Scout Taylor-Compton and Malcom McDowell star in Rob Zombie's remake of "Halloween".

Rob Zombie's "Halloween" remake isn't scary, which is really all you need to know about it. It's horror without foreplay, a biff-bam off-with-your-head-ma'am slasher film that tries to fill in the blanks to the mystery of mass murderer Michael Myers, a mystery that was the very reason that John Carpenter's original 1978 film still stands up as one of the scariest movies ever.

At least it's not "torture porn."

Zombie, the sometimes whimsical heavy-metal man whose real name is Robert Cummings, proves to be a John Carpenter without the moves to make us jump out of our seats. The wretched excess of his "House of 1,000 Corpses" is in evidence, along with a little wit and a lot of ambition.

He wanted to art-up a horror franchise that, eight films in, was too tarty to be arty. But aside from a few minutes in the third act, he does little that would frighten a 10-year-old. He's content to have his hulking, masked freak stomp through a small town senselessly (and too quickly) murdering people who don't deserve it.

We meet young Michael Myers in the hellish home he grew up in, a stunningly ugly house of dysfunction, with a hatefully trashy teen sister, a crippled creep of a step-dad (William Forsythe, chewing the scenery), a baby sister and a pole-dancing mom (Sheri Moon Zombie, Rob's ex-dancer wife) all screaming obscenities at each other while young Michael (Daeg Faerch, whose parents ought to be investigated) tortures and murders animals in his spare time.

As we all know, animal torturers soon switch to humans, and Michael, age 10, snaps and bludgeons a bully to death, then murders most of his family. He's committed to the care of Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell, a better actor than this garbage deserves) who writes a best seller about the remorselessly evil child he treats as the child grows up to be the boogeyman.

And 15 years later, that boogeyman comes back to the small town to kill more people who don't deserve it. On Oct. 31.

Zombie has made both an homage to the original "Halloween" (he uses Carpenter's original electronic music, and overuses Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper") and a 1970s period piece. He betrays an uncertain grasp of his timeline even as he casts assorted grim-looking character actors from the Z-list of the `70s and `80s (Clint Howard, Udo Kier, Richard Lynch, E.T.'s mom Dee Wallace) in roles too small to matter.

No, flinging snippets of classic horror movies onto every TV screen in the movie doesn't give you street cred, pal.

The entire movie is unkempt in the extreme _ ugly people doing ugly things, kind of a Zombie trademark. The gratuitous nudity tossed into the gross-people-gross-acts could be subliminal in nature. "Don't have sex, kids. It's gruesome."

Heartless and artless as it is, the real rub is that Rob doesn't get it. It's not the slashing that's scary, it's the attempts to avoid being slashed, the knowledge that a slashing is coming, that works _ Jamie Leigh Curtis, trapped in that louvered door closet, fighting back. Zombie's movie gives us little of that. As I said, no foreplay.

Maybe Zombie will get better. He just signed a multi-picture deal to do more of these movies. Just as well. But he's no Bob Cummings.



1 star (out of 5)

Cast: Scout Taylor-Compton, Malcolm McDowell, Brad Dourif, William Forsythe, Sheri Moon Zombie.

Director: Rob Zombie.

Running time: 1 hour, 49 minutes

Industry rating: R for strong brutal bloody violence and terror throughout, sexual content, graphic nudity and language

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