Every now and then, we get things that seemed like a good idea at the time. The Iraq War seemed like a good idea at the time to some. Crystal Pepsi seemed like a good idea at the time to some. We all thought that the band The Darkness was a good idea at first, but then we realized that it was a one note joke that got old fast.
You can add Rob Zombie's remake of "Halloween" as a part of the "it seemed like a good idea at the time" category, as well as it's epitaph. Granted, "House of 1000 Corpses" proved to be a disappointment, but the sequel "The Devil's Rejects" proved to be a nasty surprise that announced to the world "Hey, this guy who legally changed his last name to Zombie might be on to something here!" Afterwards, the Weinstein brothers went up to him and asked "How about you remake "Halloween." After getting the blessing of John Carpenter (who just said "do what you want"), Robbie Z decided to go with it. The end result was...well, you get the idea.
Here, Michael Myers isn't just a kid who stabbed his sister to death for some reason. Nope, he's part of a dysfunctional trailer trash family made up of a verbally abusive dad (William Forsythe), a sympathetic stripper mom (Sherri Moon Zombie, who actually delivers a solid performance) and a trashy sister (Hanna Hall.) One night, he finally has enough and kills everyone in his family except for his baby sister and mother. For this, he gets to spend time in incarceration while under the observation of Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell.)
As the years go on, Michael puts on the strange habit of wearing various masks he makes, which is actually a pretty cool idea. In fact, much of what happens while he's in incarceration is the highlight of the movie. If you ask me, this would probably have been a better movie if it were a prequel in which most of it deals with his days with Loomis. Of course, Rob has to ruin it all once Michael escapes. Since I watched the directors cut, I had the misfortune of seeing two orderlies rape a female patient in front of Michael. I really don't want to know at what point of writing this Zombie thought to himself "Hey, you know what the original "Halloween" was missing? A rape scene!" Anyways, he kills the rapists and the only guy who was ever nice to him (Danny Trejo), and escapes. He then kills a trucker named Joe Grizzly (Ken Foree) while the guy is taking a shit, and steals his outfit too. Why Rob Zombie felt "Halloween" needed a man sitting on the toilet is beyond me. You'd think at some point his mind would have told him "Hey, putting rape and defecation into a remake of "Halloween" is a terrible idea."
Loomis of course finds out about this, and knows that Michael is headed back to Haddonfield to take care of some unfinished business. He's also written a book about his experiences trying to deal with Michael, and has gotten rich off of it. So yeah, Loomis has gone from a generally decent guy to a greedy, rich asshole. Meanwhile, Laurie (Scout-Taylor Compton) has to go babysitting on Halloween while her friends (Including Danielle Harris, who plays the Sheriffs daughter-the latter is played by Brad Dourif) go out for fun with their boyfriends. Michael though, has plans for them-plans that involve murder and a reunion with the girl who was actually his baby sister.
The problems in this film are numerous. A good example is how hardly anyone is written well. The only people who come off as sympathetic are Michael's mother and Trejo's orderly. Sherri does deserve credit, as she does a great job playing the mother of a monster. Everyone else however, is unlikable. Loomis is now an opportunistic jerk, Michael's dad is the worst guy imaginable, and then there's Laurie. In the original (one could say "Hey, this isn't the original, so stop comparing them!" Well, it's a remake, so comparisons are warranted), she was the every girl caught in a hellish situation you wanted her to get out of. Here, she's a foul mouthed brat that finger bangs a bagel in front of her mother. What's sadder is the fact that I got the feeling that if these characters were better written, their performances would be better. You can tell that McDowell and Compton are trying their hardest, but the script gives them nothing to work with. What were once genuinely human characters are now just unlikable cretins.
That leads me to another big problem-the tone. Granted, the original wasn't sunshine and rainbows, but there was a pulpy sense of fun to it. Zombie strips all of that away, and gives us something that is just sombre and depressing instead of scary and suspenseful. Which gives us the film's biggest flaw: the treatment of Michael Myers. The thing that made Michael such a terrifying presence was the fact nobody knew why he did what he did. Hell, he probably didn't know why. He was just evil personified, and that's why he worked. He is the unexplainable. The Boogieman. Here, Zombie tries to tell us why he's the way he is, and that becomes the movies biggest undoing. What was once one of the most iconic villains in movie history has now been reduced to a generic serial killer with family issues.
I'm sure when some studio heads are asked why allowing a remake of "Halloween" that plays out like this was a good idea, the answer will either be a.) It seemed like a good idea at the time, or b.) It made a lot of money, so who cares what you think? I'm sure the latter would be the answer, but we not only as fans but as audience members deserve better. Either way, Rob Zombies remake of a classic not just in horror, but in cinema is proof positive as to why 99% of the time, trying to do a darker, grittier remake is a horrible idea. This is John Carpenter's classic as imagined by that creepy kid in high school who drew disturbing things in his notebook.