To celebrate Halloween this year, Dim the House Lights will be treating our readers to a horror movie recommendation a day for the ten days leading up to everyone’s favorite holiday. So sharpen your knives, carve your pumpkins, sit back and let the terror take over.
“Michael was created by a perfect alignment of interior and exterior factors gone violently wrong–a perfect storm, if you will.”
Halloween really proves an interesting expansion of what John Carpenter handed us in the 70s. It’s at times too indulgent in the way that Rob Zombie hammers in a certain loathing of humanity through the individuals that surround Michael Myers, particularly the way Adult Michael, once stripped of humanity, approaches the few people who treated him with a modicum of decency. But there’s a certain genius in the characterization of every single person that Michael encounters in both adulthood and childhood.
In the past, the characters are all drawn in a pretty one-note fashion except for Sheri Moon Zombie’s Deborah, whose performance manages to both inspire a certain amount of sympathy for this killer and forces us to believe that she and her youngest daughter, incapable of evil, were the only people in Michael’s life that served as a vision for good. Circumstance, however, blurs the vision of what one sees as good and evil, and the way Zombie lingers on the way that Michael processes Deborah stripping for cash emphasizes that.
Over a decade later, the minor roles are still, mostly, god-awful people (the rape scene in the asylum as a catalyst for Michael’s escape is particularly frustrating and unnecessary)–though the teenage girls have a certain air of realism that I can imagine Kevin Smith being painfully jealous of as he struggles to write his own “fuck”-spittin’ teens–but the ones that stand out aren’t spared because of the way Michael has developed into the psychopath that Malcolm McDowell’s Loomis claims he was.
Zombie seems dedicated to establishing the way that life tears down humanity and builds up horror, and Loomis’ speechifying at those around him about how he’s not to blame and how Michael was “created” is both heavy-handed and wildly hilarious in the way that it skewers every single biographer and psychologist who market their interactions with psychopaths for their own benefit. The line from the sheriff to Loomis nails him to the cross: “I think you have created quite the masterpiece of a monster off the blood of this town, because monsters sell books.” To McDowell and Zombie’s credit, they expand Loomis from a constant savior into someone who is a little more human and flawed (just as Scout Taylor-Compton’s Laurie comes across as more of a kid who is in way over her head than Jamie Lee Curtis’ excellent but relatively more mature take back in the day).
“Human” and “flawed” are exactly the words that should be used to describe Rob Zombie’s Halloween. There are too many cuts in the horror/action bits (and cuts away from scenes that could be stretched) and it doesn’t take as many visual risks as one might wish it would, it falls too comfortably into slasher tropes created over the decades since Carpenter’s film (but its last act works pretty effectively at making it more than your average slasher by adding a certain level of character study in how Michael’s hopes for Laurie being able to love him unconditionally like Deborah did are shattered), it’s sometimes not as well-lit or color-corrected as it should be; the list can go on and on. But who cares?
As deeply flawed as this movie is, one I loathed nine years ago upon release, I’ve come to terms with the fact that there’s more here than I once thought there was. And it’s a good thing I did because Zombie’s sequel, Halloween II, is a near masterpiece that builds upon everything established here and expands upon it in a way most sequels (and particularly Rick Rosenthal’s own sequel to the original) fail to do.
Directed by Rob Zombie; written by Rob Zombie; based on the film by John Carpenter; starring Malcolm McDowell, Scout Taylor-Compton, Sheri Moon Zombie, Brad Dourif, Tyler Mane, Daeg Faerch, Udo Kier, and Danny Trejo; 121 minutes (Director’s Cut).
Halloween and Halloween II are available for purchase on DVD and Blu-ray.