'Halloween': Once more, with flaying

Give Rob Zombie some credit. Asked to do the unthinkable — remake one of the most influential horror films in history, one of the few that has stood the test of time — and he has done so, in a way that is mostly unique and still shocking.

John Carpenter, director of the original “Halloween,” may have raised the bar to daunting heights, yet Zombie offers a broader but compelling take on the mythology that has made Michael Myers one of the creepiest villains in cinematic history.

How? Well, he’s given Myers (Tyler Mane) a back story. Until now, the man behind the mask was simply a stalker who killed without reason, silently hunting his victims with random precision. Zombie does his best to explore the motivations that drive Myers to killing — the broken home, a drunken, abusive stepfather (William Forsythe) and a mother (Sheri Moon) whose occupation as a stripper at the local bar exposes her son to ridicule.

Neither is prepared for the fateful Halloween evening when Michael embarks upon a murderous rampage — but then, that’sthe point.

After a lengthy but intriguing exposition, Zombie settles into a familiar groove, returning to the night when Myers escapes the confines of his sanitarium to retrace the footsteps of his long-lost sister, Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton). At that point, the film becomes less of a reinvention than a dutiful remake.

Nearly 30 years later, Myers is still consumed by the same demons, and his drive to kill, in gorier fashion than Carpenter ever committed to film, remains undiminished.

Still, it is compulsively watchable. Zombie’s “Halloween” may prove too verbose and literal-minded to satisfy fans of Carpenter’s original — a model of minimalist but brutally efficient horror — but it is a harsh, disquieting experience.

Sometimes, less is more; in this case, not a lot more.

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