I’ll be the first to admit, I love a good thrill. Unfortunately, when it comes to Rob Zombie’s new take on the original teen slasher “Halloween,” I would have been better off showering without flip-flops.
Michael Myers returns to the screen for what is essentially a remake of the 1978 Carpenter classic that plays very much like a sequel — the body count is higher and includes a flock of scantily-clad nymphets who put their four years at conservatory to good use with the same old trusty routine. Scream, die. Scream, die. Scream, crawl a little bit, then die.
You know the story: Psychopath Michael Myers (played by Tyler Mane, known better for his role as Sabretooth in the “X-Men” series) breaks out of a mental institution and wreaks havoc on the Baby-sitters Club. In Zombie’s version, however, we sit through nearly a whole hour of Myers’ “E! True Hollywood Story,” a childhood vignette that too-conveniently reveals the makings of a hardened killer — the abusive father, the stripper mom, the wanton sis and the stock school bullies. Mix, preheat at 350, and you’ve got an entire segment that is nothing more than a shallow, expletive day-in-the-life disguised as a young sociopath’s biopic.
Fast-forward 15 years or so. Michael Myers has taken up the fine art of papier-mache, inexplicably making scores of grotesque masks. His only surviving relative is Laurie Strode, played by the flamboyantly inadequate Scout Taylor-Compton. Whereas Jamie Lee-Curtis set the standard for the final everygirl, a forgettable Taylor-Compton comes out of a tradition of small-screen teenybopper gems such as “Sleepover.” She is too busy crawling and screaming to actually fire the gun in her hand. Honey, Jamie Lee didn’t even have a gun; she took him down with a metal hanger. Ikea, $0.49.
The most disappointing thing about this movie is that Zombie basically sacked everything that was brilliant about the original. He exchanges the anonymous horror of the everyday for the convenience of a contrived backstory; eerie silence for heavy metal; a final girl for a babe who just gets lucky; an artful horror for a baroque monster. Instead of manipulating his own space — as Carpenter had done so craftily in the original — Zombie sickens us with extreme close-ups of twitching body parts, open wounds, sweat and saliva. While there may have been some filmic license to this, it becomes an overused crutch. There’s no real build-up, and thus zero payoff.
For a movie that was meant to explore one of horror film’s most infamous villains, this one has instead created an antithetic bore. The effete mask and creepy boyish psychosis of the original Myers is replaced here with Eli Roth’s lapdog. Part of what made the first slasher series so engaging was its androgyny — the internal crisis of the villain versus the butch savvy of the final girl — and the ability of an audience to identify with both characters, on some level. In 1978, there was room for vulnerability and suspense. In 2007, Hulk smash.
By the end of the movie, you will find yourself waiting for the only real protagonist: the credits. Whether you’re a seasoned horror veteran, or just someone in search of a cheap thrill, you probably won’t find it in Zombie’s “Halloween.” As a franchise comeback, it may have been better off popping out two kids and hosting the VMAs.