It’s tempting to say that Rob Zombie has completely misunderstood why John Carpenter’s Halloween is a classic. Giving us Michael Myers’ origin story goes against everything that made the character frightening; he’s not meant to seem like a person formed by his environment and experiences, but like an ill-defined figure filled entirely with evil. There’s a reason the character was originally billed as The Shape. I’ll try to give Zombie some credit, however. It’s possible that he could have shown us a slant on the original story that was more interesting than a slavish remake.
The problem is not that Zombie took a different tack – it’s that he adds very little of worth to the story. So Michael’s from a turbulent household and was bullied at school? That makes him a character no different from many others we’ve seen onscreen before, and not even a partway interesting version of the type at that. The first half of this film, before Michael sets out on his Halloween rampage, is simply dull, and the second half can be all too easily compared to the original in an entirely negative way. At no point is there any atmosphere or tension; all we get is bursts of pointless violence inflicted on barely written characters. The final insult is Michael’s climactic pursuit of Laurie, which is so interminable that I watched it on fast forward.
Zombie was extremely fortunate to get Malcolm McDowell for this film, because McDowell makes Doctor Loomis the only interesting primary character. He doesn’t play the role with the you’re-really-not-helping-yourself levels of crazy that Donald Pleasance brought to Loomis. Rather, this Loomis genuinely cares about Michael and wants to cure him. In seeing Loomis spend so much time trying to cure Michael, we can also believe that he understands how dangerous the killer is.
Aside from Brad Dourif, Danny Trejo, Udo Kier, and Danielle Harris (all of whom are underused), McDowell is surrounded by poor actors who are nowhere near as capable of wringing any sort of believability out of this script. The worst has to be Scout Taylor-Compton as Laurie, if only because she contributed to the character by agreeing with Zombie that girls as shy and naive as the original Laurie don’t exist in the 2000s. I’m not going to say that Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie was particularly complex, but Taylor-Compton doesn’t give her character anything to make her worth caring about.
I’m so befuddled by Zombie’s choices that I really would watch the four hour making of documentary if I could get my hands on it. I’ve had to settle for some less detailed extras, but it turns out that the bloopers are much more interesting than the actual film. Though I’d heard that McDowell is bonafide nuts, I now feel like I’ve seen actual proof. In between making Sheri Moon Zombie laugh helplessly, spouting rather offensive nonsense about Nazis at Udo Kier, and generally seeming very unprofessional, he gets in some hilarious adlibs. And my life is genuinely the better for knowing that Brad Dourif’s response to being yelled at in a cockney accent is to respond in kind. Still, I’m not going to give Zombie any credit for that.