Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Franchises: Halloween. Halloween II (2009)

File:Halloween2009.jpgI know that I was far from being the only person who didn't care for Rob Zombie's Halloween. While the film was universally hated by critics, which is nothing new when it comes to horror films, it absolutely polarized the horror community at large. Some really enjoyed it and applauded Zombie for doing something different rather than just creating a carbon copy of John Carpenter's original (although, as we discussed, he did take a lot of stuff from that film), while others felt that the remake was absolutely unnecessary, which it was, and a complete bastardization of a beloved horror classic. But, despite whatever your personal opinions towards the film might be, there's no arguing that the film was an enormous success, making over $80 million from a budget of just $15 million and becoming the highest grossing entry in the franchise, a fact that does sadden me personally but whatever. And once those numbers came in, it was guaranteed that we were going to see another movie. Since I was absolutely livid about the film when I first saw it and hated it with a passion, I hoped that there was some slim chance that the next film would be a continuation of Halloween: Resurrection and give proper closure to the original series... but, I knew in my gut that would most likely not be the case. Once you've repaved the road like that, it's nigh impossible to go back so it was obvious that were going to see a sequel to the remake. I didn't like it but I had to face the facts and once I did, I thought, "Well, if you get a different director who will take it away from that white trash BS, it might have potential." But, when I heard that Rob Zombie was indeed coming back to write and direct, I lost all hope and officially wrote the movie off. I had such a miserable experience watching his first film and dealing with some of its obnoxious fans online that I was not looking forward to another movie that would bring me even more anger and misery. And when I saw a teaser trailer for it in the spring or early summer of '09 (I can't for the life of me exactly remember when I saw that thing), it confirmed my choice to have nothing to do with it. As a result, I completely cut off any ties with it in the months leading up to its release. I didn't read any news on its production, any interviews with Zombie or the cast, nothing. I was through. And on the very day the film was released, it was announced that Zombie's next film would be a second remake of The Blob, which made me despise him even more than I already did. It wasn't bad enough that he'd butchered something that I love twice but he was now going after something else that was special to me. It was just unbelievable and to this day, I count my lucky stars that that project didn't work out; if it did, let's just say that it would have been the last movie that Mr. Zombie ever made.

Even after he bowed out of doing The Blob, I still had no love for Zombie and that feeling was amplified when I heard the details of Halloween II. For one, I wish they had kept the original title of H2 so as to make some distinction between the original series and this one. It's akin to how we now have two movies called The Hills Have Eyes and two movies called The Hills Have Eyes Part 2; with two movies called Halloween and two called Halloween II, not to mention all of the other entries in the original series, future generations are going to be as confused as you can get when it comes to figuring out the order of the franchise. Anyway, as I said, that teaser trailer, with the shots of the ghostly Mrs. Myers telling Michael to kill and whatnot, was not a good first impression. Not only was I irritated that Zombie, again, had to put his wife in his movie (is that the only way she'll let him touch her?) but the whole mother angle confirmed to me that Zombie didn't know the difference between Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees or even Norman Bates for that matter, something that I suspected when watching the first movie. But when I heard the details of the movie from online reviewers as well as friends of mine who'd seen it, I became even more irritated. White horses? Nonsensical images? More redneck nonsense? Laurie Strode becoming a foul-mouthed, hateful Goth chick? Michael Myers looking like a hobo with a big grizzly beard and not wearing the mask that much? I was dumbfounded. And when I heard the rumors concerning why Zombie made the movie, I started to wonder if this was meant as some type of revenge on those who didn't like his first Halloween film rather than a movie he truly wanted to do. All of this made me decide that, as far as I was concerned and despite the fact that I do enjoy The Devil's Rejects, Rob Zombie could go straight to hell and I would never, ever subject myself to his second butt-raping of a franchise that I love.

And, as bold a statement as this, if I hadn't started this blog, I would have stuck to that conviction. When I decided that I was going to do this critique of the Halloween franchise, I knew that in order to do it properly, I would have to swallow my pride and watch Zombie's Halloween II, which is exactly what I did back in September when I began. You're probably thinking, "Oh, bull, Cody, you've watched it before then," but nope, September of 2013 was the first time I ever watched this film. I really had to brace and psych myself up for the experience because I knew that it wasn't going to be pretty given everything I had heard and the clips I had seen in other people's reviews. But, I eventually did hold my breath and dive in and the first thing I will say is that, similar to when I re-watched Zombie's first one in order to do its review, this film didn't enrage me as much as I expected it to. Now, don't get me wrong. It still wasn't an easy film to sit through and there are a lot of things I don't like about it but maybe since I've kind of gotten used to Zombie's filmmaking style by this point and I knew going into the film what I was getting into from his first foray into the Halloween series, I wasn't as angered as I was previously. I think this film does do a few things better than the first one and the highest credit I can give it is that it's visually stunning at points but, that said, it still has enough problems to where I can't say it's a film that I love or one that I'll revisit once this review is done. As you can tell, I'm rather conflicted on this film and as a result, I'm not sure if I'll put this one as an installment of Movies That Suck like I did with Zombie's first one. That one, while not getting me as angry as I once was when I re-watched it, still annoyed me and had plenty of problems, one of the biggest ones being the boring last half hour, to where I could put it as such but this one... I don't know. Just like his first one polarized the horror community at large, this one has polarized my opinion of it if that makes any sense.

While Michael Myers was incarcerated at Smith's Grove Sanitarium as a boy, his mother visited him one day around Christmastime and brought him statuette of a white horse, which he told her reminded him of a dream he had of her dressed in white, leading a white horse down a hallway and telling him that she was going to take him home. Fifteen years later, Michael has broken out of the institution and gone on his killing spree in Haddonfield in an attempt to reach his sister, Laurie Strode. After narrowly surviving Michael's attacks, a severely injured Laurie is picked up by Sheriff Brackett and is taken to the hospital along with her friend Annie and Dr. Loomis, both of whom are also barely alive after having been attacked by the killer. Michael appears to be dead but after his lifeless body is loaded into another ambulance, the vehicle hits a cow while driving out of town and Michael awakens and escapes. Following a vision of his mother and white horse, Michael tracks Laurie down to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital and slaughters everyone in his path as he zeros in on her. However, just as he is about to kill her, Laurie awakens, revealing that it was a nightmare and that it's two years later (in the theatrical version, it's just one year but in the unrated version, which is what I saw, it's two years). Laurie is now living with Sheriff Brackett and Annie but is a traumatized, emotional wreck and is trying to come to terms with what happened through therapy, with little success. At the same time, Dr. Loomis is embarking on a tour promoting his newest book on Michael but his exploitation of the tragedy and his utterly unlikable personality get more criticism than praise. Meanwhile, Michael, who has been presumed dead for the past couple of years despite his body having never been found, is living in the countryside near Haddonfield, seeing the visions of his mother as well as his younger self, with his mother telling him that with Halloween coming soon, it's time for him to bring Laurie home and reunite the family. All of this culminates on Halloween when Loomis' book is published, Laurie, who has been having visions similar to Michael as well as hallucinations of her acting out her brother's murderous impulses, reads it and learns that she's Michael's sister, and Michael arrives to fulfill his mother's wishes.

Before we go any further, I must clarify that this review will focus for the most part on the unrated director's cut, which is the sole version that I've seen. I'm well aware that the theatrical cut is a bit different, with scenes that aren't present here as well as lacking scenes that appear in this different, cut, some different music, and a different resolution but I've been unable to find the theatrical cut to watch online and I'm not going to buy or rent it simply because I'm not going to spend money on a film that I'm not sure about. I'll do my research and try to mention the differences and keep them straight as best as I can but just be aware that this review is mainly going to be about the unrated version.

The big surprise about the film was the return of Rob Zombie because, after his first Halloween film was released, he did several interviews where he made one thing perfectly clear: his involvement with the franchise was done with that film. He said that he wanted to do something that had a beginning, middle, and end and then be done with it. So, why did he come back? That's a bit of a tricky question to answer because there are many different scenarios that have been rumored to have led to Zombie's return. It is known that the producers, fully believing that they could not coax Zombie back, attempted to hire several writers to come up with ideas for a new film and came very close to hiring Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, the directors of Inside, to make it. According to Malek Akkad, who had taken over the task of overseeing the series from his late father Moustapha, everyone really wanted Zombie to do the sequel, feeling that there was something lost when those French filmmakers attempted to create a follow-up to his film. Akkad has said that he told Zombie that if he did the film, they would allow him to do whatever he wanted with it, ignoring any of the rules that had been established with the franchise and so on, which is similar to how Warner Bros. got Joe Dante to do a second Gremlins movie as well as how they talked Tim Burton to doing a follow-up to Batman. Zombie has said that not only was that too good of an opportunity to pass up but that, after a year of resting up from his first Halloween, he was now more open to doing a sequel. So, that's the official explanation for Zombie's return to the series, with the producers and Zombie himself making it sound like it was a very harmonious decision. But, I've heard rumors that it might not have been that amicable and that Dimension forced to Zombie to make the sequel, saying that they would let him make whatever movie he wanted if he did so, and that Zombie, not at all happy about being forced to do a movie he wasn't interested in, sort of sabotaged it by making it so out there, bizarre, and difficult to market to ensure that they wouldn't make him do a third one. Plus, I've heard other rumblings that Zombie decided to make the movie as a big middle finger to all the fans who didn't like his first one and, looking at the film, I wonder if that's not so farfetched, given how unusual the film is and all of the stuff that people complained about in the first movie (the profanity, the unlikable characters, the extreme violence, etc.) being cranked up here. Of course, it's possible that I could also be just reading too much into it as well given my misgivings about Zombie's attitude. We'll probably never know exactly whether Zombie saw a second Halloween film as an annoying roadblock in his career that he had to deal with or as a chance to experiment but one thing's for sure: for better or worse, he made an entry that's as different from all the films that came before it as one pole is to another.

