The pre-Boxing Day lull has meant that I had to scrape the bottom of the barrel when it came to seeing something today. Halloween has been out for a few weeks now, and as much as I am a fan of Rob Zombie’s music and film work, I just couldn’t get too excited about this one. Now that Hollywood has stumbled upon the ‘brilliant’ idea of rebooting its franchises, we’re being subjected to all manner of ‘year zero’ films. If they succeed (Batman Begins) they provide a fresh take on a well-known story or character; at their worst, they’re simply an excuse for a studio to start producing sequels once more. To tackle Halloween – one of the most influential modern horror films ever made – was an onerous task to say the least.

HalloweenI had hoped, however, that Zombie would have an interesting take on it. Like When A Stranger Calls, this remake draws out the opening scene from the original (though not to quite the same extent). The famous tracking shot from John Carpenter’s 1978 film is now a collection of scenes detailing Michael Myers’ home life – it’s handled well enough, though nowhere near as effective. Admittedly, seeing 10 year old Michael commit his first murder is truly chilling. Once he goes to prison, Rob Zombie’s script again adds some colour to the story, but never really goes anywhere.

The main flaw is the entire second half. This is where the film most resembles the original (even the damn house looks the same!), with only slight deviations here and there. It’s frustratingly banal and not in the least bit frightening.

Malcolm McDowell steps in for Donald Pleasance as Dr. Loomis, and his early scenes with young Michael are probably the best in the film. Daeg Faerch plays young Michael with chilling composure and is perhaps all this film has to offer over the original. There’s a bunch of cameos including Udo Kier, and many recognisable faces from Zombie’s other films (Sheri Moon Zombie, Sid Haig) and a couple of interesting bit-players (Danny Trejo, Brad Dourif), though none really add that much to the film.

Zombie’s cinematic style is certainly still a highpoint of his films. The cinematography is raw and eerily reminiscent of 70s horrors such as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Last House on the Left. His musical choices are similarly effective, though the irregular inclusion of the original theme music seems incongruous amongst all the 70s-influenced rock.

Rob Zombie needs to get his hands on a truly fantastic script, otherwise he’ll never achieve more than curio or cult status as a director. He’s a skilled filmmaker and knows the horror genre backwards, but this Halloween simply doesn’t cut it.

Rating: 2.0 stars
Review by Stuart Wilson, 20th December 2007
Hoopla Factor: 1.5 stars

Atonement National Treasure: Book of Secrets