To paraphrase an old car commercial: This ain’t your father’s Halloween. No indeed. Where John Carpenter’s 1978 film was a modern fairy-tale about the dangers of pre-marital sex, Rob Zombie’s version eliminates the moralizing over-tones and brings in a back story which tries to define, once and for all, how an American psychopath is made.
And it works. Mostly.
Taking the ’78 film as his starting point, Zombie completely re-envisions the background and history of Michael Myers, the Boogeyman who started the trend. In his film, Zombie lets us in, albeit only slightly, to the mind of young Myers (a haunting Daeg Faerch). In this world, Myers is the only son in a dysfunctional family unit populated by a lay about step-father, a stripper mother (Sheri Moon Zombie) and a slutty older sister, all of whom, ultimately, fail the young boy. All he is looking for is a little compassion and understanding and he gets none. The only family member he cares about, other than his mother, because, after all, every little boy loves his mother, is little baby Boo, the innocent infant. So with a home life the antithesis of Norman Rockwell, it only stands to reason young Myers would also have trouble in school. He is the victim of stereotypical bullies and we begin to get a hint something is wrong when the principle has to call mom in due, not only to a fight in the bathroom, but also to the dead cat found in the boy’s backpack.
Naturally, Halloween night comes along and this boy, who seems to be trying to hold his maniacal side in check, just wants his sister to take him trick or treating. When she refuses, choosing instead to spend the time having sex with her greasy boyfriend, a little switch trips somewhere and by the end of the night, everyone in the house, except Baby Boo, is dead.
Michael is sent off to the sanitarium, there to be mentally prodded by Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell). It only takes about a year for Myers to totally withdraw, killing a nurse with a fork and being put into permanent lock-down. It is also here Zombie, who also wrote the script, really starts to bring the character to life. He imbues Myers with a fascination for masks, things which cover his “ugly” face. When we first see Michael as an adult, we are treated to one of the most disturbing visuals in the whole gory film: a cell covered with a multitude of masks. The thought of all the different Michael Myers (now played by the enormous Tyler Mane) who might be present is a daunting thing, leaving us to wonder which one will escape… because yes, one will escape and he will return to his hometown of Haddonfield to wreck whatever vengeance his addled mind deems appropriate.
The escape scene is bloody, but not to the point of absurdity. Zombie definitely understands how to draw the most squeam from his buck. And when Myers returns to Haddonfield the film starts to get back onto a more familiar footing. This is where Zombie rejoins with the 1978 film, although the small town is certainly given a new millennium update. It is also here, 17 years after the original incident, that some of Zombie’s logic begins to fail him. An observant mind will question the age of Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) and Zombie’s characters do, in an effort to hold true to the essence of the original, commit some of the cardinal stupidities of horror films. During the third act, you might find yourself screaming at the film, yelling at a character for doing something inanely dumb.
Of course, if you do, then maybe Zombie has succeeded in what he set out to do – make a horror film where you actually care about what happens to the characters, even the bad guys.
(Originally published at FirstShowing.net)