While we're talking about Zombie himself, I'd like to address something that he said during filming that baffles me to say the least. Not only did he voice intention to make a movie that would be completely different from what people were expecting but he described it as, "Ultra gritty, ultra intense, and very real." So, Zombie considers a film that involves Michael Myers seeing visions of his mother with a white horse and the young version of himself, Laurie Strode seeing the same thing and having some bizarre connection with her brother, some very surreal imagery, and a baffling ending (at least in the unrated cut) to be very real? You see what I mean when I say that I think Zombie is someone who talks out of his ass? In addition, I don't agree with the ultra intense statement either because to me, there are no scenes that are suspenseful or remotely frightening to be found here and, in fact, there are a lot of times where the movie falls victim to typical slasher clichés, which I find very ironic considering that Zombie once said that he finds that subgenre to be uninteresting and boring. Plus, the kills are so over the top and gratuitously gory that they become laughable rather than intense or disturbing. As for gritty... I guess but I actually thought his first one was grittier than this movie. I just don't get Rob Zombie sometimes, guys. It feels like he's one of those people who just tells people what they want to hear or what sounds the best at the time rather than being brutally honest, which you'd expect an out of the box filmmaker like him to be.

While Michael Myers himself was the main focus of Zombie's first film, this one focuses on Laurie Strode more than anyone else, although Michael does get a fair amount of screentime as well, so we might as well start with her. Played again by Scout Taylor-Compton, to say that Laurie has not held up well in the couple of years since her first encounter with Michael is putting it mildly. Here, she's a broken down, emotional wreck of a person who suffers from severe trauma, terrifying nightmares about Michael, an inability to stop fearing that he might still be out there even though she knows that, despite his body having never been found, he should be dead since she shot at him point-blank range, and is just an overall miserable person. I will give both Zombie and Taylor-Compton credit: they believably make Laurie look and feel like someone who has gone through complete hell. You just have to glance at her to know that she is a severely messed up person. She looks very haggard and unhealthy, more like a middle-aged neurotic than a teenager, has to take a lot of medication, and her constant squinting, head-rubbing, and other such body gestures tell you that she's in a lot of pain both physically and mentally. And of course, none of this is helped when she discovers that she's Michael's sister, with the way she finds out, reading it in an exploitive book, adding insult to injury. Regardless of what else I say about her, I give them points for making her believably look like a paranoid, traumatized, messed up kid. Unfortunately, now we come to the negatives of this portrayal of Laurie. First off, while I've heard that she's a bit different in the theatrical version (even Rob Zombie himself stated that), a big problem with Laurie here is that, sympathy for her situation aside, she's not the most likable main character. Again, I understand that she's going through a lot but that said, it's still hard to care for someone who takes her anger out on everybody around her, including her friend who also barely survived Michael's wrath, screaming and cursing at them when they're just trying to help her or sometimes, for no reason at all. There's one point where Annie comes in on her while she's sitting in her room, drinking, and cops an attitude with her for no reason. When Laurie tells Annie that she's sick of her bullshit, Annie goes off and says that she acts like she's the only one whose life got screwed up by nearly being killed by Michael. Laurie then curses her out, screaming at her to get out of her room, and when Annie does so, she again yells, "Fuck!" at the top of her lungs. If I was Annie, I would have punched her lights out. Traumatized or not, she's such a bitch to everyone except these Goth chicks that she's now friends with for some reason, that it's sometimes to hard give a crap about her. It might be realistic but it doesn't make for a very likable main character.

And speaking of realistic, I don't understand at all why Laurie looks like a combination of a punk and a Goth girl now, with the way she dresses, the people she hangs out with, and the stuff that she has all over the walls of her room. Does surviving an encounter with a knife-happy killer typically inspire someone to become this? And by the way, I can deal with posters and stuff on the wall about Alice Cooper and the like but why in the name of all that is decent does Laurie have a poster of Charles Manson on her wall with graffiti around it that says, IN CHARLEY WE TRUST? That's what baffles me. You'd think after what she's been through, she'd be a tad more sensitive over the whole serial killer issue. Finally, while this may be a silly complaint given the fractured mindset of the character in this film, Laurie does nothing to save or help herself at all. At least in the previous film, even though she was scared out of her wits, she was able to stab Michael in the shoulder or shoot him at point blank range after the two of them had fallen off the balcony of a two-story house. All she does here is either run and scream or sit on the ground and scream. While she does get herself moving a couple of times when Michael is after her (although one of them technically doesn't count since it's in that dream that she has at the beginning of the film) and I do like that she doesn't leave Annie when she finds her at death's door in the bathroom, even though she could since Michael is possibly still in the house (which he is), she's still not very proactive and her screaming in this film is far more constant and irritating that it was previously. I get why she doesn't fight back during the climax due to her delusion (or possibly not, as we'll get into) that she's being held down but, it's just my personal preference to have a protagonist who, despite what's happening to her, is able to fight back rather than just lay down and die. Again, maybe that was the point, especially since both versions end with Laurie succumbing to what's going on and becoming like Michael, that she was not in a position to resist what was happening but in the end, I'll always take Jamie Lee Curtis over Scout Taylor-Compton, especially when it comes to this iteration, any day of the week.

Just about as unlikable as Laurie Strode, but in a different and more enjoyable way, is Dr. Loomis, again played by Malcolm McDowell. Loomis has changed dramatically since his near fatal encounter with Michael. He's gone from an overall well-meaning doctor who may have cashed in a little bit but genuinely wanted to help Michael and save others from his murderous instincts to a greedy, selfish prick of a man who has no qualms about exploiting his relationship with Michael, as well as the pain of all the people who have come into contact with him, to make money (he's more of a douche in the unrated version, though). He's written this second book about Michael that goes into every sordid detail about him, including the once secret fact that Laurie is actually his baby sister, and he's milking it for every dime that it's worth, even going so far as embarking on a tour to promote it and doing whatever he can to sell it, including doing an interview in front of the abandoned Myers house, prompting his publicist to tell him that he might as well go to the cemetery and dance on the victims' graves. The guy also has no respect at all for anyone that he comes across, including the people that are interested in his book and, least of all, his publicist, whom he degrades every chance he gets and at one point, gives her the cliché remark of, "If I want your opinion, I'll beat it out of you." Loomis especially doesn't take kindly when he's criticized for making money off of other people's pain, is blamed for the events of the previous film (I don't know why, though, seeing as how he had washed his hands of Michael when he escaped), and, to that end, is asked if he thinks Michael is still alive and if he'll kill again. This is another personality change that doesn't make sense to me. Why did surviving Michael's rampage make Loomis decide to drop the scruples and integrity that he had and just become a greedy exploiter? This feels completely out of left field for someone who, despite having written a book about Michael in the previous film, leapt into action upon hearing that he'd escaped from Smith's Grove, traveled to Haddonfield to warn Sheriff Brackett, and put himself in serious danger to save Laurie. Did he wake up in the hospital and, upon hearing that Michael was presumed to be dead, decide, "Alright, I'm done being a nice guy. I'm going to make money off of this in any way that I can,"? It doesn't feel natural to me. That said, though, I will say that McDowell is fun to watch here. Loomis may be unlikable but unlike Laurie, who is shrill and screamy, he's so exaggerated in what a colossally arrogant asshole that he is that it becomes cartoonish and impossible to take seriously, so you just got to have fun in watching McDowell chew the scenery, which he's very good at.

But just like his personality switch, Loomis' redemption at the end of the film comes out of nowhere and feels very forced. After he's been a talk show with Weird Al Yankovic where he was absolutely humiliated and turned into a veritable butt monkey, he becomes absolutely forlorn in his hotel room while watching the show, realizing that it's all over for him and calls himself an asshole. That's when he sees the breaking news that Michael has taken Laurie hostage inside a shack in the woods and decides that he has to go down there and set things right. Now, I want to inform those who don't know that when he was signing copies of his book earlier, the father of Lynda from the previous film walked up to him, told him what a piece of trash he is, and even pulled a gun on him. It was later revealed to have been an empty gun, mind you, but still, that happens to him and all it does is mildly annoy him, prompting to say, "It comes with the territory, I suppose." That does nothing but being humiliated and made the butt of many jokes on a talk show, which will make it impossible for people to take him seriously, prompts him to realize the error of his ways and decide that he must make things right by saving Laurie again. Even though he seems sincere when he arrives at the scene and is determined to talk Michael down, when it happens like this, it feels he's doing it just to save face. Despite this, though, I'd be lying if I said I didn't get some entertainment out of McDowell's over the top performance here. While he may not be very likable and I don't entirely like the idea of the character that Donald Pleasence made legendary being turned into a caricature like this, it is enjoyable to watch McDowell be such a cartoonish jerk.

