In Defense of Rob Zombie’s ‘Halloween’ Movies

by on February 26th, 2011
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The two “Halloween” movies directed by Rob Zombie were eviscerated not just by critics but by fans as well. Some, like online film critic James Berardinelli of ReelViews, said they didn’t even feel like “Halloween” movies. Fans were vocal in how characters like Laurie Strode and Dr. Loomis were unforgivably degraded compared to how they were portrayed in John Carpenter’s original. Others simply said that Zombie’s take on Michael Meyers just wasn’t that scary.

Well I say phooey to all that! Zombie’s “Halloween” movies may not be as scary as the one which started off the neverending franchise, but for me that was pretty much a given. There’s no way you could recapture what Carpenter thrilled us with years ago. Zombie was aware that Meyers, like other horror icons such as Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, had pretty much worn out their usefulness. His respect for Carpenter’s slasher opus was strong, and after making a true grindhouse classic with “The Devil’s Rejects,” I knew he would take the story and characters and make them his own.

What makes Zombie’s “Halloween” stand out from what came before it is that he looks at the backstory of Michael Meyers. Now granted this threatens to take away from what made him so scary in the first place. Carpenter’s original was an unrelentingly visceral experience mainly because we weren’t sure what to make of “The Shape” as he became less than human throughout.

But here we get a strong idea of how young Michael went bad as he dealt with an uncaring sister, a busy mother, and an abusive lout of a stepfather. Seeing all he had to deal with made it understandable (but not forgivable) as to why he went psycho in the first place.

Now whereas Zombie’s “Halloween” was about Michael, his “Halloween II” was all about Laurie Strode, Dr. Loomis, and how the horrific events they went through forever destroyed them. It’s here we come to realize what Zombie has accomplished with these movies: They are character studies instead of the average slasher movie we’ve come to expect. This is made even clearer on the director’s cut available on DVD and Blu-ray, which proves to be infinitely superior to the theatrical version.

Fans hated how Laurie Strode and Dr. Loomis were so different from how they were portrayed in the original, but they forgot that Zombie’s films were a meant to be a reimagining of the franchise and not business as usual. Strode’s extreme emotional reactions may make her unlikable, but they soon become understandable as no one involved in what she went through can ever walk away from it unscathed. Both Scout-Taylor Compton and Malcolm McDowell deserve credit for not being constrained by what Jaime Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence created before them; they inhabit their characters more than they act them.

In a time of remakes that are as endless as they are unnecessary, you have to give Zombie points for taking this long-running franchise in a different direction. It may not have been what diehard fans wanted, but whereas most remakes repeat the formulas of movies they originated from with negative success, there is something to be said for a filmmaker to go against expectations. It says a lot in a time when originality in cinema is largely frowned upon.

See also:

Rob Zombie’s “Halloween”

“Halloween II” – Rob Does Indeed Complete His Vision

John Carpenter’s “Halloween”

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