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Not much of a treat

The new Halloween falls short of the original’s legacy

Josh Bell

The primary difference, plot-wise, between Rob Zombie’s new remake of the horror classic Halloween and John Carpenter’s 1978 original is that while Carpenter’s film was a story about suburban babysitter Laurie Strode, Zombie’s film is a story about serial killer Michael Myers. Though the two are the key characters in each film, it’s clear that Zombie has little interest in innocent victim Laurie, and is far more concerned with the psychopathic Myers and what makes him tick.

Unfortunately, what makes Michael tick doesn’t turn out to be all that interesting, even though Zombie devotes fully half of his film to teasing it out (Laurie doesn’t show up until almost an hour into the movie). The terse, eerie prologue to Carpenter’s film, with its point-of-view shots of young Michael carrying a knife into his house to kill his sister, is horror-movie perfection, but Zombie forsakes that for a much more explicit and expanded murder tableau for the budding homicidal maniac, who takes out not only his older sister but also his boorish dad and his sister’s dim-witted boyfriend.

The early Myers family interactions, featuring Zombie regulars William Forsythe and Sheri Moon Zombie (the director’s real-life wife) as Michael’s unsavory parents, play like something out of an earlier Zombie film, bursting with white-trash grotesqueries. But they lack the spark of the twisted family dynamics in The Devil’s Rejects, maybe because in Rejects Zombie could admit that the bad guys were really the heroes, while here he still has to treat Michael as a villain, at least nominally. And the killer’s motivations turn out to be no different from those of dozens of other cinematic murderers.

Daeg Faerch is a little shaky as young Michael, although his scenes with Malcolm McDowell as psychiatrist Dr. Loomis have a certain creepiness to them. By the time we cut to 15 years later and get introduced to high-schooler Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton), Michael’s forthcoming actions have been explained so thoroughly that they almost seem beside the point. Now played by hulking former pro wrestler Tyler Mane, Michael’s got long hair and a collection of masks that make him look like a long-lost member of Slipknot, but bears little resemblance to the character we just spent an hour getting to know.

But at least we get to know him a little bit; Laurie and her two cannon-fodder best friends are victims not only of Michael Myers but also of Zombie’s increased emphasis on the killer. They barely get a scene of teenage bonding before they’re running for their lives, although when Zombie sticks closer to the template of the original film in the second half, he does manage to create some effective suspense (if you don’t mind wholesale re-creations of bits from the first movie). Strangely enough, it’s the semi-sleazy hanging-out scenes (with generous helpings of nudity), in both halves of the film, that feel the most authentic and natural. Maybe Zombie is the right person to tackle that long-in-the-works remake of Porky’s?

Halloween

** 1/2

Malcolm McDowell, Tyler Mane, Scout Taylor-Compton

Directed by Rob Zombie

Rated R

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