The best part of the cast by far is Brad Dourif returning as Sheriff Brackett. Zombie had to have realized that he underused Dourif in the previous film so he also gave him a bigger part here and the movie is all the better for it. In a sea of foul-mouthed, unlikable characters that populate this movie, Brackett is one of the few who has a heart of pure gold. He's a sympathetic, well-meaning person who's adopted Laurie Strode after he parents were murdered and is doing everything he can to give her a stable life and keep her safe. But, it's obvious that he realizes that it's not going all that well, particularly when he sees the growing rift between Laurie and Annie, and Brackett is unsure about what to do. You really root for him because he's such a nice, decent guy and because it's obvious that he's in over his head. Plus, I love the scenes where he's interacting with Laurie and Annie and trying to create a warm, family atmosphere, like during the scene where they're having dinner and Laurie says that she's, "Starvin' like Marvin," prompting Brackett to ask who "Marvin" is and if it's Lee Marvin. When neither of the girls know who Lee Marvin, Brackett goes into this whole thing of describing how Marvin acted in one of his films. It's a really fun moment because of how sincere and likable Brackett is, even if Annie finds it embarrassing for her dad to be acting like this (but hey, Laurie thinks it's funny). Speaking of which, I also love the interplay between Brackett and Annie with her obsession with eating healthy and forcing him to do so as well, much to his annoyance. I like how at one point when she tells him to be sure to get a pizza with a whole-wheat crust, he says, "Why don't we just put some cheese on a piece of cardboard and eat that?" as well as when he says he's going to get a sticky bun on his way to work and when Annie tells him that its, "500 calories of sugar and shit," he enthusiastically responds, "I know it. I know it."

Dourif really comes into his own during the latter half of the movie, starting with when Brackett reads Loomis' book and finds that he revealed that Laurie is Michael Myers' sister. He becomes absolutely furious and realizes that he has to talk to Laurie and tell her the truth before she finds out in the worst way possible. But, it's too late. Laurie does read the book and discover the truth, prompting to her run away from home and tell Annie to give her dad the message of, "Angel says 'Fuck you!'" You can see the pain on Brackett's face when he hears that and, now knowing that Annie's home alone, he gets one of his men to stand guard at their house just in case. Being the overprotective dad that he is, Brackett continuously calls to make sure that everything is okay until he finishes his shift. But, ultimately, his efforts are in vain when he's told that they received a 911 call from his house and he later arrives to find that Annie has been murdered. That scene where he finds her body in the bathroom is hands down one of the saddest, most touching scenes I've ever seen in a horror film. First off, Dourif is such a great actor that he really does look like someone who is in total shock, pain, and despair over finding his beloved daughter murdered but then the sound goes away while the music stays and we see Brackett looking at Annie's body while crying his eyes and in the midst of this, we see clips of when Annie was a little girl (actual home movies of Danielle Harris when she was young) to punctuate Brackett's loss. It is a very effective scene and the end of it, with Brackett in such despair that his men have to help him to his feet and get him out of there, really puts a lump in your throat. Not only do I give Dourif props for that scene but I have to give it to Rob Zombie as well. His directing and editing choices really made that part work so, no matter what else I say, I give him the utmost kudos for that scene. In any case, after the despair over his daughter's death comes determination to save Laurie and kill Michael when he's told that the two of them are held up in a nearby shack. Despite what he's been through, Brackett takes command and leads a squad of officers out to the shack. I absolutely love what happens when Loomis arrives on the scene. First, Brackett clocks him right in the face and then pulls him up, puts a gun to his head, and angrily tells him, "There's an innocent girl in there I might have kept safe but for your greedy, fucking book." He then cocks his gun and says, "I want to shoot you. I want to shoot you so bad." One of his officers has to pull him off of Loomis but he still yells, "You son of a bitch! You don't deserve to live," and he's having none of Loomis' claims that he wants to help, saying, "There is nothing that you have to say that I want to hear," and angrily tells him to leave. But, when Loomis runs to the door of the shack, Brackett, instead of shooting like he easily could, tells everyone to stand down. Still, he is instrumental in taking Michael down (in the theatrical version, he actually snipes Michael out) but in whichever version you see, he's ultimately unable to save Laurie. Still, he tried his best and as I've said, he's by far the most likable character in the entire film.

As for Annie, I like Danielle Harris much more here than I did previously. In the first Rob Zombie Halloween, she had little more to do other than be a rather annoying slut who would come up with schemes to drop her babysitting duties so she could go be with her boyfriend. Here, though, she's much more empathetic, having to deal with her own trauma about coming close to being killed by Michael Myers and living with her extremely traumatized friend, who often takes her anger and misery out on Annie because she sees her as a reminder of that night. Seeing the stuff that she's having to do deal with day in and day out in her home makes it possible for me to sympathize with and like Annie much more than I was able to originally, particularly in the unrated version where the two of them are basically at each other's throats for the entirety of the film. Unfortunately, Harris doesn't have much to do other than that. We don't see what her daily life is like when she's not having to deal with Laurie's issues or trying to make her dad eat healthy and whatnot. For that matter, I don't even think we see her outside of the house in this movie. So, I think it's a shame that they didn't give Annie a bit more to do after having her survive the previous film but then again, with so many characters and plotlines going on in this film, Zombie probably couldn't afford to. However, I do like the bit where that poor cop has to stand guard at Brackett's house and Annie, for whatever reason, doesn't like him at all and won't even let him in the house. The guy even said she tried to kick him in the nuts one time. I don't know why Annie is so mean to him but I find it kind of funny. It's weird that I'm not angry about Annie being so douchey to the guy but I guess since I find her more likable here and I think her death scene, where she dies in Laurie's arms, and the part where Brackett finds her body are so effective that I can forgive this one moment of her being a bit of a bitch and actually get some snickers out of it.

Since Halloween 4, I've been mentioning how many of the directors who have taken part in the series have seemed to have gotten Michael Myers confused with Jason Voorhees and as a result, have made him feel like Jason. Well in this film, there's no "feel" about it: he pretty much is Jason. He sees visions of his mother, he lives out in the wilderness near Haddonfield, he's a big hulking guy who kills people in extreme ways, etc., there's no mistaking it. Michael has basically become Jason and, as you might expect, I don't care for this interpretation at all. I know the idea of Michael being spurred on by his mother is a different idea for the Halloween franchise but the thing is, we've already had two mama's body killers in the pop culture pantheon with Jason and Norman Bates; it wasn't necessary to make Michael one too. And it also feels very sporadic for him to just now start seeing this visions of his mother. I know in the opening flashback that Michael tells his mother that he had a dream about her with the white horse but why did it take this long for him to start seeing her again? If she has such a hold on him, shouldn't she have been what spurred him into breaking out of Smith's Grove to begin with? I'll get more into this concept presently but the whole thing doesn't make sense to me. Another thing I don't like about Michael here is how utterly uninteresting he is. As much as I disagreed with Zombie's decision to try to make him a realistic psychopath and tell us everything about him in his first film, I was still kind of interested in seeing what Michael was going to do next. Here, all he does is "talk" to his mother, wander around fields, and every now and then, stop to kill someone, be it when those dumb rednecks come across him or when he appears at the strip club and when he finally arrives in Haddonfield on Halloween to get Laurie, it doesn't have much of an impact on me. I don't care about his purpose to "reunite the family" because putting in the notion that he obeys his mother's commands makes him less terrifying and interesting of a character (I actually think it makes him kind of a wuss) and this idea of his mother influencing him, be it from beyond the grave or just in his mind, in and of itself is so convoluted that it hurts it even more. Michael's also not that smart or methodical in this film. Again, he's like Jason because not only does he do whatever his mother tells him but when it comes to killing, he's just a big brute who smashes through walls and doors, slaughters people in ways that are so over the top that some of the deaths are almost comical, and loudly grunts like the Frankenstein monster while doing so. At least in the previous film, he seemed to think a little more about what he was going to do or where someone might be hiding and he also did some stalking as well as play with his victims a little bit; here, there's nothing that distinguishes him from any other typical slasher villain and when the character you're describing in such a way is Michael Myers, that's just sad.

