Andy tells us what he’d change about this blasphemous remake of John Carpenter’s classic and even provides his own fan-edit.
If you’re too young to remember John Carpenter’s original Halloween (1978), it’s a real pity. It’s fine if you’ve not seen either the original or the remake, but if all you’ve seen is the rehash, then you’re an idiot with no respect for the genre you consume.
Carpenter’s Halloween was one of the first slasher films (along with the little-seen Black Christmas) which bought the terror into the comfort of suburbia. Usually in slasher films prior to this, the protagonists would find the horror somewhere off the beaten track. Halloween bought the killer into our living rooms, invading a personal space filled with pro-conservative, ant-communist undertones which shook rebellious liberal teenagers everywhere to their core. People could share in the discomfort of heroine Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Cutris). The enemy was an expressionless, relentless masked murderer who wouldn’t stop stalking and killing – Michael Myers. Or, as the filmmakers dubbed him, “The Shape.”
So, when Rob Zombie released his remake or “reimagining” of Halloween in 2007, there was a lot of tension from long-time fans and general audiences alike. Any remake director has a few tough decisions to make. Stray too far away from the original source material and you alienate the fandom making it possible to fund the remake in the first place. But stay too close to the original and you have no reason to revisit it, losing all artistic credibility by bringing nothing new to the table. This is a very fine line which only a few have achieved; the best examples are arguably Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) and David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986).
Naturally, as a fan of the ’78 film, I’m not overly fond of Zombie’s work but appreciate his effort in bringing a new tone to the original story. Its almost a death metal cover version of what can be considered the progressive rock classic. But there are some serious flaws which, if avoided, could make it a much better movie without completely ruining Zombie’s new, more graphic tone. Instead of a complete slating of the film, I have provided a list of missteps that, if edited out or changed in the screenplay, could have provided a tighter, more enjoyable slasher film.
No young Michael Myers. The main issue I have with the film is the character of Michael. In the original, we got just one shot of a young Myers and his family, and the scariest thing about it was that they were normal. Yeah, Michael looks like the squeaky-clean child on the front of a cereal box; he’s the average white, middle-class kid you wouldn’t bat an eyelid over. However, this child just brutally murders his older sister for no reason whatsoever. That’s scary, especially in 1978 white-bread conservative America. In Zombie’s Halloween, we get around one whole hour of background into Michael, detailing how he is bullied and abused, and how dysfunctional his family is. You start to feel sorry for him and even want him to kill his abusive father. What’s worse is that we spend time with Michael after he kills both his Pop and older sister in a psych-ward building a relationship with Dr. Sam Loomis and his mother (as much as I love Malcolm McDowell, story-wise it’s best to cut these scenes). All this superfluous backstory ruins what makes Michael so scary – the fact you know nothing about him, and why he’s coming after you; he has no motive, he just is and just does. As soon as you start adding audience sympathy and boring people with a psychological explanation, Myers becomes a threat you feel empathy for, seriously diluting the scare factor. If this was somehow a prequel to the main events of Carpenter’s Halloween, it might work despite ruining one of film’s greatest serial killers.
Don’t see Michael’s face all the time. Seeing Myers, just like seeing his childhood again, takes away from Michael’s ability to frighten as masks dehumanise and cause ambiguity. Even science agrees that Michael should keep his mask on as much as humanly possible.
Rape isn’t cool. Call me old-fashioned, but if you have a rape scene, you better have a damn good reason and pay-off for it to be in there. Having scenes like this just to shock spits on everything good about cinema. This scene is just plain distasteful, and there is a much better way to introduce Michael than this.
Who cares where he gets his overalls or how he got his mask? I know I’m removing a lot of death scenes, but seriously, I’m bored with the film at this point. I came to the cinema to watch a flick where Michael stalks and kills babysitters and Laurie Strode. At this point, we’re fifty-seven minutes in and we’ve not even reached the main location of sleepy suburban Haddonfield. In the original, a simple camera move down to a dead body indicated how he got his signature clothing. It was subtle and suggested the audience could put two and two together, so let’s speed things along and cut out this bullshit.
Make Laurie less of an annoying tool. Granted, the remake’s Laurie is far better in my opinion than Curtis. For me, Jamie Lee looked like a forty-year-old librarian and acted like one, too. She’s supposed to be a teenager, and even virgin bookworms like to have a little fun. Scout Taylor-Compton brings a much-needed youthful energy to the character of Miss Strode, but perhaps too much. She acts like a complete and utter troll, especially when the character is meant to be a virginal and responsible girl next-door type. Not someone who’d terrify the hell out of kids she’s supposed to be babysitting.
These are the top five things I’d change and, to be honest, I wouldn’t alter anything else. The film plays out rather well with a different tone to the original and, in my opinion, this film’s “Russian Roulette” ending brings something new to the table whilst being an extremely tense scene which is at least equal to the original’s super creepy ending.
Altogether, Rob Zombie’s Halloween gets a three or even four out of ten from me, but with these alterations, I would be quite happy to give it a seven or eight. In fact, I had a go at editing the film myself with the top five in mind, and managed to create what I feel is a far superior cut to the one we got. Have a look at the first ten minutes here: