Rob Zombie tries to give a monster a soul.4/10
On paper, a "Halloween" remake looked interesting. Zombie tries to go back to the character's origin and reinvent him - it's a recent trend in Hollywood ("Batman Begins," "Casino Royale," the upcoming "Incredible Hulk," etc.), so it's not quite surprising that Hollywood greenlit the project and it got the push it received.
But the problem that arises while doing this with "Halloween" is that it comes into conflict with the concept of Michael being purely evil. Although I can understand what Zombie was trying to do by exploring Michael's background, it contradicts the whole point of the original. By providing a reason and displaying a human character on screen, you give the character a soul - and despite what Zombie may claim, this does NOT make Michael scarier. It makes him an average movie serial killer: a guy with a messed up life as a kid who snaps one day and goes on a killing rampage.
Is it scary? No. Gory? Yes. Realistic? At first. And if it were a movie about a serial killer, it would work. But it's not. This is a movie about a monster, a soulless creature; a boogeyman, as per the original film. Monsters aren't scary when we know they're flesh and blood.
Carpenter had a way of framing the action in the original movie. Michael stalks Laurie in her hometown, but we never see any real flesh behind the mask, we never really see him moving around like a normal human being. But we do here. He stands in the middle of an open road, in front of three teenage girls walking home from school, and they all see him. He stands there for a few moments, then trudges away off-screen. We actually see him walk away, instead of just appearing and disappearing as he did in the original film. Which method is scarier? The answer is clear.
Zombie spends 40 minutes or so building up Michael's character before he escapes from the ward. We see him killing animals as a child (and torturing them, too), a stupid subplot with his mom as a stripper and a typical school bully, and a promiscuous sister. The sexual talk is frank and disgusting - the mom's boyfriend (husband?) is talking about how cute her daughter's butt is, and at this point in the film we're not sure whether he might even be the father. It's just shock for shock value. Zombie has a tendency of this - blunt violence and blunt dialogue combined - and in a film like this, it seems cheap and fake and unnecessary. The heavy emphasis placed on the swearing - and I mean this literally (as in, the actors place a noticeable emphasis on the profanity they use) is almost unintentionally funny. Zombie cast his wife in the role of Michael's mother, and she can't act at all.
Donald Pleasence got stuck with the most unfortunate lines from the original film, but we were willing to forgive bad dialogue because of how well-made the film was otherwise. Here, Malcolm McDowell gets the worst of two worlds: he gets to handle an under-characterization with bad, bad, BAD dialogue AND a generally weak film to boot. The sequences with McDowell's version of Loomis are all completely cliched - Zombie clearly writes his dialogue based on other films' dialogue. The "intimate" scenes at the mental ward between Loomis and Michael are awful. McDowell struggles with typicalities of the genre, such as the Dr. Who Wasted His Own Life By Devoting It To Someone Else's (he explains to Michael that his wife left him and he has no friends because of how involved he became with the case - and the dialogue itself is straight from any cop-vs.-killer flick). The recent film "Zodiac" had a similar theme of men losing their personal lives due to obsession over a murderer, but it was handled better. The whole Loomis character should have been dropped from the remake if all Zombie wanted to do with him was use him as a deus ex machina, by the way.
Overall, this feels like a redneck version of "Halloween," which is going to offend some people, but I can't think of any better way to describe it. It's trashy, vulgar, and silly - and hey, that's fine, if that's Rob Zombie's motif and he wants to make movies pandering towards that sort of audience. I have nothing against it, and I think it may work with some films - I can imagine him making a good re-do of "Natural Born Killers" (although I hope it never, never happens!).
However, when you're remaking an iconic, legendary, incredibly influential horror film - don't cheapen it by "reimagining" it with horror movie cliches and shock-value material. The very worst aspect of this remake is that it simply isn't scary at all - it's a typical slasher flick, a homicidal-man-on-a-rampage flick, which ironically is exactly what Zombie said he wanted to avoid.
The first film was eerie, spooky, and unnerving because Michael's motivations were cloudy and we weren't sure whether Laurie was right or wrong when she said he was the boogeyman. We only knew one thing: he wasn't entirely human.
But ever since that original movie, the filmmakers have attempted to keep expanding upon Michael's history: the second film developed a motivation for his killings (Laurie was his sister), the fourth offered more clues at his background, and now we come full circle with a complete remake of the original film.
Michael's true demonic core - the natural horror element of the series - is stripped bare and all that is left is a disturbed, abnormally tall redneck with greasy hair who hasn't showered in years wearing a silly mask going around killing people because he had an abusive family life as a child. Some things are better left unexplored.