I am going to say something controversial now…Rob Zombie’s Halloween movies were excellent! There, I’ve said it – if you don’t agree with this well all I can say is “tough”. I will attempt to outline in this article why I believe this to be the case and hopefully, if you’re interested, you may stick around with me to find out why and maybe even be open to having a few minds changed. If you’re not going to stick with it for this one then please be my guest to sit this one out…but you’ll definitely be missing out.
If you know your Halloween movies then you will surely remember The Curse of Michael Myers. For those of you who may not be as familiar with this one, this is the one where they made out that Michael was controlled by some kind of druidic cult – sound a bit silly? Perhaps. Why start at H6 when we’re talking about Rob Zombie’s movies though? Well, to answer this point it is important to remember that from here, the Halloween franchise was struggling to say the least – the druids were the last vestige of doing something different with the series from a writing point of view but it was panned by fans and critics alike with not even the heralded Producer’s Cut of the film offering much more in terms of quality.
Now, ok we had Steve Miner’s excellent Halloween: 20 Years Later directly after this which should definitely be seen as it’s a real return to form for the series and you might be forgiven for thinking that the franchise as a whole was right back on track with this but then we got Halloween Resurrection which reminded us that this was a franchise largely devoid of new ideas.
To be fair to Resurrection, it did have it’s moments and some good idea’s in there too but whoever decided that Busta Rhymes Kung Fu kicking the crap out of Michael Myers was a good idea needs slapping with a wet kipper. The issues with Resurrection could form a whole post just by itself but what I really want to illustrate here is that Halloween desperately needed some new idea’s and a new execution and there aren’t really very many directors qualified to take on such a big franchise horror and have the confidence to put their stamp all over it. This is where Rob Zombie comes in.
The House of a 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects had cemented Zombie’s reputation for giving Horror fans something different, opting for an old school approach of favouring characterisation in order to build up to shocks later on and one thing both of these films have in droves is shocks and violence and gore. This must have caught the eye of the producer’s of Halloween too as they clearly agreed that a different approach was needed to elevate this once great franchise back onto it’s pedestal.
From the outset, Rob Zombie’s stamp was all over the original Halloween remake that he made – right from the early exchanges between Michael’s mother and step dad when they swear and cuss each out while baby Angel looks on from her crib lets you know that this is going to be different from any other Halloween movie that you’ve seen before. I’m sure this exchange may have put off as many people as it drew in but either way you could certainly be assured that this Halloween had a very different vibe about it already.
If you boil down both of Rob Zombie’s Halloween movies to its bare bones then family is at the heart of it, particularly Halloween 2 where we get an insight into Michael’s need to annihilate his family. It becomes apparent that he needs to kill his family in order to have them all reunited either in the afterlife or just in Michael’s head in order for him to have the family ideal that his twisted mind has made it into.
The whole family aspect of these films has come in for a lot of criticism over the years, firstly for overly humanising the monster that is Michael Myers by showing his terrible home life and potentially violent relationship with his step father. In the second film, the criticism centres around Michael’s visions of his dead Mother which many thought was too reminiscent of Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th series.
The Voorhees Mother fixation however, is a much too simple explanation to apply to Myers visions of his Mother, he’s not so much killing for her as wanting his own strange vision to be his reality. Really playing on the amount of time that he has spent in Smith’s Grove Sanitarium no doubt, given the increasing strangeness of these visions as the movie goes on.
One of the things that I did enjoy about Zombie’s Halloween movies was the brutality of them, each kill was absolutely merciless and left you in no doubt whatsoever that this version of Michael Myers means business! I know there is some debate about extreme gore or violence in horror films which I think dates back to the Saw franchise which some people still dismiss as merely torture porn. To dismiss it like this though is inherently lazy, when used effectively, violence can still be shocking even within the confines of a ‘horror’ movie – after all, isn’t that part of the reason they are called horror movies? Horror is meant to be…well…horrible and be uncomfortable to view sometimes – take the first 20 – 30 minutes of I Spit on Your Grave remake. That is so uncomfortable and upsetting to watch but it works for that film because you vouch for that girl to kill her attackers in increasingly more horrible ways. In the Zombie Halloween movies, it serves to hammer home the brutality of this serial killer, we’re not here to cheer on a pseudo comedy killer here, you really need this killer stopped because his brutality is so unparalleled. I think sometimes in horror, you need to be shocked into feeing something one way or the other because the world can be such a shitty place these days it perhaps takes more for us to be shocked or surprised by a horror movie but Rob Zombie delivers this, certainly in Halloween 2 – anybody remember the stabbing of the nurse in the hospital? As I said earlier in this paragraph, Michael Myer’s means business in these films and doesn’t make many mistakes at all, although one mistake I was happy that he made was him leaving Annie Brackett alive in the first film which leads me onto my next point regarding these movies.
