WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
A year has passed since Michael Myers escaped from Smith’s Grove Sanitarium and embarked on a murderous rampage through the town of Haddonfield on Halloween night. With the anniversary of the tragedy approaching survivor Laurie Strode still traumatized after her climactic encounter with Michael is plagued by nightmares that seem to foreshadow his deadly return.
Laurie’s therapist and friends dismiss her anxiety as the inevitable by-product of the trauma she experienced insisting that Michael is dead while ignoring the unpleasant reality that his body was never found. And wouldn’t you know it – the crazy chick is on to something. Far from deceased Michael’s been lying low in the days since Laurie put an end to his grisly escapade quietly convalescing in the place where most folks suffering from multiple gunshot wounds go to recover: a dirty wood shack in the middle of a sparsely-populated rural area.
Not that he’s been alone. Bathed in angelic white garments and accompanied by a similarly alabaster horse (its significance is explained in the opening credits) Michael’s mother Deborah has been paying regular visits to her son from beyond the grave appearing in visions to provide guidance to her deranged offspring. According to his nutty imaginary mum Michael’s tortured psyche will never be at peace until he’s reunited with his baby sister Laurie. And so Michael returns to Haddonfield for a second attempt at a family reunion slicing to ribbons anyone stupid enough to cross his path.
WHO’S IN IT?
After swearing up and down that he’d never make a sequel to his 2007 Halloween reboot Rob Zombie is back in the director’s chair for Halloween II. Also returning are most of the cast members including Tyler Mane (Michael Myers) Scout Taylor-Compton (Laurie Strode) Brad Dourif (Sheriff Lee Brackett) Sheri Moon Zombie (Deborah Myers) Malcolm McDowell (Dr. Samuel Loomis) and Danielle Harris (Annie Brackett). Leading the newcomers is Margot Kidder (Superman Black Christmas) in the role of Laurie’s barely competent therapist.
Given greater freedom to pursue his own twisted vision Zombie departs further from the canon of the original franchise while still keeping the essential elements intact. Michael Myers is still a quiet guy who wears a scary mask and butchers people and Laurie Strode is still the primary object of his desire but apart from that Halloween II bears little resemblance to the 1981 follow-up to John Carpenter’s original Halloween.
The character of Loomis in particular is miles apart from the Donald Pleasance version – and far more interesting. Zombie’s Loomis is an ambitious media whore who cravenly cashes in on the tragic events of the previous film by penning a memoir of his relationship with Michael then mounting a nationwide book tour to promote it. As portrayed by an amusingly acerbic pompous McDowell he’s easily the most appealing part of the film.
The tone of Halloween II is very much in line with Zombie’s previous works: gritty and grisly more disturbing than scary more uncomfortable than suspenseful. Characters make lots of stupid decisions (why didn’t Laurie leave Haddonfield and move to a town where her friends and family members weren’t massacred by a psychopath?) most of which can be forgiven for the sake of horror.
Other decisions aren’t so easily excused. As he did with the 2007 film Zombie seeks to portray Michael as a multi-dimensional villain in Halloween II and not the bloodthirsty automaton of the franchise’s previous iteration. Admittedly it’s a significant challenge adding depth to a solitary character that essentially never speaks but Zombie’s solution – summoning Michael’s mom and the aforementioned white steed at various points in the story to give him his next bloody assignment – comes off as contrived at best laughable at worst.
Comic legend Weird Al Yankovic makes a surprisingly funny cameo as a guest on a talk show in which Loomis appears to pimp his book belittling the doctor with verbal jabs until he stomps off enraged. (Click here for Zombie's explanation of how Weird Al's cameo came about.)
This prequel-ish remake of John Carpenter’s Halloween finds a 10-year-old Michael Myers (Daeg Faerch) looking like Dennis the Menace—but still acting like the Antichrist. Who could blame the kid? His older sister (Hanna Hall) makes fun of him when not ignoring him his alcoholic stepdad (William Forsythe) hurls food and profanity at him and the school bullies harass him endlessly. Young Michael’s only allies are his mom (Sheri Moon) and baby sister. Which explains why their lives are spared when Michael goes on a Halloween night killing spree. Fifteen years pass and Michael’s hatred of speaking and love of mask-wearing have reached an all-time high. When the guards at the instititution Michael has called home for the past decade and a half make the fatal mistake of trying to transport him to a new location—on his favorite night of the year no less—Michael busts out without a hitch. With his mom having committed suicide years ago Michael has but one person to pay a visit to: his now teenage sister (Scout Taylor-Compton) who has long since been adopted and not informed of her family tree. But with Michael’s longtime psychologist Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) hot on his trail it won’t be so easy to get to his baby sis. OK so maybe it'll be somewhat easy. The only members of the cast to turn in actual performances are Moon wife/frequent collaborator of Halloween writer-director Rob Zombie and McDowell. It’s not that the others can’t act but rather that they spend the movie screaming (Taylor-Compton) or hiding dialogue-less under a mask (Tyler Mane) or some other form of non-acting—which is admittedly neither here nor there since the same could be said about most slasher movies. Moon lends a certain humanity to an otherwise emotionless affair and it makes her stand out in more than one way but sadly her performance is rather short-lived. Elsewhere young actress Taylor-Compton certainly has nothing on Jamie Lee Curtis’ original Laurie Strode except for perhaps the decibels and amount of her screams. Filling in for Donald Pleasence McDowell wasn’t a bad casting choice to deliver cryptic if dubious dialogue but his performance is rarely more than funny—which could sum up most of the acting here. Such humor culminates with Danny Trejo’s tiny performance as a janitor who cheerily calls the grown-up Myers “Mikey”—even when being savagely murdered by him. Thought shock-rocker Rob Zombie would be the right man for the job of updating John Carpenter’s Halloween? You weren’t alone but alas it is only an update by the standards of today’s “horror” directors who mistake gore for fear factor. In the prologue featuring the young Myers the laughability of the young actor’s dialogue is only exceeded by how unscary his actions are. Blame Zombie’s screenplay which is often unfunny when it’s supposed to be funny—primarily during his trademark clichéd-white-trash-family scenes—and funny when it’s not supposed to be. In the second half at least the talking turns into screams and the pace picks up but it’s all for naught because the older Michael has become a superhuman monster instead of a troubled institutionalized human. The psychological scares have been completely drained from this remake as Zombie appears more intent on stylistically depicting the murders than setting them up; any shred of subtlety as a result is gone. Although maybe the director thought he fulfilled the psychological-scare quota when the psychologist’s life is put in grave danger. As Zombie’s Halloween limps on it becomes a sad commentary on the state of the genre: Elaborate throat-slittings and blood trajectories are no longer even flinch-inducing.