Rob Zombie’s ‘Halloween’ Has Plenty Of In-Jokes For The Purists

The director answers those age-old remake questions: 'How much do you keep? How much do you get rid of?'

Seventeen months ago, Rob Zombie announced plans to do the unthinkable: remake John Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic “Halloween.” Since then, he has constantly answered the two vital questions that haunt any filmmaker who’d take on such a task.

“It’s always, ‘How much do you keep?’ ‘How much do you get rid of?’ It’s this constant balancing act,” Zombie said recently as he prepared to unleash his creation on audiences Friday. “Remaking something is a weird game.”

(Watch Rob Zombie explain why his “Halloween” remake is different from the recent onslaught of gory movies.)

The fact of the matter is that Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” isn’t really a remake — but it certainly isn’t a wholly original film either (see “Rob Zombie Isn’t Interested In A ‘Halloween’ Sequel: ‘It Won’t Involve Me’ “ ). Instead, the originality in Zombie’s vision comes from the masterful ways in which he walks the tightrope between being too faithful (Gus Van Sant’s “Psycho”) and too hellbent on change (Michael Mann’s “Miami Vice”).

“There are some built-in things with remakes,” Zombie explained. “So you try to basically mess it up as much as possible but still retain some elements.”

With that in mind, here’s a spoiler-free look at a few of the key decisions in Rob Zombie’s re-imagining, as explained by the director and his stars.

A Totally Cool In-Joke: While there aren’t a lot of humorous elements in the original flick, one of the most beloved is fun-loving Lynda’s repeated abuse of the word “totally” to describe everything from her hectic cheerleading schedule to her boyfriend’s skills in the sack to the amount of trouble the girls are in. For the new flick, Kristina Klebe steps into the role originated by teen fave P.J. Soles — and after some thought, Zombie told Klebe that she should totally use the word as much as possible. “There were certain things that jumped out to me,” said the director, who insists that teens still abuse the adjective three decades later. “I didn’t make a list or anything, but I thought ['totally'] was one of those things that could still work and be funny.”

Casper The Not-So-Friendly Ghost: Another element the director elected to keep was the post-coital costume party that Lynda’s boyfriend begins when he goes downstairs to get a beer. When someone else returns wearing Bob’s disguise, let’s just say that the sheet hits the fan. “I thought Bob dressing up as the ghost was another one [we had to keep],” Zombie remembered.

The Sharp-Dressed Man: No Michael Myers costume is complete without a one-piece jumpsuit. In the new “Halloween,” we see the killer select his wardrobe at a location that isn’t exactly Macy’s. “My favorite scene is definitely when I get the suit from the trucker in the truck stop,” grinned Tyler Mane, the monstrous actor who plays the new Myers (see “Tyler Mane Hopes To Be ‘Scariest Michael Ever’ In Rob Zombie’s ‘Halloween’ “ ). “That is a very, very intense scene in that bathroom.”

Michael Myers Is Stripped To His Core: In the original flick, Dr. Loomis pieces together the mystery of Michael’s whereabouts using a blink-and-you-miss-it shot of a matchbook reading “The Rabbit in Red Lounge — Entertainment Nightly.” In Zombie’s version, the now-iconic drinking establishment has been turned into a seedy strip bar where young Michael’s mother dances nightly. “With Rabbit in Red, if you haven’t seen the original movie you wouldn’t think anything of it,” Zombie explained. “Even the casual person who’s only seen it once probably wouldn’t remember that the matchbook said Rabbit in Red. But I thought that would be a cool thing to blow up into something bigger, for the fans.”

A Change For Nichol’s: In the Carpenter classic, Haddonfield’s hardware store is briefly glimpsed after Myers has robbed the place. Zombie has crafted all-new explanations of how his killer obtained his weapons, but the director said to listen carefully for a quick shout-out “mentioning Nichol’s Hardware, which was the hardware store in the original movie that Michael Myers stole his mask from. I wanted to keep that there.”

Laurie Strode Comes Out Of The Closet: The classic climax involves Jamie Lee Curtis, a half-empty closet and a coat hanger. For the new finale, however, Zombie was determined to lose the familiarity and keep the claustrophobia. “I wanted to take it one step further,” he explained. “At the end of the movie, I have her climb into the wall, which presents the same situation [as the closet]. The closet worked not because it was a closet, but because she had backed herself into such a small corner. Where else are you gonna go? I thought, ‘Well, what’s the next step that would be even more extreme?’ and then I thought, ‘Jamming yourself in a wall!’ There’s nowhere to go.”

Talk About A Bad Neighborhood: One similarity that Zombie did embrace from day one was a determination to shoot in the same Pasadena, California, neighborhood and on the very same streets that Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence used for suburban Illinois back in the day. “Sometimes there were moments that were pretty surreal,” admitted Zombie, a longtime fan of the original flick. “When you’re filming on the same streets, and Michael Myers looks different but similar enough — that was one of the great things about [Tyler Mane].”

Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Back: “Going into it, I just wanted to make sure I got it down, because everyone’s such a fan of the original,” explained Scout Taylor-Compton, who landed the highly coveted role as the new Laurie Strode (see ” ‘Halloween’ Star Scout Taylor-Compton Calls Michael Myers ‘Cute,’ Talks Sequel” ). “She’s so wholesome, and quiet and cute. But then, meeting Rob, we decided to change it up a bit. She’s still the wholesome girl, but now she has a little bit more attitude to her.” Keep your ears open for an NC-17 conversation in the first scene with Taylor-Compton, announcing right away that this isn’t your parents’ Laurie Strode. “Rob wanted me to do a little bit of a different introduction,” Taylor-Compton remembered of the soon-to-be-infamous bagel scene. “That was a Rob Zombie idea.”

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