That line from 300 kept running through my sporadically idle mind while watching Rob Zombie’s Halloween. Zombie took everything that makes Halloween work and gave nothing back. He gave nothing to the fans and nothing to the genre. He took what he liked and made something he liked, something I could admire if he never intended to then try and sell it to millions of people.
I believe the saddest thing about the entire affair is that Zombie’s Halloween isn’t that bad of a flick, but unforgiving is the act of taking the iconic Michael Myers and returning to the fans a film that is as important to the genre as a handful of sand is to a beach. Remove the context of the film as a remake, remove the expectations, remain as objective as possible and Rob Zombie delivered a film that is, at best, a neutral non-issue. A film that follows the trough half of a sinusoidal curve, starting on a downhill plummet, only to eventually bank into a gradual, positive climb, but only with enough force to break completely even by the end of its run.
There is nothing positive to say about the first 30 minutes of this Halloween. Nothing at all. Rob Zombie has perpetuated his fetish for white trash families, scripting a Myers crowd that is, in all practicality, only a name change away from the Firefly clan of his previous films. The violence and sleaziness of Myer’s family packed into this section, which unnecessarily attempts to give motive to Michael’s madness, desensitizes the viewer at a regrettable pace. By the time the script stops living in the past, there really isn’t anything shocking left for Michael to do. A bad fact considering at least ten murders take place after this.
The sanitarium escape, which thankfully does not happen during the now well-known rape scene which leaked online earlier this week, begins to turn things around. Gone is the disgusting white trash environment, replaced by a Rob Zombie suburbia where cheerleaders where Slayer T-shirts and not every kid is a bully, for once. Malcom McDowell’s respectable take on Loomis becomes a lot more interesting and we finally meet the new Laurie Strode, played enthusiastically by Scout Taylor-Compton. The investment in her character is never that intense, but she proves a decent enough anchor as the final girl all the same.
It is during this last half that any of Zombie’s attempts to remove all rationality from Michael pays off. He kills people not out of any anger, but only because they’re something he can watch die. The moments where this sees fruition are meager, but it is satisfying to know there is at least some measure of payoff for putting up with Michael Myers as the fourth kid from Hanson, the one kicked out of the band for being too pudgy.
Zombie has restrained things a bit, stylistically, which is a great improvement over The Devil’s Reject, but too often does he try and fail to emulate John Carpenter’s magnificent wide shots of evil standing on idyllic sidewalks. The look is always there, but strangely the effect never is. Tyler Mane has great movement as the man behind the mask, but Zombie fails to make him threatening. His presence alone is an assumed kind of scary, a bit of a pitfall in a slasher film.
Halloween is an externality. The cinematic yield of a transaction between two parties; Hollywood’s ravenous lust for money and Rob Zombie’s earnest desire to take the story and make something for himself. The cost of this transaction is then placed on the shoulders of us, the fans. We are expected to pay for this, we are expected to enjoy this, and, most importantly, we are the ones who will have to shoulder the burden of Hollywood’s impending hesitance to green-light bold R rated horror in the face of yet another disappointment, which Halloween is sure to be by the end of the weekend.
I think, once the hype is removed and Halloween is given time to mature, it will be seen as a success for Zombie as a director, but that will not change the fact that it is the most detracting remake to date. A shame, because if he had made this movie as a slasher without the Shatner mask, people would be loving it. Instead, the best thing that can be said is that Rob Zombie didn’t mess up irreparably. It is never a good thing when the measure of a film’s worth is taken from the glass half empty perspective.