As I have said before, 1998’s Halloween H20 should have been the final chapter on the original Halloween franchise. If the studio wanted to continue, that was the time to start over from scratch. Unfortunately, instead we got 2002’s dismal Halloween Resurrection, which ended with a hint for another sequel but, thankfully, wiser heads finally prevailed and in 2007 they enlisted Rob Zombie to write and direct a new film that would reboot the franchise. Zombie seemed like an obvious and exciting choice when I first heard about it, and I was looking forward to seeing what he would do.
Zombie assembled a fine cast of established and new actors for this film, including his wife Sheri Moon Zombie as Michael’s mother, Deborah Myers, Malcolm McDowell as Dr. Sam Loomis, Scout Taylor-Compton as Angel Myers/Laurie Strode, Brad Dourif as Sheriff Brackett and, most interestingly, Danielle Harris, who played Michael’s niece Jamie Lloyd in Halloween 4 & Halloween 5 as Brackett’s daughter, and Laurie’s best friend, Annie. All grown up now at 30 years old, Harris nevertheless looked youthful enough to convincingly play a teenager. She also most notably gets nude during a sex scene. It’s hard to contrast her now with that adorable little girl from before.
But the real coup in this film is casting Tyler Mane as Michael Myers. At 6’ 9”and around 300 lbs. of muscle, Mane is exactly the type of imposing figure that Michael Myers should be. Because Michael is not a supernatural being, and is really “just” a guy (albeit a psychotic one), he needs to look like someone who, if you saw him coming towards you, you’d instantly feel a bit uncomfortable. And if you see he has a knife in his hands, now you’re terrified. Mane accomplishes that.
However I must say that, in my opinion, Zombie makes a significant mistake. Almost the first half of the film is focused on portraying Michael’s childhood. As the film begins, Michael is 10 years old (& played by Daeg Faerch). He’s already screwed up when we first see him. He secretly enjoys killing small animals, including mice and cats, even keeping a scrapbook of pictures of the animals he killed. He lives with his mother, Deborah, his teenage sister Judith (Hanna R. Hall), infant sister Angel (whom Michael affectionately calls “Boo”) and Deborah’s boyfriend Ronnie (William Forsythe) To describe his family as dysfunctional is a major understatement. Deborah’s a stripper, Judith is a stereotypical high school slut, and Ronnie is in a wheelchair and is extremely verbally abusive. He openly leers at Judith, and is contemptuous towards Michael, at one point even threatening to “skull fuck” Michael. What happened to Michael’s father is unclear, as is why Sheri is with Ronnie, since all he does is drink alcohol all day long and talk trash. Michael is bullied at school by older kids, who mock him for having a stripper as a mother, causing him to act out. But when the principle calls in Sheri about Michael’s behavior, she remains skeptical. The principle calls in Dr. Loomis to talk to Michael, but Sheri still acts like Michael is okay.
This is the first problem I have, that Michael’s family is so horrible it almost seems like it would be shocking if he didn’t becoming a psycho killer, as a result of living in that home. I thought the original film was more effective because we only got a glimpse of young Michael after he killed Judith, and he looked so innocent. The lack of info about his family made his act seem even more horrifying. Showing so much of his background kind of de-mystifies him, in my opinion, especially by making them all such White Trash caricatures. I think that if they had to show Michael’s family it would have been more effective if they appeared to be just the opposite, make them a nice respectable family, something straight out of Leave It To Beaver, with a seemingly happy home, including a white picket fence. Then have Michael just start killing. At least that’s how I would have done it.
Anyway, one day Michael stalks one of the bullies who’d been tormenting him, and beats him to death in the woods after school. That night at home he ties up a drunken Ronnie and stabs him to death before going upstairs and killing Judith and her boyfriend, who had just finished having sex. When the police arrive on the scene Michael is calmly sitting out front cradling little Angel in his arms. Michael is then sent to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, and put under the care of Dr. Loomis, who spends months trying to get through to him, but Michael becomes increasingly withdrawn. His mother visits him regularly, but when Michael snaps again and stabs a nurse (played by the legendary Sybil Danning) to death, Sheri goes home and commits suicide, which sends Michael into a catatonic state for the next 15 years. Flash forward to Michael as a grown man, Dr. Loomis has retired as his therapist, and written a best-selling book about Michael. Michael decides to escape, brutally murdering a bunch of staff and security guards at the Sanitarium, and begins to make his way back to Haddonfield. When Dr. Loomis finds out he goes there too, to warn Sheriff Brackett.
From there, the 2nd half of the film is pretty much Zombie’s take on the original Halloween. So if you’ve seen that, then you know the basics of what happens next. Michael finds out where Angel, now Laurie, is living, and begins stalking her. On Halloween night, while she is babysitting two young children, he strikes and begins killing everyone close to her, including her adoptive parents and friends, while Dr. Loomis and Sherriff Bracket are on the hunt to catch him. Michael’s motivation for trying to get to Laurie is unclear at first, does he want to kill her or just reunite with her? But Laurie doesn’t know any of this (while Loomis does tell the Sherriff that she is Michael’s sister), and is just terrified. Taylor Scout-Compton does a very good job as Laurie Strode, not trying to copy Jamie Lee Curtis’ interpretation. She looks and acts like an average teenage girl who you could relate to, and when she’s being chased by Michael you can practically feel her terror, and therefor are rooting for her to survive. And this being a remake, this time you know there’s no guarantee that she will (but -spoiler alert- she does). I also found Danielle Harris’ “death” scene to be rather terrifying.
The major difference between this film and the first is that Zombie ups the body count and shows a lot more blood and gore in the death scenes, as opposed to the way John Carpenter kept most of his death’s in the shadows. But I liked it. It’s a different take, but it works. And, again, you can see why Tyler Mane was a great choice for this role, as when Michael bursts through walls and windows it seems so believable because he’s of how big and strong he is.
There is a scene where Michael unmasks in front of Laurie, which I generally call a big no-no, we’re not supposed to see Micheal’s adult face, but with his long hair hanging in front of him, we don’t get a clear look at him, so I’ll let that slide. This film cleverly did a fake out with the ending. I thought it was over when Dr. Loomis shoots Michael three times in the back, to keep him from killing Laurie who had fallen into a drained swimming pool. Loomis and Laurie walk out and get into a police car, and it seemed like it was over. I was expecting them to drive away, and then the camera to pan back to the pool and show that Michael was gone, similar to the first film. Instead Michael grabs Laurie out of the car before they can leave, and takes her away again. In the end, with Laurie bloody and delirious, and trying to shoot Michael with Loomis’ gun, Michael tackles her and they fall off a balcony, with her on top of him, and Michael apparently unconscious. She tries to shoot him in the face but every time she pulls the trigger there’s no bullet. Michael grabs her wrist just as the gun finally goes off and we get a close up of Laurie screaming, as we hear sirens in the background.
This otherwise perfect ending is slightly messed up by the way Zombie chose to splice in scenes from old home movies of Michael’s childhood, as he looks happy. I think I get what he was going for, to contrast the young boy with this savage monster who had just been “killed” (yeah, right), but it felt unnecessary to me.
Overall, I was unhappy with the emphasis on Michael’s childhood, and the way it was portrayed, but once it got to adult Michael going on his killing spree in Haddonfield on Halloween night, I was mostly happy with it.