** Shout out to Reverend Phantom of Midnight Confessions and Continental Film Reviews for the new banner. This also happens to be my 300th review. Thanks to all the readers who got me here! **
Scout Taylor-Compton - Laurie Strode/Angel Myers
Tyler Mane - Michael Myers
Brad Dourif - Sheriff Leigh Brackett
Danielle Harris - Annie Brackett
Sheri Moon Zombie - Deborah Myers
Chase Wright Vanek - Young Michael Myers
Brea Grant - Mya
Angela Trimbur - Harley
Genre - Horror/Slasher
Running Time - 101 Minutes
Score - 1.5 Howls Outta 4
I think it's suffice to say that you, my friends and fellow readers, know how much I love John Carpenter's 1978 horror classic, HALLOWEEN. It's my favorite movie of all time and it's the only film I can watch any day of the week and never get bored or tired of. Yeah, the franchise had its ups-and-downs [more downs than ups] but I enjoy watching Michael Myers butcher people with his big knife. Sue me.
I even enjoyed Rob Zombie's 2007 remake for HALLOWEEN while a lot of people didn't, understandably. I thought he did a better job with it than probably anyone else would have, creating a more realistic and brutal twist to the franchise. I think the guy had balls to tackling a project like this, knowing that fans would take no time is pointing out flaws and comparing it to the much superior original. Yet, Zombie held his ground by creating buzz to a franchise that was long considered D.O.A., leaving fans anticipating another installment of "The Night He Came Home".
So here we are, 2 years later, with the second version of HALLOWEEN II [which isn't a remake of the 1981 sequel to the original]. There was a time where Zombie refused to work on this sequel, leaving the installment up for grabs and even having a variety of horror directors trying to take their crack at a story that would continue right after the remake. Something changed obviously [$$$] and Zombie came back to the project to "complete HIS vision". He wanted to focus more on the psychological aspect of the Myers siblings, especially when it came to Laurie Strode, and take the franchise into a direction it had never dared to in the past. And I gotta say, Mr. Zombie sure did that. Unfortunately, that's not a good thing.
HALLOWEEN II did a number on me, folks. I saw it in a theater on Saturday afternoon, after hearing and reading all the negative comments concerning this film. I try not to let those things get to me, but the trailers and previews had already brought out the negative in me so these comments just added to it. Also, I was seated next to a group of obnoxious assholes who whispered throughout the entire film and laughed at anything and everything. It was a scene taken out from SCARY MOVIE where Brenda is watching SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE and talking so loud on her phone that people in the theater stabbed her to death so she could shut up. If I had a knife on me, I would have remade that very scene. But I did manage to focus somewhat on HALLOWEEN II and ended up hating it. I couldn't believe what Zombie came up here. Michael's mom motivating him to kill? Laurie screaming and whining the entire time? Dr. Loomis as a self-obsessed prick? Is this my HALLOWEEN? What the fuck did Zombie do? I even went on Facebook and ranted about it. HALLOWEEN II ruined my Saturday!
Then something strange happened. I ended up chatting with people about it and realized that I didn't watch HALLOWEEN II with an open mind. It doesn't help when you're distracted by loudmouths next to you saying "Oh Jesus! Oh Jesus!". I went through the five stages of the Kubler-Ross model that Saturday night before going to bed. Waking up that Sunday, I knew I couldn't review this film fairly. I needed to watch it again and make sure my previous hatred was justified. So I saw it again Sunday night. And guess what? I didn't hate it! As a matter of fact, the ideas Zombie presented in the sequel were actually quite interesting. Unfortunately, HALLOWEEN II still disappointed the hell out of me the second time. It's not a great film. It's not even a good film. It barely even makes it to mediocre. HALLOWEEN II is a sequel that's truly a slap in the face to fans because not only does it move away from what makes HALLOWEEN films "HALLOWEEN films" to begin with, but the ideas that are so good on paper fail to translate successfully on screen. Blow the candle out in that jack-o-lantern because HALLOWEEN II is one big ambitious mess that should have been better.
HALLOWEEN II begins with a flashback of a younger Michael Myers (Chase Wright Vanek replacing Daeg Faerch) at Smith's Grove Sanitarium being visited by his mom Deborah (Sheri Moon Zombie). She gives him a small figure of a white horse, at which Michael tells her relates to a dream he previously had where he saw her taking him home on a similar white horse. They both laugh it off, not knowing how important this would be later.
