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If there’s one lesson that should have been learned from Thomas Harris’ dipping into the Hannibal Lecter well once too often, it’s that backstories detract from the mythos of a character.
Rob Zombie’s remake/prequel to “Halloween” goes down a similar path, spending a good portion of its running time fleshing out young Michael Myers’ beginnings as a homicidal maniac. The result, though undeniably preferable to yet another misbegotten installment of the long-exhausted franchise, certainly doesn’t compare to John Carpenter’s landmark original film.
That said, Zombie, who sports probably the best horror film director moniker ever, continues to impress on a technical level, even if this effort lacks the gonzo originality of “House of 1,000 Corpses” and “The Devil’s Rejects.” Professionally executed, this “Halloween” is certainly no embarrassment, even if it fails to live up to expectations.
The first part of the film, expanding the original’s brief prologue, is concerned with the child version of Michael, spookily played by Daeg Faerch, discovering his inner psychopath. It’s hardly surprising, considering his dysfunctional upbringing at the hands of his white-trash stepfather (William Forsythe) and slutty older sister (Hanna Hall). Despite the best efforts of Michael’s loving stripper mother (Sheri Moon Zombie) and concerned child psychologist Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), Michael winds up in a hospital for the criminally insane after committing a family killing spree.
Cut to years later, when the now adult Michael (the hulking Tyler Mane) escapes and returns to his hometown in search of his baby sister. The last half-hour of the film roughly approximates Carpenter’s original, albeit in a necessarily abridged form. Once again Michael dispatches a number of sexually active teens, culminating with his pursuit of babysitter Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton).
This version naturally features far more extensive nudity and graphic violence, in the process sacrificing the creepy mood of foreboding that was so brilliantly sustained in Carpenter’s atmospheric vision of a suburban nightmare. Only the astute reprising of Carpenter’s haunting theme music makes this rendition feel like “Halloween” rather than a generic slasher film.
The performances are disappointing, with Taylor-Compton lacking Jamie Lee Curtis’ spunky appeal and the normally reliable McDowell rather prosaic as the obsessed shrink, not coming close to Donald Pleasance’s neurotic intensity.
As usual, Zombie has added an element of camp fun to the proceedings with his clever casting of B-movie icons in small roles, including Dee Wallace, Brad Dourif, Danny Trejo and Sid Haig.
Director-screenwriter: Rob Zombie
Producers: Rob Zombie, Malek Akkad, Andy Gould, Andy La Marca
Executive producers: Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Matt Stein
Director of photography: Phil Parmet
Production designer: Anthony Tremblay
Music: Tyler Bates
Costume designer: Mary McLeod
Editor: Glenn Garland
Michael Myers: Tyler Mane
Deborah Myers: Sheri Moon Zombie
Dr. Samuel Loomis: Malcolm McDowell
Ronnie White: William Forsythe
Judith Myers: Hanna Hall
Young Michael Myers: Daeg Faerch
Laurie Strode: Scout Taylor-Compton
Running time — 110 minutes
MPAA rating: R
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