In the almost 30 years since John Carpenter unleashed the killing machine that is Michael Myers, the William Shatner-masked psycho has carved a niche for himself alongside such other legendary unstoppable maniacs as Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger. However, none of the seven Halloween movies he’s appeared in have given the audience much, if any, insight into what created this monster. That is, until now.
Almost half of Zombie’s screenplay is devoted to showing the perfect alignment of internal and external factors that came together to form the “perfect storm”, as Myers’ psychiatrist Dr Sam Loomis (McDowell) explains it, and brought forth the knife-wielding monster sometimes known as The Shape. By the age of 10, the youthful Michael (Faerch) appears as an introverted, bullied kid with a hidden fixation for killing small animals. Born into a dysfunctional family with a loving stripper Mom (Sheri Moon Zombie), wheelchair-bound abusive stepfather (Forsythe), and self-centred and uncaring older sister (Hall), young Michael begins exhibiting early signs of split personality with his dark evil half fond of taking refuge behind various masks. In keeping with John Carpenter’s original story, the young Michael finally snaps on Halloween night and slaughters his entire family. Only his mother and infant sister, whom he cradles lovingly as the police arrive, are spared.
Zombie, who is maturing as a director and screenwriter at an incredibly quick rate, provides nuanced insight into the youthful Myers’ neurosis during several scenes in the psychiatric prison where he is locked away. Interviews with Loomis, visits from his Mom, and a bond formed with the prison janitor (Danny Trejo) all reveal the dominant emergence of the black, evil half, and the suppressed, in-denial human portion that would eventually be shunted to the back of the killing machine mind. The end result of this is a monster that is much more real, corporeal and terrifying than the quasi-supernatural uni-dimensional creature that Carpenter created. Once Zombie gets through painting his back story tableau, the movie moves into more conventional territory as it tells the story of the adult Michael’s (Mane) escape from his psychiatric prison and subsequent stalking of his now adopted baby sister Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton) who has no knowledge of her deranged older brother and blood-bathed family history.
Yet even in this second half, among the narrative that more closely sticks to Carpenter’s version, Zombie manages to insert interesting hints that Michael is not entirely lost to his dark half. Of course, there’s no shortage of critics lining up to pan this film, which, I suppose, is to be expected given that the horror genre seems forever relegated to hillbilly trailer-trash status among the pantheon of cinematic blue-bloods; however with Halloween, Zombie shows he is a growing, maturing, and future force to be reckoned with in a genre that has long been given a cinematic short shrift.