I think everyone's reaction to the news that Rob Zombie was remaking Halloween was the same: Why? For fans, the question of why was followed by a Rob Zombie benefit of the doubt. While House of 10,000 Corpses may have been little more than cult schlock horror chop shop, Zombie's sophomore effort, The Devil's Rejects, was a masterpiece of flashback filmmaking that was brutal, funny and, most importantly, entertaining. Assuming that Zombie had made a personal breakthrough that he would carry forward to his remake of Halloween would be, as it turns out, far from a foregone conclusion.
Zombie rejected the idea that this was a remake of Halloween, but more of a re-imagining of the story of Micheal Myer's. What that really means is a large chunk of the film is devoted to Micheal as a child. We see Micheal's family life, which is an off-shoot of the Firefly family portrayed in Rejects and Corpses, and the momentum that builds to the murders he committed as a child. Young Micheal gets committed to Smith's Grove Sanitarium permanently after he kills a nurse with a fork; Dr Loomis sees the long road ahead of him and Micheal's mother ends her life out of despair. Flash forward fifteen years later; Micheal is seven feet tall, silent and completely wacked out. From this point, the plot follows the original as Micheal break outs and heads back to Haddenfield to find his baby sister.
It's been a while since I saw the original, but my childhood was filled with a new VHS machine and renting every movie in the horror section at least once. I'm sure I saw Halloween at least five times. The brilliance about John Carpenter's original was that you didn't know anything about Micheal Meyer's. He was the mythical boogyman, that embodied 'creepy' in the way he looked in that mask and mechanic's suit, the way he walked almost robot-like and the way he didn't say a damn thing. The oversimplified psychological cause-and-effect set up in the first half of the film with Micheal as the rageful animal torturing child is trite and insulting. While Zombie obviously was interested in exploring story of Micheal as a child, the depiction is completely superficial, never tapping too deeply into the boys character. The connection between young Micheal and the adult Micheal is something that is never forged in a believable way. When the screen flashes 'Fifteen Years Later,' it is almost like the start of a different movie.
The second half is the remake portion of the film, where parts of the script (as I remember it) are exactly the same. It is a little more graphic and there are major parts that are different, but this is the portion where you get what you expect. Adult Micheal is played by a huge man that towers over everyone and physically looks part of an individual who has unbelievable strength. He searches out Lori with amazing success, killing her friend along the way. The stalking and lead up to the final chase is, at the very least, suspenseful. Much to the credit of the original, this is the bit that actually works, as long as you don't mind knowing what is going to happen.
Unfortunately, the film as a whole is a mess. The brief moments of comic relief are not funny, and the scenes that were laugh-out loud funny were unintentionally so. When young Micheal puts on the mask that would become his signature mask, it is so large on his head he looks like the Micheal Myers Mini-Me, replete with clown costume. Zombie's use of seventies classics in The Devil's Rejects was spot-on perfect, right down to the amazing "Freebird" finale, but most of the music in Halloween simply doesn't work. Rush's "Tom Sawyer" opens up right after Micheal's brutal break from the sanitarium and it couldn't get more incongruous. If it were a parody and Micheal had more of a strut to his walk, this song might have been really cool.
To say that I was disappointed with Halloween would be a huge understatement. The trailer looked promising and it was being publicized heavily online (despite the fact that there were no press screenings.) My fellow movie goers were ready to leave before the film was over. I don't like leaving early, believing that every film deserves a fair shake from beginning to end, but in retrospect, it was truly walk-out-early bad. For those who are lucky enough to have never walked in, skip it and rent The Devil's Rejects.