Rob Zombie breathes new life into a classic fright film

by Rich Copley

McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

31 August 2007

"It just really felt, to me, growing up on the East Coast, like it was Halloween."

Michael Myers is joining the ranks of James Bond and Batman: characters whose film franchises have been rebooted.

In film, a reboot means taking a series that might be growing long in the tooth and going back to its roots.

cover art


Director: Rob Zombie
Cast: Malcolm McDowell, Daeg Faerch, Tyler Mane, Scout Taylor-Compton

(Dimension Films)
US theatrical: 31 Aug 2007 (General release)

Review [5.Sep.2007]

“Batman Begins” and last year’s remake of “Casino Royale” explored the origins of their characters and were widely credited with reviving their tail-dragging franchises.

Can that work in horror?

Director Rob Zombie, whose credits include “The Devil’s Rejects” and “House of 1,000 Corpses,” is about to find out with “Halloween.”

“‘Batman Begins’ would be one of the best ways to describe it,” Zombie says. “It’s still the story of Batman. But the way it unfolds and in the story leading up to it, there’s so much more than you’ve been given before.”

This “Halloween” gives us more Michael.

“In the first movie, Michael is kind of always spoken about in legend as Dr. Loomis describes him, and he’s kind of like this elusive presence throughout the film,” Zombie says. “I wanted to take a different approach because a lot of my film follows young Michael through his life, through his years at Smith’s Grove, through his escape, through his return to Haddonfield, so that you follow him and he’s a much more realistic character, not just a bogeyman presence.”

Haddonfield, Smith’s Grove and Dr. Loomis are familiar names to horror movie fans who consider the original 1978 “.Halloween” a classic.

It was the breakout hit for director John Carpenter. After “Halloween,” Carpenter made several other horror favorites including the 1980 version of “The Fog” and “Christine.” He also had non-horror hits such as “Escape From New York” and “Starman.”

When Zombie accepted the job of remaking “Halloween,” one of the first calls he made was to Carpenter.

“I called John before news of the whole thing came out because I wanted him to know first,” Zombie says. “I had met John when he was shooting “Escape From L.A.,” so I had known him for a while.

“We just talked for a minute, and he said, `Cool.’ I think his exact words were, `Hey, make it your own. Go for it.’”

The story centers on Myers, who is 6 years old when he brutally murders his sister on Halloween night. He is sent to a mental institution, where Dr. Loomis concludes Myers is pure evil. On Halloween Eve 15 years later, Myers escapes from the institution and heads home bent on murdering again.

“One of the things I liked most about it was that even though it was shot in Pasadena (Calif.), I always loved the atmosphere it created,” says Zombie, 42, who was one of the legions of teenagers who embraced the original when it came out. “It just really felt, to me, growing up on the East Coast, like it was Halloween.”

Zombie says he retained some of the signature elements of the original, including the musical themes, which Carpenter wrote. Also, despite speculation that this “Halloween” is an attempt at upping the ante on blood and guts, Zombie says he put in only the violence and gore the story needed.

“The movie will be very calm and stalking for long periods of time because Michael is very calm,” Zombie says. “But at the times he attacks, it’s very violent.”

“If you didn’t know what movie you were watching, I could literally show you 20-minute segments of this movie, and it would just seem like this drama. It wouldn’t seem like a horror movie, because that’s what I wanted to bring to this movie. It had to have the dramatic aspects of people’s lives in order for the horrible events to resonate… The basic world of the whole movie is normal. Michael Myers is the one crazy aspect.”

And Michael is crazy, or to be precise, a psychopath.

“There may be times, briefly, where you feel sympathetic for him,” Zombie says. “But then you realize that no matter what his situation is, it’s not that, he’s not created, because he is basically born bad. He is basically insane. A lot of people have misunderstood what’s going on, like he lives in this bad situation and it made him evil. It’s not the case.

“I just thought that having him being a normal kid from a good home and a nice suburban neighborhood who goes bad seemed so lame. .. There’s more grit to the story. Nice normal people can be kind of a bore.”

Zombie said revisiting the original was the only option for him in taking on the “Halloween” series. Zombie, who thinks the franchise devolved over its seven sequels, jokes, “I don’t want to direct No. 9 of anything.”

He doesn’t want to direct No. 2, either. Asked whether he had any thoughts of continuing the new franchise, Zombie says, “Only that I won’t. I wanted to make one movie.”

Now that he’s rebooted the series, it’s up to someone else to keep it from crashing again.

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