without resorting to re-enacting the setpieces of Carpenter's film, and it has been thoroughly engaging on its own. When it's time to let loose in the third act and finally get down with revisiting the original--especially with the choice placement of Carpenter's old musical cues--the familiarity and even, dare I say, nostaglic flourishes manage to work in spite of themselves. Something old and something new, the adage goes. Smartly paced filmmaking, say I.

Malcolm McDowell and Scout Taylor Compton in HALLOWEEN.

In a series of films which average a ninety-minute running time, Rob Zombie's Halloween tells a larger tale and clocks in at ten minutes shy of two hours. Yet it never loses the viewer and always remains engaging. It doesn't seek to supplant its source material, but rather to take the base elementals and re-tell the tale in a different way which allows the original to remain what it is. As such, it succeeds and stands remarkably on its own. To those who worried about how this film's existence would affect the continuity of the existing sequels, it's clear that Zombie intended this to be a one-shot and has no intention of following this with a sequel of its own. And frankly, the events of this film hardly get in the way of continuing the existing sequel run, should there be a demand for a follow-up to that Busta Rhymes installment from a few years ago (and if this one does the projected bank, that's probably what we'll get, if there's ever another Michael Myers flick).

The man who once implored us, in song, to "dig through the ditches and burn through the witches" while he rhapsodized about Grandpa Munster's souped up dragster proved his filmmaking chops in 2003 with House Of 1000 Corpses, evolving his aesthetics from the numerous music videos he had already directed. With The Devil's Rejects two years later, the serious critics took notice. And with this innovative and triumphant take on a beloved masterpiece, Halloween just might be Rob Zombie's cinematic Joshua Tree (look that up, if you're ignorant of 80's allusions). It can be accurately be called a prequel, a remake, a reinvention and a reimagining all rolled into one. But I'm coining a new one. Rob Zombie's Halloween is a reaccomplishing. Write that down and remember it, because you read it here first.


Review by Petch Lucas, for Pitofhorror.com

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