Here is a secret about slasher movies: mostly, they're not very good.
You wouldn't think this would be much of a secret. There's what, seven "Nightmare on Elm Streets," not counting "Freddy vs. Jason." The "Friday the 13th" series has been going on for so long they are still discovering new ones on the walls of caves in France. Surely most everyone's seen at least one or twenty of them.
Which means most everyone knows they pretty much suck. Maybe the first one in a series was good, but then they usually head straight for increasingly dull retreads, like the bulk of the Jason series, or baffling course changes like in the Freddy series. You have to give it up for the guys who're trying something new, but it's hard to hand out much praise when a movie's as terrible as "Nightmare 2" (winner of the worst sequel ever award, non-"Highlander 2" division), let alone understand how #3-7 got made.
But Rob Zombie directed the "Halloween" remake. Rob Zombie, whose "House of 1000 Corpses" had undeniable personality even if it wasn't that great, and whose "Devil's Rejects" added real artistry to the mix. If someone's going to bring something interesting to a slasher flick, Zombie's a good bet to pull it off.
"Halloween" starts off in strange territory. Slasher movies tend to speed through whatever terrible tragedy turned an ordinary man into a bloodthirsty monster, or have someone explain the killer's legend once the Bad Stuff starts going down, but this remake spends a long time with 10-year-old Michael Myers (creepily played by Daeg Faerch).
Myers lives with a well-meaning but absent mother, an indifferent older sister, and a cruel father-figure who abuses them all with Zombie's best dialogue, if "best" is the word for insults so foul you don't know whether to laugh or shudder. When a school bully pushes Myers too far, he beats him to death in the woods, then turns his newfound bloodlust on his family in a series of murders that lands him in a sanitarium.
Psychologist Malcolm McDowell tries to reach him, but Myers retreats further into himself, hiding behind masks, speaking less and less, and continuing to hurt those around him. 16 years later, the world's almost forgotten him, and Myers escapes, leaving McDowell and local sheriff Brad Dourif to figure out where Myers is going before he kills again.
From there on out, it's a pretty standard slasher movie. Big ol' bad man Myers (played in adulthood by Tyler Mane, who doesn't have a line of dialogue but intimidates the hell out of everything nonetheless) runs around chopping people while the people try to escape and some other people try to stop him. It's a well-executed slasher movie (get it? "Well-executed"?), but never tries to reach for anything more than a few scares from a huge dude with a butcher knife.
And that's a real bummer after the first part was filled with so much nasty dialogue, weird close-ups, and violence so bloody you'll question whether you should be enjoying it (answer: always yes). It also suggest there may have been a way to reach Myers, or at least understand him, but any insight into the boy who became the murderer gets lost once he stops talking altogether.
One of my friends suggested Zombie's respect for the source material prevented him from taking "Halloween" in the interesting directions set up by the first half. After burying that friend along the banks of the Snake River so he can't horn in on my action here, I agreed with him: Zombie takes his horror really seriously, to the point he might not have been willing in messing with a classic.
No doubt that respect for the genre is a big part of his success so far. It's his personality, though, that let him make a movie as crazy and disturbing as "Devil's Rejects"--his grimy images and language, his gross but undeniably funny sense of humor, his perverse interest in horrible people. If he'd let all that loose in "Halloween," it could well have been a good movie.
Instead, he's made one that's progressively less interesting the further along it goes. By the weak standards of slasher movies, it's not at all bad, but Zombie might be the only one who thinks the original "Halloween's" a better movie than what he's capable of on his own.