Halloween II

ON

Now in theaters!

Cast:

Scout Taylor-Compton as Laurie Strode

Tyler Mane as Michael Myers

Brad Dourif as Sheriff Brackett

Danielle Harris as Annie Brackett

Directed by Rob Zombie

Review:

First things first – if you thought that writer/director Rob Zombie’s first stab at the Halloween franchise was a love it or hate it proposition, you haven’t seen anything yet. While Zombie’s 2007 reboot/remake made an effort to play ball with the iconography of John Carpenter’s seminal slasher film, all that has gone out the window with this sequel. This is Halloween: The Extended Psychedelic Jam, delivering sights that fans never though they’d see in a Halloween movie. For some, it may be sights they never cared to see. This is a film that’s guaranteed to be met with derision, if not outright hostility, by many among the horror community and among the living world in general. Perhaps spurred by some of the negative reactions to his first trip to Haddonfield, Zombie may have approached this follow-up with the attitude that if people were going to hate how he handled this material that he’d at least make himself happy this time around. And in that regard, no one will be able to say he didn’t succeed.

Although early reports of Halloween II taking place immediately after the events of the 2007 remake had fans speculating that Zombie was following in the footsteps of Rick Rosenthal’s original Halloween II (1981), continuing Michael’s attack as he follows Laurie to Haddonfield Memorial. But the bulk of Zombie’s Halloween II takes place one year after the events of the first film. The now parentless Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) is living with Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif) and his daughter Annie (Danielle Harris) and coping with severe recurring nightmares of the ordeal she survived (although Annie survived an equally brutal attack at Michael’s hands and seems able to cope but whatever – clearly there’s some psychic issues going on between Michael and Laurie). Meanwhile, Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) is on the promotional circuit, pimping the release of his book on his ex-patient Michael Myers entitled “The Devil Walks Among Us.” His latest stop is Haddonfield, natch – just in time for Halloween.

As Michael Myers’ body vanished from custody after the events of the first film, speculation is high that the big guy is preparing to stage a comeback. But Loomis is having none of that talk. As opposed to Donald Pleasence’s version of Loomis, who never tired of the hunt, McDowell’s Loomis has no thoughts of staying vigilant against a possible return of Michael Myers. He insists that Michael is dead (“D-E-A-D!”) at any given opportunity. While McDowell’s Loomis had been allowed a modicum of compassion and professional acumen in the first film, in this second appearance he’s become a full-fledged asshole – a vain jerk with no higher aspirations other than turning a quick buck. While it’s certainly Zombie’s right to take this character in this direction, I question the value of making Loomis so unlikable. Did we really need to see the celebrity diva version of Loomis?

Unfortunately, Loomis is far from the only unlikable character in Halloween II. If you thought that Taylor-Compton was hard to take as Laurie in the first Halloween, she won’t be any more endearing to you this time around. Even worse is the fact that Laurie is now friends with a pair of girls (played by Bea Grant and Angela Trimbur) who make Laurie’s brand of obnoxiousness look strictly amateur league. Even the notoriously abrasive Tina (Wendy Kaplan) from Halloween 5 can’t hold a candle to these girls. As with Zombie’s first Halloween, Danielle Harris is the most appealing cast member – the only actresses here who seems to understand that the audience will care much more about the fact that Michael Myers is about to kill you if they don’t feel like they want to push him aside and do the job themselves. Dourif is solid, as always, but Harris is the real MVP here.

For those eager to catch a glimpse of the many faces famous to genre fans that Zombie has littered Halloween II with – such as Caroline Williams (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), Howard Hessman (WKRP in Cincinnati) and Margot Kidder (Black Christmas) – they all have a single scene apiece (I think Williams, at least, has even less screen time than Weird Al does). Presumably more of these actors’ work will find its way onto the DVD but their presence in the theatrical cut of Halloween II is meager at best. For his part, Tyler Mane continues to play Michael Myers as an incredibly huge person. And that, actually, is an effective take on the character. The much-discussed add-on of a full mountain man beard isn’t really all that distracting in the context of the film. For the most part, Michael’s got the classic mask on – it just looks so utterly decayed that the familiar white visage of Michael is obliterated.

What viewers will really find distracting are the hallucinations that Michael sees throughout the film. By now, most will be aware that a white horse figures into Halloween II with Sherri Moon-Zombie reprising her role as Michael’s late mother, now appearing to her son as a spectral figure with a white horse in tow. It’s a pretty silly element and these hallucinations/visions/what-have-you don’t seem to ever amount to anything (by the climax, the film is officially a confused mess) but at least they allow Zombie to bring a trippy sensibility to the movie. It isn’t great but it sure beats crushingly dull, which is what the rest of Halloween II is. Even the violence in Halloween II is tired.

Early on, it’s clear that Zombie is out to make Michael into a bigger, badder killing machine. When Michael dispatches of a victim, it’s with all-out savagery. But as every single victim gets butchered with the same zealousness, it gets old very quickly. Zombie has Michael indulging in so many acts of overkill that it becomes comical, rather than frightening. It’s not enough to have Michael stabbing a victim once, or even twice, it’s more like double-digit stabbings with every kill – so much so that I started wondering if his arm was getting tired.

By the end of Halloween II, I felt a little tired myself, and a little bit sad for everyone involved: for the good actors whose talents are squandered, for Zombie – who clearly would be better off working with his own creations, rather than being the reluctant caretaker of someone else’s franchise – and for the mangled legacy of the Halloween series. While the Halloween series may have been among the walking wounded well before the arrival of Rob Zombie, it was at least in usable condition. It wouldn’t have taken much for a filmmaker with affection for the series to reboot Halloween with style. Now it’s as tattered and eaten to shit as Michael’s mask. Zombie’s fans will probably like Halloween II just fine, which is cool for them, but I can’t imagine what Zombie could possibly do that they wouldn’t like. As for the rest of us hoping for a good Halloween movie, we got handed a bag full of black licorice. It’s the kind of thing that gives trick or treating – and Halloween – a bad name.