31 Days Of Horror: Rob Zombie’s Halloween

Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007) is another film I’ve never seen, although I’ve been meaning to at some point for the whole eleven years since it came out.  I’ve always been a little apprehensive about it, because I hate remakes (and 21st century horror films have pretty much ALL been remakes, which is another reason to hate this century), but this one has always been described by its creators as a ‘reimagining’ of the story, so I’ve finally bought the DVD and am giving it a go.

Apparently this is the ‘Uncut’ version – I’ve no idea how it differs from the theatrical release.

Rob Zombie's Halloween
This one’s all about Michael.

There’s a caption at the start of the film with a quotation from Dr Loomis.  It’s not a line of dialogue from previous films, and it doesn’t appear in this one, so I’ve no idea what that’s about.

We open on a kid in a mask picking up a rat.  This is Michael Myers, and we’re about to get a whole half film of backstory about his childhood.  His family are absolutely godawful, with his mother Deborah (played by Rob Zombie’s wife, Sheri Moon Zombie) and stepfather Ronnie constantly screaming and swearing at each other, and the stepfather perving on oldest child Judith.  I’m not sure what year this is meant to be, but I don’t think it’s the original 1963 setting – the fashions are all wrong.  It looks more ’70s to me.

Michael turns out to be killing his ‘pet’ rats.  At school, he runs into some bullies in the toilets, who mock him for his sister and mother being whores and show him a ‘Rabbit in Red’ flyer for the strip night where his mother works – this is a nice callback to Nurse Whittington’s ‘Rabbit in Red’ matches in the original film.

The school headmaster, who has found evidence that Michael is killing cats and dogs, calls in Dr Loomis, now played by Malcolm McDowell.  Is it standard for a school to have the power to call in a psychiatrist?  It’s a bit late for the bully with the flyer, though, ’cause Michael beats him to death after school.

Judith is asked to take Michael trick-or-treating by her mother, but once Deborah’s gone out to work, Judith tells Michael to go by himself and stays home to have sex with her boyfriend Steve instead.

Juxtaposed against unnecessary scenes of Deborah stripping at the club, Michael kills Ronnie first, then Steve (again by beating him to death, which is super grim and not very Halloween).  In her room, Judith’s listening to Don’t Fear The Reaper, so it’s definitely not 1963!  Michael puts on the Shatner mask (again placing this in the ’70s) that Steve brought over, and then kills Judith.  He goes downstairs, but chooses not to kill his baby sister Angel.  When his mother gets home from work, she discovers Michael holding Angel outside the house.

At Smith’s Grove Sanatorium eleven months later, Michael is still talking like a normal boy in his sessions with Loomis, but Loomis thinks it’s a facade.  Though Deborah visits him every week, Michael’s condition is shown to deteriorate over the course of the next two years (we get a quick scene with a sanatorium worker dragging a Christmas tree through the grounds to the tune of Deck The Halls in order to show the passing of time, which feels totally out of place in a Halloween film!), with him constantly making primitive masks and speaking less and less.  Eventually, at the end of one of Deborah’s visits one day, she and Loomis go outside the room to talk about the situation, and Michael takes the opportunity to attack the nurse who’s supposed to be watching him.  Why is a sanatorium patient allowed real metal cutlery, incidentally?  These days, you’re not even allowed that in airport restaurants.

Devastated by Michael’s psychosis, Deborah shoots herself dead while watching family videos.  The videos are all colour cine-camera ones, again placing this part of the film in the late ’70s.

Fifteen years later, the older Michael has become a bit of a lumbering monster and has been mute since the nurse attack.  ‘Fifteen years…that’s nearly twice as long as my first marriage,’ says Dr Loomis to Michael.  ‘In a way you’ve become like my best friend, which shows you how f***ed up my life is.’  Loomis tells Michael that he’s leaving the sanatorium.  It turns out he’s moving on…to write a cash-in book about the case!  It’s called The Devil’s Eyes.  At his book reading, his doommongering about Michael’s black eyes is nice and Pleasence-esque, which I did appreciate.

