September 2, 2012

Halloween II (2009)

"Laurie Strode struggles to come to terms with her brother Michael's deadly return to Haddonfield, Illinois; meanwhile, Michael prepares for another reunion with his sister."

I started writing this post at 5 o'clock in the morning while I was still trying to process what I saw when I watched Rob Zombie's "Halloween II" for the first time last night. After another nap, I've even slept on it twice now, turning it over in my mind as I drifted off to sleep, and, now that I'm fully awake again, I still can't get past the fact that I really enjoyed it.

The thing is, I really hated Rob Zombie's "re-imagining" of "Halloween" (2007). I'm not even joking when I say that I use the DVD for a coaster. It keeps my cold Monster energy drinks from ruining the surface of my computer desk, and that's a far better use for that movie than any pleasure which I got from watching it.

I'm no dummy and I realise that Rob Zombie seemed to go back on his word many times over the years about hating remakes or having anything to do with ever making one. I even know that he claimed to not want any part of directing a sequel until, of course, somebody made him a financial offer which he couldn't refuse. I can't blame him for it. To be honest, if somebody offered me millions of dollars (or just one million for that matter), I'd turn heel and throw all my integrity out of the window for a comfortable lifestyle too. There's not one of us who wouldn't do the same thing, so let's not be hypocrites, okay?

Contrary to what all the major critics and ranters on YouTube would have you believe, "Halloween II" isn't actually a bad horror movie at all. Give or take a few flaws, it's also far from being the worst of either the old franchise or the rebooted one. Not that I need to defend Rob Zombie's decisions, but let me just address some of the criticism in an attempt to show you what I liked about the film.

The biggest problem for most people was that Michael Myers (AKA "The Shape") as played by Tyler Mane, didn't look or behave much like the old version, but why should he? The original 'Halloween" series was supposed to be made up of different stories, hence the existence of "Halloween III: Season of the Witch", and it was only because the fans demanded it that the idea was abandoned in favour of more Michael Myers and all the continuity errors which followed. None of the versions of Michael Myers are exactly the same, and silliness abounded with his supposed supernatural strength right from John Carpenter's "Halloween" in 1978. The people who are still that hung up on the look of the mask, Michael's physique, or his mannerisms, simply weren't paying enough attention to the other movies.

I saw nothing wrong with the new version of Michael Myers at all other than the continuity being lost a little bit by replacing the younger version with a different actor, namely Chase Vanek instead of Daeg Faerch. As for the adult Michael looking like a mixture between a bum and a wrestler with a beard like Rob Zombie's, does it really matter? All anyone wants from Michael Myers is to see him kill everybody in his path in the most brutal manner possible, and he certainly did that.

If, like me, you've watched the "Unrated Director's Cut" of "Halloween II", a major problem seems to be that the adult Michael speaks one word at the end. It's a bit odd but not something which couldn't be explained. After all, he could speak before and during his time in the asylum. He just chose not to.

Yet more haters really disliked the "White Horse" motif, its psychological implications, and the fact that a physical white horse appeared along with the deceased Deborah Myers and the young version of Michael Myers. It wasn't supposed to be supernatural but a glimpse inside Michael's mind. Most people didn't get it.

Some people just don't like Sheri Moon Zombie anyway and hate the nepotism whereby she gets cast in all of her husband's movies. Again, why shouldn't Rob Zombie do exactly what he wants? He's the director and if he wanted to throw a giant bunny into the middle of the film for no reason whatsoever, that would be his decision. It wouldn't make a whole lot of sense if it was just random, but the "White Horse" motif and the ghostly-looking Deborah Myers were supposed to be a link to another aspect of the story which, if you have a brain which hasn't been addled by watching no-budget backyard epics, you start to realise a long time before the end.

I will also defend Sheri Moon Zombie for a number of reasons. Not only is she absolutely gorgeous, but she's a damned good actress. Maybe she doesn't get as much opportunity to show her range in the "Halloween" movies, but people seem to forget how great she was in "The Devil's Rejects" (2005) as Baby. I don't even like the film that much, but I liked her in it. I'll put it bluntly, I probably wouldn't have watched any of Rob Zombies films if Sheri Moon Zombie hadn't been in them. Would I have watched "Halloween" or "Halloween II" for the dubious charms of Scout Taylor-Compton or Danielle Harris? I think not.

The stupidest comments I've heard or read online about "Halloween II" have all centred on Scout Taylor-Compton's performance as not being the same as Jamie Lee Curtis'. While she might not be the best actress in the world nor was Jamie Lee Curtis either. Do people not realise that there's a script involved in movies which might not bring the best out of an actor or actress? As much as I like the original version of "Halloween", Jamie Lee Curtis was as wooden as she could be in it and didn't exactly light up the screen with her presence. Laurie Strode was never a very interesting character anyway.

In the original version of "Halloween II" (1981), not that this was a remake in much more than name and the initial setting, Laurie Strode was far more unrealistic. Call me cynical, but the only reason anyone even cares about that film is because of Pamela Susan Shoop's boobs in the hot tub scene.

Scout Taylor-Compton gave a very realistic performance as Laurie Strode considering what her character had been through. If you had been stabbed, disfigured, seen your friends get killed or hacked about in front of you, would you not become unstable too? The whole premise that she was low-class (for lack of a better term) to begin with, and didn't have the greatest coping mechanisms, just made her more real to me. The more unrealistic character was actually Danielle Harris' version of Annie Brackett who seemed to be either in complete denial or far too confident for her own good. Why she gets defended by "Halloween" fanboys just because she was in the earlier "Halloween" movies is a mystery to me since her acting ability is also minimal.

The "white trash" aesthetic of Rob Zombie's movies gets a lot of flak for no good reason too. Since I've been living in America and encountered so many people like that, I can say that these characters are representative of the norm rather than an exception. Unlike the middle-class comedy movies which the more political part of the Hollywood machine throws at the rest of the world to encourage the myth that America is so great, the uneducated, constantly swearing, drunken "white trash" of Rob Zombie's movies are the reality. Maybe they aren't all as psychotic, but even that is debatable from my own experience.

I'll get off my soapbox just as quickly as I got on it to say something about the "Dr. Samuel Loomis" character as played by Malcolm McDowell. I thought he was great as the "prima donna" which everyone who gets a little bit of fame is likely to become. He even worked to some extent as comic relief between some of the most savage kills I've ever seen in a horror movie. The only valid criticism which I will uphold about "Halloween II", was that Loomis didn't contribute a lot to the plot other than revealing a secret in his book which Laurie Strode wasn't prepared for. I never thought Donald Pleasence was all that great in the role so Malcolm McDowell was a decent upgrade.

Since this review has turned out to be a lot longer than I wanted it to be, I'll just wrap it up by saying that I now consider "Halloween II" to be one of the greatest modern horror movies of the last decade. The gore is outstanding, the tension maybe not so much, and, as usual, there are no scares, but, as much as I wanted to hate all the characters, I ended up caring about them to some extent. The characters were interesting to me rather than likeable, and that set 'Halloween II" apart from nearly all of the more contrived horror movies which I've endured so far this year.

If you were also deterred by Rob Zombie's first "Halloween" movie, the haters, rumour mongers, and message board arguments, you might want to watch (or rewatch) "Halloween II" yourself now that it's had a few years since its release. I'm going to surprise you all by putting "Halloween II" in "The Vault". For $5 from Wal-mart's bargain bin, it was a nice surprise, and I highly recommend it.

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