It took some time, but after a few years, and a half dozen viewings, I’ve slowly come to appreciate Rob Zombie’s 2007 take on John Carpenter’s timeless tale of tormented suburbia, Halloween. Rob managed to effectively build upon a solid story, and give us a peak through the cracks of years undisclosed in John’s 1978 original. He also remained true to the source material’s eerily misleading atmosphere; as middle-to-upper class American streets again transformed from noble neighborhood to savage slaughtering grounds.
The film has its flaws, but to Zombie’s credit, it’s a fair reimagining that did what a reboot should do: expanded upon an already successful story, without removing too many familiar puzzle pieces. I’d really hoped Zombie’s Halloween II would replicate the formula, and give us a more in depth vision of the 1981, Rick Rosenthal helmed Halloween II, but it was not to be. For one reason or another, Zombie ventured so far from the beaten path that his 2009 remake hardly feels like a Halloween installment at all.
First off, the structuring of the film is terrible. We’re “treated” to what feels like an introduction within an introduction (the opening ambulance scene works great as an intro, until we spill right into the hospital scene, which would have also made a fine intro, had it not been tacked onto the ass end of another intro), and from here we enter a second stage of the film that drags far too long, and introduces us to completely different characters from those introduced in Zombie’s first Halloween film.
Now, I can definitely understand Zombie’s rationale here; all parties have been involved in an extremely traumatic experience, to expect some differentials in their personalities is completely plausible, and should actually be expected. However, to take virtually every surviving character (save for Brad Dourif’s Sherriff Brackett, the only positive to be found in H2) from the first film, and flip their personalities 180 degrees just doesn’t work. Yet, that’s precisely what Zombie does.
The still somewhat innocent Laurie Strode is now addicted to pills, inclined to full blown schizophrenic behavior, and, in general, just a flat out bitch, even in the extremely rare scenes in which she appears “stable”. Annie Brackett is suffering some form of mental malfunction similar to Laurie, however her extreme’s differ, and she comes off slightly less erratic. She is however now a genuine power freak with a sharp, humorless edge about her. Of course, how could this new structure stand without a massive transformation to our original icon of hope, Dr. Loomis?
Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) has gone from focused, sympathetic doc, to complete sleazeball star seeker. His care for Laurie, Michael or any others involved has completely disappeared. He’s no longer well spoken, he’s traded that in for a crude, insulting habit of dialogue. What’s worse, nothing matter’s to this once admirable character beyond the success of his new book, which details the life of Michael Myers. Zombie not only transformed our most distinctive victims, he also massacred the film’s key figure of guidance, and it all feels rather…blasphemous. It also leaves this long time Halloween fan feeling oddly detached from one of my favorite franchises in cinematic history.
Now that you’ve got a feel for the mistreatment this ensemble has received, I’ll get back to the pacing of the picture. As aforementioned the body of the film drags on endlessly, managing little more than confusing viewers with the unpredictable behavior of our focal faces, and introducing the ghost of Michael’s mother, and her ghostly white horse she keeps as company. Again, I understand the idea behind these awkward “dream sequences”, as their supposed act as a basic honing beacon for Michael Myers, after all he wasn’t born a navigator, and he’s got to get back to the task of slaying the now troubled Laurie somehow; why not toss in ghostly family images to guide him (and why not drag out the process to the point of boredom)?
Wait a minute, I’ve got an idea why not: because it feels horribly contrived and convoluted as all hell! You’re probably lucky if you even grasped the concept properly, as it comes from so far out of left field it takes viewers by surprise, to say the least.
During this extended period of down time, which should be ratcheting up the action, leading up to what could have been a quality finale, we learn the Michael’s mysterious aura died in the first film. In its place is a mind numbing killing agent that manages to deliver some excellent gore (and traditionally this would please me in a major way, but for me personally the tradeoff of mystery for blood and guts was a losing deal); you can’t become emotionally attached to grotesque gore, but you sure as hell can get tangled up in deep curiosity and ominous mystery, but Rob buries that concept early.
By the time we reach our finale, the film’s gotten stale, and nauseating. The characters have become nearly disgusting, and as a viewer, I found myself hoping that the new Terminator version of Michael Myers would just slaughter them all in brutal fashion and call it a wrap; if I can’t have the quality atmosphere of earlier Halloween installments, I’d rather not even attempt to continue putting up with the least likeable protagonists to invade the entire 30 plus year franchise.
However, things aren’t wrapped up in such tidy fashion, and the film’s final moments (somehow) manage to toss a little bit more confusion on the fire. At this point, as I’ve stressed, it’s clear Laurie Strode’s mental competence is long gone, but leave it to Zombie to throw in one more awkward scene that could be interpreted 20 different ways.
As the credits run – even after multiple attempts to find the qualities of this picture – I still find myself annoyed, and insulted by Halloween II. I give a nod to Zombie for leaving us with one sole character to cheer for: Sherriff Brackett, and I sincerely applaud Brad Dourif for playing the role with perfection (it’s almost as if Dourif could sense that his character might be the only shining light of the film, which drove him to provide one of the best performances of his career). But beyond the last remaining sympathetic character on screen, there’s nothing but franchise betrayal, and a complete disregard for the legend of Michael Myers to mull over here.
Unlike Rob Zombie's 2007 Halloween reboot, Halloween II abandons all things familiar in regards to the franchise. The shift in the film's direction is so absurdly dramatic it's nearly impossible to find the film engaging. All the same, if you enjoy ultra violence and extreme gore, you may find something to cling to in Halloween II. A single star is awarded for the work of Brad Dourif, the film's only hope from the beginning.