There are really two distinct halves to Rob Zombie's remake of "Halloween." First off we see a young Michael, played by a suitably creepy looking Daeg Faerch (good luck pronouncing that one). He's an awkward little doughboy of a kid from a lower middle class family in the suburbs. He lives with his stripper mom (Sheri Moon), slut sister (Scout Taylor Compton), and abusive stepfather (William Forsythe). From the first frames it's apparent that his life is not one that any kid should be subjected too, and it's having a definite toll on him.
It's obvious that things aren't going well early on, when before school one morning we see him butchering his pet mouse. Then once he gets to school we see him taunted by some older kids, who have a strip club flyer with his mom plastered all over it. Understandably, this has Mikey a little bent out of shape, so he follows the bully into the woods and dispatches him with a big log, in a brutal moment of violence. This scene sets the tone for the rest of the movie.
It crystal clear from the first 20 minutes of the movie that this was exactly what we had expected from Rob Zombie. The film is dark, gritty and grimy... and exposes the outcasts of the world to the harsh day of light. What his obsession is with he dregs of society I will never know, but we're once again treated to his self indulgence on the subject.
After Michael returns home and butchers his family (save for mom and baby sister) he is put into a psychiatric facility under the care of one Dr. Sam Loomis (natch), played lovingly by Malcom Macdowell, who should get a mention here for absolutely owning this role. Pleasance would be proud.
Despite the horrible things he's done, Michael seems to have no idea that he has done anything wrong. As time goes by, he becomes increasingly despondent and retreats into his world of darkness, spending his days making strange masks. As he tells his mother early on, he likes his mask because it hides his "ugly." If she only knew what was going to happen next.
That's the first half of the film. In itself, it almost plays out like an entire movie. We then flash forward to Dr. Loomis' last day on the job. He has left because he can no longer get through to Michael, now a hulking mass of a man who hasn't spoken in 15 years. Now that Loomis has resigned they are forced to transfer him to a new facility, and to no one's surprise Michael manages to escape. Oh, and along the way back home to Haddonfield he finds time to kill Ken Foree while he's taking a shit so that he can steal his trucker getup. Got all that? Good, because the rest you've pretty much seen.
If it's one thing I had trouble getting over during "Halloween," it's that it feels like two entirely different movies just mashed together. If you go back and look at Zombie's work you'll see that this is a recurring problem with him. He has no concept of how to pace a film, or how to lead an audience from Point A to Point B in an orderly fashion. In one sense, it's that kind of anarchy that makes his movies interesting, but in another sense it can be incredibly frustrating. Here it's a little bit of both, but mostly the latter.
The next 45 minutes or so play out like a sped up version of the original. I kept asking myself, if you're going to remake a classic, why not change it up? It worked for "Night of the Living Dead," it worked for "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," (once anyways) so why not here? Zombie went to such painstaking measures to redraw the "Halloween" mythos, and then for about half of this film he just condenses what Carpenter did and put it into a snappier outfit. It just didn't jive with me.
Aside from Danielle Harris' impressive performance, and seeing her in all her nekkid glory (damn girl, seriously) this part is pretty suspense-less, mainly because it's all predicable. For someone who hasn't seen the original a hundred times like I have, they might get a little more enjoyment out of this part, I get the sense though that the die hard fans are going to feel it comes up a little limp.
Once Laurie enters the Wallace's and finds Danielle Harris lying naked covered in blood on the floor, I knew it was time for this movie to put up or shut up. And I have to say, if it's one thing Zombie did right here it's the finale.
The final girl "chase" sequence was pretty amazing through and through. For some reason Tyler Mane, who I didn't find all that scary for the previous half an hour, kicks it up a notch during the finale and becomes absolutely terrifying. The one thing that tied the two halves together for me was Mane's performance. When he bludgeons and brutally stabs people to death, you can almost see the angry little kid who doesn't understand what he's doing or why the world has treated him so badly.
And that folks will be what makes or breaks this film for you. If you prefer the faceless, dark, cold eyes of old school Michael, this will probably feel like a lot of smoke being blown up your ass. If you always felt like Carpenter's original left too much to the imagination, you will salivate at what Zombie has cooked up for you.
It's a sloppy film, no doubt, and also one that shows both Zombie's faults and strengths as a filmmaker. For me though, when the final bloody frame had rolled I felt it was a decent, if not perfect re-imagining of a horror classic. I have a feeling this one will fuel debate for years to come, but then again, we already knew that.