Michael's look definitely changes more during this film than any other, even Zombie's first where we saw him go from a young kid to an adult mental patient and finally take on the image of Michael that we all know. At the beginning of the film when he gets out of the crashed ambulance and makes his way to the hospital, he has the iconic look with the mask and the jumpsuit. He looks virtually the same as he did during the previous film, just a little more worn and ragged. After the prologue when we see him in the fields and in the wilderness, he's wearing a big coat with a hood over his typical outfit and in many shots, he looks the way Jason did in Freddy vs. Jason as well as in the Friday the 13th reboot that came out the same year. You also see him many times without the mask on and while you don't get a very clear look at his face until the ending (the unrated version's ending, anyway), you can see that he's now got a big grizzly beard to go along with the long hair that he still has. When he attacks the strip club, one of the strippers tears off the upper right section of the face of his mask, exposing that section of his real face for the rest of the film. And finally, you have the ending of the unrated version where you see Michael's bearded face in all its glory. He looks quite a bit like Rob Zombie himself as well as that larger, bearded redneck who had beat on him earlier. I think it was another mistake to not only show Michael's face but give such a great view of it rather than just a fleeting glimpse. That moment when he doesn't have his mask on and he's giving that guy the death stare behind the strip club showed just enough of his face to where it was intimidating as well as leaving a lot to the imagination. You take away what mystery factor he had left when you show his face up close and personal at the end like Zombie does here (as well as that shot of Michael standing with his mother wear you can see his face) and the same goes for having him talk. I find the latter ironic because in the previous film, Michael was supposed to say something to Laurie when he had her cornered in the basement of his house but Zombie decided not to do that because he felt it would take away from his mystery. Never minding that he'd pretty much done that already in that film with the backstory, when I hear Michael yell, "Die!" before stabbing Loomis in the unrated version, it gives me the feeling that Zombie doesn't quite care about that anymore. Although, it's not nearly as bad as giving him another way to communicate with the figure of his mother that makes no sense at all. Let's talk about that whole idea next, shall we?

Deborah Myers' presence in this movie is the most baffling thing to me because I'm not entirely sure what she's supposed to be, if she's just a delusion in Michael's mind or if she's a spirit. I guess the point is you're not supposed to know but it's by far the most confusing part of the movie. At first, I'm thinking that since Michael dreamed of her and the white horse when he was a little kid, that she has to be something that his deranged mind came up with and since he doesn't know any better, he truly believes that she's there and does whatever she tells him to. In addition, we have that definition at the beginning of the film that informs us that the white horse that's seen with Deborah is linked to instinct and one's drive to release powerful and emotional forces. In other words, Deborah could be seen as a representation of Michael's subconscious desire to kill, that, since she was the only good person in his life, he would want her to encourage him and therefore, he's the one who's subconsciously coming up with the plan to reunite the family. And that idea would work... if Laurie didn't start seeing her as well. You could argue that since they're siblings, madness just runs in their genes and that would explain why Laurie is seeing her too. However, you have to remember that Deborah committed suicide when Laurie was still a baby and therefore, she shouldn't be having delusions of someone that she doesn't even remember. If these are creations of her mind, then the universe must have really shifted to overcome the odds of both her and Michael hallucinating the same thing. And speaking of her relationship with her brother, why does Laurie start having these episodes where she not only thinks about murdering Annie but about her doing so in the specific way that Michael killed Ronnie? How could her mind possibly come up with that? In addition, why is she able to apparently taste the raw meat when Michael is chomping down on that dead dog at one point? Are they doing the whole psychic link concept that was between Michael and Jamie Lloyd in Halloween 5? That's not a good idea and makes this stuff all the more confusing.

Now, let's go with the angle of Deborah being a ghost. You'd think that would make more sense not only because she's being seen by both of her children. But that doesn't make sense to me either because what she's doing doesn't match at all with how she was while alive. There was nothing at all sinister about her in the previous film and she was absolutely horrified by what Michael had done and by the murderous rage within him that she saw firsthand at the asylum, which despaired her so much that she killed herself. Why would she now not only be encouraging Michael to kill but to "take them home" by killing her daughter? Wouldn't she want her daughter to have a happy life? Shouldn't she be trying to stop Michael from harming her? It does not fit at all with the character that we saw in the previous film. So, I don't have a clear-cut answer for what the images of Deborah are supposed to be. Everything I can come up with gets shot down by something else that's presented in the film so in the end, the whole thing doesn't make sense and is pretty confusing. Maybe someone else could explain it to me but I'm just dumbfounded by it and if that's exactly the point... well, I guess Zombie did what he set out to do. It's a lot better than suggesting that he's so incapable of doing a movie without including his wife that he was going to find a way to get her in the sequel even if it didn't make any sense, which, unfortunately, could be a possibility.

Because Daeg Faerch had a major growth spurt since the filming of Zombie's first Halloween, they couldn't use him for the scenes of young Michael here, which is a shame since he was really good, and had to replace him with Chase Vanek. While it doesn't really matter since he's not a major part of the film, Vanek is not only nowhere near as intense or creepy-looking as Faerch but he doesn't really look like him either, with his brown hair and completely different face. But, again, it's fortunate that he's not a major part of the film. In any case, I was at first perplexed by the visions of young Michael whenever he saw his mother because I didn't understand exactly how that would work if those visions of her are just figments of his damaged mind. I didn't get why he would be seeing his young self as well. But when I hit upon how Deborah is probably working in conjunction with the meaning of the white horse, I realized that Michael was also coming up with this scenario of his young self talking to her because that's the version of him that she would talk to and encourage, as well as the fact that his memories of her, including the dream where he first saw her and the white horse, come from when he was a kid. Maybe he's trying to erase the memory of when he went crazy, lunged at her, and absolutely horrified her by coming with the idea of her telling his young self to kill and to bring them all together as a family again. And yet, that's another idea that is completely dashed by the fact that Laurie sees the young Michael as well and during the climax, believes that he's holding her down and preventing her from escaping. Once again, this doesn't make at all sense because she didn't know Michael when he was a little kid and if these visions are occurring because she saw photos of the young Michael in Loomis' book, I still have to ask why she would imagine that the young Michael, something that's specific to the adult Michael's psyche, is holding her down as well as the aforementioned nonsensical idea of her seeing the image of Deborah. Unless Michael has recently developed some new mental powers and is able to make his young self an invisible but nevertheless concrete force, then this is even more confusing than the issue with his mother.

That takes care of the main cast. The majority of the rest of the characters consist of the typical foul-mouthed jerks or just plain disgusting and weird people that you come across in Zombie's films. Laurie spends a lot of time with two punk, Goth-like chicks named Mya (Brea Grant) and Harley (Angela Trimbur), whose only defining characteristics are Harley being really out there and slutty (her Halloween costume is, and I quote, "a chick dressed up as a dude who wants to be a chick,"; wrap your head around that) and Mya being more sensible and understanding to Laurie's plight when she discovers that she's Michael's sister. Other than that, they're basically the same type of person: they're very counterculture and they swear a lot. Whatever. You got those two ultra sleazy and disgusting paramedics, Hooks (Dayton Callie) and Gary (Richard Brake), who take Michael's body away at the beginning of the movie. Hooks is the one with the hat who's driving the ambulance and Gary is the really sick one who talks about how hot Lynda was when they found her body (I don't mean this as a personal slam against the actor but he looks like the type of person who'd be into that to me), which leads into their conversation about necrophilia. Hooks at first seems really creeped out and disgusted by the stuff that Gary is saying but then he makes a really nasty joke about necrophilia that I'm not even going to write here because it's so sick and wrong. And of course, they hit a cow while transporting Michael's body and Hooks is killed in the crash while Gary is eventually done in by Michael but not before doing something so hilariously over the top that it can't have been serious, which I'll go into later. One guy who's definitely memorable is Big Lou (Daniel Roebuck), the runner of the Rabbit in Red strip club who, in the unrated version, is seen dressed up like the Frankenstein monster while standing in the town square and saying some perverted stuff to a group of kids. Definitely caught my attention the first time I saw it, I must say. Later on, we see him at the club, which is advertising the fact that Michael's mother once worked there, with a bubble-headed slut named Misty (Sylvia Jeffries) who's sitting on his lap and pawning herself onto him and he's giving crap to Howard (Jeff Daniel Phillips), a really dickish, binge-drinking bouncer who makes the dumb mistake of threatening Michael when he comes across him in the alley behind the club. They are part of one of the most interesting scenes in the film due to the brutal way Michael kills Howard and just for the very image of Michael bursting in on and attacking Lou while he has the Frankenstein monster head on and is giving it to Misty from behind. Speaking of people who make the mistake of picking a fight with Michael, you've also got those rednecks, one of whom is played by Mark Boone Jr. whom you've probably seen in all kinds of movies, who beat on him for trespassing on their property and the woman who's with them who takes sympathy on Michael but he kills her anyway. And finally, you have all of those weirdly dressed people at that Halloween part, especially that guitar player who looks like a cross between Elvis and Johnny Cash and that drunken stand-up comic guy who dressed in a cape and hat and has this weird, skull-like makeup on his face along with huge sideburns and big false teeth with pointy ends. I can't deny that Rob Zombie definitely knows how to make characters who look so strange that they're memorable.

