Y’all, We need to put some “respeck” on the Rob Zombie ‘Halloween’ films

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I feel like I have to say this before we get started… the title is not a “misspell” at all.

I’ve gone on the record, at least with my friends who’ll listen, about how much I absolutely despise the Rob Zombie HALLOWEEN films. I’ve talked ad nauseum about how I have an emotional aversion to both films for their rock and roll-trashy take on the Michael Myers story. While I’ve recognized some good things about them, it was hard to ignore how loud and vulgar these films were. Seriously, who can get enjoyment from watching a bunch of unlikable people yell and scream at each other while trying to escape Michael Myers? Thanks to a recent viewing of HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION- a film that I’ve always defended in the past, I’ve come to discover how important the Rob Zombie take on HALLOWEEN was- not only to the future of the franchise, but to Michael Myers himself.

After battling Busta Rhymes-style Kung Fu in HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION, Michael Myers needed a Cady Heron-style makeover if he had a chance of scaring audiences again. 7 movies in and there was only so much you could do with Mikey to make him engaging again. In these films we saw him go from: 1) a homicidal babysitter-killer 2) a brother to one of his victims, 3) a niece-stalking maniac, 4) a psychic-niece-stalking maniac, 5) a member of a druid cult, 6) a CGI-brother, again, 7) someone who hated the ‘Put Your Hands Where My Eyes can See’ video. Michael was given too much of a backstory that became convoluted and unnecessary. I suppose that’s what happens when a simple, streamlined story gets milked and exploited for an endless string of sequels to bring in the cha-ching. While I LOVE the sequels, they sizzled out any suspense and became another example of series of diminishing returns. Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN, or as I’ll call it, HALLOWEEN 2.0, branded itself as remake and thus was able to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch. One factor that made Myers so unrelentless scary in the original film was that there was no backstory. We knew very little about him other than his penchant for murder. While HALLOWEEN 2.0 gave him a hamfisted back story that wasn’t entirely successfull nor required, it makes sense that a man we knew so little about after 7 films would have a film devoted to his tragic childhood. It served as a reintroduction to a man we thought we knew, which made him feel distinct from his predecessors. Again, this backstory wasn’t needed as it seemed to say “see, here’s why he kills. He comes from a fucked up family.” However it was still a bold choice to go in the complete opposite direction of what made Myers so frightening to begin with.

Starting from scratch also provided the opportunity also helped realize Zombie’s intention for the Myers saga to have a complete beginning, middle and end with his 2-film franchise. While the family connection wasn’t introduced until the original HALLOWEEN 2 AKA THE WIG, Zombie established Michael and Laurie’s kinship earlier on his first film (although it wasn’t fully acknowledged until the sequel). Zombie’s HALLOWEEN 2 reiterated the family ties binds Michael, Laurie and their Mother together. The execution of how this manifested in H2 wasn’t fully successful (I’m looking at you Red Rabbit Inn scene) but it makes more sense than connecting Myers to a cult where he had to impregnate his niece so they can sacrifice her child. Did I get that right? Like series creators John Carpenter and Debra Hill, Rob Zombie had a finite vision for the Michael Myers story that didn’t require endless sequels. While he told his story in 2 films, Michael Myers is such an iconic figure that any future films after his would require a reboot and, again, have to start from scratch somehow.

The Zombie films also presented a grittier Haddonfield and thus, a gritter Michael Myers portrayed with expertise by Tyler Mane- who in my humble opinion is the scariest Michael Myers (although James Jude Courtney is giving him a run for his money). This Myers was more angry and more aggressive than we’ve seen before. He didn’t look for “cool” ways to kill someone like drowning a nurse in a tub- he’s slicing eyes, bashing heads and tormenting people in their most vulnerable moments. The films also show how death affects the victims loved ones. The Annie death scene in Zombie’s H2 is particularly disturbing and made more heartbreaking after her father, Sheriff Brackett, discovers her lifeless, bloodied body. These moments of real human emotion are where Zombie’s HALLOWEEN series shines above most genre films as they’re not afraid to show the ugly consequence of murder and loss. The Zombie series also presents itself in a more realistic world than the original series. H2 Michael sports a beard after living in the woods for 2 years and is largely maskless throughout the film. He also manages to mutter a few words and grunts, something that never happened in the original series. If you’re going to take over and remake a franchise that’s as endearing to fans as HALLOWEEN, I found these choices to be risky and bold- and they paid off for me. By humanizing Michael Myers this way made him scary again. It showed that he was a brutal killer and not just a masked figure going through the motions of chasing down horny teens.

Perhaps the brutality that Michael Myers possessed in the Rob Zombie films is what ushered in the brutal, no holds barred Michael Myers in HALLOWEEN 2018. Because he became too predictable, starting with HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS, he had to be reinvented from the ground up. This is exactly was Zombie had to do after HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION. At that point, Myers became a joke; another horror relic from the 70s and 80s that was in dire need of a reinvention. The Rob Zombie films still aren’t my favorite in the series because of the nauseating dialogue and mostly unlikable characters, but I respect Zombie’s vision and dealing head on with the PTSD of the characters in an unflinching way, and their place in the HALLOWEEN saga. These ideas made Michael Myers genuinely scary again and the world of Haddonfield a place I won’t go trick or treating anytime soon.

Rob Zombie’s Halloween
Rob Zombie’s Halloween II
Image result for Tyler Mane nude
Michael Myers conduit- Tyler Mane
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