Halloween II (2009)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2009-08-29 01:43

Written and Directed by: Rob Zombie
Starring: Scout Taylor-Compton, Brad Dourif, Malcolm McDowell, and Tyler Mane

Reviewed by: Brett G.

"I know he's not gonna come back just because of some stupid holiday..."

Two years ago, Rob Zombie delivered his vision of the Halloween franchise; it was a project greeted with almost universal animosity, as many (included yours truly) felt that his style wasn't fit for the popular horror series. This ended up being the case, as the film was a complete mess all the way around: the script was weak and lacked direction, the film was incompetently lensed, and there was ultimately very little redeeming value. The only silver lining was the fact that Zombie himself claimed he wouldn't return to do a sequel, which would hopefully leave the franchise with someone better suited for the material. Of course, this didn't end up happening at all, as Rob Zombie's Halloween II was announced late last year, igniting an internet firestorm whose flames were fanned at every turn as news about the project began to leak. A hobo, unmasked Myers taking orders from an undead Sherri Moon Zombie, Laurie Strode being infected with Zombie's trailer trash bug, and a mysterious white horse have filled horror headlines for the past few months. For myself, anticipation for a new Halloween film was at an all time low, leaving severely low expectations.

Zombie's second venture begins literally minutes after his first film ended, as Laurie Strode is walking aimlessly down the street after blowing a hole through Myers's head. The crime scene is in the process of being examined, with Myers's corpse headed to the local morgue; that is, until the van hits a cow and Michael is miraculously rejuvenated and soon transfixed by the image of his dead mother and a white horse (the significance of which are explained in a pre-title flashback sequence to Myers's sanitarium days). We then jump ahead to a year later: the once sweet and innocent Laurie Strode is on the verge of insanity, Dr. Loomis is on a press tour for his sleazy tell-all book capitalizing on Myers, Sheriff Bracket is constantly on edge, and, last but not least, Myers himself is bumming around town looking like a cross between a hobo and a ninja. A few days before Halloween, he gets another visit from his mother's apparition, which tells him to hunt down his baby sister so that they can all become one happy family again.

Ostensibly speaking, the plot of Halloween II at its core is pretty much the same as many of the sequels: Michael's back in town and looking to kill off a relative. To be clear, this definitely not a remake of the original Halloween II, as the only similarity between the two is a nightmare sequence set in a hospital at the beginning of the scene. In a way, it's almost the opposite of Zombie's original film in that he gets the familiar elements out of the way first before moving on the completely new material. Unfortunately, the nightmare sequence at the beginning of the film is probably the film's high point, as it's a fairly well done stalk and slash sequence that's unburdened by all the unnecessary plot elements that follow.

These elements are of course the now infamous ghost of Deborah Myers and her white horse, who appear (along with Myers's younger self) throughout the film in visions that the adult Myers has. They essentially serve the purpose of explaining Myers's motivation behind stalking Laurie yet again. As I have said in several Halloween reviews, I don't care for explaining Myers's psychosis, whether it be a crummy childhood or pagan curses. Myers works best when he's just a walking avatar for pure evil with no sense of humanity whatsoever; reducing him to a child in a man's body as Zombie does represents the ultimate removal from what the character essentially is. Plus, it would seem that Zombie got his wires crossed--as if Myers bursting through doors and otherwise hulking around wasn't enough like Jason Voorhees, Zombie basically reduces him to a mama's boy in the vein of the famous Friday the 13th anti-hero.

And while it's nice that Michael's childhood now has some relevance to the plot (where it didn't in the third act of the first film) and his motivations are now made completely clear (where, again, they weren't in the first film), his visions just do not work well at all. They essentially feel like waking dreams that follow Myers around, and it's a very awkward and hokey way to convey what's going on in his mind. It lacks any sort of subtlety and exposes Michael's humanity even further; in fact, the film's opening screen provides a written explanation for the significance of the horse itself, and it comes off as if Zombie is over-explaining things and spoon-feeding the audience. I understand what he was going for here, but the execution is very poor. Plus, the character as presented here truly runs counter to Zombie's aim to ground the series in reality, as we never get an explanation for how he survived multiple gunshots (including one to the head), nor do we know how he recognizes Laurie as his sister. To top it all off, a psychic bond seems to form between brother and sister, with the latter actually sharing the former's visions, which is just one of a few ways that Zombie borrows from the previous Halloween sequels he claims to dislike.

