(NOTE: This review of HALLOWEEN 2 is the last of our Fear Zone reviews to be reposted here at the official Cinema Knife Fight Web site. We had a great two-year run there, and it’s weird that the very first movie we reviewed for Fear Zone was Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN, and the last exclusive review we did for them was the sequel, HALLOWEEN 2. After that, our very last Fear Zone columns: ZOMBIELAND, THE FOURTH KIND and NEW MOON were published simultaneously on Fear Zone and on this site. You can now find all of the Fear Zone columns here).
CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: HALLOWEEN 2 (2009)
by Michael Arruda and L. L. Soares
(LL SOARES is dressed in a white hospital gown, sitting on white sheets on a white bed in the middle of a bright white room. MICHAEL ARRUDA enters the room, also dressed in white, pulling a rope attached to a white horse)
LS: Wow. What’s with the white horse?
MA: It’s my attempt to inject fancy highbrow symbolism into this review. It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t make sense, because hell, it looks artsy and creative.
MA: Actually, I found it outside. Someone just left it there. Three guys who looked suspiciously like Moe, Larry, and Curly.
PA Voice: Calling Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard.
MA: As much as I’d like to go out there and see what they’re up to, I guess I’d better stay here and review Rob Zombie’s new movie, HALLOWEEN 2, with you.
HORSE: Yeah, get to it Wilburrrr!
LS: Okay, okay.
Our movie this time is Rob Zombie’s new one, HALLOWEEN 2. As you remember way back in August of 2007, in our very first Cinema Knife Fight review for Fear Zone, we reviewed Rob’s remake of HALLOWEEN. I think we had a very mixed reaction to that one.
MA: I think we hated it.
LS: Hate’s a strong word. But yeah, I’d say we were both very disappointed with it. John Carpenter’s original was pretty damn good, and it did not need to be remade. But Rob Z had shown some interesting filmmaker chops with his previous two movies, and I, for one, thought he could pull it off. His first HALLOWEEN was ambitious and had some interesting parts, but on the whole, it just couldn’t hold a candle to the original.
MA (Holding a lit candle): I’ll say! I’ll also say that while I too love John Carpenter’s original HALLOWEEN, I’m not against it being remade. I think there is a place for remakes, for someone to give their stamp on an earlier movie. That being said, back in 2007, I thought Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN pic was a muddled mess from start to finish.
LS: Now, rumor has it that Zombie had some restrictions placed on him by the studio when he made HALLOWEEN. So while he could deviate from the original story a little, he couldn’t change things too much. So he focused a lot on Michael Myers’ childhood and how he became the monster he would be as an adult. I thought he had an interesting take on the character, and the first half of the movie was fleshed out well, but the second half was kind of tedious, as the adult Michael went on his rampage.
It also didn’t work for me that Michael Myers seemed a lot more human in Rob Zombie’s version than he did in Carpenter’s original. In the Carpenter version, Myers was clearly a supernatural being. A homicidal boy who grows up to become the real Boogeyman. In Zombie’s version, he delved much more into Michael’s psyche, and sought to explain what made him tick. I missed the more supernatural aspects of the character.
Well, HALLOWEEN 2 kind of changes this. The movie begins a year after the first one. Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) still has constant nightmares about the fateful night in Part I where she was terrorized by Michael Myers (Tyler Mane). Since her parents were killed by him, she now lives with the local Sherriff, Lee Brackett (Brad Dourif), and his daughter Annie (Danielle Harris).
She works in a coffee shop run by an old hippie named Uncle Meat (Howard Hesseman in a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” cameo), with her two other alt/goth pals Nancy (Mary Birdsong) and Mya (Brea Grant), and they’re all making plans for Halloween, which is just a few days away (they’re planning to go to a party dressed as three characters from THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW). Of course, since this also represents the anniversary of the awful events in the first movie, Laurie is getting very anxious as the big day approaches and spills her guts to her psychiatrist (Margot Kidder in another cameo) about it.
Meanwhile, flashbacks to that fateful night a year ago show us that Michael Myers isn’t exactly dead. Even though he was shot several times in the first movie, and the EMT’s lifted him into the back of the meat wagon, he rises from the dead (presumably, if he was really ever dead at all) after the ambulance he’s in collides with a cow.
MA: Wow, that’s realistic! When was the last time someone hit a cow?
LS: Er…that was kinda hard to swallow.
Then Michael wanders the countryside, randomly killing people, as he makes his way back to Laurie Strode, who we learned in the first movie, is really his sister.
