Keep It Simple Stupid
Rob Zombie’s Halloween evokes but one phrase – “Did you have to?”
Repeatedly, I asked this question of Rob Zombie as I watched a remake that just did not need to be made. The original is both a classic slasher film and example of the ingenuity that comes with low-budget independence.
Whereas Carpenter ‘s original felt bare-bones and driven by suspenseful builds to shocking bursts of action, Zombie’s Halloween wastes no time getting right to the violence. Acts of brutality are only interspersed with vulgar obscenities, that sound like children just learning to swear, and gratuitous innuendo and nudity.
Zombie had too much money and too little talent to create anything more than gore, and he doesn’t even do that well. While not completely insufferable, this film might have been forced to think more creatively about its construct if it did not feel like most of Rob Zombies whims where answered with a blank check. Zombie’s soundtrack probably cost more in clearance rights than the budget of the original Halloween and one only has to look at the songs he chooses to evoke feeling or responses from the audience to see where his priorities lie. They are not in creating something new, but in taking something somone else created and reusing it to meet his own desires.
There is one new aspect to the Halloeen franchise that Zombie offers up. Zombie spends the first third of the film attempting to explain the psychology behind Michael Meyers. Sadly, this is just the first in a series of horrible decisions that Zombie can never complete. Our killer’s childhood is depicted as an abusive, trashy dead-end, preparing him for a life of misery or murder. That or he’s the devil incarnate. Zombie can’t seem to decide.
Even the simple act of build suspense seems outside of Zombie’s abilities. I recall very little killing in the first Halloween. Yes, many people died, but their deaths were quick. What I do recall is a far greater sense of dread that is absent from Zombie’s remake. There are few false scares, maybe none. Instead, what you will find in Zombie’s version is a high level of trashiness, especially in the beginning of the film. It’s so over the top it seems farcical. For instance, Michael’s mom is a stripper. I get it, you established that with an advertisement in a newspaper. Did you really have to show her dancing in the club? Especially while you intercut between her and a young, dejected Michael Meyers sitting on the curb with “Love Hurts” playing over the soundtrack? Seriously, did you have to?”
As the picture progresses from Michael Meyer’s past to the present, the story takes on a more familiar structure. Hell, with a few rather wrongheaded exceptions the latter part of the re-make plays just like the original. There are some heavy nods to the original source, but most of the time I felt as if Rob Zombie was simply uglify a corspe. He took someone else’s ingenuity and added his own vile finger prints.
This is the problem of so many re-makes. They merely ratch up the sex, violence, and action to make an old story ‘more palpatable’ to our modern eyes. How did it come to this? When was it determined that we crave an excess of action and vulgarity to feel up to date? Did Rob Zombie have to make his Halloween with these excesses to meet our demands. Did he have to?