With that said, if you strip away these elements, the films succeeds as a decent slasher film. I don't know if it's my lowered expectations speaking, but the film isn't as absurdly bad as I thought it would be. While Myers still spends a little bit too much time in his hobo appearance than I'd like, he's not maskless for a majority of the running time as previously reported (though it seems rather odd that he would be so at all considering how much the first film established his love of masks). He's still not exactly the Michael Myers I grew up with, but there actually are some pretty good Shape-esque moments like appearing stealthily from behind a tree and appearing briefly in a window before disappearing. Unfortunately, these types of moments are largely overshadowed by his propensity towards hulking around and grunting loudly as he kills people--and believe me, when he kills people in this one, he really kills them. This is about as pissed off as Myers has ever been, and while its certainly the antithesis of the reserved, emotionless killer Carpenter envisioned, it does lend itself to some pretty good gore sequences. He's got his butcher knife glued to his hand a bit too much, but there's some decent variety strewn throughout so it works well enough as a slasher movie.

Zombie's visual direction is also mightily improved here. Moving back to 1.85 from the wasted use of scope in the original is a true boon, as the framing feels much more precise. While there are still some instances where Zombie is zoomed in too tightly and filming behind objects, the camera itself mostly remains still when it should. Action sequences are a bit of a mixed bag, as it's tough to follow the action at times, but overall, Zombie has improved here. The same can be said about the film's look itself, which actually manages to exhibit some style and some good lighting. Whereas the first film felt too plain, this one is saturated in colors that give the film a sense of atmosphere and provide some excellent, moody shots. It's still quite a dim looking movie, but it doesn't feel artificially grimy like many new horror films do. It also helps that Zombie has pumped up the Halloween and fall imagery in a big way, as the film's title actually has some consequence, visually speaking.

However, none of this is really good enough to raise the material above its script, which is still fairly weak. In addition to the white horse business, there's also a huge problem with the Loomis character. Many will dislike his sleazy nature, but the even bigger problem here is that he has absolutely no relevance to the story whatsoever besides serving as a running punchline throughout the film. While he's unfairly accused of being responsible for Michael's reign of terror, it's hard to feel sympathy for a guy that's this sleazy; however, the character could be justified if he ever contributed anything to the film, which he doesn't. In fact, he's largely removed from the main storyline until the very end. Thankfully Brad Dourif is around once again as Sheriff Bracket, who ends up feeling more like Loomis than Loomis himself does. Without a doubt, Dourif is the heart of the film and actually provides someone to root for. It's too bad that the entire movie couldn't be a Dourif vs. Myers showdown because the other lone bright spot from the original film, Scout Taylor-Compton's Laurie Strode, is almost unrecognizable and feels like another one of Zombie's trashy cliches. While the character has some decent moments and manages to elicit a bit of sympathy, she ultimately feels lost in all the chaos. Zombie has already commented that his director's cut will flesh out Laurie and make the film even more about her, so it'll be interesting to see how that plays out.

This chaos ultimately winds down and just ends up being a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing. The movie peters out with a weak anticlimax, as the final showdown between all the parties involved isn't nearly as epic as it should be. The film's coda and ultimate ending is also predictable and has also been seen before in another Halloween sequel. If anything, this scene is notable because it contains the lone instance of any classic Halloween music besides the closing credits. It goes without saying that the score as a whole is disappointing and speaks to just how Zombie's efforts to make a Halloween film is the equivalent of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. If you can't find a way for one of horror's iconic themes to fit a Halloween movie, it really raises some red flags. Ultimately, Zombie's sequel is a better film than its predecessor, if only because it's only slightly less half baked and a bit more fully realized, for better or worse; it still doesn't feel like a Halloween movie at all, but it's a fairly good slasher that exhibits some good visual direction. Thankfully, Zombie has apparently moved on and will remake The Blob next, which will give someone else an opportunity to direct a Halloween entry. Zombie's era certainly hasn't been a highlight, but I've got to say it could have ended much worse than it did, as Halloween II is a watchable slasher film. I wouldn't advise you to rush out and see it immediately, but when it hits home video it's worth a look for the curious Halloween fan. Rent it!

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