MA: What a surprise. You know, going all the way back to the original series, this is one plot point which never worked for me. Who the hell cares if Laurie Strode is Michael Myers sister or not? If you watch John Carpenter’s original HALLOWEEN, it seems as if the driving force behind Myers’ maniacal desire to kill is an absolute hatred of women, all women, not just his sister.
To Rob Zombie’s credit, he does attempt in this movie to give this plot point some value, with his silly white horse flashbacks. There’s definitely a strong sense that the Myers family is wacko, dark, and evil, and so, if Laurie is also part of this family, what does that mean for her? Like brother, like sister? Unfortunately, this kind of logic is simplistic and stale. Hey, Laurie Strode, Michael Myers is your brother! What are you going to do about it? Sadly, the answer the film provides isn’t all that original or satisfying.
LS: Another storyline deals with Dr. Sam Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), the psychiatrist who treated Michael in the insane asylum as a boy, and who claims to be an expert on serial killers because of this. He has a new book coming out about the case, and has become quite a nasty and egotistical creep since we last saw him. He doesn’t think twice about exploiting the case for his own benefit, and is constantly shouting at people, during his big book tour, who seem to have a problem with that.
MA: I liked McDowell as Sam Loomis, a lot. I liked him in the first movie as well, and I enjoyed this new take on the character, that he’s kind of a jerk exploiting the case. Sadly, he’s not on screen all that much, and when he is, even though he’s an interesting character, his scenes aren’t all that good. The scene on the talk show with Weird Al next to him is supposed to be funny, I guess, but it comes off as forced and unrealistic. Part of the problem is the Loomis character in his brief screen time is reduced to cardboard jerk, and as a result, we don’t really get a good feel for him. Is he really a jerk exploiting the misfortunes of others? It seems so, but he does something later on in the movie that if he were really a selfish jerk, he wouldn’t have done.
LS: Of course, all of these characters will eventually converge.
Y’ know, I’ve been a fan of Malcolm McDowell for a long time. Going way back to his early films with Lindsay Anderson like IF (1968) and of course Kubrick’s A CLOCKWORK ORANGE in 1971. His Loomis has some fun moments, but he seems to be a one-note character. And I didn’t think the talk show bits with Weird Al were as funny as they obviously thought they were.
MA: I’m a big Malcolm McDowell fan as well. He was cast against type as H.G. Wells in the science fiction classic TIME AFTER TIME (1979), which rates for me as one of his best performances.
LS: By the way, even though there’s a sequence in the beginning of the movie that takes place in a hospital, this is not a remake of the original HALLOWEEN 2.
LS: And while Zombie supposedly had a lot more freedom with this movie, it doesn’t seem any more creative than the first one, or more extreme for that matter.
The Michael Myers storyline is a bit confusing, too. Supposedly he escapes outside of town when the ambulance has an accident, but it then takes him a year (!) of wandering around before he finds Laurie again in the same town that he just left?
MA: I was wondering the same thing. What the hell has he been doing the past year? Now that would have made an interesting movie!
(MICHAEL MYERS is dressed in a fast food uniform flipping burgers.
MANAGER: Let’s go, Myers! We got line a mile long in the drive-thru! Move your ass!
MYERS clunks Manager over the head with the spatula.)
LS: And a lot of this movie has to do with dreams.
MA: TOO MUCH of it has to do with dreams.
LS: Yeah, you’re right. Laurie has at least two long dream sequences, and as you expect, they feel like rip-offs. You get caught up in these long segments, only to have Laurie wake up screaming. And you feel cheated. And what about those visions Michael has? He constantly see his dead mother (Sherrie Moon Zombie) dressed in white and leading a white horse. And he often sees the child version of himself (Chase Wright Vanek) with her as well. In fact there is so much about dreams and these visions that they start to bleed into the “reality” of the story, so that the entire movie takes on a strange, surreal quality.
While I hated the fact that some scenes turned out to be dream sequences, I guess I liked the surreal atmosphere of the movie over all.
And the “mom dressed in white and the white horse” seemed so odd. I couldn’t tell if it was unintentionally amateurish (it was the kind of heavy-handed symbolism a student filmmaker would use), or if it was truly subversive (I was definitely laughing a few times, knowing this kind of imagery would piss a lot of people off).
MA: I thought it just slowed the movie down. This is a horror movie, for crying out loud! Why are we watching slow-moving scenes of a woman in white leading a white horse around the countryside? You might as well make the darn thing a unicorn!
