The musician and filmmaker Rob Zombie is used to making intense raw films, but with his upcoming remake of Halloween, Zombie is hoping to reach a more mainstream audience. But talking exclusively from his editing room where he’s putting the finishing touches to the horror remake, Zombie says that his decision to do Halloween was no means a way to prove to himself he can be a mainstream director, “because most of my favourite movies aren’t really mainstream type films anyway.” For Zombie, whose last film was The Devil’s Rejects, felt doing this remake of John Carpenter’s seminal classic, “was just an opportunity that arose and truthfully, I don’t even know if the movie I’ve made is all that mainstream. There are not a lot of classic movie monster iconic figures left, and Michael Myers is one of the only few modern day sort of iconic monsters and to be able to make a movie with that character was very exciting.”
The director concedes that there are clearly pitfalls re-imagining this character. “I think the biggest tightrope that you’re walking is people want it to be different enough that it’s worth watching on its own merit but they want it to be similar enough that they can see familiar things and go ‘Wow, there’s that different’. So the balancing act was making it so that you didn’t know what was going to happen next because it was unfolding differently, adding new things but doing enough kind of glimpses of the classic moments that you get that vibe.”
In his past movies, Zombie has never shied away from depicting graphic violence, but this is a studio movie, albeit Weinstein/Dimension, so far can he go? Well apparently quite far, he says laughingly. “I mean, this is a very violent movie. I know that for a lot of horror movie fans that Dimension Films a lot of times have a bad reputation for things but they’ve been great. From day 1 it’s been my thing and they’ve let me run with it. They didn’t approach it like, ‘Well it’s best to play it safe this way because we’re trying to protect a franchise’. They weren’t done with that spirit in mind, but kept saying things like, ‘Make it your own. Make it your own thing. That’s the way it’s going to succeed.’ “
And Zombie insists that there are substantial differences between Carpenter’s original film and Zombie’s version. “Everything’s very different, just the look and feel of the film is very different. John’s is very stylised the way it’s shot, while mine’s very like raw looking. I just thought that it wasn’t so much in response to what John had done but just the response that over the years there’s been like eight Halloween movies, so it was really a response to everything that had been done. By Halloween 8, Michael Myers was no longer even remotely scary and the whole thing just seemed like complete buffoonery. It was just a bunch of crappy young actors and a guy in a crappy looking white mask. That’s really what it had boiled down to in movies that nobody gave a shit about. Nobody over the age of ten was scared by them, so I thought Michael Myers is a terrifying character, but we need to really go back to basics and reinvent the wheel here because I just feel that for almost thirty years they’ve just been destroying what Carpenter did.”
Commenting on the much discussed visual representation of the new Michael Myers, Zombie says “This I guarantee you that once you watch this Halloween, this Michael Myers truly makes all the other ones look like pussies. You will go ‘How did the other one ever seem scary?’. I know that sounds like a ridiculous thing to say but we just made him so raw, rough, gnarly and gritty that he makes the other characters look like a guy in a Halloween mask walking around. And Tyler Mane, who plays Michael Myers, has such a big presence, but he’s not like a big, bulky guy. He’s very sleek but he’s big and a really good actor, so he has such a menacing presence. He looks like he would eat all the other guys who played Michael Myers for lunch.”
It seems that audiences may be tiring of Hollywood horror, with a plethora of new titles vying for the movie going buck on as weekly basis. Zombie understands audience cynicism, because “there are no memorable that end up in horrible situations and then the movies ends.” Zombie counters that I his Halloween, he says, by having made “a very character-driven movie. Michael Myers is not just a faceless guy in the shadows, but a character that we see from the beginning to the end. If someone had never heard of this movie before and you said ‘This is based on a true story’, it plays out in a way that someone would think ‘Oh really? Wow, I’ve never heard of him’. I wanted it to play gritty and real because it’s certainly how those films had not been playing.”
Asked if we see more of a genesis of the Myers character, Zombie says this is by no means a prequel to the original film. “It’s somewhat of a re-telling of the first film with a lot of back story, so a lot of things in the first movie that the Donald Pleasance character sort of just refers to, we go into great detail with. A lot of things in the first film were very random, so I tried to make things a little more purposeful, why they happened.”
As for Zombie’s post-Halloween plans, the director says that he is not worrying about it yet. “I mean I know that I’m probably going to go back on tour for a little bit after the movie comes out just to relax and then I’ll start another film some time next year but I don’t know what it is yet.” Zombie laughingly concedes, “Being on tour is much easier than making movies.” As for signing on to direct a Halloween sequel, Zombie is emphatic on that score. “There are too many franchises that kill movies. I wanted this to be a movie unto itself, not just a f***ing cog in some kind of money making machine.” I guess that’d be a no then.