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Halloween (2007)
Rated R

Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Sheri Moon-Zombie, and Tyler Mane

Rating:
***
out of
*****

The Halloween movie series has had more twists and turns than any casual fan would (or could) care to remember.

First, there was the original 1978 Halloween, a now-canonical slasher film, which was directed (and co-written) by John Carpenter and told the story of Michael Myers, a seemingly possessed murderer who goes on a killing spree in Haddonfield, Illinois. In 1981, an unnecessary sequel -- Halloween II -- attempted to cash in on the popularity of the original. In 1982, the studio decided to release Halloween III: Season of the Witch, a completely unrelated film about killer Halloween masks, in an attempt to tell a "Halloween-related" story each year under the Halloween brand name. When that idea bombed, Michael Myers returned in 1988's Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, which began a three film story arc featuring increasingly complicated mythology to explain the continuing series. Each of the entries earned less money than the one before and, finally, the sequels stopped. In 1998, to mark the original film's 20th anniversary, Halloween H20 was released and it entirely ignored any of the post-1981 storylines and attempted to provide some closure to the series. But, since it was successful at the box-office, yet another sequel was produced in 2002: Halloween Resurrection.

In 2007, Rob Zombie, director of House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects, took over the series' reins and "reimagined" the original 1978 film. This new film is a sort of "reboot" for the series -- and actually serves as a prequel to as well as a remake of the original film.

The new Halloween begins with the story of young Michael Myers (Daeg Faerch.) His mother, Deborah (Sheri Moon Zombie,) is a stripper, his older sister, Judith (Hanna Hall,) is a promiscuous teenager, and his younger sister is a mere infant. They all live with his mother's deadbeat boyfriend, Ronnie (William Forsythe,) in a abusive environment. Michael has a penchant for wearing Halloween masks and killing small animals. A run-in with the school principal brings him to the attention of Dr. Sam Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), a psychologist who fears Michael's animal torture may lead to increasingly brutal crimes. Before anyone can do anything to curb his murderous appetite, Michael beats a student to death on school property. That same night -- Halloween, 1978 -- Michael brutally slaughters Ronnie, Judith, and Judith's boyfriend.

Michael is found guilty of first degree murder and sent to Smith's Grove, a mental institution, where he is the primary patient of Dr. Loomis. Initially, Michael claims to not remember the killings. Over time, Michael gets less responsive to treatment and withdraws into making and wearing a variety of masks. Finally, he snaps and murders a nurse who insults him. After that, his mother commits suicide and Michael stops talking to anyone.

Fifteen years later, Michael has grown into a large, powerful man (Tyler Mane) who does nothing but sit in his cell and make masks. When two guards bring a female inmate to Michael's cell to rape her, Michael brutally kills them and escapes the facility. Loomis fears he will return to Haddonfield. The date is October 31st.

Remaking -- or reimagining -- a classic film is a dangerous thing to do. I'm not sure whether Rob Zombie is trying to put his spin on the classic character or update the story for a newer, more desensitized audience that wouldn't be scared by the original film. At best, the resulting product is an interesting, if overly gory, mess of a film. Zombie's idea to flesh out Michael's backstory is admirable but leaving it a mystery -- as the original did -- left his origins to your imagination. You had to ask yourself, "What could have possibly created such a horrific killer?" In Zombie's film, he's the result of a broken home and neglect. Not exactly unique.

One thing that is consistently visible throughout the movie is Zombie's love of the horror genre. He pays numerous tributes to the original Halloween and even some of the sequels. Danielle Harris, who played a major character in Halloween 4 and 5, returns to the series to play Annie Brackett, for example. The cast list reads like a horror trivia fan's wet dream. B-movie veterans Richard Lynch, Danny Trejo, Bill Moseley, Udo Kier, and Clint Howard are all featured in small roles.

If you're a horror fan, Halloween is worth seeing but don't expect to love it. If you sit down to watch it with the intent to compare it to the original, the newer film comes off as inferior and even vulgar. On its own merits, Halloween is a disturbing but ultimately disappointing horror movie. It's Rob Zombie's best work so far, but he has a long way to go to be as innovative or interesting as John Carpenter.

Trivia: In the opening scene of the movie, the song "God of Thunder" by KISS is played and young Michael Myers is seen wearing a KISS t-shirt. KISS is a major influence on Rob Zombie's music career and the inspiration for the make-up and costuming for his band White Zombie. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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