And I don’t want to give anything away, but there’s a very long suspense sequence in this movie, in which the audience invests a lot of time, and after this sequence, it’s revealed that it’s just a dream! Come on. That’s the lowest trick in the book. I still can’t believe it was done here.
LS: Exactly. It’s like that episode of the old show DALLAS, where a whole season turned out to be a dream. It’s aggravating.
MA: You mention Chase Wright Vanek as young Michael Myers. While he’s good, I missed Daeg Faerch who played the role last time. He had been my favorite part of that movie.
LS: The violence was mostly random. Unlike killers like Jason and Freddy, who seem to have a revenge motive or a “moral” one (killing people who have sex, etc.), Myers seems to have no rhyme or reason why his singles out his victims in this movie. What usually happens is he stumbles upon someone, they hassle him because he looks like a homeless bum (he wears a hooded sweatshirt all the time and has a heavy beard) , and then he puts his mask on and turns into a killing machine. This is kind of funny because, even if people think he’s a bum, he’s about seven feet tall, so you think people wouldn’t mess with him.
MA (shaking his head): You think?
LS: Most of the people he kills seem to be redneck lowlife types. But until he zeroes in on Laurie, there doesn’t seem to be much logic to his killing. I have to admit, though, that I found this refreshing in a way, because it illustrates the whole “randomness of fate/death” concept that I’ve always liked.
There is also a kind of griminess to the whole movie. Everyone seems to have long, messy hair. Everyone seems to live in dirty houses strewn with debris that have graffiti on the walls (and would a sherrif like Dourif’s character really have no problem with Laurie having a poster of Charles Manson’s mug shot above her bed?). And there are a lot of filthy looking characters (the aforementioned rednecks). It all adds to the unwholesomeness of the movie. The whole thing feels dirty and unsettling.
But once again, this constant grimy imagery seems to work on some level.
I have to admit, I was confused about this one. When I left the theater, I still wasn’t sure if I liked HALLOWEEN 2 or not. There were some things about it that I liked. And a lot more that I didn’t, or that I wasn’t sure worked. This doesn’t happen very often, but I was really on the fence about this one.
What did you think, Michael?
MA: I think you need to take a nap. You liked it, you didn’t like it, you’re not sure what to think. Doesn’t sound like you. I think you’re overtired. Let me help you fall asleep. (Cracks LS over the head with a frying pan. LS falls onto bed, sees cartoon birds circling his head, and falls asleep). Now, if I had been Michael Myers in Rob Zombie’s vision of HALLOWEEN 2, I would have smashed LL over the head about 20 more times with this frying pan, and that would have constituted Zombie’s vision of horror here. (Looks back at LS) You really asleep?
LS (opens eyes): Nyah, nyah. I’ve got my eyes closed.
MA: You doofus! Anyway, I didn’t like HALLOWEEN 2 all that much. It started early on for me, with a beheading scene. That is definitely my pet peeve these days. If I have to see one more grisly beheading scene shot in graphic detail, I’m going to pick my nose and smear it on the screen! Enough with beheadings already!
LS: YUCK! Now that’s gross.
MA: HALLOWEEN 2 is a very brutal movie that offers little else to offset its brutality. I mean, if you’re going to go this route, give us something more, and I’m not talking about women dressed in white walking white horses! Michael Myers also kills and eats a dog in this movie. Now, he does the same thing in John Carpenter’s original, but you don’t see it in that movie. You see it here. Not my idea of fun.
HALLOWEEN 2 is in desperate need of a strong character. Michael Myers isn’t it, nor is Laurie Strode. She spends too much of her time screaming, swearing, crying, and acting like the messed-up teenager that she is.
LS: She’s actually pretty annoying and hard to sympathize with. I didn’t like her that much.
MA: Exactly! Me, neither! My favorite character was Sheriff Brackett, who’s a character from the original series, played back in 1978 by John Carpenter favorite Charles Cyphers. Here, he’s played by Brad Dourif, and by far, he delivers the best performance in the movie. Heck, when you come right down to it, HALLOWEEN 2 is Brackett’s movie. He’s pretty much the closest thing the movie has to a hero, much more than Dr. Loomis.
LS: I’ve always liked Brad Dourif. He’s a great character actor.
MA: As I said earlier, I also liked Malcolm McDowell as Dr. Loomis, but these two male characters aren’t the leads, and the movie isn’t designed for them to carry it. So, when they’re not on screen, which is a lot, the film is desperately lacking for a strong presence.