Danielle Harris. It was great to see her back in the Halloween series (I would have loved to see her reprise her role as Laurie’s daughter in the 2018 movie but that’s by the by!). Now, I was only 8 years old myself when Danielle had her first starring role in a Halloween movie in Halloween 4 so it’s hard to say what the fan reaction was like to Halloween 4 at the time but I always really liked this one and a large part of that was down to Harris’ portrayal of young Jamie Lloyd – it was a part that needed to go well as she is integral to the plot of H4. Thankfully, it did go very well indeed and we followed her story in 2 films as a youngster and through part of Halloween 6 although that didn’t cast Danielle Harris as Jamie. Looking back though, I’m sure she’s probably glad that she didn’t have that particular blot on her CV. Having said that though, H6 didn’t do so badly for Paul Rudd did it?!
I digress, the point being here that the casting of Danielle Harris as Annie Brackett in Rob Zombie’s movies was a masterstroke as not only are you getting a high calibre actress in your film but you get someone who was already a scream queen at the age of 10 or 11 when she originally starred as Jamie. Better than that though, by casting Harris, all us Halloween fans got a massive shot of nostalgia when we see her on screen for the first time. I know whe I saw the first RZ Halloween, I didn’t know that she was in it at all and when she made her first appearance, I did a double take and it took me a second to work out who Annie Brackett was but when I did I thought that was a really cool reference to the older films that Harris was in.
It’s also worth noting as well the different versions of Laurie Strode that Scout Taylor-Compton portrays in the movies. You have the confident yet possibly slightly naive version of Laurie that is portrayed in the first movie which is pretty close to the original Laurie, as portrayed of course by Jamie Lee Curtis, with the addition of a few curse words here and there! After the events of the first RZ Halloween though we are then introduced to a much more fragile Laurie, obviously affected by her ordeal as we see glimpses of her mental state, particularly in the first scenes of RZH2 where she dreams about Myers stalking her through the Hospital hallways. Tje fact that she is still dreaming like this a year on from her first meeting with Michael is testament to just how badly she has been affected by the whole affair. Things don’t get much better for her when she finds out from Dr Loomis’ book that she is in fact Michael’s baby sister Angel as she appears to have a full on breakdown at this point and goes and get’s blind drunk at a Halloween party – which is usually a death knell in most horror films, particularly for its final girl!
In terms of the characters in the movie, you have to admire the casting of Dr Loomis here. Donald Pleasance had played this character for close to 20 years and the thought of somebody else playing him is almost unthinkable. He had such presence in the original movies and often, as the series went on, was the driving force behind the franchise. So Dr Loomis’ recasting had to be handled very carefully. Enter Malcolm McDowell of A Clockwork Orange fame. Possibly, one could argue that he was the ONLY choice to play Loomis, someone who has the gravitas to hold your attention on screen yet be a believable choice to protect Laurie from Michael. Halloween 2 saw a very different Loomis to what we’re used to as he becomes a bit of a diva and profits from the misery of Laurie and company with the writing of his book about Michael Myers. It is only towards the end of the movie that he realises his folly here.
Finally, no Halloween is complete without The Shape, Michael Myers. Poor casting or a poor mask can damage your film almost irreparably. Tyler Mane, however had to be the perfect choice here – an absolute hulk of a man who you could believe could throw about a burly trucker with little problem at all. In fact the little boy in Halloween 2 sums up this version of Myers perfectly when he asks him “Are you a giant?” Ths is what you want from your Bogeyman, someone whom it looks like you would have to go within an inch of your life to put down once and for all and that is what Laurie and Dr Loomis ultimately have to do in this series.
Overall then, the real reason why I am contending that Rob Zombie’s Halloween films were great is that they were born from the necessity for something different, something fresh and that, to me is exactly what we got. We have an origin story that sheds light on Michael’s troubled past and adds expertly to Myers story, showing Dr Loomis’ relationship with the young Michael which I thought was great, really running the line between hm sympathisig with Michael yet knowing exactly how dangerous he was. Halloween 2 was Rob Zombie in full flow, given the reins to the franchise to do what he wanted with it and why not do something different? We needed something different and everybody who rubbished this movie was afraid of just how different this was, to me it was a masterstroke of brutal, twisted cinema, delving into its characters twisted or broken psyche’s. When you watch all of the Halloween films one after the other, these 2 movies really stand out as a breath of fresh air as they dare to be different, they wear their freak flag with pride and are rightly unapolagetic for it.