Normally, director and horror movie legend John Carpenter stays silent when asked what he thinks of remakes based on his movies. This changed when Carpenter unloaded some harsh words against Rob Zombie and his Halloween remakes. He also called the director of The Lords Of Salem "a piece of shit."
In the same open forum, Carpenter went into full detail about why Michael Myers' most recent murder sprees didn't impress him.
I thought he took away the mystique of the story by explaining too much about [Michael Myers]. I don’t care about that. He’s supposed to be a force of nature, he’s supposed to be almost supernatural, and he was too big, it wasn’t normal.
Zombie's flawed remakes can't eclipse Carpenter's originals, but they can't be easily ignored. As far as horror movie remakes go in the 2000s, Zombie's Halloween movies stand out from the pack. They may not be perfect, but the new Halloween movies deserve some credit for trying to do things differently and here's why.
1. Grunge Over Substance
The Halloween movies primarily took place in decrepit buildings or an unassuming suburban area. Halloween never moved out of Carpenter's first two Halloween films, so Zombie shook things up by relocating the story to a grunge music video from the late '90s. The new setting included goth imagery, redneck bars and strip joints.
This may sound like a bad idea, but after seven movies that look like they could take place in the same house (or hospital for that matter), Zombie's seedy setting was a breath of fresh air the franchise desperately needed. As seen in later entries of this article, Zombie's grunge mentality and overall aesthetic seeped into other aspects beyond Halloween's new venues.
2. A New Mythology
Zombie's Halloween remakes are often bogged down with Freudian themes, serial killer cliches and weak attempts to make Michael sympathetic, which effectively demystify the soulless killer. It may have been predictable in some ways, but the reboot's fairly grounded lore is more coherent than the original series' convoluted mess of cult ties and Michael's endless line of distant relatives.
It also helps that Zombie took Carpenter's advice seriously about making the new Halloween his own instead of being a slave to past incarnations. While the first movie followed the pattern of the original Halloween, Zombie's sequel became something else entirely. Unlike the previous Halloween movies that culminated in Halloween: Resurrection (where Michael Myers is kicked to death by Busta Rhymes in an online reality show), the Halloween remakes can be judged by their own merits and faults instead of being dismissed as just another lackluster Halloween installment.
3. Survivor's Guilt
In an interesting take on the slasher movie, Zombie's Halloween remakes showed what would happen to the survivors after the killing stops. By the time Halloween II rolls in, the survivors of the Haddonfield massacre are shown to be broken and aggressive shells of their former selves. This bleak yet more realistic depiction of a horror movie's survivors is a point of view missing in most mainstream horror sequels.
The original Halloween series had little continuity outside the framework provided by main characters Laurie Strode and Dr. Loomis, and for the most part they appeared to be alright every time they popped up in a sequel. Zombie went the extra mile and showed his version of the first installment's remaining characters who are now trying their hardest to live with the traumatic experiences. Thanks to this, the otherwise stock characters in a slasher movie became slightly more believable - even if Zombie went overboard in making them as unlikable as possible.
4. Malcolm McDowell As Dr. Loomis
One of the most controversial changes in Zombie's version of Halloween was his take on Dr. Loomis, a character immortalized by Donald Pleasence. The original Dr. Loomis was a kind-hearted man who did his best to stop Michael Myers from killing more people. In the remake, Dr. Loomis is, for lack of a better word, an asshole.
That's not to say the remake's version of the character was all bad. First of all, casting the ever reliable Malcolm McDowell was a good choice for an opportunistic psychiatrist. This approach fits with the movie thematically and is an interesting idea to tackle, but Zombie went out of his way to depict his Loomis as an irredeemable jerk who was hard to care about. Questionable characterization aside, McDowell's over-the-top persona salvaged what would have been an annoying character by turning it into a guilty pleasure.
5. Laurie's Descent Into Madness
A major theme in Zombie's Halloween movies was Laurie's crumbling sanity, the result of surviving the previous film and learning about her family ties with Michael. Things hit a surreal high in Zombie's Halloween II when Laurie's breakdown was visualized through means of strange imagery involving a white horse and manic hallucinations. Dream sequences are nothing new in the Halloween movies but they were never as strange and engrossing as the nightmares Zombie brought to life.
Some would even say that Laurie's downward spiral was more interesting than whatever Michael was doing in the sequel. Compared to the original Halloween II which was just a prolonged chase in a hospital, Zombie's sequel was far more inventive and psychological when it came to showing Laurie after the events of the previous night. It may have failed to be as cerebral as Zombie wanted, but his vision for Halloween II is a very unique kind of slasher movie.