First published on 1 Apr 2008. Updated on 5 Apr 2008.
After seven sequels, John Carpenter’s seminal 1978 slasher flick gets a straight-ish remake courtesy of Rob Zombie, the former frontman of White Zombie (themselves named after a horror film, the 1932 classic spookfest starring the first Hollywood Dracula, Bela Lugosi).
Rather than the knowing, high-gloss mode favoured by some revamps of vintage titles, Zombie takes things seriously, with nasty results. The brief prologue of Carpenter’s original – in which the juvenile Michael Myers slaughters his family – is expanded to a half-hour anatomy of budding psychopathy, set around the time of the original and presented with surprising realism.
The story proper, in which Myers (Tyler Mane) escapes from the mental institution to which he was committed aged ten and returns home to Haddonfield slaughter a bunch of kids on Halloween, is played similarly straight.
Numerous elements from Carpenter’s film are resurrected – the mask, score, suburban locale, certain shots and slayings – but that film’s suspense and playfulness give way to relentless dread and unusually credible, black-blooded brutality.
It’s inanely-scripted exploitation, sure, but this Halloween doesn’t trivialise; it even returns with sympathy to one victim minutes after the attack that has left her bleeding on the floor. No wonder B-grade king Malcolm McDowell signed up as star.