This week, slasher legend Michael Myers will be resurrected once again, this time in a total page one remake of John Carpenter's 1978 classic. It's been a long, strange road for Myers -- at one point, I think his mind was being controlled by Druids? -- but Rob Zombie's remake attempts to go somewhere new with the character by focusing almost the entire first hour on Myers' messed-up childhood -- Carpenter devoted comparatively little time to the origin story -- showing us his torment at the hands of school bullies, his disgust at his slovenly couch potato step-father and promiscuous sister, and tracking his slow degradation into a mute nutjob. This first section of Halloween, which strongly echoes the grotesque, white-trash circus atmosphere that surrounds Zombie's first two films, House of 1000 Corpses and its sequel, The Devil's Rejects, is where you'll most easily see the director's fingerprints. A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from Rob to talk about the film, what he wanted to accomplish with it, and what other irons he's got in the fire.
RS: So have you seen the film with an audience yet?
RZ: I've seen the film twice, two different versions with an audience, but I have not seen the final, finished version yet.
RS: How was the reaction in those early screenings?
RZ: The reaction was awesome -- it was one of those test screenings. You actually get more information than you'd normally get. It's actually hard to judge, when you're sitting in the crowd, what people are thinking. When I watch a movie, I don't make a sound or move. The more I'm into the movie, the more bored I look. So you're sitting there, kind of panicking, like 'I can't tell if people like it!' Then afterwards, when people started talking, everyone loved it. If someone jumps or something, you can tell they react, but most of the time when they're paying close attention, there's no reaction at all.
RS: Why was it important for you to cast a big, tall guy like Tyler Mane as the adult Michael? The scary thing about Michael is that he's crazy and you have no idea what he's thinking, right?
RZ: Well, the fact that he's tall doesn't take away the part that he's crazy or any of that. None of that is lessened. Two reasons -- one is that I didn't want to make him supernatural, you know, which he had sort of been. In order for a guy, in the other films, of his size to do the things he was doing, he'd have to be supernatural and have superhuman strength. I didn't want to do that, because I thought that had been done and I wanted to take a different approach. The only way to get somebody who could physically do the things I have him do in this movie would be someone of that size. And I just thought, frankly, he's much more frightening. When he comes crashing through ... You know, people always say that to me -- 'don't you think a normal-sized guy is more frightening? And I go 'F*ck no.' If a normal-sized guy comes at me, I'm not worried. If a guy like Tyler comes at me, I'm f*ckin' worried. I wanted him to be like Frankenstein -- a total monster. And he is. Tyler's great, because he's not ... he used to be a lot bigger. He lost 100 pounds, so he's not really bulky. He's actually pretty slim, but he's just so big. I wanted him to have a physical presence that was different than, you know, the average people in the movie, and he totally does.
RS: Did you go so far as to have him coordinate movements with the kid, create similarities in their physical presences? Or did you feel like that was too far?
RZ: Well, it really wasn't necessary. It's funny because I filmed all the stuff with young Michael first. So that stuff was already in the can. They didn't really have to imitate each other, even though they sort of did without knowing it, and they do seem like the same person. You know, young Michael kind of degenerates into adult Michael. He sort of seems like a normal kid, and then after the murders, when he's in Smith's Grove and he starts growing up, he sort of becomes the Michael Myers character that we're more familiar with. So they didn't really have to imitate each other. It was more like young Michael, as he was getting older, just needed to take on the vibe of adult Michael, which he did. The transition worked well.
RS: What is Michael's plan? Is he trying to erase all record of his existence?
RZ: No, his plan is clearly to reunite. I see Michael Myers as this, the way he's always been described. He has no sense of right or wrong, or remorse, conscience, anything. Even when little Michael is in the sanitarium, he doesn't even know why he's there. He doesn't remember killing his family, he doesn't remember anything. He doesn't even know what he's doing there. That's sort of his way through the whole movie. He has no understanding of life or death. That's why if you think back to adult Michael killing somebody, he looks at it like 'Why did he stop moving? I don't get it.' So really, the master plan we find out at the end of the movie, basically Michael is trying to reunite his entire family. He's searching for his baby sister, who was a baby when he got locked away. And the only way he can reunite the rest of his family, because they're all dead, is symbolically, with a gravestone or another corpse. So, without giving it all away, that's sort of how it all plays out.
RS: Michael's search for Laurie is a little bit supernatural, isn't it? I mean, he just finds her. When I was watching the movie I sort of imagined that there's a deleted scene of Michael at the library, Googling or looking through records or something to find out where this girl lives.
RZ: Well, there are certain things you've got to take artistic license, and one thing was, I just wanted to play it like as if he had animal instincts. You always hear stories -- it's uncommon, but it happens -- when somebody drives across the country and they leave their cat at a rest stop, let's say. Then the cat somehow finds its way home, 3,000 miles. It makes no sense at all that one day the cat reappears. And that's basically how I was playing Michael -- his instinct to do these things is so strong. I mean, obviously, it's a movie so you've gotta suspend disbelief on some things, but that was the only thing that seemed to make sense with the character, how he's always been set up, you know. How else would he know anything? I played it too like he's very cunning and aware. When he's in Smith's Grove, he seems like this harmless lump that no one pays attention to for fifteen years. But he's always listening, he's always aware, he's always watching. 'Where did they put the keys? What door is the door ...' You know. He's totally aware, totally manipulative. It's believable that over that time he could have paid attention to what was happening, overheard things, found things out.
RS: Do you think he could speak if he wanted to?
