Halloween II (2009)
US (dir. Rob Zombie)
Cast: Brad Dourif, Chris Hardwick, Daniel Roebuck, Jeffrey Daniel Phillips, Malcolm McDowell, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Scout Taylor-Compton, Sheri Moon Zombie, Tyler Mane
Synopsis: Picks up at the exact moment the first movie stopped and follow the aftermath of Michael Myers murderous rampage through the eyes of heroine Laurie Strode.
Review: “If it ain’t broke, do you really gotta fix it?” That’s what I thought to myself when I heard that they were remaking (oh wait, sorry “re-imagining”) John Carpenter’s “Halloween”. What more could you possible add to an already solid film? I personally have nothing against remaking an utterly crappy horror film from the past and giving it a fresh makeover of sorts, but re-doing something that was originally brilliant to begin with just baffles me. It’s almost like saying, “Hey the old movie sucks! I’m going to make it better!” Remaking classics just feels like a good old-fashioned money grab, and while the first “Halloween” remake was by no means terrible, it certainly was both unnecessary and a cash grab to boot. That said, I have to admit that while the original “Halloween” is epic, the sequel is sadly not. Thus remaking the sequel really didn’t ruffle my feathers (however, Rob Zombie’s continual denial to make a sequel and his eventual acceptance to make said sequel DID ruffle my feathers). I came away from this movie thinking, “Hmmm not bad, Rob!” and I wasn’t the least bit upset that the movie deviated far from the original “Halloween II” (to be fair, “Halloween II” isn’t exactly a remake of the original “Halloween II”, it could more specifically be categorized as a sequel to a remake – thereby making this more of a remakequel than a sequel).
To start things off, Rob Zombie throws in a scene that never appeared in his re-imagined “Halloween”: Michael and Deborah Myers discussing a dream Michael had involving a white horse. At first this seemed really lame, and it is painfully obvious that this whole white horse thing is just thrown in to explain something else later on. As the film progresses we see how this white horse represents hidden rage and as Michael begins having visions of his mother, the white horse shows up too. Kinda lame. This whole “Michael has visions that urge him to kill” thing seemed so goddamn lame in the trailers. It had me rolling my eyes thinking “Oh wonderful, Rob Zombie is actually going to incorporate some witch curse into this film causing Michael to have supernatural powers” fortunately, however, Zombie avoids this rather cliched route and makes these “supernatural” visions more surrealistic and psychological than magical.
After this opening scene explaining the white horse tie-in, we cut to Laurie on Halloween night just moments after shooting Michael in the face. She’s literally messed up (physically and mentally) and we get to see this great shot of her wandering Haddonfield in a state of shock. This cuts to Laurie and Annie in the ER, receiving medical treatment and some pretty brutal surgery. I loved this hospital scene because it was so much more realistic than other slasher films where the victims who survive get a cut across the cheek or a sprained ankle and make it to the finale in relatively tip-top shape. Here we get to see the aftermath of Michael’s brutality, and it is likely the most goriest scenes you will get in this movie. Hardcore “Halloween” fans may recall that the original “Halloween II” took place primarily in a hospital, so the series of scenes which revolve around Laurie in the hospital had me reminiscing about the original sequel and made me kinda happy Rob decided to use the original sequel in at least this one, small way. It turns out that the hospital scenes are all a part of some (very elaborate) dream sequence that Laurie is having (bummer) but fortunately the rest of the film picks up after this.
As in most Zombie movies, we get a lot of the same stuff: overexposure of Sheri Moon Zombie, redneck hicks, the same actors from his previous films, rocker girls, hard rock music, the appearance of someone who mildly resembles Rob Zombie, and of course – a fuckload of a lot of fucking swearing. Now I can understand a director taking a particular liking to having certain things in their film, but if say for example, you always put tigers in your films and you are making a movie about penguins, it may seem a little weird having a fucking tiger show up in your penguin movie. So when Zombie throws in a bunch of rednecks into a movie that is supposedly set in SUBURBAN CHICAGO IN THE 80s, it feels ummm a tad awkward dedicating large portions of the film to scenes involving rednecks bantering back and forth. Additionally, the amount of swearing is incredible. Yes, swearing and cursing can give your film an edge, a darker more realistic appeal. However, having someone repeat “Fuck” over and over and over again in a single scene makes me want to stop watching. To add to the redneck theme, Zombie makes Haddonfield look more and more like an isolated farming town (which it is not) as the movie progresses. At times I felt like I was watching a sequel of one of the “Friday the 13th” movies. I kept expecting a scene involving a barn to pop up somewhere in the last 45 minutes.
It may sound so far like I didn’t enjoy this movie. You’ll be surprised to find out that I actually did. Despite the white horse crap, despite the typical Rob Zombie movie cliches, and despite Scout-Taylor Compton, this movie was actually better than the first! There are some great scenes with Dr. Loomis, who becomes more of a joke in this movie than anything. It’s almost as if he becomes a parody of himself as he goes on book tours and late night talk shows trying to promote his trashy book and make money off Michael’s killing spree. We also get to see how the victims’ families are affected by both Loomis and Michael, and gives the film an interesting touch of realism that I didn’t really expect from a director/writer like Rob Zombie.
The violence in this film gets cranked up to 11, which isn’t really a good thing. Michael essentially goes into overkill mode – he ends up stabbing people more times than is necessary and he gets a little blood-bathy with some victims. To make up for the turboslashing, we get neat little surrealistic dreamlike sequences where Michael and Laurie both see these really sick and twisted visions of their mother and of Halloween. I particularly enjoyed one scene where Laurie (or was it Michael) has a vision involving some pumpkin headed monster in a last supper sort of scene. It was sick and twisted and VERY Rob Zombie. The ending also felt very Rob Zombie, and it may either make or break the film for you. For me, I felt it was too confusing and too open-ended. It was filmed very well and it made the film come full circle, but at the same time it made me furrow my brow and wonder if Zombie’s vision for “Halloween” is just to run around as wildly as possible with his ideas and pick the most shocking ones and start filming.
One of the things I keep telling people about this movie is that you positively MUST watch the “Halloween” remake before you watch it. You will be absolutely lost without having seen the first one. This is an unfortunate reality because a “Halloween” sequel cannot really stand alone – you must get the bigger picture of what is going on before you can watch the sequel (this is a reality for almost every sequel, but it holds particularly true for this one). So go see the remake, then check this out in order to more fully experience Zombie’s vision for his “re-imagined” “Halloween”.