We head back fifteen years later right after the events of Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) shooting Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) and screaming her head off. After walking aimlessly in the street traumatized by the events, Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif) finds her and helps to the nearest hospital. Michael Myers is considered dead and body bagged, loaded into a morgue truck that drives away towards the hospital. As the two EMT workers discuss the pleasures of necrophilia, the truck hits a cow and crashes. The crash apparently wakes up Michael and he makes his escape. The escape is strange as he sees Deborah, dressed completely in white leading a white horse and a younger version of himself around. They both tell Michael that it's time to bring Laurie "home". He heads towards the hospital to find Laurie, killing everyone in his way. Once Michael makes it to Laurie and has her in his grasp, Laurie wakes up and realizes the whole hospital thing was a dream.
It's a year later and Laurie is now living with her best friend Annie (Danielle Harris) and Sheriff Brackett, creating a new family for her. While Laurie rebels to deal with her trauma, she works at a coffee shop sort of deal with Mya (Brea Grant) and the slutty Harley (Angela Trimbur). It doesn't help her have any sort of normalcy in her life since she has continuous nightmares about what happened to her and even about stranger things, like visions of Deborah, a younger Michael, and a white horse.
Things get worse for Laurie due to Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), who seems to be dealing with what happened with Michael Myers by proclaiming Michael dead [his body was never found after the morgue truck crash] and by doing a book tour and becoming a prima donna. The book reveals Laurie's true relation to Michael [they being siblings], traumatizing Laurie even more. All this comes to a head when Michael reveals himself in Haddonfield again on Halloween night, listening to his mother's advice to save Laurie and reunite their long-separated family...one dead body at a time.
HALLOWEEN II isn't a HALLOWEEN film. It's a Rob Zombie film. We have the dirtiest and nastiest white trash people who use the word "fuck" like it's the only word worth saying. We have strippers. We have slutty chicks who like wolves [call me!]. We have surreal dream sequences that wouldn't be out of place in a David Lynch film. If it wasn't for the big guy wearing the white mask and the butcher knife, you would never know this film was a sequel to HALLOWEEN (2007). This is both a hit and a miss because while I appreciate Zombie taking the franchise in a new direction that's totally his own, he also turns his back on what made these films what they are. Plus his ideas don't resonate much at the end because they're so vague. Here's a film that has a message and a vision that's dying to be expressed, yet doesn't know how to do it in a logical sense.
The weakest part of HALLOWEEN II is Zombie's script. I love Zombie as a director but his screenwriting was always iffy for me. HALLOWEEN II falls in the negative category. There's just so much going on in the story that there's not enough time to resolve all the sub-plots that infiltrate this sequel.
Let me state the positives right now. The opening act of HALLOWEEN II is great. It's Zombie's homage to the original HALLOWEEN II with the hospital setting and Michael chasing Laurie inside the dark, empty halls of Haddonfield Hospital. It's gritty. It's brutal. I think it's actually better paced than the final scene of the original HALLOWEEN II. It's a great start to a film that loses steam really quickly. Not that I want Zombie to remake HALLOWEEN II (1981). That's the last thing I want. But the fact that the homage was better than his actual new vision is pretty sad in lots of way.
I also liked the ideas Zombie presented in his new vision. The whole "white horse" thing turned people off, but even watching it the first time, I thought the meaning behind the animal was quite poignant. The white horse represents pestilence, or the act of dominating something or something. It's a symbol of repressed anger. Michael obviously holds a lot of anger inside, judging by how he murdered his victims, so it makes sense. I know a lot of people were turned off by it, but I liked it. I also liked the use of dreams and hallucinations as well to set the tone of how surreal the situation is. I think alot of people wanted to know what these dreams were supposed to represent, but do we really understand most of our dreams? So why should be understand these? So again, not a bother in my eyes.
