Monday, January 18

Some quick thoughts on Halloween 2 (2009) or: My Public Apology to Rob Zombie

In a surprising revelation, I'm officially shifting my prior "don't buy" recommendation to "check it out when dirt cheap used copies start appearing on the 'net and swap meets from those with buyer remorse." I was ardent in my stance that I simply wouldn't like this follow-up to Zombie's previous mutilation of a horror genre sacred cow, but I'll be damned if I wasn't pleasantly surprised by the experience. Halloween 2 honestly reeks of Zombie struggling to grow and craft something meaningful for the first time as a director, obvious warts and all. One could deem The Devil's Rejects that, and while great, it's great from the memorable cast's absolute conviction barreling forth on sheer gritty momentum. In contrast, H2 sloppily thrusts Rob Zombie up a notch (perhaps two) as a filmmaker largely by his own hands and that deserves praise even though Halloween purists will just continue to shit bloody, orange, pumpkin-flavored bricks.

Zombie is obviously blazing his own trail here, doesn't give a damn what anyone thinks, and your own reaction to this sequel is predicated on to what regard you hold the original Halloween series/mythos. I've only seen bits of Return of Michael Myers through Resurrection, so I don't feel much investment in the series proper. For your humble blogger; John Carpenter's Halloween is the final word, the sequels are superfluous, and Zombie's initial re-imagining basically pissed on perfection. But, if 2007's Halloween was a horrific trainwreck of orphaned children with down syndrome; 2009's Halloween 2 is a clear derailment with some bruises and screaming that screeches to a stop within spitting distance of the terminal. On the other hand, if you're a diehard, you'll still want to spit in the face of Zombie after sitting through this second offense.

H2 is a work filled with earnest, good-hearted attempts at molding a unique vision of the Halloween universe. No bullshit. The problem is that along with most of the positives, there are annoying negatives riding the coattails. Zombie tries to fashion Laurie as an emerging psycho being brought to boil (something made clearer in this 119 minute director's cut), but as per his usual style, it's delivered with extreme heavy-handedness. Scout Taylor-Compton largely fails to bring Laurie full stride or circle, giving off the impression of a little girl even while spouting "fuck" a mile-a-minute. The notion of Laurie being Michael's sister is pummeled over your head in two dream sequences, but for some reason it takes seeing a photo in Loomis's tell-all book for Laurie's mental state to shit the bed. One suggestion would have been to have the photo dated by twenty years to serve as another indicator of Laurie's deepening psychosis regardless of reality. Alas, Laurie's descent is up-and-down rocky at best, but such focus on an individual character is a commendable first in Zombie's cannon.

After hating what happened to the Loomis character in 2007, Malcolm McDowell's even newer Loomis is a complete asshole. I mean, if you're going to do it--do it big. This adds something totally new over Pleasance's superb pensiveness and McDowell the actor specializes in being a pompous jerk-off anyway. Of course, with this comes odd shifts in the therapist turned money-grubber's mentality. Why would Loomis essentially grow old with Michael, suddenly decide to wash himself of the situation, then awash himself in easy money from the whole ordeal? Then suddenly decide to take action again when Laurie finds herself in peril...again? Yeah, it's problematic, but McDowell's performance here suits him better and the scene involving a disgruntled father at a book signing is deliciously meaty.

What about Michael? His rage-induced grunts/arghs are annoying (though not with every kill), and yes original Myers does breathe heavy while slaughtering, but there's still distinct power in the monolithic silence of his original concept that completely sours once you hear him. Especially since it's pretty much established Michael is more human than human after resurrecting to full power from direct bullets to the head. That's really the only thing I didn't care for, seven foot unshaven unmasked murderous hobo and all. Zombie's characterization of Michael is undoubtedly challenging, but it's all fantastic once he gets down to the business of getting intellectual with his knife and smashing whoreface into mirror 10x.

There's one final troubling aspect of Michael that's symptomatic of an ongoing issue in Zombie's filmography--dealing with time. According to the director's cut, "present day" in the film is two years almost to the day after the events at the end of Halloween. We see Michael walking through scattered forest and farmland towards Haddonfield, but where has he been all this time? At one point, two hicks (Mark Boone Junior and Duane Whitaker in a match made in awesome heaven) shout at Myers to once again get off their land so I assume he's been walking through crops and eating animals all this time while skipping one Halloween, which seems stupid. Also Loomis bending the space/time continuum to save the day at the climax after hearing of the situation as if he was just up the street. There's a bunch of little quibbles like this throughout H2 and it's a shame Zombie continues to fail in defeating this problem with flow which can be seen in every one of his films so far.

Aside from the problems mixed with marbling of quality; the redneck white trash shtick, overt cult cameos at every turn (though Brad Dourif proves a damn good investment), and countless '70s tuneage are all turned way down for the good. Judging by this sequel, Zombie just might be ready to bust out and gloriously tackle the full kickass potential of Tyrannosaurus Rex. Halloween 2 has renewed a good size chunk of my faith in Rob behind the camera and nearly makes one want to revisit his Halloween with the fresh perspective gained.


Professor Brian O'Blivion said...

Interesting analysis...I picked this up...just because I'm a completest and want all the Halloween films. Now I'm actually interested in giving it a spin.

Lee Russell said...

I watched the film this past weekend and was surprised how much I didn't dislike this one. I'll have a full review up sometime in the next week or so. Not to say I liked it, but there were some nice bits here and there. Let's just say I'm not convinced that Zombie is one of those directors with one good film in him (The Devils Rejects) and then is doomed to forever suffer a fate worse than Tobe Hooper's. Brad Dourif pretty much saved the film for me.

Jayson Kennedy said...

Check it out Brian, if you're a super hardcore completest, you might to eventually pick up both the Theatrical and Director's Cut DVDs as I'm fairly certain Zombie sat down to record separate commentaries for each.

Also Lee, glad to hear I'm not insane! I have the same sediments, I think Rob still has great potential, he's just like lock and key, eventually everything will click at least once and he'll make something memorable for all the right reasons. And yep, I actually teared up a little at Dourif's breakdown.

Jayson Kennedy said...

Also I didn't mention this in my thoughts, but I also liked how Zombie essentially crammed the original Halloween 2's premise into the first fifteen minutes of his film.

It's like he said "You know, that was kinda boring...let's completely subvert expectation instead..."

Unknown said...

thank you for the updated thoughts... still wanting to give it another chance.

Anonymous said...

Saw H2 in the theater and loved it. Watched the Unrated version the other day and definitely noticed more problems than the first time, but I still enjoyed it. you dare tread upon the staircase?

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