“Halloween” is unquestionably Rob Zombie’s best movie. This might be significant praise if his other movies (“House of 1000 Corpses,” “The Devil’s Rejects”) weren’t so aggressively awful, but that’s the best I got.

Trevor Campbell
Such unbridled passion. (COURTESY OF MGM/DIMENSION)

In his latest sadistic exercise, Zombie nips and tucks John Carpenter’s 1978 classic, reshaping it for a modern horror audience. Unfortunately, his tool of choice isn’t a scalpel – it’s a chainsaw. In the original film, there were only a few minutes on the violent childhood of Michael Myers. For Zombie, that wasn’t nearly enough. We need to know the real Michael. And to do so we embark on a 45-minute intro that involves young Michael (an exceptionally creepy Daeg Faerch) beating bullies with logs, stabbing step-dads with knives and clubbing boyfriends with bats. We get it; he’s messed up. Really messed up.

All this character development is necessary because Michael is the protagonist in this version, rather than the Jamie Lee Curtis babysitter (a role filled this time by an emo-glasses-wearing Scout Taylor-Compton, who only shows up in the film’s second half). And after the endless “Halloween” history lesson, old Mike finally heads home for some sweet, uh, revenge? Well, he was kind of the killer in the first place. No camp counselors let him drown in a lake like Jason; no neighbors burned him alive like Freddy. His mom’s boyfriend is kind of mean, I guess. Whatever his dubious motivation, the film descends into a never-ending parade of killings of characters to whom we’ve only just been introduced, most of them young men and women with no shirts and, unnecessarily, their parents.

The film is a case study of Rob Zombie’s unnatural infatuation with gore. This movie is violent. The original “Halloween” featured four deaths, and maybe a few pints of dark red goo. In Zombie’s reworking, however, the body count rises to at least 18 (I lost track) and there’s enough blood to fill a lake.

This inevitable change (although really, 18 kills is tame for Zombie) represents a larger issue that horror is facing these days with the advent of the “Saw” and “Hostel” franchises: more blood, less suspense. The original was all about tension. If someone dies onscreen every five minutes, it’s not scary, it’s just gory. If tension is allowed to build, gore is not only unnecessary but actually a distraction. It’s sad to see that modern horror has forgotten everything that inspired it in the first place. There is no truer example than Zombie’s “Halloween.”

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

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