I also thought Zombie developed the main characters a lot better than he did in the original remake. Annie Brackett was a lot more likeable and relatable this time around. She's now a recluse in her own neighborhood after almost dying at the hands of Michael Myers, yet doesn't express her fear to anyone. Sheriff Brackett is more heroic and father-like due to the events of what happened in the remake and seems to know that bad things will happen again since Michael's body was never found. Even Laurie Strode, who was pretty much a twit in the remake, seems to be given a dramatic makeover physical and mental wise. It's obvious she's suffering and deteriorating in front of the Brackett's eyes. She's drinking. She's cursing up a storm. She seems to be obsessed with pentagrams, Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, and Charles Manson [???]. She tries to attempt a normal life but just seems to be going as crazy as her serial killer brother. Even Dr. Loomis, who I know a lot of people HATED in this film, had a believable change in character. Yeah, it's hard watching such a heroic character in previous films turn into a money-grubbing, egotistical, self-absorbed prick. But someone had to capitalize on what Michael Myers did. It's something I would expect from anyone in this day and age. Besides, it was his way of coping with the trauma he was experiencing as well. It was obvious he felt guilty and responsible to what happened in Haddonfield when Michael came home and believed putting a wall up would protect him in his denial. So I believe the characters were all going through a theme of coping with what happened and living double lives in a way - all hiding behind masks just like Michael [who went through most of the film without wearing one - go figure - maybe he accepted who and what he was, huh?].
Unfortunately while these ideas were either great or interesting, Zombie just didn't know how to execute them properly. The major issue had to be Laurie seeing the same exact visions and feeling the same exact feelings as Michael. It's obvious that Zombie was doing a homage to the Jamie Lloyd-Michael Myers storyline from HALLOWEEN 4 through 6, where the two shared some sort of a psychic link with one another. But it was too vague and should have been explained in some way or form. The fact that Laurie even saw these visions all of sudden without any sort of buildup strikes me as odd and as lazy screenwriting. It really bugged the hell out of me.
Also, what was up with the supporting characters? Mya seemed okay but she added NOTHING to the movie other than being a victim. And that Harley girl was just annoying as the slut of the film, almost bordering on HALLOWEEN 5 Tina levels. She didn't die quick enough for me. And then there's the rest of Haddonfield - this was Haddonfield right? I wasn't sure because it was like I stepped in foot of white trash country. All these people were dispicable and I know they're supposed to be cannon fodder but at least make them sort of likeable. These characters did nothing for me and just dragged the story and film down for different reasons.
And I gotta say, the usage of the word "fuck" grated me. Now I love that word. Hell, I use it every day. But having an EMT worker utter it 20 times in a row makes the word lose all meaning and emphasis on the pain he was going through. And then that strip club scene where the fatass Frankenstein dude and his "Golly Green Giant" was just pointless. I understand why it was added: Michael wanted to get revenge on the job that took his mother away from him. But it just felt out of place. I think Zombie just wanted to add a naked chick in the film somewhere. She wasn't all that hot, sorry dude.
And the Dr. Loomis sub-plot, while I dug the character change, could have been left out of the film and it wouldn't have changed much. The book signing tour scenes were just really bad and felt really silly with the rest of the movie. The scenes made H2 feel very disjointed on a whole, since his arc had nothing to do with Haddonfield other than the book being released on October 31st.
I also thought the climax of the film was pretty lame until the actual final scene. The final scene worked for me and made sense, but the scene leading to it just seemed a bit farfetched.
H2 isn't really gory but it's more brutal than the remake. Michael is so angry in this one that he stabs his victims - for longer than one probably deserves. I swear, these stabbing scenes were like 90 seconds long. We get it, Rob Zombie! Michael Myers is pissed off and frustrated! But having him stab people for too long or bashing their head against a mirror for TWO STRAIGHT MINUTES lessens the impact of the scene. And it happened with EVERY victim. And it got really annoying. I did love the head stomping scene though and Michael eating a dog for dinner though.
When it came to the soundtrack, Zombie blew it BIG TIME. "Nights In White Satin" is a cool tune, but did I really need to hear it three times? I also dug the psychobilly band of Captain Clegg and the Night Creatures. But where in the hell was my HALLOWEEN theme music? It shouldn't have been played just at the end of the film. Zombie said there were no other opportunities to use it. Um, what about during the beginning when Michael was chasing Laurie through the hospital and out? What about when Laurie is attacked at the Brackett house and she escapes into the woods? You're telling me that it wouldn't have worked there? Zombie is a liar. He just didn't want to use the damn classic scene because it would have made his film more of a HALLOWEEN film than he wanted it to be. There's a problem with that: THIS IS A HALLOWEEN FILM! Zombie could have kept his vision and yet maintain elements that make a HALLOWEEN film a HALLOWEEN film. But he didn't do that and it takes away what made these films so special to begin with. It was depressing.
