Now I am not a big fan of remakes even if they are give the euphemism of being called ‘re-imaginings’. This is especially true if the subject of the new film is a classic or defines its genre. Back in 1978 John Carpenter changed and redefined the horror genre with his Halloween. With the introduction of the completely evil character of Michael Myers horror flicks would never be the same again. When I heard that the classic original film of that franchise was to be remade I did have some trepidation. How could any director capture lightening in a bottle again? The one saving grace here is that Rob Zombie was to take the helm of the new version. Here is a man who is extremely talented in so many fields. He is not only a director and screenwriter he has made a name for himself in music and art. One of the best features of Zombie is he is an avid fan of the horror genre. I guess that is fairly obvious from the nom de voyage he has taken and his public persona. All of this would at least indicate that any retelling of the Halloween tale that he would come up with would be from a true love and respect for Carpenter’s original. That alone makes this opus different from the unoriginal hacks that usually remake films since they can’t come up with an original idea of their own. Zombie lives the genre and this is less a remake than it is a fan’s tribute to the master.
The first thing to remember while watching this film is there is a big difference between what was allowable or even expected back in 1978 versus 2007. There is also a big difference between the artistic styles of Carpenter and Zombie. Carpenter never was shy about showing blood in his films but his approach is typically more psychological in nature. Zombie, on the other hand, is a more visceral writer and director. He is prone to large amounts of blood and guts to shock his audiences on an almost animalistic level. Zombie leaves precious little to the imagination preferring to explicitly show the audience every gruesome detail of the story. You can now compare and decide for yourself. The Weinstein Company along with Genius Products has released the 2007 version to DVD with an uncut, director’s version of the film.
In many ways this version is a prequel to the original. It details much more of the early life of Michael Myers and shows more of what lead him to become an inhuman monster. Like the Carpenter version the film opens in Haddonfield, Illinois. As young Michael (Daeg Faerch), wearing a clown mask, plays with a pet rat his mother, Deborah (Sheri Moon Zombie) is having yet another argument with her live-in boyfriend Ronnie White (William Forsythe). He apparently has had an accident and has been out of work for a prolonged time; something Deborah is not okay with. The language used in their fight is something that not only would make Ozzie and Harriet pass up it would be obscene by Ozzie and Sharon Osborne’s standards. Ronnie also has his eye on Deborah’s teenaged daughter Judith (Hanna Hall) which is not unexpected considering he’s a pervert and she comes to the breakfast table in the shortest, tightest clothes imaginable. When Judith is sent upstairs to get Michael he is in the bathroom cleaning blood off a knife; I guess Mr. Rat had a really bad morning. At school the bullies corner him in the bathroom and generally torment him. It doesn’t help that they have a flyer from a local strip club with Deborah as the featured stripper. The ensuing fight is broken up by Principal Chambers (Richard Lynch). Chambers calls in Mom not only for the fight but for the more disturbing discovery of photos of dead animals in Michael’s locker. Also at this meeting is Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell). The doctor informs Deborah that he son is displaying the classic symptoms of a psychopath. The warning may be a little too late since just that morning Michael, wearing the clown mask, tracked down one of the bullies in the woods and bet him to death with a tree branch. Michael does not play well with other children. That night Mom has to go to work and leaves Michael with his sister and the boyfriend. This is not exactly providing a great environment for him since Ronnie is drunk on the couch and Judith has her boyfriend, Steve (Adam Weisman), upstairs. All Michael wants to do is go trick-or-treating but no one will take him. While Judith is in the midst of, shall we say lust, with her boyfriend he puts on a William Shatner mask. Michael ties up and kills Ronnie and when Steve comes down kills him as well. Now wearing the Shatner mask he goes upstairs to take care of big sis. When mom comes back from the strip club she finds Michael sitting outside covered in blood holding his baby sister. The boy is convicted of first degree murder and placed in the Smith's Grove Sanitarium under the care of Dr. Loomis. Fifteen years later Michael (now played by Tyler Mane) is still in the maximum security wing of the hospital. He almost always wears masks that he makes avoiding showing his face to anyone. He has sort of bonded with Loomis and is distraught when the doctor tells him that he is moving on. When some drunk guards take a female patient into Michael’s cell to rape her he gets on, escapes and, well you know what happens next.
While there are elements of the original film here this one can stand on it’s own as a reboot of the Halloween universe. Zombie makes this variation his own but always remembers to pay the proper homage to Carpenter. This is grittier, more in your face than Carpenter’s film. Zombie is not one to sugar coat his flicks and this is after all the unrated, director’s cut so he didn’t even have to worry about the MPAA. The pacing is excellent, much better than the current crop of horror remakes. He moves right into the story from the first frame. Zombie does seem more concerned with how Michael became the monster. There is the horrible home life with stripper mom, drunken boyfriend and slutty sister. At school his fascination for masks and his promiscuous mother and sister made him the target of every bully in the county. The only one that showed any kindness to Michael was Loomis who left him alone. This does give a nice, liberal rational for Michael. I do prefer Carpenter’s take on it that sometimes evil just is and it is beyond reason.
One thing about Weinstein and Genius, they know how to release a film to DVD. The anamorphic 2.35:1 video is vivid in its colors. The Dolby 5.1 audio pulls you into the film. What are really incredible is the extras presented here. On the first disc there is a feature length commentary track with Zombie. For those who only know him from his public persona you might be surprise to hear this track. He is a very intelligent, dedicated film maker who is a fan of the genre. He comments are interesting and help you understand his reasons for doing this film. The second disc is has more extras than Michael has victims.
If you are a fan of the franchise this is a must have. While not as good as the original it is certainly a vast improvement over the endless sequels that followed. Zombie is headed to become a major writer and director of this genre and this is a big step in the right direction.
Dimension Films followed up the DVD edition with a Blu-ray release. It has a brilliant video with a bright color palette that will be great to show off your high definition TV. The audio is even better than ever with the 5.1 True HD sound track. Who can practically hear every drop of blood hitting the floor. This is also a two disc set but considering the vastly greater capacity of the format there is more here to enjoy than ever. the first disc is pretty much the same as the DVD set with the inclusion of a Blu-ray live feature. the second disc has a four and a half hour documentary called 'Michael Lives: the Making of Halloween'. It is something else. This will tell you more about how Zombie recreated one of the most classic horror film in exceptionally great detail.
Posted 12/11/07 (DVD)
Posted 101/07/08 (Blu-ray)