As per usual with Zombie's films, you have some familiar genre faces who pop up here and there throughout it. However, unlike his first film, where he had so many cameos that it got ridiculous and distracting, here Zombie managed to really restrain himself on the guest appearances. And oddly enough, there's no sign of Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, or Tom Towles in this film, which is virtually unheard for Zombie. Here you have appearances by Caroline Williams from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 as a doctor at the beginning of the film, Margot Kidder as Laurie's psychiatrist, and, oddly enough, Weird Al Yankovic appearing as himself on the talk show that Loomis is utterly humiliated on. One other guy whom I have to mention is Howard Hesseman, who makes a tiny appearance as the character of Uncle Meat at the shop where Laurie's friends Mya and Harley work. I mention him not because I know Hesseman is (although the guy has a very long and diverse resume, most notably including About Schmidt) but because of who I thought he was when I first saw him: John de Lancie. I swear on my soul that when I first caught sight of him and heard him talk, I thought he was de Lancie. Maybe I'm crazy but doesn't his voice sound like de Lancie? He even sort of looks like him to me. Of course, I was wrong but, my God, that blew my mind that somebody could look and sound so much like John de Lancie to me. In any case, those are the familiar genre actors that I noticed in this film, although there are possibly more that I'm not aware of, and I'm still surprised at how much Zombie was able to keep himself in check with that this time around.

Visually, Halloween II is quite an impressive film. It's obvious that while he was making this movie, Rob Zombie was kind of transitioning out of the gritty, grungy exploitation style that he'd gone with in his previous films and was going for a much more out there, one might even say Dario Argento, way of making a film look that he would use to full effect in The Lords of Salem. For one, Zombie disposes of those ugly yellow and green tints that the previous film's look had to it and instead puts a dark gray color to the film, giving it a much more gloomy, hopeless look, like Michael's first Halloween night rampage in Haddonfield has sapped out any warmth and feeling of security that the place once had. It also dispenses with any notion that this story is going to end happily for anyone once you see the dark, muted color palette of the film. That's especially true with the opening flashback, which is so cold-looking and devoid of color that it might as well be black and white. In addition, this look, along with the gray, overcast skies that dominate the movie and dead leaves blowing in here and there, enables me to buy that this is indeed late October in Illinois, which I had a hard time buying in the previous movie. And unlike its predecessor, which I felt was lacking in this regard, it does indeed have the feeling of Halloween to it, with all of the pumpkins, decorations, and enormous amount of people in costumes that you see, particularly at the party that Laurie and her friends attend. So, that's definitely a plus in my book, and so are the shots of Michael walking in the wilderness, with the wide-angle lenses that are used as well as camera angles that had to have been done from a helicopter. I've heard some comment that these shots make it look as if Michael is in a Lord of the Rings movie, which it actually does, but I like it because of how it looks and the sense of scope that it gives off. There are a lot of establishing shots filmed like that too and they're also good to look at. Some of the night scenes are lit very well and they actually something of an atmosphere to them, which I didn't feel the night scenes in Zombie's first film had. I also love the look of the shots when they are big shafts of light behind or around Michael, like when those rednecks park their truck behind with the headlights shining very brightly or during the climax with the searchlights from the helicopters peering through the boards of the shack.

However, the real feasts for the eyes come whenever Michael has his visions of Deborah. Even though I still don't get her presence, I must admit that the shots of her are very, very beautiful. When she appears for the first time with the white horse, it's like there's a spotlight of pure white light on her that highlights the whiteness of her hair, dress, and the horse, making everything else look pitch black in the process, as if she's standing in a void. The end result is a shot that looks very otherworldly and almost painting-like, as well as being downright gorgeous. She also looks good whenever there are shafts of light behind her, which there are quite a few instances of in the film, especially when he comes across inside the barn before he gets jumped by the rednecks. The most visual and out and out bizarre scene in the entire film comes when Michael has some sort of dream or vision about his mother where she appears in a black dress and comes to him and his younger self while they're sitting at a table in what I think is meant to be Smith's Grove. The young Michael then takes her to see something that looks like it got taken from a Tim Burton movie and spliced in here: an altar where there are figures dressed in clothes from the 14 to 1500's sitting behind it. One of them has a jack-o-lantern for a head and another looks like it has a jack-o-lantern head as well and is wearing a mask of a girl with curly hair over it. You can see that the chairs they're sitting in are from that time period as well and there are somewhat normal-looking people filling their cups with wine. As the young Michael and Deborah walk in, you see a skeleton with Michael's mask for a head behind them and you eventually see that Laurie is lying on the pedestal. The whole thing is shot in black and white, adding to the surreal feeling of it, and it's snowing as well. You totally don't expect to see something like this in a Halloween movie and when it comes and is bizarre as it is, you're completely thrown off. I don't know what any of this is supposed to represent or mean and what's more, when the scene ends with some hands coming through the altar and grabbing Laurie, the next shot is of Laurie waking up startled in her bed. Now we're back to that confusing notion of why she would be having the same visions and dreams as Michael and if this was indeed just her experiencing this, why did Michael seem to be able to see it too before it began? And again, why would she come up with images of Michael as a child as well as how he looked before escaped from Smith's Grove, stuff that she wouldn't at all know about? It might make it any sense but, again, it is visually amazing and memorable and so are the ending shots of Laurie sitting in that long, white, institution room as Deborah approaches her with the white horse. It's not clear what it means in the unrated version but either way it is memorable and nice to look at.

One last visual moment that I want to mention is another surreal and out there scene that is memorable just for how freaking crazy and unexpected it is. After the scene with Dr. Loomis at the Myers house, we cut to Laurie going into the bathroom and filling the tub up with water. As she sits down to wait for it to fill up, we suddenly get a shot of her hand fiddling with some candy corn and we start cutting back and forth between her waiting for the tub to fill up and shots of her eating the candy while dressed in the clown costume that Michael wore when he was a kid. If you've seen the first Rob Zombie Halloween, you can predict what's going to happen next. Laurie takes some duct tape and a butcher knife out of a drawer, duct tapes Annie, who's asleep in a chair, to the point where she won't be able to get away, Laurie pulls the clown mask over her face, and slits Annie's throat. However, once she does, the sequence takes a sharp left turn into absolute madness. You're bombarded with a myriad of images of Laurie freaking out in the bathroom while screaming, "Die, you fucking bitch! I'm going to fucking kill you!", blood gushing out of Annie's slashed throat, close-ups of Annie's convulsing face as she screams for mercy as well as of Laurie, who looks completely demonic with an inverted cross cut into her forehead, random sped up traveling shots of the fields we've seen Michael walking in, and images of Deborah Myers dressed in black and standing over a grave that says MYERS on it. All of this insanity leads up to an image of Laurie lying in a coffin with a see-through, glass lid on ground that's covered with snow. It gets really still and quiet, leading you into thinking that it's over, and then Laurie inexplicably starts banging on the lid and screaming, all in a very sped up manner that makes it even more surreal. And finally, we cut back to Laurie in the bathroom, gasping over the episode that she's just had, and we get back to normal. No question, that sequence definitely caught me off-guard the first time I watched this movie because of how slow the build-up to it is before it comes at you full force. While I still don't get how Laurie could be hallucinating about some of this stuff or why she's suddenly linked to Michael but it definitely grabs your attention, I'll give it that.

The production design of the film is also really good, carrying over a bit of the white trashy feel that a lot of the environments in the previous movie had. While Sheriff Brackett's house may not exactly be what you'd call trashy, it does have a very authentic, lived-in look and feel to it, with Laurie's room in particular being a concrete representation of her state of mind: cluttered, disheveled, and dark, with all of the stuff on the wall like the Charles Manson and Alice Cooper posters, the graffiti of a pentagram on the inside of the bathroom door, a stick on her the bathroom that says WAKE THE FUCK UP, another bit of graffiti that says, Keep Your Side Clean, Bitch, and a bunch of other stuff that you could find if you freeze frame those scenes and look closely at the room. Incidentally, that bathroom really makes my skin crawl, particularly with, in addition to all the graffiti and bizarre posters and stickers, the green painted walls and the overall cluttered and grimy feeling of it. Just like Laurie, the part of the house where she lives is a complete mess. We get to see more of the Rabbit in Red strip club and even though it's been over a decade since Deborah worked there, the place is still as sleazy-looking as it originally was, with the red and blue lighting on the inside and whatnot. It really feels like a strip club. Big Lou's office is even more unsavory with more red/pink lighting, little orange lights around the window, and drawings and pictures of naked women covering the walls. The rest of the locations also serve their purpose well: the shack that Michael hides out in as well as the barn where he sees Deborah looks convincingly rundown and dirty; the hospital that Laurie is taken to at the beginning of the film looks suitably cold and clinical with the amount of white that it contains; the brief flashback of Smith's Grove looks even colder, no doubt due to the gray tints that were put into the images; although you don't get to see the inside of it, the Myers house looks nicely rundown in the one scene it's featured in; the shop where Laurie's friends work has all sorts of weird Halloween stuff, books, and other things in it that makes it interesting to pause the film and take a closer look; and finally, Haddonfield itself, particularly the shots of the town square filmed from a distance away, looks satisfactory as well. Once again, Zombie definitely excels in the technical aspects of the film.

