Rob Zombie had two films under his belt, and while the response to House of a 1,000 Corpses was tepid, exploitation fans ate up the semi sequel the Devil’s Rejects. The producers decided Zombie could rev new life into the franchise.
The end result is kind of mixed. To begin, the original gave us very little of Michael’s childhood. He puts on a clown mask, kills his sister, his parents come home…BAM! Jump to the present. The film was more focused on Laurie and her friends, with little attention given to Michael’s past. All that we really got was he came from a standard suburban family.
Zombie changed all that. Instead, we were introduced to a little boy from a white trash home. his stripper mom has an abusive boyfriend…his sister Judith is verbally abusive and mom boyfriend leer at her…and so on. He is bullied at school, and little Mikey Myers has issues…he kills animals and gets into fights. And he actually kills before he kills his sister. He actually goes on a killing spree that culminates in his sister’s death. The only person left is his baby sister and mother.
Michael continues to be creepy and violent in the hospital. He grows up to escape, being hunted by his psychiatrist Sam Loomis. We are almost halfway through the film before we meet the teen Laurie Strode and her friends. So, the film tends to be a rush to get to the end, with Michael slashing what seems to be half the town.
The most enjoyable part of the film is the cast. It is a horror and exploitation who’s who. Brad Dourif (Child’s Play), Malcolm McDowell, Danielle Harris (Halloween 4 & 5), Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead) among others play either prominent characters or have cameos.
This is a bloody exploitation take on the franchise, unlike prior attempts. Depending on the version you watch, it can be potentially triggering for a viewer. The theatrical cut has Michael fighting a bunch of guards to escape…in the unrated cut, he escapes when the sleazy asylum employees drag a girl into Michael’s room so they can rape her on his bed (?!). It is a pretty sickening scene that was not needed. And truth be told, I might like the film more if is was just Rob Zombie’s Exploitation Horror Movie. But calling its lead “monster” Michael Myers and having the title of Halloween invites a lot of comparisons.
The biggest is that part of what made Michael Myers scary in the original was his ambiguity. What little we could see was he appeared to come from a middle class family.There appeared to be no abuse. Michael appeared to lack any warning signs. That question made him very frightening. Rob Zombie’s Halloween gives us a view of a textbook case of the “childhood of a serial killer”. Michael has everything working against him. Michael should be haunting and this new back story ruins that. It makes Michael a predictable monster, rather than a foreboding shape.
Michael kills more in the reboot…and we get more profanity. The exploitation approach does make it stand out from the other horror reboots…rather than a glossier reboot, Zombie gives us a grittier one.
The standout for me in Rob Zombie’s Halloween films is probably Brad Dourif’s Sheriff Bracken. He remains a good-hearted heroic type angry with Loomis for what has been unleashed on this town he protects. Dourif does not seem to get a lot of those roles, and he is actually quite good at it.