Although I’ve seen some of the “Halloween” films, I haven’t seen them recently enough to remember them. So this watch/rewatch of the saga marks my first time thinking about them as a movie reviewer. Armed with categories suggested by “Halloween” superfan Michael (Olinger, not Myers), here’s my review of the 10th entry, Rob Zombie’s “Halloween II” (2009).
Writer-director Rob Zombie’s second stab at a “Halloween” film has the curious combination of being watchable yet making me never want to watch it again. It’s tragedy/misery porn. I like Laurie’s (Scout Taylor-Compton) attempt at starting a new family out of the ashes of the first movie’s events, as she moves in with Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif) and his daughter, Annie (Danielle Harris). But even those scenes are dimly lit. Zombie doesn’t allow much joy or even dark humor into this film. There is some satisfaction to be had from the pattern where someone is rude to Michael and he then kills them (or they are nice to him and he then kills them), but it gets redundant.
It’s hard to not sympathize with Laurie, as she deals with the loss of her parents, and eventually the loss of her best friend and the knowledge that she is Michael’s sister, which she learns from the new true-crime book by Loomis (Malcolm McDowell). These are things the original saga failed to dig into with much passion, so Zombie rectifies that.
Nurse Daniels (Octavia Spencer) comes through a hospital door, seemingly to help Laurie. But she has been stabbed, and Michael is next through the doorway. (This all turns out to be a nightmare sequence that didn’t really happen, which is a strange story choice.)
It’s a familiar pattern at this point, but there is still pleasure to be had from watching two hillbillies beat the hell out Michael for being on their land, only to end up violently killed soon after. Showing he’s not overly reliant on his knife, Michael makes nice use of the antlers on the front of the pickup to skewer one of them.
In one of the film’s few moments of almost-warmth, the sheriff banters with Annie and Laurie about the virtues of eating meat versus vegetarianism. And in a decent example of pitch-black humor, Brackett eating a slice of pizza is juxtaposed with Michael eating a dog he has slaughtered.
THAT SEEMS FAMILIAR
Zombie’s sequel starts similar to the original “Halloween II,” with Laurie recovering in a hospital. But most of that turns out to be a detailed nightmare. When it jumps ahead a year, the film riffs on “Halloween 5,” delving into the psychic connection between Michael and his last surviving relative — his niece the first time around, his sister here.
Michael stalking across wheat fields is reminiscent of those trademark shots of walkers on “The Walking Dead,” which premiered a year later.
THAT DOESN’T AGE WELL
The opening sequence where Michael returns to the hospital, kills the nurses and stalks Laurie didn’t really happen; it was Laurie’s nightmare, a year later. But it’s the most atmospheric sequence in the film – complete with a rainstorm — and it’s memorable because it riffs on the original “Halloween II.” It might as well have happened, since we quickly get into Michael really stalking her. The fake-out hospital sequence lends the whole film an elusive quality, like it doesn’t want to exist in the first place.
MOST SURPRISING ELEMENT
Harris – the best part of “H4” and “H5” — isn’t fun to watch in this movie, which goes to show how downbeat the whole thing is. Annie is depressed over nearly being killed a year earlier but also unaccountably ticked off that her dad sends a deputy to guard the house while she’s alone. Then she ends up being brutally stabbed and dies naked in a blood-drenched bathroom, an end that seems too ignominious for this actress.
It’s the same one from 2007’s “Halloween,” but more blood-spattered and beat up. Part of it gets torn off, which perhaps symbolizes that this version of Michael is part-human, part-Shape.
NEW REVELATIONS ABOUT MICHAEL
Through stylized images of his ghostly mom (Sheri Moon Zombie) and own younger self (Chase Wright Vanek, who looks nothing like the young Michael from the previous film), we learn that Michael’s killing spree is motivated by a desire to find his sister and kill her to complete this happy family. That doesn’t make logical sense, but hey, he’s a psychopath.
For some reason, the previously mute Michael grunts during his kills now and continues with killing blows long after the victim is dead.
Zombie’s “Halloween” films don’t forget character threads, they totally lean into them. But plot threads are another matter. One thing that’s particularly weird is the mystery of Michael’s disappearance. First of all, the gunshot didn’t kill him, so he should not have been pronounced dead at the scene (remember, there is no magic in this timeline). But since he is assumed dead, and since his body is not found at the ambulance crash site, there should be more of a serious quest to find out who stole the corpse. (In a real-world context, it’s a more plausible theory than him being alive and wandering off.)
There’s also no good reason why it takes Michael a full year to get back to Haddonfield to pick up where he left off. Scenes of him gradually recovering from his injuries might’ve helped.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT?
Had there been a third Zombie film, it seems like an exploration of Laurie’s potential for evil would be up next. (She’s in a mental institution at the end of this one.) But with the way she so clearly stabs Michael to death, it seems like this was always intended to be the final entry in this timeline. While I’m an apologist for the first Zombie installment, after this grim sequel, I can’t say I desire a third.
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