Friday, 23 December 2011

Review: Halloween II (2009)

Robert Zombie doesn't like you.

That, among a plethora of other countless objections to society and our tolerance for... anything, really, is the message sprung right in our face in this heinous abortion of a film. Now, maybe that's a bit harsh. I've seen worse. I've sat through episodes of iCarly (unwillingly, but that's besides the point). But, holy mother of Christ, this sucked so pornographically hard I'm stunned my eyes weren't reduced to ash by the final shot.

Those were the thoughts running through my mind after the first viewing, anyway. I rarely ever truly resent a film, but Rob Zombie clearly has a talent for doing just that. He does it so well, too! Then I watched it again. Before I diverge into the lamentable malfunctions sprouting in this film like terrorists in the Middle East, let me get this right out in the open: I appreciate that Rob Zombie attempted to do something different (extra emphasis on "attempted"). I mean it, I do. In a world where horror consists of deplorable rehashes of films and tired retreads that are passed off as "original" works, you have to give kudos to Zombie for having a pair of balls and doing something that differentiates itself so broadly from its source material, it could pass off as an original film with incredible ease.

And therein lies its biggest problem. Well, okay, that's ridiculously hard to label. Anyway, back on-topic. Rob Zombie's Halloween II does not feel like a Halloween film. At all. The only thing keeping that tent up is the Michael Myers character and the continuity it follows from its horrid predecessor. Take those elements away from the film and you'll have I'll Stab You in the Face: The Movie. Some may claim it's unfair to judge this drek based on its loyalty to the franchise... but, if I'm not mistaken, this has "Halloween" in the title and it is a part of a series called, who'd a thunk, Halloween. I assure you, this isn't coincidential. If anyone has the audacity to disregard this, make a film called Halloween, release it for money, and wait for a document screaming copyright infringement. I dare you.

Anyway, let us rummage through what there is of a plot. Laurie Strode transitioned from the sweet angel we grew to hate in Zombie's first bastardization of the series into a punk rocker who looks like her ears have been decimated from blasting Alice Cooper twenty-four seven. Or maybe she's like her brother and has an affinity for KISS (don't think we're didn't remember that, Rob...). Guess what, though? We hate her even more in this one! It's almost like Zombie watched every single film with notable characterization, laughed his ass off, and yelled out, "You know what this needs? Death metal, liquor, and a whole lotta fucks!" There's so much fucking profanity in this fucking movie one would be fucking led to believe this was fucking written by a fucking thirteen-year-old who fucking thinks swearing in every fucking sentence makes his fucking characters grandoise beyond all fucking belief.

Carrying on...

Haddonfield has suddenly morphed from a quiet slice of suburban bliss into a hick town one would find in a Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie. It's the kind of town families would dread driving through to go to a particular location. Why? All the women hook up with men as if it's some humongous, dry bathhouse. For all I know, Haddonfield's a breeding ground for HIV and syphilis. Anywho, our beloved Michael Myers comes home to take care of some unfinished family business... but not before stopping at a bunch of random locations for literally no reason to hack apart whoever's unfortunate enough to be nearby.

The only characters we sympathize with (and even that's a stretch) are Sheriff Brackett and Annie. They just want to rebuild their lives and move on. It also provides us with the most upsetting death in the entire movie, and the sad thing is that we're not even upset. Yes, the emotional response to the death by one particular character is heartbreaking in a way, but it seems so forced and underwhelming it fails to become uplifting in any way, shape, or form. Everyone who dies is either a horrible person or they're so idiotic they might as well hop right into a meat grinder.

For example, one scene involves these hicks who go unnamed (many of the victims in the film do), find Michael lurking around their field, start cussing and they proceed to violently beat him to the ground. Of course they meet a brutal and grisly death that adds absolutely nothing to the narrative of the film. These people are here to increase the body count for the sake of increasing the body count, nothing more. Almost as if that means something nowadays. But back to the point. You don't give a flying fuck about these hicks. The daughter was nice to Michael, asked if he was okay, yada yada yada. Therefore, when she dies we're supposed to feel bad for her, right? We are, but we don't.

Then there's the violence. Look, I'm all for brutality in horror flicks, but only when it's called for and adds something to the film. It's just atrocious here. My objection to the violence isn't because, "Michael Myers is never that brutal." No, it's because he wasn't that brutal in the first remake. It's all about consistency, and while in the originals Michael's murders gradually became more gory and grisly, that's what it was. Gradual. Here, Michael just randomly becomes that much more violent. If it's supposed to represent him becoming an even bigger sociopath over a one year (or two year, depending on whether you watched the Director's Cut or the theatrical cut) time period, then this fails on a massive scale. Michael doesn't feel like the real Michael Myers. People will claim, "It's a remake. Anything can be done." My problem isn't with the brutality, it's with the execution and consistency, as aforementioned. I'd be fine with this if there was any hint of suspense whatsoever... but miracles don't happen in Rob Zombie's world. Neither does logic.

