Rob Zombie divides his version of Halloween neatly into two halves. First, he conjures up an origin story for Michael Myers, elaborating on the prologue to John Carpenter’s 1978 film, and placing the young psycho killer into a brutal, depraved, and sadistic world. Then he retells the balance of the story from Michael’s point of view as an adult, some 15 years later.
In theory, this is not a bad idea, and in its own twisted way, is quite daring. It acknowledges that the world has changed dramatically between 1978 and 2007, and makes the case that the 21st century is filled with even more savage behavior. In 1978, we were frightened of the unknown; in 2007, even if the source of violence is known, there’s no sure protection against it.
In practice, however, Zombie is not able to deliver on his evident intentions. Michael Myers grows up in an extremely dysfunctional household — his mother is a stripper, his father is abusive, his older sister is promiscous — that explains why he went on a murder spreee at the age of 10. Or does it? Within a few weeks of his being institutionalized under the care of Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), Michael stops speaking and withdraws into his own world. His personality collapses entirely. Later, when he escapes, Dr. Loomis guiltily confesses to the Haddonfield sheriff (Brad Dourif) that he was never able to help Michael, that the poor boy (grown up into a looming giant of a man, played by Tyler Mane) is a force of nature, maybe on the level of the antichrist, as suggested by the sheriff.
In effect, then, Zombie spends an hour grinding his wheels and then arrives at the same point, character and story wise, as the 1978 film, written with much greater economy by Carpenter and Debra Hill. Zombie borrows portions of Carpenter’s score, as well as familiar set-ups and shots, to beef up the more straightforward second hour, and, as one might expect, adds dollops of explicit violence, profane language, and nudity.
The idea of transforming the original from a suggestive, imaginative, terror-filled night into an epic of diabolical evil is bold, but Zombie employs blunt force rather than a deft touch, continually deflating any possible impact. It feels, finally, as though he pulled out a chainsaw to slice open an envelope.