This weekend, a thousand blogs will post reviews with countless comparisons, both positive and negative, between director and writer Rob Zombie‘s re-imagining to that of John Carpenter‘s classic. This review, in an attempt to stand out, will feature zero comparisons. And so, without further ado, Rob Zombie’s Halloween …
Ten-year-old Michael Myers, the product of a dysfunctional and broken family, has slowly been building up a terrible darkness inside him. Berated by his stepfather, ignored by his older sister, and picked on at school, Michael finds solace behind a clown’s mask and the killing of small animals. On Halloween night, after yet another run-in with bullies, Michael finally takes the next step in becoming a monster as he systemically murders everyone in his house. He is placed in Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, under the watchful eye of Dr. Loomis, who try as he may, is unable to tap into Michael.
Almost seventeen years later, Michael has grown into an impossibly strong brute of a man, and has not spoken a word since he was eleven. He has grown fascinated with masks and makes countless paper mache ones in his cell. During a transfer, Michael makes his escape, after massacring everyone in the sanitarium. Dr. Loomis, who had recently given up on Michael, knows exactly where he is going, back home to Haddonfield, Illinois. Michael’s arrival quickly paints the town in dirty blood red, and he soon focuses his attention on Laurie Strode, his re-christened and adopted baby sister. Dr. Loomis knows that this is his target, but what he’ll do once he catches up to her is anyone’s guess.
Rocker Rob Zombie returns to the pen and behind the camera for a third time with this intense and quite brutal slasher flick. Like his previous two efforts, Zombie proves once again his uncanny ability to smear the entire screen with a dirty atmosphere and grimy feeling so thick you can almost touch and taste it. Though the print itself is flawless, the actual sets and characters look as if they had been rolled around in moist dirt and rotting leaves for a few minutes before being shot. Grime, dust, and physical sleaze cover just about everything in this movie, save for just a few characters and scenes here and there.
Zombie is particularly focused on the evolution of Michael Myers, with every other one of his characters merely there to become victims or feed into the deciphering of Michael. As a small boy, played with a sinister emptiness that foreshadows what is to come by Daeg Faerch, Zombie sets up a “perfect storm” as Dr. Loomis puts it to nuture Myers’ needs. His already damaged inner psyche is further enhanced by bullying from both his family and school, allowed to go unchecked by his mother who is too busy trying to bring home a paycheck from the go-go bar. In this environment, Zombie sets up the chess pieces for a nature vs nurture argument for what makes a serial killer, which is brought into sharper focus with the paralleling of Laurie’s very close knit and loving family later in the movie.
As an adult, Michael Myers is almost impossible to comprehend. Brought to the screen with a hulking is the completely silent and physical performance by wrester-turned-actor Tyler Mane, Michael is an impenetrable wall that is bent on nothing more than death and destruction. Mane’s embodiment of this massive figure is pure and unrelenting terror. Whether it is his impending stride, his inhuman show of strength, or his speed from which there is no retreat, Mane has tapped into something here that lies dormant in all but the most evil of minds. And Zombie has brought to life in this human character the perfection that serial killers for countless years have sought to obtain.
It is of course during Michael’s almost non-stop murders during the second half of the film where Zombie truly shines. As with his two previous films (House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects), Zombie has an almost gleeful attitude toward putting his characters through absolute hell and tormenting them to no end. Zombie not only brings to the screen horrible envisionings of pain and death with buckets of flowing red blood and one felled body after another, but of the character’s knowledge that they are about to feel suffering as they’ve never known before they feel the icy fingers of death around their soul. Even as Michael stalks his prey with physical weapons, Zombie also employs his camera as another weapon, taunting, stabbing, and slicing at the victims with sickening angles and zooms.
The “Rob Zombie Players” all get screen time here, and fans of his two previous films, as well as horror in general, will have a wide grin as one face after another gets their moment in the spotlight. The screen is virtually awash with faces that appear just long enough to say “hey, isn’t that…?” Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Ken Foree, Leslie Easterbrook, Danny Trejo, and William Forsythe get in on the action doing what they do best, with Sheri Moon Zombie, of course, getting the most screen time as Michael’s mother. To this arsenal he adds Malcolm McDowell who brings a striking and deep intensity to Dr. Loomis, Brad Dourif, Dee Wallace, Clint Howard, blank-and-you’ll-miss-him Udo Kier, and a few more that are sure to become returning faces in Zombie’s future projects.
Zombie is not above paying tribute to all that which falls under the horror umbrella by just employing those that are associated with it. Throughout the movie, the background is pegged with nods and nudges to that which makes up the collective education of Zombie’s view on horror. KISS t-shirts clad young Michael, black and white movies like The Thing From Another World and White Zombie pop up on televisions, Blue Öyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear The Reaper” and The Misfit’s “Halloween” adorn the soundtrack, and Laurie’s babysitting charge Tommy is dressed as The Crimson Ghost just to get the list started.
The word “horror” is thrown around a lot and has quite a large berth for which many movies get to lay. But for pure emotional horror and terror, most of these so-called genre films fall quite short of that lofty ability. Zombie, though, has concocted a tense, mean-spirited, and rapid-fire assault on the senses that should have most pulses in the audience beating at a fever pitch, and has at the very least won that title. It is horrifying, it is scary, and most of all, it is unpredictable.