The Weinstein Company

Review in a Hurry:  This Halloween in August isn't exactly Christmas in July for horror fans, paling as it does in comparison to John Carpenter's low-budget original. The 1977 version is a minor masterpiece of tension and the blueprint for innumerable slasher flicks since. Sadly, writer-director Rob Zombie decided to come up with his own plans, revealing himself to be no great architect in the process.

The Bigger Picture:  Check your calendar, and then cross out Halloween—at least for this year. Mass murderer Michael Myers gets rebooted in this unnecessary remake, racks up about 20 fresh bodies and picks up an hour of character development in the bargain, which turns out to be everyone's loss.

Zombie's decision to focus on the origins of the guy in the creepy mask isn't unforgivable. But his vision is simultaneously nasty and banal; he sets Myers up as a 10-year-old nascent psychopath with no friends and an abusive family in such a way that when the boy finally snaps, his actions elicit a big ol' "Well, duh." If his story were a little less Carrie, it might also be a little less I-don't-care-y.

In the original, Myers' most terrifying quality was his mysterious implacability: his silence, his expressionless mask, his measured, dogged pursuit of his victims. There was no explanation for his crimes. He was a boogeyman.

Here, the only thing that plods is the backstory. Rendered as a sad-sack overgrown kid in arrested development, Myers seems merely determined to put everyone else out of his misery.

That said, Halloween is not artless, which is frustrating. The throbbing score and sensory assault make certain moments terrifying. This happens mostly near the end, when the tepid setup is wiped from memory by Zombie's version of Halloween night in latter-day Haddonfield. It's here when his imprimatur as director is most welcome, as he offers the kind of grotesque, off-putting violence that recalls early Wes Craven more than Carpenter. And it's here when Michael belatedly seems a monster, his motives arcane, his mania realized. He's finally less human than human.

The 180—a Second Opinion:  Skip the first hour of Halloween—or better yet, edit the last half down to 10 or 15 minutes—and you've got a well-made, gory, scary slasher film.

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