HALLOWEEN II (2009)
Director: Rob Zombie
Cast: Scout Taylor-Compton, Malcolm McDowell, Brad Dourif, Danielle Harris, Brea Grant, Angela Trimbur, Sheri Moon Zombie, Chase Vanek
MPAA Rating: (for strong brutal bloody violence throughout, terror, disturbing graphic images, language, and some crude sexual content and nudity)
Running Time: 1:41
Release Date: 8/28/09
Review by Mark Dujsik
Welcome back to Rob Zombie's vision of the Halloween mythos, where Michael Myers is no different than any other bland movie killer, has a messed up family past, stomps around grunting, can apparently appear out of thin air, dreams of his mother, and just isn't scary.
What Halloween II has going for it or—better—doesn't have going against it is the memory of a true genre classic weighing down upon it, as Zombie's 2007 remake did. What that means, though, is we're forced to look at Zombie's picture on its own merits without the tinted glasses, and that's certainly not something going for the movie.
Zombie's idea of horror seems to be sudden outbursts of brutal violence surrounded by irksome artifice. Suspense is nil in Zombie's concept of horror, as the buildups to the violent eruptions on screen leave no room for imagination. We know what's going to happen, when it's going to happen, and how it's going to happen from the moment an unknown character appears or an established character finds him or herself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
What's left, then, in Halloween II are moments that add up to a bit more than incoherence, as we always have the general gist of what's happening if never any more detail than that, and an overall sense that Zombie has a clear idea of what he's trying to say but is without the skill to say it.
Take the opening title card, which flatly states the dream symbolism of a white horse (something about rage), at which point we're taken to a young Michael Myers in the insane asylum with his mother (Sheri Moon Zombie) giving him a statue of a white horse. He just had a dream like that, he tells mommy, and his white-gowned mom and a white horse become an overt fetish for Michael's mindscape throughout the movie.
The pretense is in the same vein as the joke the teller had to explain: It probably wasn't funny in the first place. Yet Zombie keeps bringing it back, with mom—with horse in tow—bluntly explaining how grown Michael (Tyler Mane) is supposed to find his baby sister Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton, in a performance comprised of screeches), in lieu of creating a focused narrative in which we'd know that in the first place.
Laurie, since her last encounter with Michael a year ago, has turned Goth, lives with her friend Annie (Danielle Harris) and Annie's father Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif, whose performance here rises above the material), and has the same dreams Michael has been having (That's about all the foreshadowing one needs). She also dreams that Michael tried attacking her in the hospital the night of his first invasion of Haddonfield, IL, in a cheap homage to the series' first sequel.
Zombie likes to use dreams a lot here, for their self-appointed symbolism, their way to highlight a shoddy paranormal connection between Laurie and Michael, and their lazy way out of difficult situations.
In between, Michael makes his way toward Laurie, killing just about everyone who gets in his way or just happens to be around him. He makes a random stop at a strip club (his mom's old place of employ) for reasons unexplained and kills those there. Michael's approach to killing is pure, brute force—lifting victims into the air and throwing them to the ground, bashing their heads into solid surface nearby, and, a favorite of his, repeatedly stabbing someone with an always on-hand butcher knife.
Everyone who's introduced is probably going to end up a sheep for the slaughter, including Laurie's new friends, whom Michael goes out of his way to kill. Luckily for him, he has the same power from the remake to manipulate the editing of the movie and appear at any given place, at any given time, no matter the distance from his previous location.
The trick to the shock of the kills (apart from the intense brutality) is always the old standby of having him suddenly appear from just off-camera, a lame device that ceased being scary around the time the series' original sequel came out. A single exception comes late in the movie with an out-of-place flashback reveal.
As for Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), he's back but in a seemingly different movie, as his new book about Myers turns him into a superstar psychologist participating in book signings and TV appearances. It's a hollow subplot that only brings him into the main action at the very end.
That, along with the rest of hanging narrative elements, makes Halloween II feel like a pieced-together montage than an actual narrative. Zombie certainly has an eye for the grotesque, but, strangely enough, considering his other shortcomings, it seems horror is not his forte.
Copyright © 2009 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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