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So I … Am … an Axe Murderer: Comparing two Versions of Michael Myers

Written by: Ron Bricker

ImageRob Zombie took John Carpenter's mute zombie killer and made him real – but was that the right choice?

In 1978, John Carpenter co-wrote and directed a horror movie about Michael Myers, a six year old boy who for some reason stabs his older sister to death on Halloween night.  Fifteen years later, the night before Halloween, Michael Myers escapes confinement and returns home to wreak havoc on the small town of Haddenfield, Illinois.  Carpenter and co-writer/producer Debra Hill delivered us a slasher movie without any special effects, using only the fundamentals of horror, the eerie music sequences, the silent, obsessed, and seemingly unstoppable killer, and of course, an endless supply of unknowing victims.

And now, almost thirty years later, musician/director Rob Zombie adds to an already long list of horror-film remakes with his version of Halloween.  And if anyone had a chance to bring out the intensity of the original, it was Zombie, who with his two previous horror movie attempts, 2003’s House of a Thousand Corpses, and 2005’s The Devil’s Rejects, has made quite a name for himself.  He has managed to create two original horror masterpieces, something that appears to have been missing from the thriving genre lately.  For the past several years, it seems that the only type of new American Horror is simply generic Japanese knockoffs, including titles like: The Ring (Ringu), The Grudge (Ju-On) and Pulse (Kairo).  So it comes as no surprise that there was so much hype and anticipation for the film when horror fans discovered that Rob Zombie was Writing/Directing the new Halloween.

But despite his capability as a director and his obvious vision for things that go bump in the night, Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake lacks in establishing itself as anything other than a feeble attempt to cash in on the already nostalgic Halloween franchise.  Of course, the original left little to improve on, so Zombie took a different approach, attempting instead to redefine the origins of famed serial killer, Michael Myers.

John Carpenter’s Halloween introduced a young Michael Myers against the backdrop of his suburbanite family.  They had a nice home, a white picket fence existence, nothing troublesome or out of the ordinary.  There was nothing to suggest that this young boy was in any way a danger or a threat to anyone, much less his own family.  And in a way, that misdirection was what made the character so appealing.  The lack of any given motive is what led to the possibility that this little boy could actually be a true sociopath, the personification of evil, every teenage girl’s worst babysitting nightmare.

Rob Zombie’s 2007 Halloween remake adds insight into an alternate version of Michael Myers’ life, being careful to further indulge in relevant plot points such as his infamous mask, (said to be cast from William Shatner’s face) his ghostly, mute demeanor and his relationship with the obsessed child psychologist, Dr. Loomis.  Zombie takes away the suburbanite backdrop introduced in the original and delivers us a home where Michael’s stripper mother (Sherry Moon Zombie) is constantly at odds with her abusive, alcoholic husband (William Forsythe).  Michael now comes from a home where he is constantly berated by his stepfather and then suffers further indignities at school when bullies show him flyers with his mother dancing naked on the cover.  And the older sister, the catalyst of Michael’s murderous rage in the original, comes across as a sex crazed teen that would rather spend time with her boyfriend than take her little brother trick or treating.  It makes sense.  All of it.  And somehow this sense is what takes so much away from the illusion of evil.  Sure, Zombie adds power and depth to the Michael Myers, but he took away some of the mysticism of his evil.  He made Michael Myers…real.

In the original, John Carpenter relied on sinister camera moves and knowing just when to have the characters fumble with their keys or run into the wrong house for safety where a homicidal maniac wielding a large knife is waiting for them.  Rob Zombie utilizes the new essentials of horror, the jump-out-at-you scenes when you least expect it, the blood on the walls and the intense gore.       

While it was nice to learn the origin of the now infamous trademark Halloween mask, Zombie’s new descriptions take away from the perplexities that made Michael Myers such an interesting and mysterious character.  Even the obsessed Dr. Loomis, originally played by Donald Pleasance, now reintroduced by Malcolm Mcdowell, lacks the intensity established in the original.

For anyone that hasn’t seen the original, the 2007 remake should prove to be a well-worth seeing slasher-horror. And while this new interpretation of a classic horror tale is probably the best in a long list of remakes, the new, pumped up vision by Director Rob Zombie is still a far cry from the original.


Author: Ron Bricker

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