Revisiting Michael Myers, Zombie Style

The Popcorn Reel Movie Review: "Halloween"

By Omar P.L. Moore/August 31, 2007


Director Rob Zombie reworks "Halloween", originally written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, and directed by Carpenter in 1978, to surprisingly good effect, tracing the events that made Michael Myers the serial killer that the famous horror films have chronicled.  Almost 30 years ago, the original (and best) film, which starred Jamie Lee Curtis, skillfully thrilled and chilled audiences, with its sequels however predictably going downhill.  Mr. Zombie can't be said to have done any less impressive a job than his predecessors, and the first hour of the new film is especially good, stronger than its second half.  Daeg Faerch lends a smoldering intensity to 10-year-old Michael Myers.  Teased by his belligerent, foul-mouthed stepfather Ronnie (who not by accident looks more than a little like Charles Manson), and bullied relentlessly by kids at school, the seeds of Michael's psychopathic and violent tendencies are sown.  Faint echoes of the Virginia Tech and Columbine massacres will eerily linger in the audience's subconscious as Zombie (who also wrote the new film) probes the background and the mind of a highly disturbed child, without taking significant shortcuts or any dramatic license.

Stylistically, "Halloween" is strong throughout, and the cinematography of Phil Parmet is largely responsible.  His camera takes the Fall, or autumnal season, and lights a late-summery 1970's-feel to match the early years of Michael's life, a look that has slightly foreboding edges to it, in the same way that the cinematography in the 1971 Clint Eastwood-directed "Play Misty For Me" did.  Anthony Tremblay's production design is also very good, particularly towards the end of the film, as is Mr. Parmet's photography of the film's climactic sequence, one which lasts for some 20 minutes. 

Zodiac Has Nothing On Him: Tyler Mane as Michael Myers, attending to his latest (naked) victim, Kristina Klebe, as Linda, in Rob Zombie's "Halloween", which opened across North America today.  (All photos: Martha Blackburn/La Marca-Dimension Films via The Weinstein Company)

So without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Haddonfield, Illinois, the hometown of Michael Myers, a suburban town where he has lived all his life.  Michael's psychiatrist, Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell of Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange" -- a bit of shrewd casting) warns the authorities about Michael and has tried to help this troubled soul for the longest time, but to no avail.  After all, the now-older Michael (played by professional wrestler Tyler Mane) has been without a word to say to anyone for years and years.  Silence is golden.  And silence is also violence.  Even the best efforts of his only real friend and caretaker in the facility Myers is condemned to in the wake of the killings of family members -- save his mother Deborah (Sheri Moon Zombie) and his baby sister, whom thankfully, he leaves be -- goes unappreciated.  There is an undercurrent of sadness during a scene in the film's second hour as Myers tries to reconnect with the one link to his past, with one or two simple gestures.  But for Michael, any attempt at a truce or peace offering may be too late.  Myers is too far gone and ultimately unrecognizable, even to the young child he himself once was.

"Halloween", which opens across the U.S. and Canada today, wouldn't be "Halloween" without violence, and horror fans will appreciate the fact that Rob Zombie, no stranger to the genre ("Night Of 1000 Corpses", "The Devil's Rejects", plus "Werewolf Women Of The SS" -- the trailer segment for "Grindhouse") builds the body count steadily and savagely, with brutally violent encounters occurring usually (but by no means solely) during a sexual encounter enjoyed by some of the film's doomed characters.  The bloodletting and graphic violence however, while strong, is not as relentless or as intense as in some other horror films, and what audiences will find most surprising about Mr. Zombie's new look at "Halloween" is just how much humor it contains.  Even so, these more amusing parts of the director's film never give way to camp.  The editing (by Glenn Garland) of the final few frames of the film is well done -- making for a stunningly powerful and effective conclusion to Zombie's film.

Origins: Sheri Moon Zombie as Deborah Myers, and Daeg Faerch as young Michael Myers, in Rob Zombie's "Halloween", which taps into the origins of Michael Myers and what made him the psychopathic killer he becomes.

A litany of cameos from actors who have appeared in numerous horror and action films of bygone days litter the landscape here, including Dee Wallace (sensational in her heyday in the Stephen King's book-based film "Cujo" in 1983) and an unrecognizable Brad Dourif as Haddonfield's sheriff, among others.  Aside from horror film alums, if you look carefully you will even see The Monkees' pop-star Mickey Dolenz on the Zombie radar.  You will not however, need to keep your ears too far open to hear the unmistakable theme music from "Halloween" (by Tyler Bates), which makes its presence felt as a catchy anthem from both the past films and this present one.

In the final analysis, Rob Zombie's "Halloween" is a slicker, hipper and sexier re-imagining of the seminal film, distinct and even refreshing on its own terms, a movie that today's audiences -- especially fans of horror -- will admire, appreciate and be amused by.  Simply put, Zombie's film is by no means a trick -- it is all treat.

"Halloween" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for strong brutal bloody violence and terror throughout, sexual content, graphic nudity and language.  The film's duration is one hour and 49 minutes.  The film features Scout Taylor-Compton as Laurie.

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