PASADENA, California — In this sacred neighborhood, on this holiest of blocks, Reverend Rob Zombie is presiding over a ceremony of appreciation. "Halloween" fans have come to worship the artifacts, kneel on the lawns of the sacrosanct homes and hum along with the hymns. Now, after 30 years of faithful repetition, the director of "The Devil's Rejects" is continuing the ritual — just don't expect him to preach from the same Bible.
"Michael Myers does not know how to drive in this movie," the long-haired, tattooed filmmaker told MTV over the weekend on the set of his highly anticipated remake of one of horror's most beloved slasher films (see "Rob Zombie Resurrecting Michael Myers For New 'Halloween' "). "[Myers in the station wagon] 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, no, he doesn't drive."
It's one of the sure-to-be-controversial revisions that Zombie is making to the classic John Carpenter flick. Realizing that the blueprint has simply been Xeroxed too many times, the ultra-violent filmmaker is now entering the final scenes of an intense 38-day shoot with wrestler/actor Tyler Mane as Myers, 18-year-old Scout Taylor-Compton as imperiled babysitter Laurie Strode and Malcolm McDowell as the eccentric Dr. Loomis.
"I want to make Loomis a man with a tremendous ego," said McDowell, dressed in black and draped in a beige trench coat that evokes predecessor Donald Pleasence. "[He's all about] getting a book out of it, which of course he has done, he's a best-seller ... he's the psychiatrist whose lifelong work is Michael Myers. He's obviously not a very good one, is he?"
Zombie's flick is also aiming to up the ante in terms of action. "I remember coming in the first day and we were down in the basement, and there was Lynda [actress Kristina Klebe] lying nude," Taylor-Compton remembered. "I'm screaming, and here comes Michael, and we're doing knife stuff and slashing him, and me pulling wood [off the wall] and going through a hole, climbing out this little fence and he pushes through the wall and grabs me ... I love doing my own stunts."
Contrary to Internet rumors, Zombie's "Halloween" has no discernible time period and begins well before the original's opening scene of young Michael killing his sister Judith (Laurie doesn't even come into the film until the final third). Now, the 6-year-old slaughters five of his relatives and is then sent to Loomis' sanitarium.
"In one scene we do, he's completely blank and I'm trying to coax him," McDowell said of his work with Daeg Faerch, who plays a young (and verbal!) Myers. "He gets to deliver [lines], but of course the older Michael is completely [silent]; he doesn't say a thing, he just wears a mask and terrifies everybody to death."
Including innocent drivers, apparently. On this particular day, Zombie has the 6-foot-10-inch Mane dressed in green coveralls, his hands so drenched in blood that they look like red work gloves, wearing a scarred white mask and holding a massive knife. Hiding behind a tree, he watches Laurie and her mother Cynthia (Dee Wallace) putting up Halloween decorations in their front yard. Filming in the same neighborhood where Carpenter shot the original, Zombie allows cars to access their homes between takes, resulting in more than one brake light upon discovering a homicidal icon on their sidewalk.
"[Myers' trademarks] were perfect for the original because nothing had become iconic," Zombie said, insisting that his movie will explain many of their origins. "It was just, 'Oh, the jumpsuit; big deal, it's a jumpsuit,' or, 'Oh the mask; big deal, it's a mask.' "
"In this film, Michael has [the mask] as a child," said Wayne Toth, the special-effects makeup artist on the flick, explaining why the new mask has scars on it. "While he's away [at the sanitarium], this time he's buried it in the basement of the Myers' house. So when he gets out, he digs it up and it's rotten."
Among the other notable moves that Zombie is embracing:
· The Myers' house is much larger, with a battered porch, "No Trespassing" boards on the windows and a "For Sale" sign out front reading "Strode Real Estate - Price Reduced." A blue RAM van in the driveway belongs to an ill-fated boyfriend, and a climactic battle between Laurie and Michael takes place in an empty swimming pool in the backyard.
· In the original, Myers killed two dogs, even eating one of them; this time PETA can relax. "No, there is nothing like that at all," Zombie said.
· While in the sanitarium, young Michael makes masks out of paper — a bucket of papier-mâché versions of his famous mask was glimpsed on set.
· Loomis steals a Town of Haddonfield police car in the film, using it as his transportation.
· Don't hold your breath for a Jamie Lee Curtis appearance à la "H20." "There are no real cameos," Zombie said. "There is no one from the original film."
· Look for a genre veteran as Myers' new best bud. "Danny Trejo, who always plays the badass, is playing the one sympathetic hospital worker at Smith's Grove," the director explained. "He's been with Michael for 17 years there."
· Zombie has stocked the cast with veteran actors like Udo Kier ("He's the head of Smith's Grove"), Tom Towles ("He plays a councilman who is at [Myers'] parole hearing"), Adrienne Barbeau ("She has a brief moment as a woman at the adoption agency in Haddonfield") and Sybil Danning ("[She is] a young Michael's last victim at Smith's Grove").
· McDowell and Taylor-Compton say they'd return for additional "Halloween" sequels, but Zombie insists he's done after one. ("Everything I've wanted to do I've done with this movie," he remarked.)
· Zombie won't replicate Carpenter's classic one-take opening scene. "Since I've already spent a half-hour developing the little kid," he reasoned, "to do any kind of mysterious POV would be ridiculous."
· Laurie has traded in her skirts and turtlenecks for Chuck Taylor sneakers and a skull-depicting hoodie. "She's conservative, but she has a little bit of an attitude now," said Taylor-Compton, whose character engages in a risqué conversation about bagel holes with her embarrassed mom.
One final change might just be the most controversial of them all: The dropping of the famous "Halloween" theme composed by Carpenter. "The plan was at some point to [remake it], to change it around," Zombie said, revealing that it has since been shelved. "The actual way it sounds now doesn't really work with what we're doing."
"We've reimagined the picture," producer Andy Gould added. "Perhaps a reimagining of the sound is in order too."
Reverend Rob Zombie's holy mass doesn't begin until August 31, but check back Friday to read more from our interview with the director.
For more on "Halloween," check out the feature "Evil Reborn: Rob Zombie Resurrects A Horror Classic."
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