Some super gross sanatorium workers have come into the sanatorium at night in order to rape a young female patient in Michael’s room, so Michael kills them.  I’m kind of on his side on this one.  However, he then kills a worker who’s always been nice to him, so yup, he’s confirmed evil.  When the bodies are discovered, the Smith’s Grove director calls Loomis out of retirement.

After Michael kills a trucker in a toilet stall (there doesn’t really seem to be much point to this scene at the time, but I guess it’s where he gets his overalls from in this film), we get the familiar opening bars of Mr Sandman as the action moves to Haddonfield.  If we’re going with late ’70s as the setting of the first part of the film, this part, seventeen years after Michael’s first murders, must be the early ’90s – and by and large, that works, although the female teenagers’ hair and fashions do scream 2007.

Laurie Strode is absolutely nothing like her portrayal in the original film.  She comes across as a total idiot teenager, making sex jokes in front of her mother and trying to scare Tommy Doyle rather than reassuring him about the boogeyman.  From this point on, the film loosely follows the plot of the original, although if you know Halloween as well as I do, it’s a bit of a strange watch.

When Laurie drops off the key at the Myers house, Michael is shown to be inside like in the original, although this time there’s a reason for it – apparently he left a knife and Steve’s Shatner mask in a hidden place, and has come back for them.  We then get a combination of two scenes from the original – some of the dialogue from the ‘walking home’ scene with Laurie, Annie and Lynda is combined with Laurie seeing Michael out of a classroom window, as the three characters are sitting in a classroom instead of walking home at this point.  (Annie, in this version, is played by Danielle Harris, who played Jamie Lloyd in Halloween 4 and Halloween 5.)

We get some more repeated dialogue when Loomis leaves Smith’s Grove, blaming the director of the facility.  It’s kind of odd and annoying because characters will start saying familiar lines, and then the words will be very slightly different.

We then get to the new version of the ‘walking home’ scene.  I genuinely can’t stand these versions of Laurie, Annie and Lynda – they’re just the most awful people and I would have utterly hated them if they’d been at my high school.  Annie’s dad, Sheriff Brackett, shows up and gives Annie a lift, thankfully cutting the scene short.

When Loomis is in the graveyard with the graveyard worker, he asks to borrow the guy’s mobile phone (‘Don’t have one.  They give you brain cancer’), which still just about works with a ’90s setting.

Lynda and her boyfriend Bob have gone to the rundown Myers house to have the sex scene that they had in the Wallace house in the original film.  This is very disorienting.  Why have they gone to the Myers house?  Was there really nowhere else in town that was suitable?  Also, how come all the boyfriend characters in this film have long hair?

We get another snatch of Don’t Fear The Reaper, with Lynda listening to it while Bob goes to get her a beer.  In this version, Bob puts the ghost sheet on with his glasses over the top BEFORE Michael grabs him.  Bob and Lynda get killed exactly the way they did in the original film, but in different locations.  We then see Michael taking Lynda’s body away to place it in an appropriate place for a find-the-body sequence later on.

Cut to Loomis in a gun shop buying a gun.  There’s really not much point to this scene.

Laurie is shown to have a very affectionate relationship with her adopted parents, who weren’t really featured in the original film other than a very quick scene with her dad.  Unfortunately, as soon as Laurie drives off with Annie to go babysitting, Michael drops by and brutally murders the parents.

At the Doyle house, Laurie is still mocking Tommy about his belief in the boogeyman.  ‘Not appropriate babysitter behaviour, Laurie,’ says Tommy, and I have to agree.

Annie decides to take Lindsey over to the Doyle house pretty much immediately in this version of the film, ’cause she’s impatient to have her boyfriend Paul come round.  In the scene with Lindsey watching horror films on TV, we see that Michael is already in the Wallace house, biding his time for some reason.

