Halloween 2 (Rob Zombie) – review

I gotta admit, I feel for director Rob Zombie. He is a man put into a no-win situation. He loves directing, loves horror, and loves the original Halloween, and when he was offered a chance to update the franchise, put a new spin on it, and hopefully revive a franchise that had become a laughing stock it was a hard proposition to turn down. He knew there’d be controversy. He knew there’d be irate fans. And he knew there’d be big shoes to fill but he did his best to make a film that was true to both the original and to his own vision. While not wholly successful, the first Halloween as seen by him is pretty good. It is different, to be sure, and it gives us a powerful, scary Michael Myers once more. Alas, making Michael a kid that had some misguided parenting and some really bad familial circumstances made him less of ‘The Shape’ and more of ‘The Abused’. Sure you empathized with him but we don’t want a human Michael Myers, we want a killing machine out for blood. Which is shame on us. Though Halloween is flawed, it is its own film, and it does breathe life into a dead franchise. We don’t have to like it, that’s our right, but it’s a shame to damn the man outright for making the film. When he was done, as far as he was concerned, he was done. Alas, the studio was going to make more, with or without him, and so it became a matter of him making a sequel he swore he wouldn’t make, to a movie he was done with. Which brings us to Halloween 2, a movie that it seems neither the fans, the filmmaker, nor the studio wanted but which isn’t nearly the disaster people claim it is.

Halloween 2 follows the aftermath of the attacks of Michael Myers had on Laurie Strode and her friend, two young women who are haunted by the horrors they survived. Laurie is on a downward spiral in her life, unable to shake free of her nightmares and becoming further and further away from her best friend. Believing she has escaped Myers, she is trying to put her life back together, though what she doesn’t know is that Michael has been dormant and is waiting for the right time to return. And when he does return, nothing will stop him from putting his family back together for good.

It seems silly to get too deep into a plot synopsis for a movie that’s been around the block for a while now. Frankly, most people saw it or didn’t when it came out and I don’t expect this review to sway someone to see it or not, though I did feel a need to write it. This is a frustrating film on SO many levels. There is so much good here but then it’s tempered with so much that is mediocre that you are left feeling indifferent at the end. I prefer the ‘Unrated Director’s Cut’ or whatever the heck it’s called but it is weird that, like the first film, some scenes that are gone don’t seem to be anywhere on the disc. Maybe the Blu-Ray is more comprehensive. This is definitely a better version of the film but it is still a flawed movie.

The biggest issue most people have is the use of a ghostly white horse as an allegory for Michael’s rage, his longing for his mother, and the way he is haunted and living in the land of the living and the dead. To me though, as weird as that symbol is, it is what joins the horse that bothers me most and that is Ms. Myers herself. To me, as a writer of anything your first rule is To Thy Characters Be True and the rest will work itself out. The problem with H2 is that so many characters are betrayed that it really damages the film’s credibility. Ms. Myers, while a flawed mother in the first film, was a woman who loved her children, especially Michael, deeply, and here she is seen as a spirit guiding the hand of Michael and driving him to find his sister. Now, the question here is – how much is in Michael’s head and how much is ‘real’. You are never really sure but by the end, you are faced with either a familial madness that links and guides Michael and Laurie or she’s really a freaky ghost. I would have to wager that she is part of the madness and that, sadly, Michael and Laurie both suffer from it, as if their blood is tainted. Michael needs the family he lost to be together so he does anything possible to make it happen.

Another character issue I have is that you come to almost hate Laurie in H2 and that’s a shame. You can see why she is freaking out, and heck, who wouldn’t? But to take the whole film and show her as a mental case with anger issues undermines the image of the sweet and innocent girl that he went to great pains to create in the first film. I suppose he was showing how violence corrupts absolutely, and to that he does a fine job but, well, this is a movie, and we need to connect with the protagonist and that isn’t easy, even at the end. It isn’t until she loses a friend to Michael that her walls fall and we see the girl we were rooting for all along. What really bothers me though is her character arc, which I won’t reveal as it effects the outcome of the film, but will say that it feels like a betrayal. Her arc just drives me mad.

Ah, but the good – this is well shot, well acted, and stays true to creating a new image of Michael. The emotion in this film is fantastic, and the actors really give Zombie their all. I mean, for a film that he didn’t wanna do, he doesn’t mail it in. But the entire thing feels as if it isn’t sure what it wants to be. Even at two hours it almost feels rushed. It stinks that fifteen minutes of the film are wasted on what amounts to a scary dream when that time should have been used on the film. Essentially Michael is coming to find Laurie and the chase is more of a walkabout that takes the movie’s length to complete.

But, see, I like the movie. H2 has energy, emotion, and a Michael that is once again an animal, only instead of a shark he is a gorilla that will not just kill but destroy anything that is in his way. The director’s cut changes a chunk of the ending, and adds some really good character moments that the first film could have really used. The added footage definitely makes this a stronger film.

As for the rest – I can see why Zombie needed the plot tool of ghost Mrs. M because she drives Michael’s narrative forward, but I miss when Michael just acted. I miss him being a dark, unstoppable force of nature and not a madman or a delusional man-child. I guess it’s like a friend said – we have seen the mama’s boy thing before with Jason Voorhees. It was refreshing that the only thing driving Michael was evil.

There is much that is wrong with H2, and at times you really do feel like this was something Zombie HAD to do more than something he wanted to do, but this is not a bad film. It is flawed, but not bad. Trust me, there are a lot of genuinely bad movies out there, and I have seen more than my fair share. This wraps up this two film arc and it works. We may not be happy about where the film goes and how it gets there but it is a brutal, dark, character driven horror film that is unlike what we usually get. These are not teens having random sex and doing drugs, these are people haunted by violence they cannot escape from. And in the end, Michael becomes the ultimate symbol for domestic abuse, intended or not. I will always prefer the original and the first two sequels to anything else to come down the Halloween pipe but when you look at the latter half of that series, well, trust me, it’s time to get off the hate horse and accept this as a valiant effort that just tries to do too much and doesn’t quite deliver on the promise in the end. But, really, Busta Rhymes and webcasts? That version of Michael Myers is better than this? Really? If you think that then friend, you have far more demons than Michael to exorcise and I wish you luck.

6.5 out of 10

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