Halloween II (2009)

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*. Rob Zombie’s Halloween was, to get the terminology right, not so much a remake of John Carpenter’s 1978 original as it was a reset of the franchise. Which means there was always going to be a sequel.
*. But Zombie’s first film stalled badly halfway through and was clearly running on empty through the final half hour. So it’s not like it took a full head of steam with it into sequel territory. Since the only thing I liked from the first film, Michael’s back story, wasn’t going to be in this one, what I anticipated was just a whole lot more of what I didn’t like.
*. This is not quite what happened. I didn’t like this movie, but not for its lack of trying to do something a little different.
*. After an exceptionally long, confusing, and alienating dream intro, this movie picks up a year after the events of the first. But so much has changed it scarcely feels like a sequel.
*. Young Michael is no longer Daeg Faerch, who I quite liked in the 2007 film. Apparently Faerch had aged a lot in two years. Here Michael is played by Chase Wright Vanek, who looks much prettier.
*. Michael’s mom is no longer a hard-working single mom with a difficult child but some kind of evil ethereal demon princess.
*. Dr. Loomis is no longer a concerned child psychiatrist but an obnoxious celebrity author wannabe.
*. Laurie (“Angel”) Strode and her friend Annie are no longer highschool students but Gen-Y slackers. Laurie in particular has slid from being a model student and babysitter to being a tattooed, drug-taking, party girl.
*. Are we to believe that Laurie is just finding out now, from Loomis’s book, that she’s Michael’s sister? Wouldn’t the press have been all over that?
*. What happened to Carpenter’s Halloween score? It only reappers here at the very end. Zombie used it more in the remake and he has nothing to replace it with here.
*. Kim Newman: “Rob Zombie plainly loves horror films . . . but proves frustratingly unable to apply his talents to making them. . . . His Halloween is less a remake than fan fiction, reimagining its Shape as an abused, animal-torturing son of a pole-dancer (Sheri Moon Zombie) and depicting Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) as a fame-chaser on a par with Gale Weathers, but the film is unable to work up much interest in or empathy with Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton). A dangerous dislike of ordinary people, an inability to care about victims and a lack of interest in suspense (and, therefore, terror) doesn’t serve to deepen the series but to drag it down a depressing dead end.”
*. I don’t agree with all of this. I think Zombie does care about his characters, albeit not as many of them in this film. But he is a very limited filmmaker, with almost no talent for building suspense. He also doesn’t have much of an imagination, and doesn’t appear to be growing as a writer or a director.
*. There was a lot of countercasting in the previous film, with well-known weirdos playing authority figures. A number of them are back here, plus we get a psychiatrist played by Margot Kidder. At least Zombie is sticking to the formula.
*. What’s new in this film is silly, and what’s not new is very dull. We even get the same predilection for women crawling on the ground away from the killer. The deaths are, again, perfunctory. There is only one good kill (where the strip club bouncer has his head kicked in). The rest is the just the usual parade of stabbings, only with more of a music-video sensibility to the photography.
*. I mentioned in my notes on the first film that Zombie is more Texas Chain Saw than Halloween, with the feral family being his real obsession. That was obvious from the long intro to that film, and it’s back here with the Myers family reappearing as ghosts. No matter how crazy and inexplicable their presence, Zombie simply had to shoehorn them back in.
*. Originally everyone was supposed to die at the end, making Laurie’s final Norman Bates-style smile a postcript from the afterworld. Instead we’re left to wonder how much, if anything, in this film is real. A question that’s a lot less interesting than it sounds.

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