PASADENA, California — Any horror fan would have happily surrendered their right arm to Michael Myers’ blood-spattered knife in exchange for the afternoon MTV recently spent as the first outsiders allowed on the set of Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” remake. Standing on the front lawn of Laurie Strode’s house — it’s bigger and features cheesy holiday decorations — and leaning on the rusted fence around Michael’s new home (he has a pool now), you can practically feel a 6-foot-10-inch killing machine staring at you from behind a white mask. In this exclusive Q&A, controversial rocker-turned-filmmaker Zombie breaks big news on what he’s seeing when he looks into those “blackest eyes” of Michael Myers.
MTV: What questions do you hope to answer with this movie?
Rob Zombie: I want it not to be so coincidental. None of this stuff ever bothered me watching the original “Halloween,” of course; I’ve always loved the movie and I think it’s awesome. But when making the movie different, I didn’t want [the explanation of the origin of Michael Myers’ mask] to be: ‘He happened to rob a hardware store and steal that mask.’ Well, what if they didn’t have that mask? Would he steal a Jimmy Carter mask? Or an Elmo mask, if that was the only one available at the hardware store? And when did he rob the hardware store? In broad daylight? And the alarm is still ringing? Thank God [Dr. Sam Loomis, originally played by Donald Pleasance] stopped to make that phone call, at exactly that phone booth, and found the Rabbit in Red matchbook! That type of thing always bothered me.
MTV: So what are we watching here today?
Zombie: We’re just doing a scene where Laurie comes home from school, and she feels she’s being followed. But she’s not sure if she’s being paranoid or being followed — and neither does the audience … this is the first time Michael sees where she lives, and sees her mom and the parents, and understands things a little better.
MTV: Talk about the plot of John Carpenter’s 1978 classic versus the plot of your “re-imagining.”
Zombie: The plot is so simple [in the original]; it’s this young kid Michael Myers. We’ve changed it a bit — in the original, he kills his sister; then he’s sent to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, which he later escapes from as an adult; comes home and starts randomly killing babysitters. Later, in sequels, they made [his back story] more significant — but in the first one, it’s pretty random … I’ve added a lot more to it, and I’ve tried to make everything he did be motivated and justified in some way, so it’s never random killing for no reason. There’s a reason for everything.
MTV: The 1978 film has one of the all-time great opening shots …
Zombie: You mean the opening shot of the pumpkin?
MTV: The no-edit handheld shot, peeking in the windows at Michael’s first killing.
Zombie: Oh, I don’t do any of that stuff. That doesn’t make any sense in this movie, because by that point we already know everything. [The first] was like, ‘Faceless killer? What happens? Oh my God, it’s a little kid.’ But since I’ve already spent a half-hour developing the little kid [when he kills his sister Judith], to do any kind of mysterious POV would be ridiculous because we already know who it is. It’s a totally different thought process to how it unfolds; I’m not trying to trick the audience … we still have the original movie, so to just imitate it or copy it in any way is completely pointless.
MTV: Most people hear “Rob Zombie’s ‘Halloween’ ” and assume it’ll be the classic movie with tons more blood and gore. Is this accurate?
Zombie: No, not really; there’s not tons more blood. I’m not really a fan of ’80s slasher bloody movies. [They’ve] always bored me … I like character-driven movies. [This] is really violent and really intense, but it’s because you get swept up in the characters … a bloodbath doesn’t interest me.
MTV: One thing I can’t help but notice is that there’s no station wagon around here. Where’s Michael’s ride?
Zombie: Michael Myers does not know how to drive in this movie, because that always bothered me. They would always play that off like someone must have given him lessons, but you know no one gave him lessons! He’s in a maximum-security prison! So he doesn’t drive.
MTV: But it’s 150 miles from Smith’s Grove Sanitarium to his victims in Haddonfield. How does he get there?
Zombie: Who said it was 150 miles?
MTV: Donald Pleasance.
Zombie: See, you can’t get the original movie out of your head, can you? [He laughs.] Actually, he did like Robert De Niro in “Cape Fear” and he strapped himself to the bottom of a truck.
MTV: In the backyard of your Myers house, there’s a gross dried-up swimming pool. What goes on back there?
Zombie: Well, back there is the beginning of our finale with Michael chasing Laurie. How much do you want me to tell you? [He laughs.]
MTV: Whatever you can.
Zombie: We’ll hit [the original], then it veers off on a tangent, and then it will hit a familiar beat. And then we go off somewhere else.
MTV: You’ve significantly bulked-up the screen time of Dr. Loomis and Sherriff Brackett. Why was that important?
Zombie: Sherriff Brackett, whose daughter Annie gets killed by Michael Myers, figures in more. I think what happened before was that people come in and disappear, and I wanted to make Brackett and the three girls — Linda, Laurie and Annie — and her dad the Sherriff and Loomis [more important].
MTV: What is Malcolm McDowell doing similar to Pleasance, and what is he doing different?
Zombie: He hasn’t seen “Halloween” … [but] he’s doing certain things similar without even knowing it, which is kind of funny … Loomis, in all the other “Halloween” movies, was some kind of crazy guy running around getting other people trying to help him. It wasn’t too hard to believe that no one believed him, because he seemed a little bit like he was crazy and drunk and off his rocker. Malcolm’s [Loomis] is more successful, and has profited off of all of this, and there is a conflict between Michael Myers being his greatest failed patient yet his meal ticket. Brackett doesn’t really like [Loomis], because he just thinks he’s this guy that exploited this tragedy in Haddonfield.
MTV: Some people have complained that Tyler Mane is too tall to play Michael Myers. What would you say to them?
Zombie: You can’t have a normal-sized guy lifting some guy off the floor. Then it becomes supernatural, and I didn’t want to make a supernatural movie … [Tyler] is so big, but he’s really kinda slim, and for a guy that tall he’s very in proportion… A lot of [concerned fans] were like, ‘He’s gonna be like Hulk crashing through walls,’ but I found it terrifying when he goes against someone like Danielle Harris, who literally seems like she’s 2 feet shorter than him. He’s almost like 7 feet tall. That’s crazy.
MTV: Would you ever remake “Halloween II,” since it’s a companion piece to the first flick?
Zombie: Everything I’ve wanted to do, I’ve done with this movie.
“Halloween” opens August 31.
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