Malcolm McDowell, Brad Dourif, and Tyler Mane star in a film written by Rob Zombie and John Carpenter and directed by Zombie.

The prospect of a new Halloween film, seven sequels later and nearly 30 years after the original, is not inspiring. But with Rob Zombie directing and the promise of a radical reimagining of the original story of psychopath Michael Myers wreaking havoc on suburban Haddonfield, Illinois, Halloween is more intriguing on paper than its predecessors.

The first half of the film lingers on Myers’s juvenile killing spree before his years of incarceration. Zombie directs the scenes with a startling eye and ear for the ambient terrors of domestic discontent, and our introduction to the acutely dysfunctional Myers clan is disarmingly cruel and darkly comic. Myers’s time spent under Dr. Loomis’s (Malcolm McDowell, in a superb performance that is both affective and hammy) care provides a segue for the second half of the film, in which his wrath is unleashed in one long, terrible night.

The beginning of the film is highly original, imbued with the same objective take on amoral actions as Zombie’s 2005 film, The Devil’s Rejects, whereas the second half delves into traditional remake territory, copying much of the structure, and even replicating specific shots from Carpenter’s original. Still, this does not take away from its effectiveness as a brutally sick and violent horror film. The use of sound in the film is of particular note; each song selected, each jolt from the score, and each moment of silence work in tension with the imagery to construct scenes of potent, visceral terror. The movie is also terrifically effective at imbuing even minor characters with distinct and believable personalities.

Halloween marks the arrival, against all odds, of Rob Zombie as a major creative force in American film. It is a cruel, violent, overly lengthy, and imperfect film, which would normally more than qualify for a negative review. But for every point of contention the film is sure to inspire, there is much more to enjoy in the truly horrific and deeply entertaining Halloween.

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