"It was like coming into a room like this and you don't even know what the meeting is about, and then he brings it up," musician-turned-director Rob Zombie says, explaining how notorious mega-producer Bob Weinstein ambushed him with the idea of taking over the next installment in the Halloween franchise.
"I didn't know what to say," he continues, sitting in the Beverly Hills Four Seasons Hotel while the light of day pours through the balcony doors — not exactly the right mood for a discussion about John Carpenter's horror classic. "I had never thought about it before. They weren't necessarily proposing a remake to me. They were just proposing Halloween, you know — like what do you think? And I was like, 'I don't know. It's a great movie, that's what I think.' "
The platinum-selling former frontman of White Zombie needed time to think about the proposition. A lifelong fan of horror — infamous, in fact, for his obsession with the genre — he wasn't going to agree to such a potentially controversial undertaking without some serious deliberation. After his directorial debut House of 1,000 Corpses in 2003 and its quasi-sequel The Devil's Rejects in 2005, Zombie "knew it was a great opportunity, but I didn't know how it was a great opportunity."
After all, "The only way I was interested in doing it was if it was essentially a remake," he goes on, explaining his struggle to come up with an approach that would do the original, which Zombie calls one of his top five favorite movies, justice.
"I wasn't going to do a Halloween 9, that would be silly. A prequel, I didn't know if that was something I'd want to do either. And that's when I thought: A remake with an hour's worth of backstory we've never seen before. I went back and pitched that — a young Michael and an older asylum Michael — to sort of bring my own stamp to this so I wasn't going through the same beats that already existed."
In other words, Zombie shifted the focus of Halloween away from virginal Laurie Strode (originally played by Jamie Lee Curtis, here played by Scout Taylor-Compton) and onto serial killer Michael Meyers and Dr. Loomis, Meyers' psychiatrist at the asylum. Daeg Faerch and former wrestler Tyler Mane (X-Men, Troy) play Meyers as child and adult, while Malcolm McDowell replaces Donald Pleasence.
The result is a uniquely new vision of Halloween that expands upon the original by providing a more detailed origin to Meyers' homicidal psychosis, most of which was omitted from Carpenter's version in favor of Zombie's abbreviated storytelling style.
The film ultimately stumbles when Zombie attempts to stuff most of the original's events into the third act.
But it's amazing that Zombie was able to produce a Halloween remake in which most old-school fans won't want to see the director dragged into the street and butchered with a large kitchen knife a la most of Michael Meyers' greatest whacks.
It turns out that Weinstein and his brother Harvey had little regard for the sanctity of the franchise and, unwilling to send the next installment straight to video where Halloween 9 surely would've ended up, were willing to think as far out of the box as it took to turn the film into a money-making venture.
"It would've almost been easier if somebody had had some guidelines about what they wanted to keep," Zombie says of the production.
Zombie points out that he even considered not using the original, instantly recognizable score for fear that it wouldn't play well with the modern interpretation.
"Bob Weinstein didn't even care if I kept the Michael Meyers mask or anything," Zombie says. "He kept saying, 'Make it different, make it different.' So it was all up to me about what I wanted to keep classic-looking Michael Meyers. And without that, you'd be asking me the question, 'Why call it Halloween?' It would be like a remake of King Kong without the gorilla.' "
Another way to look at the new Halloween is this: Most directors would've surely fucked up the remake in unimaginable ways, but Zombie, thanks to his honest-to-goodness love of the genre, proved incapable of desecrating the original merely for the sake of turning a buck.
Sure, there will always be those who protest revisiting classics that continue to hold up today, but there aren't many who would complain about the Hammer remakes of Frankenstein, Dracula or The Mummy — and those were all Universal Pictures standards by the time they got their updates in the '50s and '60s. Michael Meyers is no different: a horror icon, he deserves updates and re-imaginations and, most of all, the loving attention of true fans like Zombie. ©