Rob Zombie took the shadowy, suspenseful, giallo-inspired “Halloween” and filtered it through the lens of early 70s horror and exploitation.
John Carpenter’s 1978 classic, Halloween, is among one of the first horror movies I ever saw. I have fervently followed the Halloween series from the first movie up to the most recent Halloween Kills (2021). So, when I heard that Rob Zombie was reimagining it, I was fascinated. I had seen House of 1,000 Corpses (2003), which I love for its macabre carnival atmosphere. However, I also loved its much darker sequel, The Devil’s Rejects (2005).
Naturally, I was curious to see what Zombie would do with this iconic property, and it became one of the most polarizing horror remakes of all time when it was released on August 31, 2007.
It’s certainly true that, with their 70s exploitation and grindhouse vibe, Zombie’s films are an acquired taste. And he’s definitely not for everyone. There are, of course, plenty of of people who will passionately argue that Zombie ruined Halloween with his unique take. But I’m personally not one of them.
Normally, fans of franchises consider remakes blasphemous. However, I’ll give a remake a chance.
Many classics I loved as a child have been remade, including Carrie, Fright Night, and A Nightmare on Elm Street. While some remakes seem to really miss the mark, leaving viewers cold in the shadow of their much better predecessors, other remakes have surprised horror fans and found a way to stand on their own.
When I first saw Zombie’s remake, I have to admit my mind was blown. Zombie dared to take off Michael Myers’ mask and look into his disturbing origin story. He gave horror fans a true reimagining of the original.
I often think about what I might do if given the chance to reimagine a horror property I love. And I have to admit, if I was able to reimagine Halloween, I think I would have taken a similar approach to Zombie.
Now, before the Zombie haters get too upset, allow me to make a case for the film without taking anything away from the sheer brilliance of Carpenter’s original vision.
Zombie’s film does follow the original story. A young boy named Michael Myers commits murder on Halloween night. In the original, it’s just his sister, Judith. In Zombie’s remake, it’s Judith, her boyfriend, Steve, and Michael’s mother’s boyfriend, Ronnie, who are killed. Also, just as in the original, Michael wears a clown costume as he commits the murders.
Zombie deviates from the original because he shows us what the Myers family was like and the events leading up to the night of the murders. He took a a big chance, a gutsy one, and dared to make the iconic slasher Michael Myers an abused child. In so doing, he made the Boogeyman real.
In the brief glimpse we get of Myers’ childhood in Carpenter’s Halloween, Mr. and Mrs. Myers look like typical middle-class midwest suburbanites. Judith’s behavior is that of a typical teenager who invites her boyfriend over while her parents are out. Eventually, they head up to her bedroom for some fun. After Judith’s boyfriend leaves, Michael kills her.
Ever since I first saw the original Halloween, the beginning always got my budding writer’s mind thinking.
When Michael’s parents come home and find him outside of the house, knife in hand and still in his clown costume, I always wonder how it all happened. What led up to that moment? Who were Mr. and Mrs. Myers? Who was Judith?
I’ve always had an interest in true crime. Zombie’s interest in true crime came through in Captain Spaulding’s Murder Ride in the House of 1,000 Corpses. He referenced not-often mentioned true crime cases such as Ed Gein and Albert Fish.
When I saw Zombie’s version of Halloween, I saw his interest in true crime at work in constructing Michael’s background.
Michael Myers was fleshed out by Zombie into a textbook serial killer, complete with an abusive, toxic home life, bullying at school, and, sadly, animal killing.
He made the Myers family a dysfunctional mess. Michael suffers abuse at home and at school. He is bombarded with demeaning comments from Ronnie and Judith. He goes to school, where he’s approached by the bullies in the bathroom, who make disparaging comments about his sister and mother.
This leads to Michael following the bully after school and beating him to death with a tree branch. On Halloween night, Michael erupts in a psychotic rage and kills not only his sister, Judith, but also Steve and Ronnie.
We also can’t forget, Zombie included animal abuse and mutilation as part of Michael’s background. He kills his pet rat, Elvis, in the bathroom in the beginning. He carries a dead cat in a plastic bag in his backpack, as well as a series of photos of mutilated animals.
What makes Carpenter’s Michael Myers so creepy is that he’s subtle. Carpenter’s Michael is a nondescript Shape, a man of average size with a featureless humanoid mask. He’s more like an android. When he pursues victims, he doesn’t run. As they scream and fight for their lives, he’s emotionless.
As an adult, Zombie’s Michael is played by professional wrestler Tyler Mane, and he is massive and physically intimidating. He erupts with pent-up fury and bashes people to death. He’s more like an out-of-control semi at certain points, such as when he kills his friend, Ismael, the orderly at Smith Grove (Danny Trejo), and truck driver Joe Grizzly (Ken Foree) in the bathroom stall.
To me, this Michael is part Leatherface and part Jason.
Zombie’s writing hits viewers between the eyes.
As with all of Zombie’s work, everything is pushed out of bounds and amped up times 1,000 — violence, gore, sex.
A common criticism is that Zombie’s version of the Myers family was too trashy, which is understandable but very much in line with Zombie’s aesthetic and writing style.
Zombie made Michael’s mother, Deborah (Sheri Moon Zombie), a stripper with a boyfriend who lecherously eyes her daughter, Judith. At the kitchen table, Ronnie makes very inappropriate comments about a certain part of Judith’s anatomy. Judith is just as abusive towards Michael as Ronnie. On top of all of this, there’s the neglected and screaming baby.
