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Halloween

Year: 2007
Studio: Dimension Films
Director: Rob Zombie
Writer: Rob Zombie
Cast: Malcolm McDowell, Sheri Moon Zombie, William Forsythe, Udo Kier, Clint Howard, Danny Trejo, Leslie Easterbrook
John Carpenter's 1978 proto-horror Halloween set down the template for the entire slasher subgenre which dominated the early 1980s video nasty era and remains one of the most beloved cult horror films today. The announcement that director Rob Zombie was remaking it was met with disdain among hardcore fans who loved it.

The task was unenviable - most fans of the genre thought a studio remake would soil the spirit of the original, but it would be unlikely to hold appeal to anyone else.

If you're new to the Halloween mythology, it tells the story of Michael Myers, the boy from a violent and abusive redneck family. Pushed too far by the people around him one Halloween night, he snaps and murders his drunk father, promiscuous sister and her boyfriend and leaves only his baby sister alive.

Years later, Michael is a huge man, a convicted mass murderer who hasn't spoken since his breakdown. He's obsessed with making and wearing masks to hide his face and after years of failed therapy, his psychiatric caretaker Dr Loomis (Malcolm McDowell, taking the iconic role Donald Pleasance filled in the original) has given up on him.

But Michael hasn't forgotten his sister Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton). She's now under the adoptive care of loving parents, the prototype damsel-in-distress teenage babysitter played in the original by Jamie Lee Curtis. When his opportunity strikes one Halloween night, Michael violently breaks out of the asylum to return home and find her, reclaiming the favourite mask that makes him such a photogenic villain and embarking on a murderous rampage.

He stalks the dark streets of fictional Haddonfield, Illinois to the strains of Carpenter's distinctive three-tone keyboard score, a tune as recognisable to movie fans as John William's alien calling card in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, all while Dr Loomis tries to convince the local constabulary how dangerous Michael is.

So after all the criticism, it's surprising how good Halloween is. Zombie has kept the original structure and sacred institutions like the automatic dooming of teens in the early stages of sexual congress, the almost indestructible killer and the teenage babysitter menaced by a thousand movie psychos.

His take is far from the corporatised remakes of classic horror nasties we've had in recent years, and the damning of the film seems to be a sort of collective resentment that he didn't have to do it on the shoestring budget Carpenter did ad in 1978.

With big studio backing it's naturally slick, but Zombie's a talented enough horror director to ensure the grimy design and urgent, handheld action are top notch. He's one of the fanboys who loves the original so he knows the trappings, visuals, language and style of the genre. Taylor-Compton as Laurie and her gaggle of teenaged friends stumble as they try too hard to be ditzy modern teens, but overall the film is much better than you've heard.

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