"I got a call from my agent and they asked me if I wanted to be involved in the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I said no fucking way!
I feel it's the worst thing any filmmaker can do. Those movies are perfect - you're only going to make yourself look like an asshole by remaking them." Rob Zombie, 2002
Man... talk about a quote coming back to bite you on the ass. In a way, there's really no point in bitching about shitty remakes any more, because as the output over the last couple of years has proved, it doesn't make a blind bit of difference. Not a day goes by without a precious movie memory being desecrated by the hand of some coke-addled Lala-land exec - shit, the guys and girls at Platinum Dunes literally earn their money by making other people's movies worse. With this in mind, it's hard to get too excited about Rob Zombie's Halloween remake, and having sat through an hour and a half of needless gore and misery, you'll feel equally numb for having watched it.
Zombie has made the fatal error of supplying one of cinema's most iconic bogeymen with a back-story. This means we meet mini-Myers in his pre-Shape days as a young boy, all straggly blonde hair (messed up kids obviously don't rinse and repeat) and bubbling angst. It's your pretty standard FUBAR upbringing - abusive father, bullied at school, dead pets in the school bag - just the kind of childhood you'd expect a psychopathic murderer to have. The switch eventually flips and little Myers bludgeons his family to death (with supernatural strength, I might add). He's carted off to Smith's Grove Sanitarium to meet therapist Dr. Loomis (McDowell), where he spends the next 17 years in a state of near-catatonia, making masks to "hide my ugliness" and growing into a 7-foot hulking wrestler that bears more than passing resemblance to Mankind. The second half of the movie is basically a retread of the original, Myers busting loose to hunt for his 'sister' Laurie. Why? Why indeed.
Did anyone really watch the original Halloween and think 'Gee, I wonder what that guy's childhood was like?' This is the latest movie that makes the mistake of thinking anyone gives a shit about back-stories: see also Hannibal Rising, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and even The Phantom Menace. Pretty soon, someone's going to go the whole hog and write 'Horror High School', a movie in which Jason, Freddy and the rest of badass class of the '80s all meet in recess and develop their murderous habits in between class (I'm only half joking). A laboured point, but it's worth making: when you demystify a character like Michael Myers - give him reason and motive - you're effectively neutering him.
Myers' USP was that he was just insane. A killing machine. "I spent eight years trying to reach him," said Donald Pleasance in the 1978 original, "and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized what was living behind that boy's eyes was purely and simply evil." I look into this kid's eyes and all I see is purely and simply Hanson. I might sound like finger-wagging old woman, but - and this is directed at both Rob Zombie and Young Michael Myers - there's no excuse for evil. The scene in which Michael's stripper mom (Moon) leaves him all alone on Halloween is astonishingly obtuse: while she's off gyrating her ass in some guy's face, Michael sits dejected on the curb while 'Love Hurts' by Nazareth plays over the top. Real subtle, dude. I for one am not going to sympathise for a kid who I know turns into a mass murderer.
The second half is marginally better than the awkward first, but only because it retraces the steps of the John Carpenter original, with a few cosmetic changes here and there and a more/less satisfying ending, depending on your affection for certain characters. It follows a fairly standard slasher template - there's OTT gore (the knife in the wall scene is too dumb for words) and gratuitous T&A (all the girls in Haddonfield are complete sluts) - plus Myers still does that thing where he only ever walks after his fleeing victims but always catches up with them. It's cool in a 'Man, the original Halloween was so awesome' kinda way, but that's not really anything to be proud of: anyone can trace a Picasso. More importantly, the second half adds nothing to the character of Myers at all.
It's obvious Zombie has great affection for Myers, and it's this murderous man-love that's clouded his judgement - the Shape isn't supposed to be the main character in the film, Laurie Strode is. That's the mistake the shitting awful sequels all made. In Zombie's remake, Laurie is barely even a character. She's given three or four scenes where she gets to slut around with her bitch friends, and then BANG - enter WWE's finest with a butcher's knife. She's quite inconsequential: it almost feels like an inconvenience that Zombie has had to shoehorn her into his movie. Again, you're being made to root for the dude with the Shatner face: wrong, wrong, wrong.
It's not all doom and gloom. McDowell is actually good value for money as Loomis - although not quite as eerie as Pleasance was in the role, he's still got that spaced-out look that he fires off from time to time, usually when he's about to drop some poetic bombshell about Myers' murderous rampage (short version: "I told you dumbasses this would happen."). Fittingly, Zombie's missus Sheri Moon is quite effective as Michael's mother, and is a dead ringer for Jamie Lee Curtis. Danny Trejo is also pretty awesome in a small role, although it's always a joy to see Machete on screen - let's hope for a crossover sometime soon ("Michael Myers just fucked with the wrong Mexican!").
However, it's just not enough to make this pointless remake worthwhile. Zombie's 2002 diatribe seemed to be quite prophetic: at a time when he needed to take a leap forward and show he's not just a one-trick pony, he's taken two steps back with an exercise in futility - Halloween is the worst thing he could have done as a filmmaker. The balance is all askew, the characters (Myers aside) are sketchy and poorly drawn and the whole film hinges on whether or not you're willing to cheer for a killer wrestler. The end result makes Mr. Zombie look a little like... well, an asshole. Not my words, you understand.