Messing with Halloween horror icon Michael Myers has proven to be nearly as self-destructive a filmmaking venture over the years (eight of them since the 1978 unbeatable classic), as crossing paths on screen with the ultra-terrifying killing machine himself. Okay, not exactly. But many ambitious moviemakers have recklessly tread on John Carpenter’s seriously hallowed ground anointed by the raving screen maniac’s many fans, and found themselves sorely lacking. Now heavy metal rocker turned gore guru Rob Zombie, who sharpened his teeth and honed his creepy craft on slasher fare like The Devil’s Rejects and House Of 1000 Corpses, takes up the challenge of dissecting those ferocious inner demons of Michael Myers with the genre’s latest incarnation of Halloween. Does Zombie triumph over the competition? Yes and no.
More specifically, Zombie seeks to shed light on the unraveling darker recesses of Michael’s disturbed childhood, to explore layers of disintegrating character spreading like toxic vapors over the unfortunate youth’s preteen years and seeping into his surrounding burb community of Haddonfield, Illinois. It is these early scenes that are laced with stinging emotional pain and pungent ’70s period atmosphere emanating a kind of mournful nostalgia, that establishes Zombie’s gift for tuning into period-specific adolescent vulnerability, trauma and simmering rage.
We first encounter Myers as anything but his later deranged incarnation, a shy, sensitive ten year old kid with golden haired choir boy looks and soulful blue eyes that seem to yearn wordlessly for affection that is never forthcoming. The filmmaker thrusts the audience abruptly into the caustic dysfunctional home life as Michael himself would experience its daily assaults. Zombie’s real wife Sheri Moon is the kid’s stripper mom Deborah, who can’t seem to get a handle on domestic duties. When her new, radically abusive live-in boyfriend is not engaging in nasty screaming matches with Deborah, he’s tormenting the boy with endless ridicule, taking particular glee in calling his masculinity into question.
Increasingly brooding and withdrawn at home, Michael develops an abnormal attachment to a clown mask as Halloween season kicks in. And when he first strikes out at school, gruesomely torturing a class bully before dispatching him to the afterlife, Zombie jolts the audience with this sudden inner transformation of a gentle and impressionable, enormously sympathetic boy into an out of control brutal force.
It is at this point that the meaningless mechanics of the horror genre take over, and the scrutiny of character and emotion are abandoned. Michael returns home to indiscriminately and inexplicably massacre in quick succession anyone in his midst, including his sister’s boyfriend whose skull he crushes while the guy is making himself a ham sandwich in the kitchen following sex on the sly.
After being committed to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium maximum security mental facility, Michael grows into a huge, terrifying speechless hulk of a man who has no discernible connection to the young boy, other than an obsessive attachment to masks. After a killing spree at the hospital, Michael escapes to wreak deadly havoc on his home town.
Like Michael Myers himself, Halloween is afflicted with a seriously split personality. The film’s better half, the early dramatic dissection of the child’s wounded past, devolves into conventional gore that neither shocks nor surprises. If Myers has lost his way, to say the least, Zombie as a storyteller doesn’t seem to have necessarily fared much better.
Available in both Theatrical and 2-disc Unrated editions.
DVD Features: Audio commentary by Writer/Director Rob Zombie; Alternate Ending; Seventeen Deleted Scenes with optional Director Commentary; A Re-Imagining Halloween Documentary; Conversation With Rob Zombie Featurette; Meet the Cast Featurette; Screen Tests;