We've seen many of the classic (and not so classic) horror films of the 70s and 80s remade, re-imagined and re-envisioned in the past ten years. Nearly all of them have been met with stark criticism from the horror faithful. That being said, none of those films have been as vehemently attacked as Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN. Ask the fanboys what they thought of his remake of HALLOWEEN and you're likely to get an earful of pure, unfiltered hate, a gargantuan stream of vitriol that could strip the paint off the side of a car. I thought that the amount of displeasure dumped on Zombie's HALLOWEEN was a bit unfair. Zombie is, in every way, the polar opposite of John Carpenter in respects to both screen writing and direction. Still, it seemed like many people were expecting to see something Carpenter-esque up there on the screen. The deluge of sloppy writing, horrible characters, copious nudity and buckets of blood pissed them off. This wasn’t the HALLOWEEN we loved so much. Well, no, it wasn’t and it wasn’t meant to be. This was Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN, after all. Not John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN. There are many reasons to trash Zombie’s film. Claiming that it wasn’t enough like the original isn’t one of them.
But out they came, fanboy after fanboy, screaming for Mr. Zombie's head. I am myself a HALLOWEEN fanboy. I grew up with these films. I watched them repeatedly, sometimes two or three times each in the space of a week. I could understand the rage but I didn't necessarily agree with it. I was ready to allow Zombie his turn at bat. When the film was over, I stood up, walked out of the theater, said quietly to myself "well, that was different" and shrugged the whole thing off. It wasn't a good movie by any stretch of the imagination but it was what it was. I respected Zombie for at least attempting something different, even if I didn’t like what he had done.
But now… Now I can understand that fanboy rage a whole lot better and boy, oh boy, do I feel it. Not only has Zombie completely disemboweled one of the few decent horror franchises still left kicking but he has pulled down his redneck drawers and shit all over the remains. But for now I will put my fanboy rage aside and look at HALLOWEEN 2 as simply a sequel to Zombie's own rendition of the 1978 classic.
HALLOWEEN 2 begins just a few minutes after the previous film. A blood-soaked and battered Laurie Strode is taken to the hospital for treatment. Her best friend, Annie, is recuperating just down the hall. Meanwhile, back at the Myers house, Michael's body is loaded into a van and driven away. Why they are seen driving down a lonely country road is beyond me; doesn't the local hospital have a morgue? While the driver and his passenger discuss necrophilia, the van hits a cow. The driver is killed in the collision but the passenger is not so lucky. As he sits there agony, unleashing a major string of "fucks", the van begins rocking. With a bang, the backdoors of the van swing open and out pops Michael Myers, no worse for wear (Zombie never explains how Myers survived a point-blank gunshot wound to the head). Myers quickly decapitates our would-be corpse rapist and walks off. It's here where we get our first glimpse of Deborah Myers, Michael's mother, and her white horse, the spectral entities that goad Myers into committing murder.
A year later, Laurie has been taken in by the Annie and her father, the town sheriff. Laurie has become a dark, moody girl who suffers from horrible nightmares (or are they visions?) of Myers. Life with the Bracketts is somewhat uneventful so Laurie blows off steam with her two trendy friends. Loomis has morphed into a huge media phenomenon, a tasteless sensationalist determined to reap the riches of his past and exploit the deaths of innocent people for all they're worth. His autobiographical account of his treatment of Myers and his involvement in the massacre of one year ago is scheduled to be released on Halloween which, naturally, is just a few days away.
In between killing hicks and eating dogs, Myers spends the year off recuperating from his wounds and slipping further and further into psychosis. Like a certain other masked killer who shall not be named, he begins receiving instructions from his dead mother. This year, Michael will finally reunite the family. That means finding Laurie. And just like clockwork, Halloween Eve comes around and Myers begins the long walk home.
What follows bears no resemblance to any of the other HALLOWEEN films. It does however resemble virtually every other slasher film you've ever seen. The game is played like this: character is introduced, character is killed gruesomely, another character is introduced, another character is killed gruesomely etc., over and over until the not-so-shocking finale. There is so little in the way of actual suspense and plot development on display here that you could stop watching the film for a full hour and still know exactly what's going on when you return to it. As terrible as many of his films are, Zombie can usually be counted on to keep things interesting in one way or another. Here, he wallows in Z-Grade slasher clichés for the majority of the running time. There are a few good touches and moments in HALLOWEEN 2 - Laurie's discovery of her true identity, Annie's inevitable death, Myers delivering the long overdue coup de grace to his nemesis Loomis - but they are few and far between.
And that's a damned shame because the first twenty minutes or so of the movie are quite good. The main opening sequence, Myers stalking Laurie through the hospital, is very well constructed and very well executed, achieving a level of tension missing from the rest of the film. But, as if spitting in our faces, Zombie decides for this all to be one long elaborate dream sequence. No other scene in this film approaches the level of professionalism found in the film's opening. That’s the second HALLOWEEN movie to tumble down the shitter after the opening set piece, the other being the horrible HALLOWEEN RESURRECTION.
I'll just come out and say it... I don't think Rob Zombie knows how to make a horror film. Now to be fair, that places him in the company of close to 90% of all the other filmmakers working in horror right now. To Zombie, a horror film is nothing but one long string of murders. He is firmly stuck in the 1980s (even though he would say the 1970s) where every other slasher film was nothing more than a dozen or so people being violently killed. He has no idea how to pace a story, no notion of a consistent narrative and little understanding of the art of subtlety. I also have to mention HALLOWEEN 2 is one of the worst looking films I've seen in years. The whole thing looks like it was shot on a crusty old Hi8 camera.
The fact of the matter is this: you could have a barely passable screenplay filled to bursting with clichés, stereotypes, fake scares and over-the-top murder scenes and still make it work through good direction and a keen sense of timing. Zombie’s direction here contains none of the energy he brought to the previous film. The timing and pacing of the narrative is too out of whack for it to work properly, highlighting an already obvious deficiency in his ability to write a decent screenplay. Zombie mistakes victims for characters and bursts of ultra violence for scares. Everything that people complained about in the previous film is present here and ramped up to unbelievable levels. It’s like Zombie made this film for no other reason than to spit in the faces of the people who openly trashed the previous film. Did you hate that one? Then you’ll hate this twice as much. There is no redeeming quality to this film. It is an empty, soulless slasher film.