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Halloween (2007)

Halloween (2007)

Not for the faint of heart

Rob Zombie's 2007 reboot is easily the most controversial chapter of the entire Halloween franchise. And rightly so... in that it's a story about violence & dysfunction, almost more of spiritual successor to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre than to Halloween. There is no subtlety to Rob Zombie's Halloween films: they savor punishment the way that Carpenter's original film savors suspense. And they are therefore not for the squeamish. But if you can stomach the brutality, Zombie's reverence for the sadistic is well worth indulging.

The main gripes about Zombie's Halloween tend to be that there's no likable characters & that giving the Shape a backstory makes him less scary. Those critiques are both true, but are also the wrong way to look at the film. Halloween 4, 5, & 6 had already created backstory for Michael Myers & that made them less scary. But the issues was less the backstory than that the filmmakers still expected to achieve the same result as the original film. Zombie is reaching for a completely different result, & is aiming to affect you by pummeling you with brutality & introducing you to a degree of evil that you didn't previously believe existed in the world. To that end, the main characters in this film are violence & dysfunction, & the dynamic of the film is how violence & dysfunction relate to the ensemble. Even Michael's relationship to his empathetic mother isn't shown to endear Michael to the audience, only to suggest that the empathy is itself a form of toxicity (see Friday the 13th Part 1). This film is a showcase of sadism & the only correct way to view it is through the most nihilistic of all lenses. And in many ways, this approach to the character--despite it's eagerness to reveal--is far more true to the Mask of Sanity origins of the character than the franchise's previous excursions into the occult.

Where the film best succeeds is in rationalizing the lore from previous films. It's the suicide of Deborah Myers that drives Michael to reunite with Laurie, his baby sister. And it's reuniting at any cost that fuels his rampage. And it's rejection that turns his wants into rage. These are explanations grounded in psychology, which are far more compelling than the magic curse explanations from earlier films.

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This defense is not to suggest that the film doesn't have its own faults, however, only that its faults are its own. Zombie tries to establish the dysfunction too hard & too fast, which comes across as more shrill than shocking, & much of the early dialogue comes across as ham-fisted. The production was plagued with disagreements between Zombie & the studio about precisely what constitutes a Halloween film, which may have left the early scenes in a middle ground that fails to convince. Even for those pre-disposed to enjoy Zombie's aesthetic, some of these scenes are hard to watch. But once the film gets going, few directors portray violence & mayhem with as much intimacy & care as Rob Zombie. Blood is treated like a Pollock painting. Cameras linger on dead bodies like works of art. And the sequence where Laurie is trapped in the attic of the Myers home as Michael smashes holes in the ceiling with a 2x4 is one of the most intense of any Halloween film.

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