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#43 - Halloween
Rob Zombie, 2007

A young boy growing up in an abusive household carries out a killing spree and is institutionalised only to escape many years later.

In Halloween Resurrection, the main characters are reality show participants tasked with searching Michael Myers' childhood home for clues as to why he became a serial killer - however, they almost immediately realise that the clues they do find tell such an over-the-top and clichéd tale of childhood abuse and psychopathy that it's no surprise to learn that they were all planted by the show's hack producer. Even if I hadn't watched that film back-to-back with Rob Zombie's remake of John Carpenter's venerated original, it was always going to be the most obvious and remarkable point of difference between the two versions. Where Carpenter's original limited Michael's villainous development to a brief but striking prologue depicting his first murder and a handful of expository lines from his psychiatrist, Zombie's reimagining spends about half its sizeable running time depicting an elaborate back-story for Michael that traces the events of that first fateful Halloween through his decade-plus in an institution under the watchful eye of Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell). The back half runs fairly quickly through the original's main narrative of Michael breaking out and heading back to his hometown of Haddonfield to terrorise the locals, most prominently teenage babysitter Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton). Carrying out such a distinct reinterpretation of a definitive classic would be a bold move for any filmmaker, which obviously prompts the question as to whether or not an avowed horror fanatic like Zombie can pull it off.

Even when offering Zombie the benefit of the doubt in seeing what his grindhouse sensibilities might do for the Halloween story, the answer ultimately seems to be very little. There's something to be said for how he attempts to incorporate elements from across the franchise into the story, most notably by incorporating the franchise's big reveal that Laurie is Michael's long-lost sister into a narrative that previously didn't involve it. While this does tend to manifest as easy references (one scene mirroring an interaction between Michael and Jamie in Revenge of Michael Myers, for example), one can see Zombie actually trying to pull it all together and create something new; in fairness, he doesn't totally fail in this regard (especially considering how it all builds to a final shot that is not without its merits). Unfortunately, the appreciable elements are buried under various layers of excess, the least of which might be the leaden running time that flirts with the two-hour mark while other entries kept it down to a taut ninety minutes or so. I don't think showing Michael's back-story is necessarily the worst idea in the world so much as the fact that Zombie's execution is packed with clichés that make it feel drawn out despite its ostensibly quick pacing (as do attempts to escalate the brutality and body count). It doesn't help that the second half largely settles for a compressed run-through of the original that does have noticeable changes but more often than not unimportant ones, especially those that attempt to go for superficial edginess (such as Michael escaping because some orderlies decide to rape another patient in his room) that once again makes me question whether or not the repulsion Zombie frequently evokes is an adequate method of creating horror. Though Halloween isn't completely without likeable qualities (a solid cast list of cult actors, for one) and I can sort of appreciate what Zombie's trying to do in theory, for far too much of its running time it's a joyless slog that struggles to actually make much out of its potential. At least now I can regard it as a vaguely interesting failure instead of just a regular failure.