Fifteen years ago, Rob Zombie unleashed the most controversial Halloween movie in the franchise – and with it, Michael Myers doled out his saddest kill.
In 1978, John Carpenter became the architect of the modern slasher movie with Halloween: Jamie Lee Curtis is cinema’s definitive final girl; Haddonfield is the template for terror in suburbia; and Michael Myers’ slow-walking, inevitable boogeyman is a tenet of the spooky season.
In the ensuing decades, the horror changed. We began with the eerie stillness of ‘The Shape’ standing in wafting sheets and tilting his head at his grisly handiwork, slowly moved into generic popcorn scares, and wanton, barbaric violence in the new trilogy.
Cheering for Myers isn’t unhealthy – it’s the consequence of following an icon, and brutality is a form of catharsis. Yet, on this day 15 years ago, one kill went too far beyond our giddy love for the villain, and reminded us why he’s a monster.
Rob Zombie’s Halloween is 15 years old today
Today marks the 15th anniversary of Rob Zombie’s remake; vilified and detested among some fans, heralded by others. The keys to Haddonfield were handed to the guy who made The Devil’s Rejects – what did people expect? He delivered Halloween through his oppressively nasty lens – though not as sickening as his infamous sequel.
The first half of the film explored uncharted territory in the canon of Halloween: Myers’ childhood, leading to the fateful night he butchered his sister and father. It strips the mythicism of the killer for the grime, bigotry, and abuse of a white trash upbringing – a Netflix documentary’s wet dream – and with Zombie’s trademark one-dimensional writing, rooting for a deranged child quickly becomes rather easy.
In one sequence, Zombie truly captures the soulless horror of the villain. “The darkest souls are not those which choose to exist within the hell of the abyss, but those which choose to break free from the abyss and move silently among us.”
Rob Zombie is responsible for the Halloween franchise’s saddest kill
Before Myers is let loose in suburbia, we speed through his upbringing in a psychiatric facility under the watchful eye of Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell). Even when he grows into a near-7ft giant, somewhere between a monolith and a member of Slipknot, the tobacco-spitting staff poke fun at him everyday.
All except for one: Ismael (Danny Trejo), one of the staff members who helps Myers get from A to B, putting his chains and handcuffs on – but always with an apology. “Sorry about these chains, Mikey,” he tells him, baffling his colleagues. “I’ve been taking care of this kid for over 20 years.”
Ismael honestly believes he’s developed a relationship with him, not unlike Myers’ affection for his baby sister in his initial massacre. “Shut up, just keep your hands off his things,” he warns, as Myers looms over him obediently.
When two greasy-haired, vile orderlies rape one of the patients in Myers room, he sits dormant until they take a mask off the wall, at which point he smashes their heads against the wall.
Danny Trejo’s brutal death in Halloween
Ismael starts his shift and stumbles into no man’s land; bodies lie on the ground, ripped open and gushing. Just as he starts to panic, Myers appears behind him. “Mikey, what are you doing out of your room?” he asks calmly, without the prejudiced venom of other guards.
“Don’t do nothing we’re both gonna regret later, Mikey. I’m gonna have to get you back into your room, okay… I’m just gonna put these handcuffs on you right now, Mikey, and get you back into your own bed.”
Myers holds out his hands as Ismael inches towards him, trembling. Then, Myers grabs him, and lobs him across the room. He holds him by the scruff of the neck and slams him against anything and everything, all while Ismael cries: “I was good to you, Mikey.”
Myers then starts to drown him in a sink, with blood slowly turning the water into a thick crimson, as he screams again: “I was good to you, Mikey!” As Ismael then lies on the floor, spluttering and begging for his life, Myers dumps a TV on his head.
Why Danny Trejo’s Halloween kill is the scariest and saddest in the franchise
Upsetting deaths in Halloween movies are usually fleeting, bar a few: the escaped sanitorium inmate jumping to his death; Cameron’s banister-wrecking murder in Halloween Kills; and Vicky the babysitter’s horrific stabbing in 2018’s Halloween.
Danny Trejo’s demise is full-on heartbreaking. We watch Ismael’s kindness to Myers, despite others’ judgment and fear. He tried to be a friend in an unfriendly place, and he was treated with the same unrestrained anger as his worst enemy.
Another filmmaker may have let Ismael live to die another day, but Zombie understood that he needed to die – and die horribly. Remember what Dr. Loomus said in the original movie: “I was told there was nothing left; no reason, no conscience, no understanding in even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, of good or evil, right or wrong.
“I met this… six-year-old child with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and… the blackest eyes – the Devil’s eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up, because I realized that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… evil.”
Zombie’s Myers isn’t a man, but he’s not supernatural: he’s beyond all sense of good and evil. There’s nothing behind that mask; no heart, no compassion, no humanity. Ismael’s death was drawn out to show that Myers is a monster. He can’t be bargained with. He can’t be reasoned with. He doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear – only rage.
“These eyes do not see what you and I see. Behind these eyes one finds only blackness, the absence of light.”