Rob Zombie, who not only directed but also wrote this latest installment in the Halloween franchise, has clearly intended to separate his vision from that of the legendary John Carpenter. As such, this movie is not a remake of Carpenter’s Halloween II. Instead, this is Zombie’s sequel to his own Halloween (2007) remake, and Zombie takes much more, how do you say, artistic license, to both positive but mostly negative effect, in this installment of the Michael Myers story. Instead of merely placing his serial killer in stalk-and-kill mode, Zombie’s sequel picks up right after his last movie ended and deals with how the characters are coping in the aftermath of Myers’ recent slaughterfest. In this way, this sequel is better than the last movie for the mere fact that Myers doesn’t have his ass in every frame, so the story has room to let a little suspense unfold and allow the other central characters a chance to expand past their previous one-dimensional confines. By the time the ride is over, however, it’s hard to believe that these are the very same characters, for Zombie pretty much pretends that original version of this sequel never happened and runs in an entirely different direction. If Zombie entirely intended to abandon his predecessor’s themes and desecrate the souls of certain central characters, perhaps he should have passed on Halloween II and made an altogether different project instead. Ahh, but that would defeat the point of a sequel, which is to capitalize upon an already-established audience.
In Halloween II, all of the returning characters are still portrayed by the same actors (with the exception of young MIchael, who is now played by Chase Vanek). And, if you’ll remember, Zombie ended his remake with Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) being shot several times by Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) before also taking a gunshot to the face from Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton). Dude has got to be dead, right?
Yeah, you know the drill.
The sequel actually opens promisingly, with Zombie shooting with a Super 16 and giving the film a grainy, almost swampy feel as opposed to the 35mm saturation of the first film. Laurie staggers down the street holding Loomis’ gun and is discovered by Sheriff Lee Brackett (Brad Dourif, giving the film’s best performance), who takes her to the hospital, along with Annie Brackett (Danielle Harris). Myers is presumed dead (what, no pulse check?) and shuttled off towards the coroner by two idiot drivers, who grow so distracted with talk of screwing corpses that they smash into a cow. Myers emerges from the wreckage and shuffles off towards an ethereal vision of his mother, Deborah Myers (Sheri Moon Zombie), and a white horse. Yes, it looks just as stupid as it sounds.
From there, it becomes apparent that there aren’t any genuine scares in store for the audience but only false alarms resulting directly from sudden loud, thumping noises that Zombie uses in lieu of a score. The plot has little in common with the original Halloween II other than the same basic characters and an abbreviated version of the hospital setting, which features a very hands-on, clinical perspective to the sewing up of Myers’ victims. Of course, the man himself soon arrives and commences brutally slaughtering nurses (complete with realistically disgusting stabbing noises) while attempting to locate his intended target. As Laurie escapes through the pouring rain to an outdoor guard shack and Myers is a good way through tearing the shack apart, the audience thinks, “Gee, this will be a short movie… maybe I’ll have time to pop over and catch Inglourious Basterds again,” but Zombie quickly pulls the old “Sorry, it was just a dream” trick. This wouldn’t be so awful if this shit didn’t happen several more times before the final act. In fact, Laurie is within Michael’s reach several times before the inevitable confrontation, but Zombie sadistically toys with his audience with just these sort of endlessly repeated cheap tricks. This has the dual effect of providing minimal entertainment while also insulting our intelligence because, most of the time, it feels like Zombie thinks he’s the only person who’s ever watched a horror movie.
For a year, Myers lives the vagrant lifestyle outside and only decides to return when his mother’s ghost (and that damn white horse) tells him to prepare for Halloween once again. When he returns, he miraculously knows how to find the new place where Laurie lives. Does he have a bitchin’ iPhone with some Mapquest thing? Probably not, but remember, this is a villain who supposedly possesses self-healing gunshot wounds. What ever the case, Myers easily locates Laurie, who is now living with Sheriff Brackett and his daughter (Annie, who has responded to her near-death experience by transforming into a recluse). Meanwhile, Laurie is progressively heading into reprobate territory; she manages to hold down a job and maintain the illusion of normalcy but, although she looks smashing in her party costume (Magenta of Rocky Horror Picture Show fame), she generally cannot be bothered to even brush her hair. This is either Zombie’s way of running a cheap budget by not hiring a hairdresser or visually communicating the unravelling of his protagonist. Obviously, Laurie has slowly been going crazy while experiencing intense nightmares that mirror Michael’s own visions, which leads me to my main problem with Halloween II…
In the first movie, Zombie appeared to sympathize with Myers, placing much of the blame for his propensity to commit evil deeds squarely upon his white-trash, stripper-mom, abuser-stepdad upbringing. With Halloween II, Zombie switches sides in the “nature vs. nurture” debate and, in doing so, he does away with the strong female character played by Jamie Lee Curtis in Carpenter’s version of the sequel. Instead, Zombie nails Laurie into her fate and only offers up a nihilistic view of humanity. And, while I’d like to believe that breaking the preexisting rules was, perhaps, a gutsy move on Zombie’s part, it probably had a lot more to do with scriptwriting laziness. After all, once a filmmaker slaps the “crazy” label onto a character, nothing that they do has to make any sense at all. Of course, I could have walked out of that theater respecting Zombie’s decision to move in a different direction than the old sequel, but, if characters are gonna change, their transformations should be at least somewhat plausible. Instead, Zombie has also largely contradicted his own remake by, essentially, taking the stance that Myers’ motivation to kill is not revenge for childhood abuse but, rather, something that’s merely “in his blood.” Hell, once one also considers the insufferable cameo by Weird Al Yankovic (as himself), Halloween II, as a whole, is nothing but a masochistically depressive’s wet dream.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.