Michael Myers gets Zombie-fied

A lot of obscure horror movies have been resurrected as atrocious remakes in the past few years, but, for the most part, nobody considered most of them to be anything more than obscure horror movies that weren’t exactly very good to begin with. After all, it’s not like Black Christmas was on anybody’s Horror Classics list. In this regard, purists don’t often have much ground to stand on when bitching about what Hollywood does for a buck.

Halloween, though, is a masterpiece that makes just about every horror-phile’s top 10, and word that it was being remade by musician-turned-director Rob Zombie (The Devil’s Rejects) seemed as inexplicable and artistically despicable as Zack Snyder remaking Dawn of the Dead a few years back.

But there are a few differences between the situations, the greatest of which is that unstoppable serial killer Michael Meyers has ascended to the same level as fiends like Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Wolfman. In other words, Meyers deserved more than Halloween’s six increasingly bad sequels that butchered the memory of director John Carpenter’s original — even if that meant a remake.

Another distinction between Snyder’s Dawn and Zombie’s Halloween is that Snyder’s take on the George A. Romero classic added nothing to the original except faster-moving zombies and more realistic make-up. Ultimately, it has no purpose other than to look cool and make boatloads of money.

Halloween is a different creature because Zombie has taken Carpenter’s rather vague storyline about teenage girls who are terrorized by an escaped asylum patient with a mask fetish on Halloween and — instead of just revamping it for people too lazy to rent the original — reimagined it as a true-crime biography of Michael Meyers. In fact, the first two acts of the Zombie film are a prologue to the original, exploring Meyers’s violent childhood, attempts at therapy by Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), and a full-on asylum escape (which is only glimpsed in the first half of the first act of the original); it’s not until the final act of the remake that Laurie Strode, originally played by Jamie Lee Curtis and here played by Scout Taylor-Compton, is introduced and the infamous murder of sex-obsessed teens begins.

In a bit of twisted irony, it’s here, when Zombie actually starts adhering to the original, that the movie begins to stumble. Zombie created a much more interesting profile of madness and evil than Carpenter ever accomplished, but, while trying to please purists (including himself, since he’s a diehard fan), he dropped the ball. The final act deteriorates into a non-stop chase without developing characters we know and love, and by then we’ve seen so much carnage that it all feels like over-kill.

However, on the whole Halloween does exactly what a remake is supposed to do: expand upon the original and become a new movie altogether. Zombie respects Meyers and treats him with the same esteem Hammer Studios conferred upon Dracula and Frankenstein when they began offering new takes on the Universal classics back in the ’50s. You might prefer the original, but Zombie’s done justice by it, that’s for sure.

Dir. Rob Zombie; Writ. Zombie, John Carpenter, Debra Hill; feat. Tyler Mane, Malcolm McDowell, Scout Taylor-Compton, Sheri Moon Zombie, Daeg Faerch, Danielle Harris, Kristina Klebe (R)