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Sunday
Aug302009

Halloween II

Rob Zombie broke into the world of cinema back in 2003 with his directorial debut, House of 1000 Corpses, a film with splendid originality and a strange sense of style that intrigued many. He returned two years later with The Devil's Rejects, a gloomy masterpiece of macabre horror that truly unnerved the soul. Then in 2007, he released a quasi-prequel, quasi-remake to John Carpenter's 1978 classic, Halloween and it was at that point when his luck ran out. That film was absolutely dreadful, but the sequel makes it look like a Hitchcockian masterpiece. If Zombie has proven anything in his four directorial features, it's that he can be brilliant when working with his own material, but when tackling an already existing franchise, he's a talentless hack, putting nothing onscreen that comes off as remotely scary or suspenseful.

Halloween II begins directly where the last one left off. Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) is "dead" after getting a gunshot to the face (dude's tough) and Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton), the "sole" survivor, is now messed up beyond repair. Flash forward a year later, and she is still waking up screaming most nights because she lacks closure; Myers' body was never found. She just wants a peaceful life away from the nightmares, so she plasters her room with graffiti and hangs a giant poster of Charles Manson over her bed with huge letters saying, "In Charlie we trust." Because that's totally what someone in a similar position would do. She now lives with Annie (Danielle Harris) and her father, Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif), who are also haunted by that night a year ago because Annie was also almost another victim of Myers. Meanwhile, Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) is traveling the nation promoting his new book, "The Devil Walks Among Us." He believes Michael is dead, but little does he know, his book's title is less hyperbole than he thinks. Get it? Because he actually is still walking among us! Man, that's smart!

Though the problems in Halloween II must number in the dozens, one stands head and shoulders above the rest. The reason Michael Myers has lasted in horror cinema as long as he has is because he began as a truly terrifying figure. He was an enigma, a shadow in the night that could be lurking anywhere, watching you, ready to strike. He tapped into the fear of the "boogeyman" (which Carpenter knowingly acknowledged in his original film) and pinched a nerve that nobody has pinched since. As the sequels went on, Myers began to receive more and more of the spotlight and none more so than in this latest outing. Myers isn't an enigma anymore; he's just another human being.

And the more human you make him, the less frightening he becomes. In this new flick, you hear him grunt and scream. You see him with his mask off. You even see him eat. These serve the implication that Myers is indeed human, knows what he's doing and is too blinded by pain and rage to care. He knows the value of human life, going out of his way to kill people irrelevant to his goal of tracking down Laurie and you sense that he needs to feel his victims' pain like a junkie needs a fix. That simply doesn't tap into what made the character scary in the first place.

In the 1978 original, he never came off as human. He had no feelings. He needed no explanation for his killing (the sibling connection between Laurie and Michael wasn't established until the sequel). All the audience, as well as the characters, knew was that somebody had come to town and was killing people off. That was all it needed to strike fear into the hearts of those who saw it. The focus in Zombie's Halloween II is Michael, thus taking away the mystery of the "boogeyman" and humanizing him to a fault, past the point of credulity.

In theory, Zombie had one interesting idea in exploring Michael's character. At certain points in the movie, we see what he sees. The man is violently sick, quite literally, and no doubt has enough demons in him to see the world through a vastly skewed perspective, disconnected from actuality, but most of his visions are of his dead ghost mom standing around ominously next to a big white horse. It's just as stupid as it sounds.

Rob Zombie's Halloween was a joke, completely soiling the legacy of the original through its identity crisis, carelessly blending two different movies into one, a prequel and a remake. It was terribly uneven, but at least it wasn't downright stupid like this one. Hands down, and by a wide margin, this new film is the worst in the entire 10 film franchise, including Halloween III, the one Michael Myers isn't even in. It's a cinematic abomination, similar to what would happen if competing companies could drop nukes on each other's films and this one took a direct hit.

If Halloween II doesn't effectively kill this franchise, then it's safe to say that nothing ever will. Considering the preposterous route it takes, setting up what could be an even dumber (if that's possible) threequel, with an ending that makes zero sense and a final shot that is intended to evoke fear and chills, but instead evokes laughter and spite, I personally hope this boogeyman is finally put to rest for good.

Halloween II receives 0/5

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