Rob Zombie’s remake of John Carpenter’s Halloween is not only a prime example of a remake done right; it’s a prime example of how a remake can surpass the original.
Now before I go on to discuss why I much prefer Rob Zombie’s much maligned take on Carpenter’s beloved classic, I’d just like to clarify that I’m a huge John Carpenter fan. I like most of his films, including some of his more scorned efforts. In fact, I even defended ”Ghosts of Mars” here. So understand that this isn’t a criticism of one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of American cinema. This is merely my opinion and I hope you’re not upset if you’re part of the majority who are going to disagree with me.
Carpenter’s ”Halloween” was a revolutionary horror film that paved the way for the slasher boom that was to follow. It’s one of the most influential genre films of all time and nothing will ever change that, especially not my opinion. Rob Zombie’s version will never be held in high regard; even though it is a better movie.
The appeal of the original Michael Myers is his mystery. He’s The Boogeyman: an unstoppable, supernatural force of nature who could pop out at any time. He’s supposed to be an inhumane embodiment of pure evil. I respect that and I can see why people find it effective. Rob Zombie on the other hand, gave Michael a backstory of growing up in a broken home and being bullied in school. I’ll be the first to admit that Zombie’s backstory doesn’t tread any new ground. In fact, on paper it’s fairly generic. However, I’ve always loved Zombie’s depiction of Myer’s upbringing from a white trash background and feel it added meat to the bones of a story that was severely lacking in substance originally.
Personally, I’ve always been fascinated with backstories in horror films. I like to see the origins and motivations of my villains and Zombie’s ”reimagining” of Myers is one of the best. Furthermore, regardless of which version of Myers you prefer, did you want to see the exact same portrayal in both? Aren’t remakes better when they do something different? The original wanted us to fill in the blanks ourselves; the remake done it for us. It was the right approach to take in my opinion. Some movies are bogged down by needless exposition; but if it wasn’t for Zombie delving into the life and psyche of Michael Myers he’d have remained one of the dullest characters in horror lore.
Dullness is my main issue with the original version. Many fans I talk to praise it for being a prime example of Hitchcock’s pure cinema; this is where a story is told through visual composition, editing and the use of sound and images. It’s very minimalist, and it’s been used to great effect in a lot of movies. When done well, it can be awe inspiring. However, ”Halloween” failed to build suspense, tension and that sense of dread we need to evoke a fearful response. Fans of the film will counter my statement by saying it has all of these things, and who am I to argue? It certainly aims to accomplish them, but for me it came out feeling flat. For others, it’s the exact opposite.
Zombie’s also fails to capture the aforementioned characteristics. He uses brutal violence as a substitute for suspense and creating a foreboding sense of doom. Does this make it an effective horror film? I don’t think it does; horror needs more than blood and gore to be effective. However, I don’t for one second consider the remake to be an effective horror film. The violence is just one aspect that makes it entertaining; the original had absolutely nothing happening and it was tedious. Give me entertainment over boredom any day.
If your film isn’t going to scare us, at least make it engaging in other ways. Zombie has enough respect for the original and its fans to approach it from a new perspective; his fresh perspective just so happens to be an improvement on the original, where he takes it’s template and adds elements it was severely lacking – a story, interesting characters, entertainment and violence. Of course the original wouldn’t have needed any of these things if it was successful in other departments – like causing the fear it tried to create.
Rob Zombie’s ”Halloween” isn’t a masterpiece of cinema. It’s an interesting violent slasher with some layers the original lacked. In comparison to Carpenter’s, it is a masterpiece. The backstory is a white trash soap opera, but it’s handled in such a way you can see why it would turn Michael into a psychopathic killer. In summary: the remake is a fine piece of entertainment and the original is a tedious bore which fails to accomplish the effective horror it tries for.
Zombies sequel, however – now that is a masterpiece. But more on that some other time.
This is all just my opinion. The consensus is I’m in the minority, but I can’t change how I feel, folks. I state it with respect for the original as it inspired filmmakers and movies I love, but I don’t consider it to be a good movie. Feel free to berate me in the comments below or on Facebook. These are 2 movies that always create some fun conversations when compared.