It has been said that Rob Zombie is the best horror director working today – who has yet to make a good horror film, that’s all. There is more than a little truth to that statement and with his rebooting of the Halloween franchise he has also possibly become the biggest name in horror right now, or at least the most commercial. So his release of Halloween II is something of an occasion and a cause for excitement. Will this be the time all the pieces finally come together for him? Well, simply put, no.
To say that this remake pales in comparison to this year’s Friday the 13th and other recent remake Last House on the Left isn’t much of an insult because those were both quality films. But to find that this movie is actually a step back from Zombie’s original Halloween is very disheartening. Halloween II opens with a quick recap from the ending of the previous film and then quickly jumps ahead one year. Most of the time is spent following Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton), the supremely unlikable series mainstay who remains traumatized after escaping Michael Myers grasp last time around and sure wants everybody to know it. Michael Myers, for his part, remains an unoriginal slasher monster as ever slashed a promiscuous teenager; he can never be bothered to run and is constantly interrupting imminent sex. As the final days before Halloween tick away the viewer is left to count the minutes until the real action begins.
The best thing this movie has going for it is Malcolm McDowell hamming it up as Dr. Loomis, child-psychologist-turned-celebrity-author who has turned Michael Myers into his bread and butter. There is nothing all that exciting about this character other than his complete lack of sympathy for the victims as he flaunts his shameless book tour in their face. Probably the most disturbing aspect here is the way Zombie suddenly feels the need to compete with the Saw crowd in an ill-advised attempt to gross the audience out by any means necessary.
One scene finds him cutting between Laurie and her family eating pizza and Michael Myers scarfing down the innards of a freshly slaughtered dog. Zombie is more talented than that and doesn’t need to resort to such cheap tricks. Hidden within Loomis’ new book is a secret that should by rights shake the entire storyline, but never did it feel fully shocking or utilized. Another downfall here is the way in which dream sequences were used and all too frequently abused. Too often the rug was pulled out from under the audience after an extended scene as they were told that nothing they just watched would matter because, hey, it was just a dream.
What Zombie does have is a taste for pop culture references. Listen closely and you’ll hear someone make a crack about Scout Taylor-Compton’s character running away from home. Even funnier is Weird Al, on a TV talk show, expressing his confusion over which one is the serial killer and which one played Austin Powers. All of that gives some levity to a film that otherwise comes off as a mean-spirited, blood-spurting fun house. And while all that may be exactly what fans of the horror genre are looking for this can hardly be considered a good horror film.
Even the sound effects are flawed and not just in the way that they assault your eardrums. Early on, while Michael Myers is massacring someone with a knife, it is noticeable just how ferocious that noise is, so it quite disappointing later on when the exact same effect is used to portray someone being stomped to death. If you like seeing people hacked to death, then watch Halloween II because there is certainly no higher purpose to it. We’ve seen all these camera tricks from Zombie before and therefore are just left with a loud, abrasive way to turn your brain off for a few hours.
Starring: Scout Taylor-Compton, Malcolm McDowell, Tyler Mane, Sherri Moon Zombie
Director: Rob Zombie
Runtime: 105 minutes
Distributor: Dimension Films