Almost 30 years ago, John Carpenter's classic Halloween
ended on an intriguingly ambivalent note, with Laurie Strode, the virginal survivor of ur-slasher Michael Myers' All Hallows rampage, wondering aloud if the monster in the chintzy rubber Captain Kirk mask was the boogeyman. "As a matter fact, it was," replied shape-hunter Dr. Loomis, thus paving the way for a series of increasingly irrelevant sequels that have apparently culminated with this strange "reimagining" of the original film. Zombie proved his genre mettle with 2005's unabashedly sleazy grindhouser The Devil's Rejects
, and while a remake of Halloween
might have seemed like a dream gig for the former White Zombie (a snippet of the 1932 film from which Zombie took his nom de gore
makes a blink-and-you'll-miss-it televised cameo here), it also puts the director on a slick and slippery slope. Halloween
'07 is nothing if not viewable through the crimson-tinted cheaters of its inspiration, and since Carpenter's original remains a pinnacle of the form one wonders what's left to be reimagined. Didn't anyone take a hint from Gus Van Sant's viscerally stillborn do-over of Psycho
? Apparently not. Zombie, working again with his stock players (Moon Zombie, Forsythe, and Moseley) while adding genre mainstays (Kier, Dourif, and Howard) to the mix, has fleshed out the backstory of Myers to the point of making the "boogeyman" come off as a 10-year-old Manson wannabe (played as a child by the disquietingly androgynous Faerch and as an adult by Mane). Young Myers is prone to torturing animals and hails not from hell (or even beneath your bed) but from a strategically broken home, replete with a stripper mom (Moon Zombie), sozzled stepfather (Moseley), and problems with bullies at his grade school. No wonder he has a fondness for cutlery and clowns. It's an origin story of the worst kind, reducing what was once a nightmare to the level of pedestrian and banal, fodder not for Samhain-centric supernatural lunacy but for criminal-psychology texts. It's remarkable, actually, to realize that the only frissons of unease this new Halloween
elicits arrive directly from the use of Carpenter's endlessly chilling electronic score. There's nothing else in the film that quite rivals that, and though Zombie continues to have a true, unflinching artist's eye for the sublimely horrific (a woodsy murder sequence is pregnant with disturbing, painterly compositions), that eye is wasted here on an unnecessarily moribund history of sociopathy as it relates to Halloween in Haddonfield, Ill.