As he always does, Zombie plays around with the editing a bit here. As he did in his first Halloween, he often uses slow-motion and the method of taking the sound out but leaving the music in to try to enhance the drama of a scene. While, as I said earlier, that definitely works with the heartbreaking moment where Brackett finds Annie's dead body, I think he again uses it a little too much to the point where it starts to lose its impact. As cool as something can be, you've got to learn when to back off with it and he doesn't seem to quite know how to do that. However, the way that surreal vision is silent save for the music and the dialogue does work to its advantage. He also uses a technique of speeding up the film, particularly in those shots of the town square where you can see the cars quickly going around it and the clouds passing through the sky, akin to something you would see in a documentary when they want to quickly get across the passage of time. And finally, there are instances of cross-cutting, where he'll cut back and forth from one thing to something that's relevant, like in the unrated version where we see Laurie walking through the town square as she comes across Big Lou dressed up as the Frankenstein monster and at the same time, we can hear as well as see, because it constantly cuts back to this, her telling her psychiatrist about it. Another instance is when Michael is eating chunks of meat that he cuts from the dead dog's body and we keep going back to Laurie, who is somehow able to taste it herself and it makes her sick. The most interesting one occurs when Laurie and Mya go upstairs in the Brackett house, unaware that Annie has been attacked by Michael, and as they find the trail of blood in the hallway, we begin cutting back and forth from them following it and eventually finding Annie to flashbacks of the attack, which stop before we can see exactly what Michael did to her but given the state she's in when they find her, we can guess that it wasn't pretty. I thought that was a clever and interesting way to show what had happened right before Laurie and Mya arrived at the house. Overall, there are some interesting bits of editing to be found here, even if some of it is used a little too much.

It's almost pointless at this point for me to complain about the amount of profanity in another Rob Zombie movie and normally, I wouldn't mention it. However, the amount of foul language used in this one reaches such new heights of absurdity that I felt obligated to put my two cents in. This is one of the aspects of the film that make me wonder if Zombie did this as a means of sticking it to those who complained about his first Halloween film. Not only does the amount of profanity in this movie feel like it's been doubled from the previous one but there are scenes where virtually every other word that's said is, "Fuck!" Yes, it's not uncommon to hear that in a Zombie film but it gets rather absurd when you have dialogue that goes like this: "One fucking day at a time. You know what, if I hear that fucking phrase one more fucking time... She just fucking sits there in her fucking leather chair and judges me like she's fucking God." Or how about this little beauty? "Fuck, you know what? Fuck you and fuck this!... I would be fucking concerned at a hundred bucks an hour!" And I'm not exaggerating either. Those are actual pieces of dialogue in the film and the former is verbatim as well. It doesn't even stop there. There are entire scenes where "fuck" is the only word that's used period, like when Laurie reads Loomis' book and finds out that she's Michael's sister or when she's driving away from the Brackett house and just screaming, "Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!" as well as doing so at other cars passing her on the road. But the most absurd example comes near the beginning of the movie when Hooks and Gary hit that cow while transporting Michael's body. After the crash, Gary just sits there, all busted up, and says "fuck" God knows how many times. There are a few "shits" in there too but mostly it's just, "Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!" I'm not even sure if he's saying it rapidly after the shot of Hooks' body or if he's just making noises of pain. It doesn't matter, though, because this scene is already pretty absurd. I know he's in pain and all but this is just laughable. I look at that kind of stuff in this film and wonder, "Zombie, are you trolling your critics here?" I just can't believe that somebody would think that's actually real and serious because it just sounds childish. Look at how many times I've written "fuck" in this paragraph alone. Do you use it that much in your daily life? Really? Maybe I'm just not that profane and others aren't affected by it but the amount of foul language in this film is pretty noticeable and quite distracting at points.

You want gore and a slew of gruesome makeup effects? Look no further. While the original Halloween II is often seen as a step down in classiness from the film that spawned it due to the amount of gore, this sequel makes that film look like nothing in comparison. There is a lot of nasty stuff in this flick, from severed heads and smashed faces that look like hamburger meat to a dog that gets mutilated and eaten after it's been killed and even a whole bin of dead bodies. It's insane and the makeup effects, again designed by Wayne Toth who serves as Rob Zombie's go-to effects guy, are very realistic. However, as with the profanity, a lot of the kills in this movie are so over-the-top and go on for so long that you once again have to wonder if Zombie was taking it seriously or if he was just trying to make it a ridiculous farce. In any case, only three minutes into the film and we're bombarded with a smorgasbord of horrific images that are genuinely wince-inducing. Laurie Strode is taken to the hospital and wheeled into surgery. She's got blood all over her face and in her mouth as well as some cuts in her cheeks, a nasty slash in her leg, another bad cut on the inside of her elbow, and she's screaming like crazy. We see Dr. Loomis getting put into an ambulance at the same time this is going but he's just got some cuts on the side of his face, nowhere near the amount of damage that Laurie's suffered (I still don't get why he's not more messed up given how it seemed like Michael crushed his skull or something in the previous film). But that stuff is nothing compared to the gruesome details that we see when Laurie is put into surgery. We get gruesome close-ups of other injuries as her clothes are removed, including a piece of shrapnel that I think is supposed to be from Michael's knife imbedded near her shoulder (though I don't remember her getting that), her wounds being washed and cleaned which is really nasty, her fractured fingers which have major bleeding gashes in them and, from the way it's filmed, it looks as if she's missing the end of her pinky, and of the actual surgery with her wounds being sewed and stitched up, including a broken part of her fingernail being pulled off that really gets to me. Good God, is it hard to watch and I have to give it to Toth in how realistic all of those effects look.

Then we get to the part where those two paramedics slam into that cow, totaling their vehicle. While it's filmed very darkly, you can make out enough to know that they completely decimated that poor cow. We see that Hooks got killed instantly and his head is now a bloody mess while Gary, as he sits there and says, "Fuck" about a dozen times, has some cuts on his face and forehead and he coughs up quite a bit of blood. While I still think it's silly for someone to say "fuck" so many times in a row, his facial movements and the way he looks like he's trying to realign his jawbones do make it seem like he's in quite a bit of agony. That's when Michael gets out of the back of the van, comes around, and gives him a lot more pain. He takes a big piece of broken glass from the windshield, grabs Gary by the hair, holds his head up, and slowly saws his head clean off! I'm pretty sure that you can't do that with a piece of glass but nevertheless, the nasty slicing sounds, the close-ups of Michael slicing into his neck, and Michael picking his head up afterward make it work. We then go back to the hospital and we that Annie, who's unconscious, has some stitched up cuts in her face and Laurie has a pretty ugly-looking one at the bridge of her nose. Not long after that is when we get our next kill. One of the nurses appears to Laurie at her station and turns around to show that she has a bleeding stab wound in her chest. Laurie panics and runs off while the nurse falls to the floor and attempts to crawl away but Michael appears behind her. And here's where we get our first drawn out, really over the top kill. Michael walks over to the nurse, grabs her by the back of her shirt, lifts her up, and starts hacking into her like crazy. He stabs her eleven consecutive times (I counted) and we keep cutting to close-ups of her face as she coughs up blood and starts to convulse as well as very quick shots of the blade going into her back and blood spurting out. Then we get to the part that makes me think that this wasn't meant to be serious. You think Michael's done as he stands up and looks at her... and then he stabs her one more time and actually leaves the knife sticking in her! How are you supposed to that seriously when it's so overdone? At the time that this is going on, Laurie comes across a female surgeon that Michael massacred in the stairway. When can see that he gouged her eyes out, did something flung some blood on the wall, and then left her lying on a gate that Laurie has to open to go down the rest of the stairs. Damn, Michael's pissed!

As Laurie continues to try to escape the hospital, she comes across something that really puzzles me: a huge bin full of corpses that she tries to get across but ends up falling into. I don't get if they're trying to say that Michael killed all those people or that this hospital is grossly corrupt and keeps the bodies of the people who died in a bin in back to be disposed of later. Or it could also be meant to signify to you that this isn't real and is a nightmare that Laurie's having, which it's eventually revealed to be. I don't really know. In any case, because of the lighting and the camera angles, you can't see any detail in the corpses so it's not worth dwelling on. After that, Laurie comes across Buddy, the kindly security guard who offers to drive her back to the hospital. Of course, he becomes Michael's next victim in a kill that isn't much: Michael gets him in the back with a fire axe and shoves it into him as much as he can as Buddy dies. We see a bit of blood from the back and some nasty crunching sounds but other than that, there's not too much to this murder.

The next kills are those dumb rednecks who make the mistake of beating on Michael for trespassing on their property. After beating the snout out of him and then leaving him there, Michael gets up, puts his mask on, takes out a big hunting knife that he now has, and gets down to business. He grabs one from behind, turns him around, and slashes him right across the eyes while the other runs up to him and whacks him with a tire iron but he ends up getting stabbed in the gut and then impaled on the deer antlers he has attached to the front of his truck. Michael even pushes him onto the antlers just a little bit more for good measure and then finishes off the guy whose eyes he slashed by hacking into his gut a bunch of times in a row. He then takes care of the one guy's daughter, who was actually sympathetic towards him, by pulling her out of the truck, dragging her across the ground, stabbing her once, then dragging her a little more before going to town and stabbing her again and again until she finally dies. But, we're not through here yet. We've still got their dog, Ivan. Yeah, not even animals are spared from this Michael Myers. He even goes as far as to taunt the poor dog by dragging the tip of his knife across his cage before killing him off-camera. And a little bit later, we see Michael feed himself by cutting chunks out of the dog and eating it. Again, it's so darkly photographed that you can't see much detail, thank God, but nevertheless, it's really disgusting and rather unnecessary. The implication in the original John Carpenter film that Michael had munched on a dog was much more powerful and creepy than this, which is needlessly gross and only exists for shock value. Incidentally, at the end of the credits when you get the customary note from the humane society that no animals were harmed, it actually says that some of the animal action was monitored and no animals were harmed in those scenes. I'll just let that little factoid combined with what I just described sink in as we move on.