Despite all the glaring issues present in this abominable mess of a film (the rest will be addressed shortly), there are a few things I enjoyed. Many fans whined about the look of Michael Myers. In Halloween II, he trades his iconic jumpsuit for a hobo uniform. However, if you look closely, you'll notice he's still wearing the jumpsuit under it. At first, I didn't like it. I'll admit it, I really didn't. But then you have to realize this guy has been lumbering around to God knows where for a year (or, again, two years), and I highly doubt a jumpsuit keeps you warm and cozy during the winter months. This, though, brings up the issue of wondering what the hell Michael was doing in his free time. What does he do? I would've liked to see that rather than Michael immediately crossing the Haddonfield borders. Michael's mask kicked ass in the film as well, and it merged well with the parka hood. Yes, he looks homeless, but it's still ominous. Of course, that's ruined when some dumb hooker had the bright idea to rip half his mask off before our loveable killer whammed her face into a mirror until death.

And that's an even bigger problem in Halloween II. For every beam of hopeful light generated by something one could enjoy, it's suddenly eclipsed by a problem that later comes with it. It's truly frustrating.

I said before that I liked Michael's new look (again, before his mask was destroyed), but what about the character himself? I covered the brutality aspect already, so what's left? Well, for starters, he has his goddamn mask off for three quarters of the bloody film. A horror icon has been reduced to a sociopathic, grungy mall Santa. In the Director's Cut, he even talks. It takes away the vacancy of Michael Myers. It makes him human. Michael Myers was scary because he was just a supernatural force; a force that couldn't be stopped. Rob Zombie publicly stated he got rid of those supernatural elements, which makes you wonder how the hell Michael survived the first film. Zombie said the bullet Laurie shot "grazed his mask." If he actually watched his horrid excuse of a film, he'd realize that Laurie shot him point blank in the fucking face. Unless there were winds that went beyond hurricane levels at the time, I don't buy it.

What does this mean? Halloween II isn't coherent at all, especially when you mash it up with its predecessor. Mommy Myers makes her return as a ghost who "guides" Michael back to Haddonfield to "take Boo (Laurie) home" to them. And by them, I mean her and Michael as a child who, for whatever reason, is always next to her. This is implied to mean that Michael still loves his mother, and always will. This is where what could've been an interesting psychological insight into the mind of Michael Myers goes terribly wrong. It was well established in the first that Michael didn't really seem to care about his mother, or anyone really. But then we have Halloween II, where he welcomes his mother as Casper the Demented Ghost with open arms. If Deborah was always so hellbent on making Michael go after Laurie, why didn't we see her in the first? Again, consistency. I realize it's a hallucination, but it's a contradiction that can't be ignored. Zombie has attempted so hard to make something so unique and different that it just ended up collapsing on top of itself in such a twisted way it will forever taint the legacy of the Halloween franchise.

The visual style of the film also raises some questions. It's almost like Rob Zombie was shooting a White Zombie music video and Michael Myers just happened to drop by. From outlandish nightmare sequences that come off as confusing or just plain stupid to editing that makes it appear as though Myers has the ability to teleport, it just doesn't work. The soundtrack of the film by Tyler Bates is far too good for the film itself. It's, bar none, one of the best things about the film, except for one apparent and highly noticeable flaw...

The Halloween theme is never played until the credits. Zombie explained that him and Bates added in the theme a few times to particular scenes, but it just "didn't work." I think he should've realized there's an issue when you make a Halloween film and can't add the Halloween theme. Just a thought.

Dr. Loomis went from the doctor hellbent on taking Michael down to the doctor hellbent on profiting off his loveable patient. He's turned into an egotistic fame whore; which adds nothing to the narrative. Loomis could've been killed off in the first and be absent in the second and it wouldn't have made a difference. Malcolm McDowell does what he can, but he can only do oh so much with the atrocity called this film's screenplay.

I don't hate Rob Zombie. I like Dragula. I think he's an extremely competent director, but Halloween II is a serious bump in his resume. I want to see the Zombie who made The Devil's Rejects, not the Zombie who makes trippy music videos. But if this points to anything, it's that Halloween and Rob Zombie are a mix that has had catastrophic results.

Thanks to this, my expectations for Halloween 3D and all other future installments have been significantly lowered. If you're a gothbilly, you may find some entertainment in this mess. If you have the semblance of being a normal person, you'll want to throw your copy of this into an incinerator. However, I would say to watch it again. The trick is to know it's going to be horrible. I did that, and the film was actually pretty amusing...

But in all the wrong ways.