Halloween II (H2)

SPOILERS FOLLOW

I was originally planning on sitting back and letting ol’ BC write one of his epic six page reviews for Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN II, but after hearing all of the intense negativity, I felt I should stand up and defend Zombie’s rushed sequel that brings Michael Myers back to the big screen for the ninth time (he wasn’t in HALLOWEEN 3). Since it’s well known that I despise the remake from 2007, I felt that being the unlikely defender would give a little more weight to my positive outlook – but don’t get me wrong, H2 is littered with problems and is far from a “good” movie.

Usually before seeing a sequel, one would reflect back on the first film and focus on where the characters left off – like in HALLOWEEN Laurie shoots Michael, Loomis appeared to have his eyes gouged out, and Annie Brackett was taken away in an ambulance – but with H2, it’s hard not to dwell on all of the problem that stemmed from Aint it Cool News’ early script review that kicked off production on a sour note. With all of the problems stemming from the screenplay by Zombie, HALLOWEEN had zero focus (it was half remake, half Zombie’s vision), a rash of annoying cameos forced in, and scares that were replaced by loud noises and screaming. Beyond the opening sequence, where young Michael beats the crap out of a bully, the first HALLOWEEN is unwatchable.

Enter HALLOWEEN II, a film that from the beginning had me believing that Zombie would never in a million years listen to the naysayers and never learn from his mistakes; he proved me dead wrong. He kept the cameos to a minimum, as I never felt removed from the movie, he replaced banging and loud noises with ultra-violence, and most importantly he made HIS movie. No matter what direction you look at it, H2 is a Rob Zombie film from start to finish and it never loses its focus. At no point do you feel like he’s trying to please the studio, nor throw in references for the hardcore fans; it’s what he wants on screen and that’s that. Is that a good thing? Yes. Does that mean it’s a good film? No.

Zombie decides that he needs to visually portray Myers’ motivations as he brings Deborah Myers (Sheri Moon Zombie) back as a ghost, who walks with a white horse. Also joining the family reunion is little Michael Myers (recast with Chase Vanek), a visual representation of the death of his “living” self. What’s incredibly odd is that Myers’ older sister Judith (Hanna Hall) is missing from the family gathering, which kind of voids out his motivation. In addition, Zombie’s idea of why Michael does what he does takes a little too much from the FRIDAY THE 13TH motive as Deborah pushes him to “have a little fun,” although he also implies that it’s just in their blood to kill. While far and few between, every single time we see Deborah, the horse and young Michael, it’s hard to take the film seriously. The scenes appear completely out of place in this hardcore slasher film and bring the movie to a screeching halt, especially since they’re so f*cking bizarre.

Adding to the script problems, Dr. Loomis’ character has NO place in H2 other than to be a device for Laurie to find out she’s actually Michael’s sister, something that could have been explained with just Loomis’ book. He’s obnoxious, arrogant and a complete ass as he runs around the Nation promoting his brand new book based on Michael Myers. And what are the odds that he’d be IN Haddonfiled the second Laurie needs help from ol’ Michael, leading to Loomis’ heroic(?) rescue? Zombie could have easily chopped him entirely from the movie, as he does absolutely NOTHING.

Speaking of Laurie being in need of rescue, Zombie makes the mistake of making her completely fallible. After the events from the first film, she’s a mess and on the brink of complete self-destruction. We don’t relate to her, we don’t like her; in fact, we don’t care if she lives or dies. What H2 was missing was a strong female lead, or at least a moment where Laurie becomes that.

It’s incredibly obvious how quick this movie was put into production as Zombie kills time between scenes by having Michael Myers randomly come across local folk and then decimating them, twice over (by stabbing them like 652 times). While some of these scenes are incredibly cool, there’s just no purpose for them other than to have Michael kill three more people before he finds Laurie. In fact, there are two scenes I vividly remember that wasted a good 10-15 minutes of screen time and achieved nothing and didn’t do anything to drive the plot.

Speaking of mayhem and murder, Zombie traded in loud noises for extreme violence, which turned some people off (we saw a few walk outs). H2 is straight up an exploitation flick filled with violence for the sake of violence. In my book that’s typically an immediate FAIL, but there was something remotely entertaining about it in this film – maybe it was just nice to see Michael stabbing the living sh*t out of someone instead of banging a piece of wood against the ceiling for 10 minutes?

It’s funny how I set out to defend the movie and I’ve yet to say anything remotely positive about the film, other than the violence. That’s sort of the tale of HALLOWEEN II, for every pro there’s a con waiting. For example, the opening scene where Michael attacks Laurie in the hospital is astounding. From Laurie trying to run through the hotel with a cast on her leg to the brutal slaying of two employees, the opening of this film is f*cking great. There’s even something about the cinematography that enchanting and the way Zombie shoots the end of the scene in the rain looks stunning. I remember thinking to myself, “holy sh*t, please be this good, please, pleaseeee be this good!” And then the scene ends — it’s all a dream, it’s all a f*cking dream. What’s even more aggravating is that it didn’t have to be! It’s almost as if Zombie wanted to sabotage his own film (which is obviously not the case). Seriously though, how do you open a movie with an incredible, eye-catching, uber-violent sequence and then say to your viewers, “NONE OF THIS HAPPENED”? It’s downright insulting.

The movie continues that way throughout as nearly every scene gives you a reason to have a great time, but then sneer a second later. What’s even more baffling is the aforementioned scene where Deborah tells Michael to “have a little fun,” which results in the violent death of Annie Brackett. What’s so baffling? I’m quite sure when they find Annie’s body she’s nude on the bathroom floor, which would mean… Michael raped her? I’m not the only person who thought that was the implication. This was an incredibly unnerving and uncomfortable moment in the film that’s wrapped with a unique edit that was both captivating and shockingly original. So why am I so conflicted?

Along with the editing, the look of the film was creepy, dark and uncomfortable; Zombie’s lack of score only intensified the effect. In retrospect, H2 felt like a Rob Zombie music video mind trip where nothing makes sense, yet you’re completely entertained for an hour and a half.

That’s the odd beauty of Zombie’s sequel… as ugly as it gets, you can’t stop from looking. Whether it’s Deborah with a white horse or Laurie Strode screaming, “I’m Michael Myers’ sister!,” Zombie always has your attention. For better or worse, it’s damn near entertaining. I didn’t look at my watch once, never sighed and never thought to myself, “please end already,” in fact, I found myself amped to see what came next.

Being in my shoes isn’t easy as technically H2 is loaded with problems, and yet, I had a great time in the theater. In fact, I might even go see it AGAIN in theaters. This speaks to volumes as I rarely (and I mean rarely) see a movie twice. There’s just something about HALLOWEEN II that’s peculiar, odd and even intriguing. Maybe it’s the fact that Zombie made HIS movie instead of OUR movie, or maybe it’s the sheer simplicity and brutality of it all, but in the end I think hardcore horror fans will enjoy this and I think it’s a sequel most will hesitantly embrace in their HALLOWEEN collection.

Official Score