Next, we have the moment where Laurie has that violent hallucination about duct taping Annie to a chair and slicing her throat open, like how Michael killed Ronnie in the previous film. It's a simple effect but it works with the quick close-ups of the blood gushing out. After that we have the massacre at the Rabbit in Red, starting with Howard when he foolishly threatens Michael after coming across him out back while taking out the garbage. I can't help but laugh at how even Michael is a douche in these movies by standing in front of the guy and deliberately getting in his way when he tries to go around him. After threatening him again, Howard then punches Michael in the face but all he manages to do is hurt his hand. Michael then knocks him to the ground and proceeds to give Howard his version of a curb stomp: smashing his face in repeatedly with his foot until, when you see his body again later while Misty is trying to escape, it's hard to tell that there was even a face there to begin with. He then proceeds to go into Big Lou's office while he and Misty are having sex and Lou proceeds to pull a gun on him and threaten to blow his head off, finally rushing at him when he still won't leave. Big mistake because Michael grabs him, throws him down, and beats him repeatedly, snapping one of his arms with his bare hands. As Misty is trying to escape out back, Michael chases Lou, who is screaming in such an over the top, pansy way that it's hilarious, into the hallway and slam him against the wall, finishing him off. Michael grabs Misty by the back of the hair and after she rips a section of his mask off in the struggle, he bashes her face into the mirror again and again (noticing a theme, yet?) until he finally drops her onto the floor, dead as a doornail. Another couple of kills happen at the Halloween party that Laurie and her friends attend. Harley and a guy who's wearing werewolf makeup and calls himself Wolfie go out to his van to have sex and as soon as you see that, you know they're going to get butchered. And Wolfie stops making out with her to go take a leak, you definitely he's going to be the first to get it. That's why I find it funny that Rob Zombie once crapped on slasher movies because this and most of the other kills in the movie are built on the clichés of that subgenre. Michael disposes of Wolfie by stabbing him right in the back and he then predictably smashes through the window of the van and grabs Harley. After knocking her around for a bit while choking her at the same time, he finally breaks her neck.

In another kill that you can see coming a mile away, Michael kills the cop standing guard outside of Brackett's house by grabbing him from behind and eventually breaking his neck after struggling with him. How did he not see Michael standing on one side of that tree in front of the house, a tree that he walked right past, I might add? It doesn't seem like those glasses do him any bit of good! Next is when Michael enters the house and stalks Annie before chasing her out of the bathroom. Again, we don't see the attack right away, we just hear a lot of crashing Annie screaming, and Michael grunting. That was actually disturbing enough, with Zombie only needing show us the aftermath rather than a flashback of the attack, as clever as it was. That said, though, Zombie still manages to show us a bit more restraint with the flashback by showing Michael chasing Annie around and demolishing everything as he does so but when he finally corners her, all we get is him staring at her and his mother telling him to, "Go have some fun," to which the young version of himself coldly responds with, "Okay," before we cut back to present time when Laurie finds Annie in the bathroom. We can only imagine what Michael did to Annie but given all of the blood on her as well as on the floor, the cuts on her body, and the fact that she's now naked even though she was wearing a bathrobe when attacked, a strong indication that she might have been raped, it must have been unspeakably horrific. She dies slowly and painfully in Laurie's arms while Mya calls 911 downstairs. Mya herself gets killed when Michael grabs her, slams her onto a table, and hacks her to death.

The last batch of kills in the movie begins with a passing motorist whom Laurie manages to flag down. After he puts Laurie into his car, Michael grabs him and throws him right through the windshield. Now we get to the climax and no matter what version you see, Michael and Loomis both die but the circumstances are different. In the unrated version, the two of them burst through the wall of the shack, and Michael holds Loomis up and stabs him; he then gets gunned down by the police. In the theatrical version, however, Michael slashes Loomis again and again while they're still inside the shack and Michael is then sniped out through the window by Brackett and some other cops. And finally, going back to the unrated version, Laurie, after walking out of the shack and picking the knife out of Michael's hand, is shot by a trigger-happy cop.

While Zombie's first Halloween didn't have many chase or suspense sequences save for the climax, Halloween II makes up for it with the scenes where Michael attacks those rednecks who are dumb enough to beat on him and we he goes on a rampage at the Rabbit in Red, both of which I've already described up above when I talked about the kills and makeup effects. However, the film's biggest sequence comes at the beginning when Laurie is in the hospital, making this section the closest that the movie comes to the original Halloween II. After Laurie regains consciousness and slowly makes her way into Annie's room, a nurse finds her and tells her that she has to get back to her room. As the nurse helps her to do so, she's told over the intercom to report to the emergency room. Laurie tells her that she can make it back to her room on her own and the nurse leaves. But before she can make it to her room, she begins to feel dizzy and slowly makes her way to the nurse's station for help. That's when the nurse who helped her earlier shows up with a stab wound in her chest and, after a few seconds, screams in pain and terror, frightening Laurie to the point where she takes off down the hall, detaching herself from the IV that she had been carrying around this whole time. As Laurie makes her way to the stairwell that leads outside, we see Michael Myers utterly butcher that nurse after she futilely tries to get away. After Michael finishes hacking her, he starts after Laurie, who has trouble getting down the stairs with the cast on her right foot and her bandaged and pronged right arm, again being like the original sequel with Laurie's injuries making it difficult to run. Seeing Michael coming down the stairs after her, Laurie continues to run and stumble down them as well, eventually reaching the bottom and making it outside onto a walkway where she comes across that bin full of corpses. With Michael closing in and smashing stuff out of his way as he does so, Laurie has no choice but to try to slide along the edge of the bin. As mentioned earlier, she falls in and has to painfully pull herself out as Michael continues to pursue her. She gets to a door at the end of the hallway and tries to a fire axe that she finds to defend herself but is unable to break the glass holding it and heads out the door; of course, when Michael reaches the axe, he easily breaks the glass and gets it, which Zombie has said he deliberately put in as a bit of a joke.

Laurie makes it to a security station and since she's unable to get out through the gate because it's locked and is no condition to climb it either, she has no choice but to crawl through the station's window and hide under the desk. That's when Buddy, the security guard, returns after going out for some coffee and doughnuts and finds Laurie. He gives her a quilt to keep her warm and tells her that he's going to go get his care to drive her back to the hospital. Laurie is left alone in the station for an extended period, terrified and yelling for Buddy, no doubt worrying that he's been killed. Buddy then appears at the door, telling her that he had trouble getting his car started. Just as he's about to unlock the door, he gets the axe to the back and slowly dies before falling to the ground. After getting rid of Buddy, Michael begins walking around the station and peering through the windows, trying to find Laurie, who's back hiding underneath the desk. Unable to figure out where she is, Michael begins to demolish the station with the axe. He violent smashes through the windows and the walls, growling and yelling as he does so. You'd think he'd just hack his way through the wall and walk inside but he seems intent on utterly destroying the station before killing Laurie. After a lot of chaos and screaming, Michael finally makes his way inside, finds Laurie, raises the axe, and brings it down towards her, which is where we cut to reveal that it was a nightmare that Laurie was having.

That's really the biggest action setpiece in the film. There are a couple of small ones as the movie heads into its final act, though, beginning when Laurie finds Annie's body in the bathroom. After Annie dies, Michael begins banging on the other side of one of the doors, forcing Laurie to leave through the other door and head down the stairs, finding Mya's body as she does so. Michael smashes his way through the door but seeing that Laurie has made it out, he heads back through the bedroom to chase her. Laurie runs around to the back of the house and off into the woods, with Michael, brandishing his knife, not far behind. After the scene where Brackett finds Annie's body, we get to the part where Laurie makes it to the road and manages to flag down a car. But after this good Samaritan puts Laurie in his car, he gets grabbed and flung through the windshield by Michael, who walks around to the driver side and manages to turn the car over and send it down the side of the embankment. As the horn blares and the car catches on fire, Michael pulls the unconscious Laurie out and takes her back to his shack, with the car exploding behind him as he walks with the visions of his mother and young self. And this leads into the ending where the police surround the shack and Loomis arrives to try to help.

