Halloween 1978 versus Halloween 2007

Aside from the great gulf in quality between John Carpenter’s classic 1978 slasher and Rob Zombie’s post-Scream back-story-cum-remake, the new film couldn’t be more different from the original.

The original Halloween was a benchmark in horror. It set new standards that would become standard convention in movies that followed like Friday The 13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street. Heavily influenced by Bob Clark’s Black Christmas, Halloween became the trend-setter of slasher movie lore. Essentially, to remake Halloween – a classic film loved by so many – was an impossible task. It’s like trying to remake Citizen Kane or The Godfather: you’d be fighting a losing battle.

Halloween circa 2007 is more product than cinema: a quick-fix marketing ploy, intended to hit a ready-made audience than an artistic endeavour. Employing the limited talents of Rob Zombie – the pin-up of MTV generation trash – to not only write but direct the new film, indicated the studio (read: the Weinsteins’) weren’t interested in remaking quality just generating box office profit.

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I suppose you can give the movie’s producers credit for providing viewers with something new. Every remake, after all, has to add something to up the ante (that’s why I’ve always ignored Gus Van Sant’s shot-for-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho). Halloween 07 adds back-story to Michael Myers. Unfortunately, back-story to one of the genre’s most iconic and frightening monsters is the worst thing you could have done for the series. Would The Exorcist be more interesting, indeed increasingly effective, if we knew the entire history of the demonic presence possessing Regan? Of course not.

The new Halloween neglects to acknowledge what made the original so effective. This is, without doubt, the film’s cardinal sin. What made Michael Myers such a frightening character was the lack of reason in his monstrous actions: the idea that terror can come from anywhere – indeed, from the secure, middle-class family home. Zombie’s back-story makes a mockery of the working class, depicting Myers as a product of a broken family unit: his anger built on years of abuse and neglect from his father. But the frightening aspect of the original Michael Myers is the sense that his killing is based on uncontrollable evil that even he has no power over. The new Michael Myers is just a deeply trouble psychopath with a brutal distaste for the family that failed him.

The new film differs from the original completely in the first half. We see Michael Myers in a difficult family situation – the strained mother, the obnoxious sister, the abusive father, the constantly crying baby. In the original Carpenter inferred Myers came from a well-meaning family and that his actions were completely motiveless. Zombie gives Myers motive which defeats the underlying fatalism that made the original character so effecting.

Zombie’s movie watches as Myers murders several people and gets incarcerated at a mental institution. There Dr. Loomis tries to help him but over many years Myers becomes more distant. He bloodily escapes the institution and heads back to Haddonfield. There, during the film’s second half, we pick up events as they are told in the original with added gore, nudity, and some small detail changes.

John Carpenter’s original was a brilliant horror movie that revolutionised the genre. His measured use of the widescreen frame and off-screen space, his unnerving soundtrack which included one of the best horror score’s ever committed to celluloid, inventive use of sound effects, and his careful pacing and claustrophobic final third, made Halloween 1978 one of the best films of its type.

Zombie’s turgid, stale affair is badly scripted, badly plotted, and badly paced. His post-Scream, post-Saw technique lacks any redeeming features, coming across as a mismatch of unoriginal ideas from a director lacking the skill or the foresight to make anything that isn’t derivative or lacking invention.

Halloween 1978 is frightening and memorable, begging to be watched again and again. Halloween 2007 is boring and uninspired. One viewing of it is one viewing too many.

John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978):
Halloween, John Carpenter, Film, 1978

Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007):
Halloween, Rob Zombie, 2007,

About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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    Thomas Reply

    Isn’t it strange how this obviously stupid decision to remake a film that has not really aged, that still works perfectly fine, that is just a masterful piece of genre filmmaking actually pays off at the end of the day? And thanks for mentioning “Psycho”: I am completely lost as to whether anybody would want to reshoot this film. I have never even seen a non-English language film remade for an English-language audience that would work artistically … but remaking perfect English-language films into rubbish English-language films is just very very strange…

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    ThatCrazyLibertarian Reply

    I got to shake John Carpenter’s hand at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival. The original is a true masterpiece–it’s still one of the best low budget films ever made! Rob Zombie’s remake was a total joke.

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    Jaccstev Reply

    Great post! I can’t agree more with you. The original film was a pure classic horror while the new version just showed how Rob Zombie ruined everything.

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    Richard Reply

    Totally agree with your estimations here, Dan. Zombie’s Halloween was a travesty. The funny part is he claims to be a huge fan of the original. Give me a break. And his Halloween II is even worse!

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    Tonait Reply

    Rob Zombie’s Halloween was really good! John Carpenter’s Halloween is still better..of course.

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    mark Reply

    “Every remake, after all, has to add something to up the ante (that’s why I’ve always ignored Gus Van Sant’s shot-for-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho).”

    To be fair Van Sant added a couple of things that weren’t exactly shot-for-shot … Prendergast’s flashbacks (a woman in what looks like BD garb on the bed, a cow standing in the middle of a misty road) as he is being murdered; Norman masterbating while he watches Marion in the shower; the slither-cloud-going-across-the-moon cutaway (a la Bunuel/Dali) during the shower murder … from memory all were new. Whether or not they served a legit purpose, however, is another issue.

    As for Zombie, I find his films pointless, stoopid and at times detestable … I would probably feel out of place in a theatre full of people from his target audience … not that I’m a complete snob, but I suspect we’d really have nothing in common to blog about.

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