RZ: Well, I played it like ... he just degenerates until his only personality is the mask. He is a person who has ceased to exist. You see, with little Michael, that he starts talking less and less and less and relying more on hiding behind the mask. Until he doesn't speak at all. But he, I mean, he has a voice box, so he could speak if he wanted to, but he's also so crazy that maybe he doesn't remember how, you know? He's so degenerated into such a mental state ... which end is up?
RS: Right. When you were directing it, were you wary of making sure the kills weren't too gimmicky? Did you want to limit Michael to using whatever was realistically available to him, like using his hands to choke someone?
RZ: Yeah, I did. I wanted everything to be realistic. As soon as you start getting 'creative,' it stats to become like a cartoon. There's a giant guy -- he's not gonna do these elaborate schemes. He's not going to electrocute people or light people on fire or do all this crazy stuff. It doesn't make any sense. If someone is strong enough that they can grab you and kill you with their bare hands, that's what they're gonna do, you know? So I figured it's either gonna be brute strength, or, you know, the knife. Anything else just would have seemed ridiculous. It would have seemed silly to me. I mean, why would he do it? It would logically not make sense. And it wouldn't make sense with this character, either.
RS: I think Malcolm McDowell said he's signed for three films. Are you gonna continue or stop with this one?
RZ: I'm gonna stop with this.
RZ: Because I did everything I wanted to do. I feel like it's a complete story. It's done. And as with John Carpenter's film, that was a complete story and it was done, but as you keep it going I feel like you just inevitably just ruin it. What's left? I mean, I did a lot in this movie and there's nothing left to do. Someone else can pick it up and do whatever they want, but I just have no interest in it.
RS: By the way, speaking of Malcolm McDowell, I saw his Loomis as kind of a user. I mean, let's face it -- he's inserting himself into this story, just so he can sell some books. Is that how you saw his character?
RZ: Well, not really, I mean I started realistically thinking, okay, Dr. Loomis is just a child psychologist when we first meet him. He seems like a guy who is just trying to do good, probably makes no money. Seems like a good guy. Then he meets Michael Myers and everything happens. Michael Myers, if that were a true story, would be very well known. As would Dr. Loomis. He'd become a celebrity off the fact that he has, basically a celebrity client, much like Vincent Bugliosi with the Manson family or something, he becomes a 'celebrity prosecutor.' And over the years you see how ... I wanted it to be kind of vague. He's kind of benefitting from it, but he was trying to do the right thing, and clearly at some point, there was nothing left to do. But the shadow of Michael Myers has clearly ruined his life. [laughs] Even when he says he's moving on, 'I've gotta move on Michael,' his idea of moving on is giving lectures standing in front of a giant projection of Michael Myers. So he's not moving on at all. Their lives are intertwined, and Michael basically destroyed this guy's life.
RS: There was a lot of talk about the re-shoots. Most of that was to serve Danny Trejo's character?
RZ: Well, just one scene with him, that was one thing. But the re-shoots were all over the place. There were lots of little things. One of them was that I restructured the timeline of the movie, so I wanted things to happen sooner, so I re-filmed Dr. Loomis getting the phone call about Michael escaping. At one point, it used to be during the day but I wanted it to take place at night, so I re-did that. It's starting to blur in my mind what I did. Just a couple of things. Loomis meeting Brackett at the hamburger stand was new -- they were meeting at the cemetery. There was a lot of time-restructuring.
RS: Right, well the reason I brought it up was because I had a suspicion about Danny's character -- it seems like there might have been a version where Michael lets him live. Danny's character is a guy who has never done him any harm, or anything.
RZ: Well, what happened was, the whole scene with Danny when he dies -- everything in that scene is new. So it's not like they confronted each other and he let him go -- there was just nothing there. What actually happened was Danny's character, I felt, didn't resolve ... you just never know. Sometimes you have a character that doesn't really mean much to a movie, sometimes you have a character and it seems more significant. And that was the case with Danny's character. He lived, but we never even saw him -- I mean, it just didn't ever resolve itself. And what I realized when I was going back to re-shoot it was I need to resolve this on one level. Either he needs to kill him or he needs to let him live. Rather than Danny's character just sort of never showed up again. So we just needed to show what happened to him. He seemed too significant to not have any kind of resolution.
RS: I recently interviewed your collaborator Steve Niles, and he really came out strongly against the whole torture porn genre, horror movies that graphically mix sex and violence. Do you feel the same?
RZ: I don't really care. I mean, there's room for everything, the way I look at it. I don't really like to ... It kind of bugs me the way that it's even a topic, truthfully, because people just want to harp on everything. When I was finishing Halloween, I did an interview ... literally, I did an interview Friday before Hostel II came out, and the whole interview was like 'what do you think about this new trend of torture porn? It's so big and it's so this!' And then I do an interview on Monday and all they want to talk about is 'What do you think about the death of this trend?' I'm like 'give me a f*cking break.' It just is what it is. There's room for everything. If people like that, great. If they don't, who gives a shit? It is what it is. I don't like turning every time someone makes a movie into a giant movement. [laughs] It becomes ridiculous.
RS: Steve also told me you've pretty much rejected the idea of helming the Bigfoot story. Is that true? It seems like it'd be a good fit for you.
RZ: Yeah, I was busy doing Halloween and they were talking about this Bigfoot movie and it just wasn't something I wanted to do at the time.
RS: So what's coming up? Superbeasto?
RZ: Superbeasto's done. That project started, like, over two years ago. So that's finally finished, except for some minor things with sound and music, but the animation is done. I'm not sure what the plan for release is yet. I don't know what's next. I gotta figure it out.
RS: Do you think about expanding beyond horror?
RZ: I don't know, it depends. I love all kinds of movies. I'd especially like to make some, you know, violent crime drama. I don't know what's next -- it could be a horror movie, it might not be a horror movie. Who knows?