Also, for a movie called HALLOWEEN 2 that takes place on Halloween, it doesn’t feel like Halloween at all. That was one of the strengths of the original Halloween series. It really made you feel like you were there on Halloween night. Not so here. There aren’t even any Halloween movies playing on TVs in the background or any kids seen trick or treating, except for that one little kid who asks Michael Myers if he’s a giant, which reminded me of a similar scene in the 1939 classic SON OF FRANKENSTEIN. In fact, with his huge bulk and hood over his head, Myers reminded me somewhat of the Frankenstein monster in this movie. There are several film versions of the Mary Shelley tale where the monster wears similar garb.
But by far, the worst part of HALLOWEEN 2 (and Zombie’s first HALLOWEEN pic suffered from a similar flaw), is the horrible pacing. Can a movie move any slower? Things move about as briskly as an old lady with a walker. Based upon what I’ve seen in his two HALLOWEEN movies, Rob Zombie has no idea how to pace a horror movie. The Michael Myers scenes are brutal, but not suspenseful. They play like one random event after another. There’s no build-up to something more.
LS: And here’s a dilemma I had. I really liked Rob Zombie’s first two movies. I thought his debut, HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES, was flawed but over all very entertaining. And his second movie, THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, is one of my favorite movies of the last decade. I had such high hopes for his career as a filmmaker. And then he went and made two very disappointing movies in a row. Now I don’t know if DEVIL’S REJECTS was a fluke, or if he just didn’t care that much about the HALLOWEEN movies.
MA: Zombie’s idea of horror is having Michael Myers pummel someone to death over and over again. Now, this is violent, this is loud, but this is definitely not suspenseful, nor is it scary.
HALLOWEEN 2 is filled with brutal violence, but Rob Zombie forgot one key component, or perhaps he didn’t forget but just doesn’t know how to do it: he forgot to make it scary.
To me, the last straw was the scene where one of Laurie’s hot friends was about to have sex in a van with this guy…
LS: Wolfie! The guy in the Wolfman mask!
MA: Yeah, and you have this really sexy build-up, and all sex aside, a damn interesting scene, you actually have characters engaging in dialogue that’s refreshing — it’s borderline pornographic dialogue, but hey, it’s refreshing— which then goes absolutely nowhere because Michael Myers shows up and brutally kills them out of the blue just like that. In fact, right after that scene, two guys behind me up and left the theater shouting, “This movie sucks!” My sentiments exactly.
What happens in this scene is pretty much the point of the movie. Big giant Michael Myers viciously murders everyone in his path. That’s it, folks. That’s the bottom line.
Also absent from this movie is the original John Carpenter HALLOWEEN music, that is until the end credits, but by then, it’s way too late to have any impact.
It’s a no brainer folks, HALLOWEEN 2 is one of the worst horror movies of the year. It’s just as bad as Zombie’s first HALLOWEEN effort, and once more doesn’t come close to generating the suspense and chills of John Carpenter’s 1978 original. I think it’s time Zombie moved on to something else. If there are to be any more HALLOWEEN remakes or “reimaginings,” let someone else be at the helm.
LS: I wish he’d go back to working on original characters. He hasn’t had a good track record with other people’s stories so far. And now I hear he’s going to remake THE BLOB next. Which just fills me with dread. ENOUGH WITH THE REMAKES!
I was on the fence for a long time after seeing HALLOWEEN 2, and I think I’ve figured out my reaction to it. I liked the feel of it, the atmosphere. The surreal quality and the grittiness of it. And the randomness of the violence kind of appealed to me. But, the story itself was very weak, and it had no real meat to it.
So I can’t really recommend it.
(MICHAEL MYERS suddenly appears in the white room, dressed in a white tuxedo)
MYERS: Come on, guys. I thought you liked me.
MA: We do. You’ve just been stuck in two crappy movies in a row.
LS: Hey, I didn’t know you could talk.
MYERS: I can dance, too. (starts tap dancing)(“Puttin’ on the Ritz” plays in the background.)
MA: Maybe Mel Brooks can handle the next “reimagining.” Years later he can turn it into a Broadway musical.
LS: No more horror musicals!
(MICHAEL MYERS tap-dances and slams into wall.)
LS (pushing button by his bedside): Hopefully the nurses will get him out of here.
MA: Okay, visiting hours are over, and I have to get this horse back to the props people. Otherwise they’ll have to pay him overtime. Union rules. (Opens door and calls out) Hey, Moe! Looking for your horse?
(Voice off-camera): Why you—! I’ll murder ya!
MA: Until next time.
(First published on Fear Zone on 8/31/2009)
© Copyright 2009 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares