Director: Rob Zombie
Screenplay: Rob Zombie (with credit to John Carpenter and Debra Hill)
Cast: Malcolm McDowell (as Dr. Samuel Loomis); Daeg Faerch/Tyler Mane (as Michael Myers, Age 10/Adult); Sheri Moon Zombie (as Deborah Myers); Scout Taylor-Compton (as Laurie Strode); Danielle Harris (as Annie Brackett); Brad Dourif (as Sheriff Lee Brackett)
A Night of a Thousand Horror (Movies) #76
After Halloween: Resurrection (2002), a drastic change was required to attempt to sustain the franchise but the result was incredibly divisive. It didn't help that by this point, remakes were already looked down upon in spite of the trend being with us, in terms of announcements rather than just those that actually got made, for a while in the 2000s and still to this day. The additional area of divide was how the distinct auteur behind this remake, Rob Zombie, who does deserve the auteur banner even if you hate his films, would take a very different direction for the series. Rob Zombie is someone I am split upon - on one side, White Zombie and his shock metal career is peachy, whilst the more experimental he's been as a film maker (The Lords of Satan (2012)), the more rewarding he is. On the other side however, an attempt to rewatch The Devil's Rejects (2005) last year was given up on fifteen minutes into the film for it being vile for the sake of vile and being like the worst music video grotesquery being vomited onto my eyes. Halloween 2007 is split itself in the middle, a sign of what Zombie can do when he's motivated, but with also the various flaws which have led people to hate him.
The most controversial choice is to humanise Michael Myers. It could have been a terrible decision, especially as in less than fifteen minutes it piles on obvious conventions for a serial killer film, of how young Michael (Daeg Faerch) has a terrible childhood, with an abusive step father (William Forsythe) and a loving mother Deborah (Sheri Moon Zombie) who's career as a stripper however gets him mocked by bullies at school, already killing his pet rat Elvis and other small animals when the narrative starts and becoming more sociopathic in an almost amnesiac state of lashing out. However this is part of Halloween the remake eventually becomes brilliant. It jars completely against Michael Myers as the mysterious force that suddenly appeared from suburbia, the issue with remaking the 1978 film in the first place, but when it gets to the middle chapter, after a horrifying mass murder, Michael in incarceration with Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) as his therapist, there's actual emotional depth to the scenes thanks to Faerch, McDowell and Sherry Moon's performances, making it compelling as Michael starts to regress, hiding behind masks he creates in his cell, until it leads him turning entirely into a cold blooded hulk of a killer as an adult (Tyler Mane). Even though he has a grimy and seventies worshipping aesthetic, and likes to write characters constantly swearing and screening in the dialogue, it's here Zombie manages to have some maturity to the material, a slow burn especially in the extended Director's Cut I viewed which works to make his decision to explore how a killer is created a mindful direction to have taken.
The issues are when Zombie actually has to remake John Carpenter's original film. His mix of incredible transgressive and sobering violence against a post-modern carnival of pop-culture doesn't really work with what is meant to be a serious drama, lunging into ultraviolent slashing with a split personality. There's points where the violence is questionable in terms of dramatic states, such as how Myers finally escapes his incarceration in the institution because of two orderlies raping a female patient in his cell next to him, or some of the later deaths which linger on the pain for a length of time. Also the pop culturally heavy presentation jars against what came before. At first it's subtle in the background, working perfectly. The pop culture is literally in the background or a song on the radio, whilst the cameos from the likes of the late Richard Lynch to Sybil Danning work because they're playing characters, whilst cameos, placed well into the drama surrounding them. After the film becomes an actually Halloween remake, it like listening to a three disc driving anthem compilation - Rush's Tom Sawyer to Blue Öyster Cult's (Don't Fear) the Reaper from the original film - and going to an entire guest list of a horror and cult film convention in terms of the cameos - Udo Kier, Ken Foree, Clint Howard, Sid Haig - which jars against the very grim and bleak narrative set up originally.
It particularly jars in how the first half, even with clichés and sickening violence, was such a slow burn, the casting of someone like McDowell actually a godsend in how, playing a Dr. Loomis who goes from wanting to help Michael to a money grabbing shill because he failed to help the boy, he brings emotional heft, as does Sheri Moon Zombie as an underrated actress in her husband's films. Even something that could be glib like casting Danny Trejo as an institution orderly actually works because he's with a subtle performance with a through line to it rather than a single scene for him to be recognised as Danny Trejo. After the first half, having to absorb extreme violence and a lurid view on sex and nudity at the same time, this succession of cameos and musical choices becomes much more disjointed.
It doesn't help either that the final half, the actually Halloween remake, for its few moments of virtue is rushed, badly stuck between remaking full moments from the first film to being its own work. Scout Taylor-Compton and a returning, adult Danielle Harris do their best, but they don't have a lot of screen time in the slightest, so much so Kristina Klebe as the PJ Soles' character from the original film is sadly not worth mentioned more on because she's barely in the film. Zombie finds himself stuck, despite a curious attempt to write sassy and expletive filled dialogue for women you'd expected Diablo Cody to pen, trying to remake Carpenter's first film in an ultimately doomed act. Both with co-writer Debra Hill humanising the dialogue and Carpenter's classical Hollywood directing style, Zombie's attempting to fill out a slim, perfect technical masterpiece in the 1978 Halloween is bound to be a mess.
In general the actual remake in the last half feels like it was something Zombie had little interest in having to do, the result turning in a dreary, nasty slog. If he had made his own film, even if it had to be a Halloween movie, entirely based on the first half it could've been successful, a debate that'll come ahead for myself revisiting Halloween II (2009) to close off the reviews of all the Halloween films, where he stopped caring about pandering to the franchise lore and swan-dived into his own canon. Instead this is an admirable failure crossed with a scrambled mess, utterly disappointing by the end but redeemed by how interesting the first half way before. It's certainly better than Halloween: Resurrection, and whilst it's a failure, it's amazing how violent some people's opinions on this 2007 film was consider when just five years before the franchise was decomposing.