I've mentioned the differences between the unrated and theatrical versions here and there throughout this review (again, if I've made any mistakes, then I apologize) but now that we've come to the film's ending, this is where we really have to compare the two because the endings are so different and have very different meanings to them. The theatrical version is the more confusing of the two to me. As I mentioned up above, Michael kills Loomis in the shack with a bunch of slashes of his knife but when he picks up the doctor's body after doing so, Brackett and some other cops snipe him out through the window, causing him to get impaled by the tools on the wall. Laurie walks over to Michael, tells him that she loves him, and Michael holds up his knife behind her back, I guess in one last attempt to kill her, but he expires before he can do so. Laurie takes the knife out of his hand and stabs him a bunch of times. Laurie then walks out wearing Michael's mask, kneels down, takes it off, and stares at it in her hands as the scenes fades to the shot of her in a psychiatric hospital where she sees the vision of her mother with the white horse and smiles before the movie ends. The confusing thing about this ending is that I think it's trying to say that Laurie was the killer all along and that Michael was simply a figment of her imagination and part of her losing her mind. However, as with the movie High Tension, which also tried this type of twist, there are a bunch of reasons why this doesn't make sense. What was all the stuff with Michael getting out of the ambulance at the beginning? You could say that it was part of Laurie's nightmare but why the talk about Michael's body having never been found? How was Laurie going around and killing people in out of the way places, in the middle of the night, no less, without Brackett and Laurie noticing that she kept disappearing from the house? How do you explain people's reactions when they come across "Michael" and try to take and beat on him? If Michael didn't exist, then how could that cop have told Brackett that somebody saw a large man carrying a girl away? If Michael didn't exist, there wouldn't have been a way for this finale to take place. And for that matter, where did Laurie get the mask that she's wearing when she comes out of the shack at the end? I guess you could also interpret it as being that Michael was around and that Laurie had simply lost her grip on reality by but I've heard so many people interpret the theatrical version in the way that I just described and if that is what it was going for, I can understand why Rob Zombie changed it for his director's cut because I don't think it added up and made sense.

I much prefer the ending to the unrated version, which I think was much more straightforward and had a more powerful conclusion. Although, that said, I still don't like the idea of Michael yelling for Loomis to die after the two of them burst through the wall of the shack. I'm just beating a dead horse by saying this yet again but the idea of Michael talking just takes away any mystery that he had left (which, to be fair, wasn't much by this point). In any case, after Michael is gunned down by the police, Laurie walks out of the shack, goes over to Michael, takes the knife out of his hand, and walks up to Loomis' body. Before she does whatever she's about to do, one of the cops shoots her several times before Brackett can tell him to hold his fire. Laurie then collapses to the ground and we get a angle that starts from high up, showing her, Michael, and Loomis lying on the ground dead, and slowly zooms into her face as we fade to the ending with her sitting in the psych ward. While the theatrical version's ending says that Laurie was taken to a psychiatric hospital after she took the mask off, Zombie himself has said that this version's ending signifies that Laurie is dying from the gunshots and that these visions are the last thing she sees before she expires. As Zombie says, she's dead once the first credit pops up on the screen. I just like this idea a lot more than the rather confusing theatrical ending and plus, I think that shot of Laurie, Loomis, and Michael lying on the ground dead, with the helicopter's searchlight hovering over them and Nan Vernon's cover of Love Hurts playing is really effective and sad because it shows how this affair ended tragically for all of those involved, especially Laurie and Loomis.

While watching the film, you may notice that it sounds absolutely unlike any other Halloween film. You know why that is? Up until the ending credits, you don't hear the Halloween Theme. In fact, in the unrated version, you don't hear any of the music from the previous films save for the main theme at the very end. In the theatrical version, however, as the scene fades to Laurie sitting in her room in the psych ward, you do get an eerie version of Laurie's Theme that's suitable for the idea that she has completely lost it and has gone insane like her brother. Anyway, going back to the main theme, it's just weird to not hear that iconic music during any part of a Halloween movie (Halloween III not withstanding, of course) but it wasn't intentional on Rob Zombie's part. He's said that he and composer Tyler Bates tried to find a good part in the movie to play it but they just couldn't. And, looking at the movie, I myself am not exactly sure where you could put the theme without it being intrusive or out of place. I think the lack of the theme is another reason why this film feels completely different from the others. As for the rest of the music, I think Bates did a better job with this score than he did previously. He still overuses that loud, droning noise for the horror and tension moments but he also comes up with some nice new pieces of music like a distinctive, otherworldly theme to signify the presence of Deborah and a very effectively sad piece of music with vocalizing voices for when Brackett finds Annie's body. It definitely makes up for the score he created for Zombie's first Halloween, which I thought was as unmemorable as you could get save for the covers of the themes from the original film. I do have to give Bates some credit for this score.

As for the songs featured in the movie, Zombie also mixes it up a bit more there too. You have your classic songs from yesteryear, most notably Nights in White Satin, whose music video you see playing on TV several times during the opening hospital sequence (I don't know what channel would be playing that nowadays; certainly not MTV!) but you also have some more modern music, notably a lot of hard rock like the stuff that Laurie and her friends listen to as well as the music you hear playing over the radio of the car that picks her up near the end. You have more original songs featured here too, like what the band at the Halloween party plays. The one I really recognize is Honkytonk Halloween, which you hear several times during the actual film and then fully hear over the latter part of the end credits. I was not too happy about hearing this song over the ending credits the first time I watched the movie because I felt it was really inappropriate for the movie you'd just watched. I'm well aware that Mr. Sandman is an odd choice for a song to feature in a horror film as well but that one, even the cover that Zombie used previously, works for some odd reason. This is just way too silly to play over the ending credits of such a dark, gruesome horror movie with a real downer ending no matter version you see. Maybe some people love it but I think it's out of place. Now, when I'd heard that Zombie put Love Hurts over the latter part of the director's cut, I was not happy at all. To me, it was confirmation that he didn't care at all about this movie and that it was another example of him trolling those who complained about him putting in his first Halloween movie. When I got around to watching Halloween II the first time, I was bracing myself during the finale to hear that inappropriate song again... but what I got instead wasn't the original by Nazareth but a very slow, soft, and somber cover by Nan Vernon, who sang the cover of Mr. Sandman in Zombie's first film. Now that version I think works perfectly with how tragic the ending of the unrated cut is with Laurie being accidentally gunned down after Michael and Loomis have been killed and, again, the shot of all three of them lying on the ground dead with that song playing brings home how this whole thing ended in the worst, most downbeat way that it possibly could have. I thought to myself, "I guess Zombie wasn't treating this whole thing as a joke after all." There's another thing I give him props for so let it never be said that I have it in for Rob Zombie and won't give him any credit at all.

Like his first one, Rob Zombie's Halloween II is definitely a love it or hate it type of movie. As you've seen from the review, while I saw his first foray into the series as a big missed opportunity, I'm much more conflicted on the sequel. On the plus side, it has an enjoyable hammy performance by Malcolm McDowell, a really great, sympathetic, and relatable portrayal of Sheriff Brackett from Brad Dourif, some well done visual moments that might be very surreal at points but are impressive nevertheless, really convincing makeup effects, some genuinely effective moments like when Brackett discovers that his daughter has been murdered, and well done use of music and songs... for the most part. But, it still has its fair of flaws. A lot of the kills are so over the top and drawn out that they become unintentionally funny, the amount of profanity is still a major distraction, your main character isn't very likable (especially in the unrated cut), Michael Myers is essentially turned into Jason Voorhees, complete with a mama complex that didn't need to be applied to him, and is stripped of any intrigue that he had left at this point, there's a confusing and nonsensical link between Laurie and Michael, and there are still some bad pieces of music and songs along with the good. In the end, I do think it has more going for it than its predecessor, which kept me from making this an installment of Movies That Suck, but it still has plenty of stuff that I don't like and that prevents me from being a 100% fan of it. Would I recommend it to any Halloween fan? Eh, watch it at least once if you're curious but be prepared for a movie that has some really good aspects as well as some really bad ones.

Well, that's it, friends. We've reached the end of my reviews on the Halloween franchise. But before we wrap-up, I'd like to mention my thoughts on one last thing: the future. At this time, where the series will go from here is very uncertain. Rob Zombie is adamant that he will not make a third Halloween movie. When he was asked why at the 2009 San Diego Comic Con, his answer was, "If I told you, you wouldn't believe me. And I don't want to tell you." So, who knows what that means but just remember that this is the same guy who once crapped on remakes and also said that he would never do a sequel to his remake of Halloween. Now that doesn't mean that he'll do another one for sure, I'm just saying that he's hardly someone whose word I would take to the bank. There were plans to do another movie as soon as possible, with this one proposed to be in 3-D and to be in theaters a year after Zombie's second one. But, for whatever reason, probably because Halloween II made nowhere near the amount of money that Zombie's first one did, that didn't come to pass. There have still been talks since then about the movie, with Patrick Lussier possibly being the director, but as of yet, nothing has come of it and, to be honest, I kind of hope that nothing does. As much as I've enjoyed the Halloween franchise over the years, I think it's time to let it go. With all the different storylines that the series has been through during its run, eventually leading to a remake of the classic original and a sequel to that remake, I think they've done all they can with the character of Michael Myers. This should be the last of it to me because I don't want another movie with him being a mama's body like Jason (they're obviously never going to go back to the original series) and besides, it's impossible at this point for the sequels to regain the greatness that it once had. I'll always treasure the films that I do enjoy and love but I think it's now time to call it a night and let the series rest. But, it's unlikely that'll be the case so we'll just have to see what happens next. Anyway, thanks for joining me on this journey through the Halloween movies. I hope you enjoyed it and I will catch you all on the flip side.

2 comments:

  1. Cody it's newt from deadpit. Looks like the forums are gone. Here is my email.

    mac138 at gmail dot com

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