Everything that made Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” such a great horror film is noticeably absent from “Halloween II.” This is not a movie so much as a surrealistic freak show, a cruel, ugly-looking free-for-all that assaults the senses at every opportunity with lightning fast cuts, extreme close-ups, and grating music. Unlike what was released in 2007, “Halloween II” is not a remake of any film in the original “Halloween” series–it’s a new story so strange, unpleasant, and inexplicable, it’s as if Zombie wrote it completely off the cuff. What was he thinking? How could he let his vision go so horribly out of control? I can only hope that this isn’t a sign of his success being a fluke, that “Halloween II” is merely a lapse of judgment from which he will soon recover.
It begins exactly where the first film ended, with Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) savagely shooting Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) on Halloween night. An elaborate dream sequence follows, one that pays homage to Rick Rosenthal’s 1981 version of the film by taking place in a hospital. As soon as Laurie wakes up screaming, we learn that a year has passed and that she’s in therapy, and of course, she has the usual anxiety medications stashed in her medicine cabinet. She’s now living with Sheriff Lee Brackett (Brad Dourif) and his daughter, Annie (Danielle Harris). No one knows the whereabouts of Michael, which is strange because witnesses do remember the county coroner putting his body into an ambulance. Needless to say, Michael is very much alive, living in the middle of nowhere while plotting his return to Haddonfield, Illinois.
He’s after Laurie, of course. But why? The ads have given this plot point away, but if you’ve managed to avoid them, let it suffice to say that he feels a special connection with her. This ties into the weirdest subplot ever conceived of for a “Halloween” film, which involves visions of Michael’s long since dead mother (Sheri Moon Zombie) walking next to a horse. She wears a flowing ghost-like dress and either walks down a brightly lit hallway or stands in front of brilliant white light. In one of the film’s most bizarre scenes, Michael and his mother stand in front of a table where ghastly creatures (looking like rejects from “Pan’s Labyrinth”) seem to be reenacting Jesus’ Last Supper. If there was any decent way to account for this ridiculous spectacle, I’d be the first to share it with you.
Meanwhile, Michael’s former psychologist, Dr. Sam Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), is now promoting his new book about the Myers’ family and the murders that took place a year ago. What a change twelve months can make; Loomis has de-evolved into an arrogant publicity hound, which is to say that the audience no longer has any reason to take him seriously. He’s now nothing more than an opportunity for moments of comedy relief. What did Zombie hope to achieve by making Loomis a figure of fun? Given how deadly serious the rest of the film is, this seems incredibly out of place. When the foundation of the plot is a series of stabbings, spatters of blood, and a hell of a lot of screaming, a director can’t believably pause to reveal that he also has a sense of humor. He has to show it all throughout in order for it to work.
The hideous visuals don’t help matters much. Rather than eerie shadows that build tension, Zombie opts for muted tones that look dirty and disgusting, as if mud was smeared over the camera lens before shooting. There’s no sense of tension with this kind of look; there’s only a sense of filth and degradation. But this story isn’t supposed to be one of exploitation. On the basis of “Halloween,” which was a skillful combination of suspense and primal fear, I would have thought that Zombie already understood this. Apparently he didn’t, and that leads me to an unfortunate conclusion: “Halloween II” fails because Zombie created an original story. The 2007 film, on the other hand, wasn’t a complete reinvention but more of an update on John Carpenter’s original. Strange how a little creative restraint can paradoxically be so freeing.
Watching this movie is like witnessing a tragic fall from grace. Maybe that’s to be expected, since sequels, especially in the horror genre, are notoriously inferior to the ones that started it all. Was there any way that “Halloween II” could have been better or just as good as “Halloween”? Who can say? All I know is that this movie gets virtually nothing right, not the visuals, not the story, and definitely not the characters, who spew dialogue so foul and inane that they seem transplanted from another movie altogether. The whole thing is an unsightly mess with a nonsensical plot, a sideshow attraction that wants to pass itself off as a real horror film. I can’t help but feel sorry for Zombie. “Halloween II” shows that he has lost his way as a director. Let us hope he will eventually get his bearings.
– Chris Pandolfi (www.GoneWithTheTwins.com)