Zombie did a decent job as director, although I believe this is his worst work since he started making horror movies. Let me just say that the cinematography was beautiful. It was dark, gritty, and dirty - matching the story well and creating quite a mood and atmosphere. I know people complained that the film was too dark, but I liked it for some reason. Especially when Michael wasn't wearing his mask. The shadows created another mask for him. And those dream sequences and whenever Deborah and the white horse would show up - stunning. I loved looking at them, as they looked like a really surreal music video. The part where Laurie was in that coffin was extremely shot and edited well I thought. But the rest of the film was paced badly and the parallel action edits were really off. A lot of times, he would have two scenes that really didn't go together happening at the same time. It was just odd and it almost seemed as Zombie didn't care what he was doing anymore. I didn't hate the visuals of the film. I just didn't love them.
The acting was a bit better than the remake. Scout Taylor-Compton still is no Jamie Lee Curtis and she cried and whined a bit more for my tastes. But I thought she handled herself well regardless and gave a convincing performance of a girl who's unable to cope with the fact that her own brother wanted her dead. Tyler Mane was awesome as Michael Myers though, really making the villain in-your-face and brutal as hell. I've never seen Michael Myers this angry in any film and it was actually quite believable. This is not a dude you want to mess with.
Brad Dourif stole the show as Sheriff Brackett, this time being given more to do and actually create a character with what's given to him. I don't know why this guy remains so underrated. He was great in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST. He made Chucky the horror icon that he is. This guy is awesome! He really made a character I didn't give two shits about in the remake into someone I wanted to watch and root for. Danielle Harris also does a great job as Annie. I liked her in the remake, even if her character was sort of annoying. But she gives a more subtle, subdued, mature performance this time around. I could watch this woman in anything and I probably have. Ms. Harris is the unsung hero of this franchise in my opinion. Malcolm McDowell is actually good as the new Dr. Samuel Loomis, seeming to be having more fun with the role this time. Too bad the plot he was in sucked.
Chase Wright Vanek, replacing Daeg Faerch as the young Michael Myers, was horrible though. This kid would make a convincing zombie but not a convincing Michael Myers. Bland, monotone, and just boring to watch. He wasn't even a child actor that annoyed me. He was just there. Faerch was far more charismatic in the role. Too bad he had that growth spurt. And of course, we have Sheri Moon Zombie returning as Deborah Myers in ghost form. I thought her acting wasn't terrible and at times, she did a great job. But at other times, she seemed very off. I also thought there was TOO much of her in this film. But when you're married to the director, you get to have certain perks other actors in your film don't.
We also get cameos by Caroline "Stretch" Williams, Margot Kidder, Chris Hardwick, "Weird" Al Yankovik, and countless others.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE DRESSING UP AS HOBO MYERS ON HALLOWEEN THIS YEAR
- Laurie kept telling Sheriff Brackett, "I killed him!" over and over again. I see Laurie is playing the role of Rob Zombie and the Weinstein Brothers for the next 101 minutes. The bastards...
- The EMT guys had a deep discussion about the hotness of a dead girl, wondering what necrophilia would feel like with someone as F-I-N-E as her. I don't see why people were so disgusted by this. Don't we all want to be with a woman who doesn't talk back?
- The coroner truck crashed when it hit a large cow. Who let Rosie O'Donnell on the set? Damn you Rob Zombie and your endless cameos!
- Laurie was befriended by a security guard named Buddy. I knew a guy named Buddy once. He was really sweet to me and gave me candy. I hear he's in federal prison now. Hmmm, I wonder what he did wrong?
- Margot Kidder is Laurie's psychiatrist. Man, no wonder Laurie is so fucked up mentally. Anyone who starred in SUPERMAN III or SUPERMAN IV should not be giving anyone advice on anything!
- Michael Myers killed and ate a dog. If that doesn't make him an honorary Asian, then nothing will.
- Michael slammed some stripper's face into a mirror repeatedly. Not only does Michael like it rough, but it's obvious he doesn't understand the meaning of "giving head".
- Laurie got drunk when he found out that she was really Angel Myers, Michael's younger sister. I got drunk when I found out how much this film blew. Who said alcohol doesn't solve any problems?
THE FINAL HOWL
HALLOWEEN II (Version 2.0) disappointed me big time. It doesn't feel like a HALLOWEEN film. The narrative is all over the place. The direction is disjointed. It's sad because this could have been a very cool sequel with interesting ideas if Zombie just knew how to execute them properly. At least Zombie made the film his own and tried to steer away from the slasher formula to focus more on the psychological aspect of the story. So I can't lose any respect for him over that. Still, H2 is a lost opportunity. Definitely an interesting failure that I hope gets improved upon somewhat on DVD in the form of a Director's Cut.