"I met him, fifteen years ago. I was told there was nothing left. No reason, no conscience, no understanding; even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, good or evil, right or wrong. I met this six-year-old child, with this blank, pale, emotionless face and, the blackest eyes... the *devil's* eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized what was living behind that boy's eyes was purely and simply... evil."
This quote from Loomis in the 1978 original better sums up Michael's back story than the whole first half of Rob Zombie's ham-fisted exposition in the remake.
In addition to the "less is more" approach of the writing, the original also utilizes classic filmmaking techniques to build suspense and terror. The way that Carpenter and Director of Photography Cundey used the 2.35 wide lens to frame shots, the atmospheric lighting, the incredibly evocative music...it all functioned like a perfect scare machine.
These are the differences between being just a filmmaker (Zombie) and an artist (Carpenter).
Another fact that not a lot of Halloween fans seem to be aware of, is that Halloween (1978) has been preserved by the US LIBRARY OF CONGRESS as part of the National Film Registry as "culturally, historically, and aesthetically" valuable. I highly doubt the Zombie remake will ever be able to make the same claim.
With all that being said, I am someone that follows Zombie's film career and actually found the remake to be quite interesting on a variety of levels. As a matter of fact, I was somewhat obsessed for a while with the weird novelty of watching and analyzing a remake of my favorite film of all time.
I think the essential issue with the remake was that Zombie was given a no-win situation...when dealing with such an iconic and classic film, there is no way that ANYONE could have made a remake that would have totally satisfied the fans. Based on the final product, it seems like Zombie tried to have his cake and eat it too...put his own spin (however banal and obvious) on the Michael Myers backstory while ALSO remaking several of the characters and situations from the original. Zombie just should have gone all-in on just one approach, but he tried to hedge his bets and it ultimately blew up in his face with a fractured narrative and pacing.
I could go on and on about this, so I will just end with a list of things that I felt worked and things that did not...
- the photography and overall filmmaking were solid. I loved the use of different filters and shooting styles throughout...it is clear that Zombie literally had a "vision" for this film. In my opinion, even the controversial "shaky cam" was used in a way that enhanced the frenzy of the scenes where it was utilized. Throughout his filmography thus far, I have never once doubted Zombie's ability to put intriguing and frightening images on the screen.
- the production design was absolutely top notch. Again, from watching the four hour documentary on the blu ray, it is clear that Zombie had a "vision" and was able to translate it to the screen.
- there is a lot of debate about the way that the girls act and talk in the film but, as a teacher, I can say that this was actually pretty realistic and at least as effective as the character development of the main girls in the original. I thought all of the girls (yes, even Scout) did an excellent job in their roles, at least for a horror film.
- Whether or not showing more or less violence is ultimately more artistic can be debated, but I think that Zombie is one of the best of the contemporary "splat pack" filmmakers when it comes to showing violence. His violence is relatively realistic and brutal and really takes the vicarious thrill of the usual slasher film out of it, making it more hard-hitting and scary.
- Tyler Bates' score respected the original while adding some other effective dimensions to it. Easily the best Halloween score since Carpenter and Alan Howarth redid the theme for Halloween II in 1981.
- For the first time since Halloween II, Tyler Mane made Michael Myers someone more than just a guy in a mask walking around. He had PRESENCE onscreen and actually seemed terrifying.
- Zombie supposedly followed Carpenter's advice to "make it his own", but the backstory he created was obvious for a serial killer and nothing more than pop psychology. When it comes to an iconic character like Michael Myers, the standard definitions should not apply. There shouldn't be ANY easy definitions! If he really wanted to make Michael's backstory scary, he would have had a more subtle approach, with deeper layers to what was ultimately a very surface level character.
- Despite his strong visual flair, Zombie is definitely not a scribe of note. This is all too apparent in his "trademark style" of redneck and white trash characters. I often wonder if he populates his films with these types of people because it is easier to write a caricature than it is to write an actual character.
- Zombie clearly started the film with a focus on Michael but the second half of the film became a movie about Laurie, resulting in an incredibly unbalanced narrative. This is especially represented in the...
- TERRIBLE ending in the theatrical version. Michael smashing down the walls of his house for ten minutes was just a loud, unnecessary extended version of Laurie getting attacked in the closet from the original, but without one ounce of the power that Carpenter's scene had. The saying "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" comes to mind. I greatly preferred the original ending Zombie shot as it felt much more like a tragic completion to MICHAEL'S story. Michael lying dead on the ground as the camera zooms back overhead while the audio from a session with Dr. Loomis plays is actually a pretty poignant and much more powerful comment on how Loomis ultimately failed his patient.
In short, I think that, despite some good old "grind house" touches of yesteryear, Zombie succeeded at updating the film for a 21st century audience, but it is a shame that the typical 21st century audience he updated it for is one that tends to be satisfied with lowbrow, surface level entertainment that has genuine scares and atmosphere that are few and far between compared to the classically crafted original.
I could go on and on, but I will hope this promotes some more discussion.