R, 109 min, 2007

Director: Rob Zombie
Writers: Rob Zombie (screenplay), John Carpenter and Debra Hill (1978 screenplay)

Stars: Scout Taylor-Compton, Malcolm McDowell, Tyler Mane

Rob Zombie’s Halloween may sound like a frightening proposition – not so much an effective horror film as an abomination of the worst variety… Well, in fact, writer-director Zombie has a few mildly controversial tricks up his sleeve that may titillate those looking for a fresh take on a long-in-the-tooth franchise, or offend wholeheartedly the series’ most ardent supporters.

Zombie begins his film on Halloween some time ago as young Michael Myers, a boy of about 13, is living in a hell with his verbally abusive and alcoholic stepfather, his mother (Shari Moon Zombie, continuing the director’s obsession with showing off his wife’s ass) who is a local stripper, and his two sisters: an older one who isn’t very lucky, and a younger one who is just a baby (more on this later).

Michael has been torturing animals, getting into fights, and ultimately beats a boy half to death in the woods. This calls the school to attention and when on Halloween night, Michael goes on a killing rampage in his own home (!), a sequence where Zombie refuses to compromise on the brutality or bloodshed, he is ultimately shipped off to the local insane asylum. There he meets Dr. Sam Loomis, played by veteran thespian Malcolm McDowell, possibly outshining Donald Pleasance here in the now famous role of the doctor who feels almost Frankenstein-ian guilt over his treatment of the troubled youth.

Fifteen years later, withstanding tragedy and years of institutionalizing, Michael breaks out and continues his festive Pagan holiday ritual: killing anyone who gets in his path!

There is a surprise in this movie (of sorts) that makes a perfect sense, but which this reviewer simply didn’t see coming. Zombie is a surprisingly good storyteller and has a sure visual sense (probably carried over from his career in music videos), and if this is not an improvement on his pitch perfect horror/black comedy The Devil’s Rejects (2005), it’s at least a vast improvement on his dreadful debut: House of 1000 Corpses (2002).

Zombie does an interesting thing with the structure of his film, as if in showing us the childhood of Myers, we can see the building of a monster bit by bit, and actually witness the deterioration of his humanity – which makes him all the more human! In the middle third or thereabouts of this near two-hour stab-a-thon, Zombie borrows heavily from the basic structure and story of the original 1978 Carpenter classic – indeed,  one of the best horror films ever made – and in the final third, tries to continue that momentum while merging it with flashes of the original humanity of this horrific monster, reminding us that even the worst people in the world have a background and a story and came from somewhere. Ultimately, if we are repelled and terrified by Michael Myers, in Zombie’s hands, we can’t help but feel wretchedly sorry for him. This may not be equal to Carpenter’s work, but it’s damn close. This film is a pleasant (if that is the correct word) surprise.


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