Rob Zombie's're-imagining' of the original Halloween replaces the atmospheric suspense of John Carpenter's 1978 slasher classic with plodding gonzo horror that offers plenty of blood but not much of the rocker-turned-filmmaker's usual gory flair. Still, the combination of Zombie with one of the horror genre's best-known brands drew an unexpectedly big crowd for the film's domestic opening last weekend.
So even if the Zombie version dies quickly at the box office, Dimension Films and the Weinstein Company should easily turn a profit from this modestly budgeted (just $15m) ninth instalment of their hardy franchise. The new film's estimated $26.5m three-day North American take (with MGM distributing) was easily the biggest debut in the history of the franchise. And it suggests - as does the final moment of the film itself - that more instalments might be feasible, though Dimension chief Bob Weinstein has already downplayed the idea.
Independent distributors outside the US (Weinstein Co is handling international sales) might find it tough to achieve equally impressive performances. Zombie (whose previous films were 2003's House of 1,000 Corpses and 2005's The Devil's Rejects) is not as well known internationally and bad word of mouth from the States could further limit the new film's global potential.
Directing from his own screenplay (based on the original script by Carpenter and Debra Hill), Zombie delivers a tale that is half prequel to and half remake of the seventies movie.
In the 45-minute prequel segment the director puts his mark on the franchise by introducing the foul-mouthed Myers family: fledgling psycho Michael (Daeg Faerch); his two sisters, baby Laurie and her randy teen sibling; their put-upon mum (Sheri Moon Zombie, one of her husband's regular stars); and her good-for-nothing boyfriend (William Forsythe).
Ten-year-old Michael, it turns out, was picked on at home and school, started torturing small furry animals, graduated to knocking off school bullies and then, wearing a Zombie trademark clown mask, committed the multiple murders (claiming the lives of everyone at home but Mum and baby Laurie) that landed him in the sanatorium.
Locked up for 15 years, Michael turns into a giant and seriously psycho adult (played by former wrestler Taylor Mane). His only human contact is with Dr Loomis, played in this version by Malcolm McDowell. McDowell's is one of the film's several unconvincing performances, though all of the actors are hindered by the script's underdeveloped characterizations and clunky dialogue.
The prequel segment doesn't add much to the Myers myth but it helps raise the body count when grown up Michael kills several guards and escapes the sanatorium. Like most of the film's slayings, the hospital murders are plenty bloody but they lack the gleeful inventiveness that Zombie brought to his first two films. The hulking Michael either just stabs his victims or bashes them with or on the nearest hard object.
The remake portion of the film has Michael returning to his abandoned childhood home and going after Laurie, now a pretty but slightly nerdy teenager (Scout Taylor-Compton, from TV's Charmed, in the original Jamie Lee Curtis role) whose best friends are lippy Annie (Danielle Harris, from TV's That's Life) and sexy Lynda (Kristina Klebe). The horny girls and their boyfriends are, of course, high on Michael's hit list; and they give Zombie the opportunity to add some bare breasts to the original film's formula.
It's as a straight remake that the new film is weakest. Zombie shows little talent for the kind of build-up and release of tension that made the original film so effective. In place of ominous dark spaces and genuinely scary shocks, this version of Halloween climaxes with a blur of familiar teen-in-peril slasher action. Old tricks, in other words, and very few treats.
The Weinstein Company
Director of photography
Sheri Moon Zombie