Breakfast at the Myers’ house is hard to take because of the verbal barbs, screaming, and yelling between the characters.I’ve seen criticisms of Zombie’s characters as unrealistic and cartoonish. Unfortunately, we need to remember that not everyone lives in a world where a family’s biggest dilemma is the kids not doing their chores or deciding on where to take a family vacation. Some families live in toxic environments where physical and verbal abuse are the norm.
Zombie creates characters who have a way with memorable words. He does insert raunchy humor in odd places, such as in a conversation between Laurie and her mother. Who would joke about pervy neighbors while dancing around with bagels over their breasts in front of their mother? During the breakfast scene, Judith mimes a sex act at the breakfast table to taunt her brother.
While some may be offended by Zombie’s trashy characters, their grittiness lends some reality to them.
Zombie’s Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) has a cynical realness about him.
Of course, Donald Pleasance was iconic as Loomis in the original, playing the character as somewhat insane himself and driven by obsession. However, McDowell’s Loomis is a bit more believable, and I liked his laid-back hippie vibe.
At first, there’s a sense that he’s not entirely out for himself and that he’s really trying to understand Michael Myers. However, he eventually resorts to exploiting Michael in the end, publishing a book for financial gain and recognition.
I also liked the banter between the characters. Zombie inserted some everyday normality between extreme brutality. This is what makes the killings more shocking. We go from Laurie talking with her parents about everyday stuff while handing out Halloween candy. Annie pulls up to pick her up. She leaves, and her parents go inside. Shortly after, Michael walks in and brutally murders them both.
Zombie’s introduction of the Strode family as an average suburban family with very average concerns is much more shocking. But, this is reality.
Also, Michael’s pursuit of Laurie is epic — action-packed and no holds barred. Michael pursues her everywhere in their old house. He bashes holes into crawl spaces, eventually crashing through the old wooden balcony on the second floor. It all ends with Laurie holding Loomis’ gun to Michael’s head as he lays unconscious beneath her.
Zombie’s best casting decision, in my opinion, was Danielle Harris as Laurie Strode’s friend, Annie Brackett.
In the original series, Harris played Michael Myers’ niece, Jamie Lloyd.
Scout Taylor Compton steps into Jamie Lee Curtis’s shoes as the iconic final girl and Michael’s biological sister, Laurie Strode. Kristina Klebe fills PJ Soles’ shoes as “Totally Girl” Lynda. They bring a unique and updated twist to the trio of teen girls we meet in the original.
Their banter and interaction feel genuine and are as raunchy as the more adult dialogue. However, if I remember correctly, this is how kids talk when adults aren’t around.
The cast also includes Brad Dourif and Malcolm McDowell, who have both played iconic characters in the horror and sci-fi genres.
Dourif has provided the voice and personality of slasher icon Chucky. McDowell played Alex in the dystopian thriller A Clockwork Orange (1971). Bill Moseley (Chop-Top in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2), Sid Haig, Sheri Moon Zombie, Leslie Easterbrook, and Danny Trejo from the Firefly trilogy also have roles in the film.
When it comes to Zombie’s wife, Sheri Moon, many tend to be critical of her acting skills and Zombie’s desire to cast her in all his films.
While she may not be perfect for every role, most agree she’s quite convincing as the psychotic Baby Firefly in his Firefly Trilogy.
I would argue Sheri Moon is equally convincing here as the doomed and tragically sympathetic Deborah Myers.
From the chaotic breakfast scene to her visits with Michael in the hospital, Sheri Moon effectively portrays a woman in a bad situation who is trying to do the best she can.
She has an abusive boyfriend and a disrespectful teen daughter to deal with. On top of that, she has a newborn daughter and a young son who is slipping away from her down the darkest path imaginable.
After Michael is incarcerated at Smith Grove, she clearly tries to hold on to a son who has committed a horrific act. Once she witnesses his violence firsthand, she’s driven to the ultimate act of despair.
Zombie’s movies are all very 70s — complete with the sexploitation/grindhouse vibe. He ripped off Michael’s mask and presented him as a fleshed-out character.
Zombie remade HALLOWEEN in an image projected from his lens. His fascination with serial killers, sexploitation, and 70s horror films, which come across in his original films, also colors his vision of HALLOWEEN.
While I appreciated Zombie’s Halloween, I’m not saying that I prefer it to the original. However, there’s really no comparison between the two films.
Zombie gave us a completely different interpretation, and isn’t that the point of a remake or reimagining?
Carpenter gave us the shadowy, mysterious Shape, the Boogeyman lurking in the shadows, an unpredictable knife-wielding psychopath. He will come into your home, pop out of the shadows, kill you, and leave your remains displayed like a Halloween decoration. I love that Michael.
Zombie gave us an angry child, a ticking time bomb who becomes a serial killer. And, I’m sorry, but I love that Michael, too.
Perhaps Zombie’s Michael is too real. We can get a chill from the Shape that is easily shaken off because, after all, he’s just the Boogeyman, and the Boogeyman isn’t supposed to be real. Zombie’s story presents Michael Myers as a real-life serial killer, and that seems to be what made the film so distasteful to fans of the original.
While I understand and appreciate why Zombie’s Halloween isn’t for everyone, I think it deserves its place in horror history.