August 28, 2009

Halloween II

half

A movie review by James Berardinelli



Halloween II

HORROR:

United States, 2009

U.S. Release Date:

2009-08-28

Running Length:

1:41

MPAA Classification:

R (Violence, Profanity, Sexual Situations, Nudity)

Theatrical Aspect Ratio:

1.85:1

Cast:

Scout Taylor-Compton, Tyler Mane, Malcolm McDowell, Danielle Harris, Brad Dourif, Sheri Moon Zombie, Chase Wright Vanek, Bea Grant

Director:

Rob Zombie

Screenplay:

Rob Zombie

Cinematography:

Brandon Trost

Music:

Tyler Bates

U.S. Distributor:

Dimension Films

Subtitles:

none


It may be that, through a combination of incompetence and ego, Rob Zombie has finally brought an end to Michael Myers' 31-year killing spree. The latest chapter of the venerable slasher film saga represents the tenth movie to use the title (although only the ninth with Myers); it's a sequel to the remake but not necessarily a remake of the sequel. It is also a complete and utter abomination. The film is so bad that it may make me rethink my stance on installment #6 (The Curse of Michael Myers) as the worst entry. That one, at least by all accounts, was severely compromised as a result of distributor interference. This one represents Rob Zombie's "vision." That being the case, he's blind.

If I didn't know that Zombie is an avowed Halloween fan, I would assume this is a deliberate attempt to sabotage the franchise. Halloween II is the kind of movie few will find endurable - not fans of the series, torture porn devotees, or those who enjoy watching filmmakers invent new ways of dissecting human bodies. With his 2007 remake, Zombie was at least constrained by John Carpenter's 1978 template. Here, freed from prior obligations, the film goes off the deep end, with bizarre metaphysical apparitions and frequent dream sequences. Characters wander aimlessly only to be brought together via artificial means at the end. There seems to be no point to the proceedings beyond the obvious: the Halloween remake was financially successful, so let's give the director another crack at brining Michael to the screen.

The first and most glaring problem is that this does not feel like a Halloween film in any way, shape, or form. If Zombie wanted to divorce himself from the franchise, why not do so? But calling something Halloween and using the name for marketing purposes is like selling a snack as a pizza and delivering a hot dog. For the first time in franchise history (excepting the Myers-less #3), the Halloween theme song is missing in action until the end credits. In its place are the generic horror musical stylings of Tyler Bates. The decision to nix Carpenter's music is puzzling because Bates incorporated it effectively in the 2007 movie. Then there's Michael, who spends half the movie without his mask, looking like a member of ZZ Top crossed with The Six Million Dollar Man's Sasquatch. The whiteface Captain Kirk mask has become so dilapidated that even when Michael is wearing it, he doesn't look like Michael. And in this installment, when he kills someone, he grunts. So much for the strong, silent type. If you don't really have the villain and you don’t have the music, how can this be considered a Halloween movie?

Just because it's not Halloween doesn't necessarily mean it's bad, but it is. Even viewed from the perspective of a generic slasher film, this is dregs of the barrel stuff. Zombie confuses darkness with atmosphere. Just because it's always gloomy or at night or raining doesn't mean anything more profound than it can be difficult to figure out what's going on. Brutal killings and a high body count do not equate with suspense. Repetitive gory murders, most of them multiple stabbings, quickly become boring. Michael's concept of variety is to stomp on a guy's head until his brains spill out. Now that's entertainment.

As is a rule in Zombie films, all characters must be white trash stereotypes. That's true of everyone here except Dr. Sam Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), who's just an asshole. Middle-class darlings Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) and Annie Brackett (Danielle Harris) have inexplicably become rednecks. The film tries to explore Laurie's shaky psychological status in the wake of having nearly everyone she knows butchered by her long-lost brother, but Zombie's use of broad strokes and clichés result in a Laurie who is even more paper-thin than Michael. Compare this to how Jamie Lee Curtis' version of the character approached similar post traumatic stress symptoms in H20.

Halloween II opens where Halloween ended, with half the sexually active teenagers in Haddonfield dead and Laurie Strode hospitalized for her injuries. It briefly appears we're going to be subjected to a direct remake of Rick Rosenthal's Halloween 2 - the one with all the endless shots of Michael stalking Laurie through endless, empty hospital corridors - but Zombie does a bait-and-switch and we're suddenly a year in the future. Loomis is on a publicity tour marketing his new book about Michael, Laurie is gradually losing her sanity, Annie is keeping her clothes on, and Michael is hacking his way back to Haddonfield one white trash victim at a time. Michael isn't alone, though - he is accompanied by the ghost of his mother (Sheri Moon Zombie) and apparitions of his younger self and a white horse.

Words cannot describe how awful Scout Taylor-Compton is. Her one-note portrayal stifles any hope of making Laurie's psychological state more than a lame plot device. If anything, we want Michael to knife her early so we can move onto another protagonist. Poor Danielle Harris is appearing in her fourth Halloween movie, and she's once again running for her life. She has been fleeing Michael since she was about ten years old. Malcolm McDowell looked like he was picking up a paycheck two years ago; based on his work here, I'm wondering if Zombie is using a cardboard cut-out of the actor. Perhaps the lone bright spot is Betsy Rue, the new T&A queen of slasher films - she does what she's best at, although this time it's not in 3-D.

Halloween II is an affront to Halloween and horror fans. It's the kind of cataclysmic misstep from which a franchise cannot recover. It has transformed Michael Myers from an iconic movie monster into a laughingstock. This movie is an exercise in unimaginative slaughter in the service of an unfocused story that doesn't have a point beyond relieving unsuspecting Halloween fans of hard-earned dollars. If Zombie made a step forward with his first venture into Myers' world, he has regressed. This is a sick and sad endeavor, and may represent the final chapter in the Michael Myers saga. It would, however, be wishful thinking to believe this is the last nail in Zombie's coffin. Having violated one of movie-dom's most legendary slasher villains, it will be interesting to see what he does for an encore.

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