2-Disc Unrated Special Edition
Directed by Rob Zombie
Starring Tyler Mane, Malcolm McDowell, Sheri Moon Zombie
Genius Products/The Weinstein Company
Available Dec. 18, 2007
“Go for it. Make it your movie.”
According to director Rob Zombie (The Devil’s Rejects) during a special feature titled “Re-Imagining Halloween,” that is what John Carpenter said when he respectfully contacted him to tell him he was directing a remake of his 1978 classic. Zombie goes on to say that when he decided to remake — sorry re-imagine — Halloween he wanted avoid making a shot-by-shot remake since that movie already exists (agreed). So without any creative input from Carpenter, that is precisely what he did.
This movie is something of an anomaly. It is a remake of an arguable classic, the granddaddy of all slasher movies, the movie to which every A, B, C, and Z-grade horror movie owes its existence. It is also a Rob Zombie movie. What a testament to his directorial abilities that after only two films, the expectation for that label is already this high. There were enough built-in reasons that this movie’s theatrical release had no business being as successful as it was. More surprising, the success wasn’t a result of Zombie fans flooding theaters and inflating the box office, it was actually a really good movie.
In his attempt to make this movie his own, Zombie did more than just update actors and wardrobe, he rocked the original right to its core and restructured the whole story from the ground up. The first half of this movie is the new material and most glaring change to the story. We start in a world previously unearthed in the Halloween universe. Much goes into explaining young Myers’ backstory before the original batch of Halloween night killings.
We see Michael (Daeg Faerch) as a child living a less than rosy childhood, to say the least. We see him and how he interacts with his mother Deborah, (Sheri Moon Zombie, flexing some unforeseen range), her drunken sorry excuse for a boyfriend, Ronnie (William Forsythe), and his iconic sister Judith (Hanna Hall). The movie opens with Michael getting ready for school by doing what you would expect a young psychopath to be doing — killing his pet hamster. We see him at school being bullied. We see him getting hauled into the principal’s office for fighting. And then we see the first glimpse of the destruction to come as he leaves school, waits in the bushes for the very kid that threatened him, and then beats him to death in cold blood. That scene in particular sets the scene for the evil that is being unleashed on the world. Even the way Zombie chose to shoot the scene — many shots from behind the bushes and in the grass almost as if a passerby was observing and rightfully hiding from this monster of a child — gives us a sense of what is in store.
From this point, there is no turning back. Michael waits for his mother to go to work Halloween night then unleashes his evil on his family and the world around him. Seeing a young Michael Myers methodically plot and execute his killings is quite unsettling. It’s hard to say Faerch’s portrayal of Myers is brilliant because of what he’s doing by way of his performance, but it is effective and downright haunting. Zombie walked a fine line in going back and explaining why everything happened. But after watching the picture in its entirety, you realize it’s less to do with gaining sympathy than it is simply telling the story from a different angle.
After a series of quieter moments watching Myers and Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) work through a myriad of interviews, Michael slowly slips into the confines of his own mind. He ceases communication with anyone and after 15 years of not speaking, Loomis finally moves on. Shortly thereafter Michael breaks free and returns to Haddonfield where the movie shifts into more of a remake mode and tells the story from the original 1978 film. The second half of the film holds truer to the original story and while the shift is minor, it works well in conjunction with the movie as a whole.
The DVD release offers two versions to choose from: a Two-Disc Special Edition and an Unrated Director’s Cut (Two-Disc Special Edition). Having seen the theatrical release, I was curious what else Zombie would have included in a world without boundaries. The short answer? Not much. At first, I was a little put off by this as part of the fun of watching a Rob Zombie movie is seeing what he wasn’t allowed to release in theatres. From what I could tell, the biggest storytelling difference was the scene leading to Michael’s escape from the asylum. In the theatrical release, it was after Loomis announced he would no longer be treating him and as he was being transported to another facility. In the director’s cut, the scene is changed as the orderlies take a female patient into Myers’ room, brutally rape her and Myers’ escapes only after one of the men touch one of his many masks and he beats them all to death. I can’t decide which version I like best. The one from both originals that goes a long way in explaining why Myers escaped after losing another parental figure in Loomis and his home of the last 15 years, or this newest version that offers little explanation other than a random act that could have been avoided with minor changes. Both have a different immediate impact but at the end of the day, the result would have been the same. It is an interesting side note to a conversation whose meaning doesn’t have much impact on the overall story.
The second disc of Special Features (identical in both versions) offers a variety of goodies that are remarkably, not that entertaining:
Alternate Ending – a grossly inferior ending to the theatrical (and unrated edition) release. Partially because it was simply inferior and partly to do with the fact that I absolutely loved the ending to this movie the way it was released. To elaborate further would ruin the experience for those who haven’t seen it, but let’s just say I thoroughly enjoyed the resolution that the movie came to.
Deleted Scenes (w/ optional commentary) – the deleted scenes left little to the imagination of those wondering why the scenes were deleted. Merely additions or lengthened scenes from the released version of the movie.
Bloopers – Otherwise known as Malcolm McDowell’s cursing and fart joke reel. One word: lame.
The Many Masks of Michael Myers – a watchable interesting piece that discusses the masks young Michael wears and the process that went into creating the new version the iconic Halloween mask.
Re-Imagining Halloween – a three-part featurette that discusses bringing the movie to the screen, casting the actors, and effects and wardrobe. Full of interviews with Zombie and the rest of the cast and crew. The best special feature on the disc.
Meet the Cast – screen tests from most of the actors. Daeg Faerch is even creepy in his screen test.
Laurie Strode Screen Test – why she has her own section from the rest of the cast is beyond me.
Theatrical Trailer – that we all saw a hundred times before the movie came out.
As much as it pains some people to say it, Rob Zombie made a hell of a film. His directing style compliments his vision, which is very obviously from the mind of someone who cut their creative teeth on vintage movies from all decades of horror’s past. This visual style was even evident in his music career with White Zombie, and later as a solo artist, so why it has come as such a shock to people that he has the ability to make a great horror movie is beyond me. Halloween is a respectfully skillful interpretation of classic material with some really cool twists on a few of the landmark scenes from the original. I said in my original theatrical review that it is as audacious in its concept as it is arrogant in its confidence and I admire the chances he took, and his presumption to think he could pull it off.
As much as the original Halloween was about Laurie Strode, this version is all Michael Myers. This is a purist’s horror movie that is not interested in elaborate kill scenes, but rather relies intently on its focus of a character who happens to commit fiercely violent acts. And they are as bloody as they are intense. Some people have, and will continue to complain that the movie applies too many liberties and strays too far from the original source material. To quote Zombie again, “For good or for bad, it’s a totally different experience.” As much as I couldn’t agree more, I am most thrilled it wasn’t the latter.
And there’s the rub.
Halloween – The Unrated Director’s Cut: *** ½ out of ****
DVD Special Features: ** out of ****