Movie review: Be afraid of new 'Halloween' -- for the wrong reasons

  • Article by: COLIN COVERT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 31, 2007 - 5:41 PM

There's a phantom stalking Rob Zombie's "Halloween," and it's not the hulking guy in the white rubber mask. It's the memory of John Carpenter's sublime 1978 shocker. Thirty years on, it still haunts the memory with nagging dread, overshadowing Zombie's effort to revive the story and make it his own.

There's a phantom stalking Rob Zombie's "Halloween," and it's not the hulking guy in the white rubber mask. It's the memory of John Carpenter's sublime 1978 shocker. Thirty years on, it still haunts the memory with nagging dread, overshadowing Zombie's effort to revive the story and make it his own.

And that's Zombie's goal. The two films interlock in major ways as they follow a silent killer who escapes from an asylum and rampages through his hometown. Yet they're very different in focus and tone.

Carpenter's film, with its clever shock tactics and trick-or-treat sense of humor, made an indelible impression on a generation of filmgoers. It gave us a big guy with a big knife who did terrible things. No excuses, no explanation -- just iconic, irrational evil.

Zombie's "Halloween" is an origin story that shows the early stages of Michael Myers' psychosis, building deliberately to his big night on the town. With towering pro-wrestler-turned-actor Taylor Mayne as the killer, the new film is bigger, longer, deeper and to a large extent original. Carpenter's is better.

Zombie, a rocker who proved himself an able and inventive filmmaker with 2005's redneck horror opus "The Devil's Rejects," makes Michael the focus, following him from a serial-killer-in-training at age 10 to adulthood.

His home life is a gloomy, grungy disaster. Mom (the director's wife, Sherri Moon Zombie, touching in a dramatic role) works as a pole dancer because stepdad (Bill Forsythe) is too tired from drinking and yelling all day. The kids at school hassle Michael until he snaps. And because the boy (Daeg Ferch) uses sweet smiles and faked obedience to conceal full-blown psychosis, when he reaches the breaking point, a lot of people get broken.

"Halloween" is scarcely a half-hour old before Zombie catalogs the butchery that a determined young scout can inflict with a baseball bat, a roll of duct tape and a well-stocked knife drawer.

The violence is relentless, but not jolting. The razor-sharp editing that gave Zombie's last frightfest its punch is missing here. "Halloween" goes slack in the middle section, as Michael matures from a soft-spoken cipher into a hulking, silent time bomb. His therapist, Dr. Sam Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), is an officious British prat who spends years trying to get inside Michael's head, and never does fill in the puzzle.

But he does honestly care about his deranged patient. When Michael escapes the sanitarium, Loomis is the only one who can predict what's coming next. He sounds the alarm to doubting authorities, buys a .357 Magnum, and sets out in pursuit.

Act three, the bloodbath, most closely mirrors the original film, with teenage baby sitters and their boyfriends doing nasty things in tight, frame-filling close-ups while a half-seen thing watches in the background. As Michael moves toward Laurie Strode, a girl to whom he has an out-of-left-field connection, the movie generates an undertow of genuine dread. But it's cheaply achieved, by showing us mangled corpses and weeping, pleading half-dead victims awaiting the final blow. Carpenter's original, a series of brilliant joy-buzzer jolts, treated the horror as a dark pop joke, courting our giggling disbelief. Zombie turns it somber.

You could argue that it's a more moral choice to make screen violence disgusting, but it also makes for a deeply unpleasant viewing experience.

Colin Covert • 612-673-7186

  • HALLOWEEN

    1 out of 4 stars

    Rating: R for violence, nudity, sex, language, drug use and children in jeopardy.

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