Written & Directed by Rob Zombie
For a minute, we almost had a Michael Myers vs. Pinhead (from Hellraiser) movie. With the success of Freddy vs. Jason, Dimension Pictures seriously looked at pitting those movie monsters against each other. I don’t think that would have been a great idea. An idea was pitched to bring back Jamie Lloyd. That didn’t go anywhere. This was around a time when reboots and reimaginings were becoming a hot thing. Texas Chainsaw Massacre had a moderately successful reboot based on its budget, and telling the characters’ backstory was the thing to do (see the Star Wars prequels, Batman Begins). Setting a standard that would be followed by Freddy and Jason a few years later, Rob Zombie was brought on board to flesh out the origin of Michael Myers.
The first third of the film centers on young Michael Myers growing up sometime around the mid to late 1970s. He’s an emotionally disturbed young boy who tortures animals and has a seething hatred for pretty much everyone except his mom (Sheri Moon Zombie). Finally, one Halloween, something fully snaps in Michael, and he embraces his bloodlust. He murders his school bully and kills his sister, her boyfriend, and his mom’s boyfriend. Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) comes into his life and tries to repair the psychological damage in the boy’s mind. Eventually, Michael’s mother becomes despondent about his inhumanity and her loneliness in the world, so she kills herself.
The rest of the film plays out reasonably close to the original 1978 story. This time around, Sheriff Brackett is played by Brad Dourif, with Laurie’s role being done by Scout Taylor Compton. As a nod to fans of the series Danielle Harris is cast as Annie Brackett. The deviations from the original plot aren’t too awful. The action is undoubtedly centered on the Myers home. The movie lets it slip early on that Laurie is Michael’s sister, and she doesn’t know it. That’s where we get into a part of the problem with this reboot and Zombie’s choices in how he wants to portray Michael.
There’s a concerted effort to try and justify Michael’s kills to some extent. His decision to slice throats and crush people’s skulls is definitely unwarranted, but the movie strives to make his victims as unlikable as possible. His sister is portrayed as cruel towards him, as is his step-dad. Even some of the teenagers he kills when he escapes are shown to be entering his condemned home without permission. The amount of time spent in Michael’s childhood shows Zombie was trying to humanize the character. I don’t know if that is the angle that works best with Halloween. I personally think Michael functions better when he’s stripped of humanity and becomes almost (but still grounded) embodiment of cold evil.
Loomis is probably the most interesting though possibly controversial reimagining here. The doctor is played as a bit craven. He sees Michael as an opportunity to embellish his own name. If he can be the doctor that cures such a psychopath, the world would have to recognize him. I don’t think this is a terrible direction to go with Loomis; I just don’t think this movie (or its sequel) really develops him in a way that gives this version depth. He ends up being a pretty two-dimensional character which is a shame because McDowell can play nasty characters so well. Some movies ply on backstory to a frustrating degree, but I actually appreciated seeing the crumbling of Loomis and Michael’s relationship over time. There is a point where he generally cares for the boy but gets frustrated when Michael closes himself off and stops speaking.
Rob Zombie’s reinvention of Halloween adheres close enough to the original that it comes down to whether you are aesthetically pleased by the filmmaker’s choices. I am not a fan of Zombie’s movie-making style, so I didn’t really find much to like about the movie. I think the dialogue is really rough, but it gets worse in the sequel. Showing more of the Loomis/Michael relationship is the best thing the movie offers up. I prefer to see Michael as the embodiment of evil, creating obscenity against good decent people. Reframing him as being partially justified against some of his victims is not a direction I would have chosen, but it was enough to get Zombie a sequel.