The ‘Annie trying to set Laurie up with Ben Tramer’ thing is really lame and awkward in this version.  In the original, it was a nice sweet aspect of Laurie’s character – she liked Ben, but she was too shy to go out with him.  In this version, it just comes across like Laurie’s desperate and would go out with anyone.

Sheriff Brackett takes a lot more convincing than he did in the original film, largely because he’s read Loomis’ cash-in book and thinks Loomis is just trying to get more sales by building the myth of Michael as some kind of monster.  Even though I still think the book is out of character for Loomis, I quite like this plot point!  Once Brackett is convinced, he explains to Loomis that after Deborah Myers’ suicide, he hid baby Angel from the records and had her put up for adoption, following which she was adopted by the Strodes and named Laurie.

Annie’s boyfriend Paul – who was just an offscreen character in the original, voiced by John Carpenter when on the phone with Annie and Lindsey – actually shows up onscreen and gets killed in this one.  Before that, he and Annie get some dialogue about not ripping Annie’s blouse that was originally given to Lynda and Bob in the 1978 film.  After killing Paul, Michael turns on Annie.

In this version, Laurie decides to take Lindsey back home rather than waiting for Annie to call her, and so Lindsey is with Laurie when she discovers the half-dead Annie and the fully-dead Paul in the Wallace house.  Laurie sends Lindsey back to the Doyle house and hysterically calls 911.  I guess this version of Michael isn’t as good at remembering to take the phone lines out.

Michael reappears, and Laurie escapes the house by smashing the patio door window like in the original.  She then runs out of the house, limping like she did in the original – but as she’s not actually fallen down a staircase in this version, there’s no reason for her to limp!

In the Doyle house, the police show up early but are pretty ineffectual against Michael.  Michael ignores Tommy and Lindsey and drags Laurie out of the house, carrying her unconscious body in the same way he carried Annie’s dead body in the original.  A lot of the imagery is the same, but because it’s got different story contexts, it feels jarring to a longtime fan of the series.

Sheriff Brackett finds a still-alive Annie in the Wallace house.  Meanwhile, Laurie wakes up in the Myers house, by Judith Myers’ tombstone, with Lynda’s body nearby.  This ending sequence is so dark I can’t see much of what’s going on, but there’s a lot of standard chasing and screaming.

Dr Loomis temporarily rescues Laurie by shooting Michael, but only three times, not six/seven like in the original!  Michael doesn’t stay dead, and seemingly kills Loomis.  I say ‘seemingly’ because fans of the series will know that Loomis is almost as unkillable as his former patient.

Laurie hides in the Myers house, and Michael drags Loomis inside for some reason.  Loomis is still alive but fading in and out of consciousness.  He grabs the leg of Michael as he goes past, but Michael’s got one job – he goes after Laurie.

After more chasing and screaming – I’m sure it’s supposed to be tense but I really don’t care about this version of Laurie Strode – Michael pulls Laurie over the balcony before she can shoot him with Loomis’ gun.  She wakes up in the garden, on top of the unconscious Michael, and tries to shoot him point-blank in the head.  One, two, three shots fail, because the barrel slots are empty.  Was this the point of the gun scene earlier, so that we know how many bullets are supposed to be in the barrel?  Anyway, the fourth one has a bullet in it, the gun fires into Michael’s head, Laurie starts screaming and screaming, and the credits roll, with another reprise of Mr Sandman over them.

Things that are not clear at the end of this film:

  1. Is Annie alive?  She was last time we saw her, which is kind of irritating, because she was killed outright in the original film and there’s no reason for Michael not to have finished the job other than the fact she’s played by a series stalwart here.
  2. Is Loomis alive?  He’d just slipped into unconsciousness again last time we saw him.
  3. Has Laurie gone mad?  That ending was very Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with all the screaming.

Thankfully, tomorrow we’ll be watching Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, so hopefully we’ll get some answers to these questions!

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