Friday, September 25, 2009

Halloween II Review

Having never seen the original Halloween II, I had hardly any idea what to expect from Rob Zombie’s sequel to his 2007 remake of the classic horror film, Halloween. Obviously, the excessive gore and uninspiring characters from the remake would likely return, but I expected more from the second time around. With nearly two full years of downtime between the two remakes, Rob Zombie would surely learn a thing or two about creating a tight plot and terrifying atmosphere, right?

Halloween II’s most intense scene erupts about twenty minutes into the film. While taking refuge in a security station from the near-invincible psychopath Michael Myers (Tyler Mane), protagonist Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) hides underneath a desk and braces for the worst. Within seconds Myers shreds the windows of the security shack and tears himself an entrance through one of the side walls (though he would have found less difficulty in breaking down the rickety front door). Laurie finds herself held in check by a floor covered in shattered glass, and she screams and wails as Myers closes in. He prepares to send her to the other side, and there is no conveniently-placed hero around to stop the madman. Things are truly grim, and Myers readies his ax. It’s over this time for Laurie. It’s… it’s… actually the moment she awakens from the nightmare. Yep, one of few decent scenes in this “horror” flick doesn’t count.

Despite falling under the horror movie genre, Halloween II consistently fails at instilling scares into its viewers, and for a variety of reasons. First of all, Myers’s unwarranted overload of violence vitiates the terror associated with a life being taken. If sneaking up on a nurse and knifing her from behind is horrific in its own right, why would you follow it up with a minute-long corpse stabbing extravaganza? Perhaps, is it to show how twisted this emotionless murderer is? Nope. Zombie simply wants to cover all of his stock characters in a healthy layer of scarlet syrup—you know, because it might stir up enough negative publicity to convince a few thousand 14-year-olds to sneak in and marvel at all this R-rated overkill.

The greater issue that keeps Zombie’s brand of terror from succeeding is the fact that Halloween II’s characters are always either stereotypical or forgettable. Overprotective fathers and party-hungry teenagers run rampant, while moviegoers yearn to care about or at least relate to any of the major characters. However, viewers should be able to cut into common ground with the trite breakfast table dialogue that plagues the lips of the characters throughout the movie. And for those who desire some fresh lines of chatter, fear not, for there are a handful of scenes where Laurie and her over-the-top friends trade enough filthy banter to make any high school trophy girl seem clean by comparison.

Beyond the iconic psychopath and Laurie, the only other face worth mentioning is Myers’s former psychiatrist Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell). After suffering from an attack at the end of the 2007 remake, Loomis returns, but he unfortunately ends up feeling tacked-on in this sequel. The majority of his scenes involve him promoting his new book (which examines the life of Michael Myers), and it isn’t until late in the film when he or his book proves to be relevant to the overall story.

The main storyline itself is straight-forward for the most part. Michael Myers, who was presumed dead at the conclusion of the 2007 Halloween remake, magically reawakens in the back of an ambulance and escapes. As a result his body is never found, and Laurie has trouble coping with the fact, even a full year later. As October 31st approaches, Myers runs into a hallucination of his deceased mother (Sheri Moon Zombie). Mom asks her beloved son to bring Laurie “home” by Halloween, and he sets off to hunt down the poor girl. While Myers moves out on foot for the town of Haddonfield, Laurie finds herself attending therapy sessions and dealing with nightmares and hallucinations that relate to her previous encounter with Myers. The rest of the plot stumbles down a humdrum path, before “climaxing” with a nonsensical scene that attempts to be clever, but instead reeks of cheesy ideas and loudmouthed chaos.

All things taken into account, Halloween II is not the worst movie of the summer (In other words, it’s not BrĂ¼no), but it is certainly not worthy of the typical admission price. When a film draws its appeal almost entirely from its associations with a semi-popular heavy metal star and a 31-year-old movie of the same name, then maybe it isn’t meant to stand on its own. Rob Zombie himself still has a lot to learn about screenwriting and directing, and the fact that he relies on remaking classic horror films makes this evident.