While I was reading up on the SHIRLEY TEMPLE fantasy flick THE BLUE BIRD, I found that consensus held that its financial failure was due to the fact that audiences could not stomach seeing SHIRLEY in an â€œunsympatheticâ€ role.
Weâ€™ll get to ROB ZOMBIEâ€™s DIRECTOR CUT of HALLOWEEN II in a moment but first Iâ€™d like to know whatâ€™s so darn unsympathetic about SHIRLEY‘s character Mytyl in THE BLUE BIRDâ€¦
Let me break down Mytylâ€™s â€œbrattyâ€ behavior for you; when the film opens we find her putting forth great effort into capturing a bird and then finally succeeding. On the way home with her prize some girl who claims to be ill suggests that Mytyl hand it over it to her, and Myty rightfully declines. Later, Mytyl comes across a mansion where folks are living it up at a Christmas party. She points out that those who have to work the event are having zero fun.
Once home, Mytyl accesses her surroundings and feels great dissatisfaction She demands to know why her digs are so cheap when others are living high on the hog. Mytyl refuses to be placated with the old â€œothers have it worse then you so shut up â€œ spiel. The girl canâ€™t help it, she wants more.
Thatâ€™s about it, the rest of the movie sheâ€™s helping strangers find their lost belongings, yodeling for peopleâ€™s entertainment and playing therapist to a bunch of unborn children. She even hands over the bird to the sick girl eventually, so really why the hell is she so darn â€œunsympatheticâ€?
Is it because she expressed her unhappiness and dissatisfaction? Is it because she voiced her discontent? Is it because she had the audacity to stop tap-dancing for other peoples benefit and wonder whatâ€™s in it for her? Audiences want Mytyl (and SHIRLEY really) to shut up and tow the line; they want those dimples to shine.
All of this was on my mind when I sat down to revisit Haddonfield with the directorâ€™s cut of H2. Now, I defended the theatrical cut for its schlocky, rough around the edges grindhouse charm and general off kilter bizarreness but Iâ€™m now prepared to unabashedly call the directorâ€™s cut one of my favorite films of last year. It quite simply fascinates the hell out of me. Is Michael Myers wearing a hoodie in this? Do they show his face? You know what? I couldn’t care less about that guy at this point. Iâ€™m intrigued, enamored and obsessed with this cut of the film because Laurie Strode takes off her own mask here and reveals her rage. Is she sympathetic? Does she yodel and tap dance for the audience? The time for keeping up a polite front is over. Laurie Strode is seriously fucked up and whether you like her or not is beside the point.
I realize that the directorâ€™s cut of H2 will not alter the opinion of those who hated the theatrical cut, but my point is that the very best parts of this movie were extracted from that version in order to make Laurie moreâ€¦hereâ€™s that word again â€œsympathetic.â€
Obviously this is NOT the same Laurie we met in 1978, but letâ€™s say for a moment that she is, and for over 30 years this character has behaved for the audience. She has taken it on the chin, acted the hero and came back for more. Letâ€™s say that Laurie Strode in any incarnation is the ultimate embodiment of every horror victim, letâ€™s say she represents every screamer there ever wasâ€¦
Now she wants to tell you what itâ€™s like to live in fear. Now she wants to tell you how maddening it is that sheâ€™s expected to go back to normal. She wants to reveal that she canâ€™t even stand to look at her best friendâ€™s face because it is a constant reminder of her pain. Sheâ€™s pissed off, sheâ€™s angry, confused, and sheâ€™s brimming over with self-loathing. She wants to hurt herself and she wants to hurt the ones who stand by her. These feelings are impossible to neatly box away. The past constantly bleeds into the present. Hallucinations parade through the waking day. She identifies with her attacker, who else on earth could possibly understand the fury brewing inside her?
All of the above is consistent with the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder but what the hell is it doing in a slasher sequel? Wouldnâ€™t we rather see Laurie transformed into a warrior? Why isnâ€™t she MACGYVER-ing traps or sleuthing through microfilms? How about an archery training montage?
Apparently audiences donâ€™t want to see Laurie’s pain and even if they could withstand the repulsiveness of her vulnerability you canâ€™t possibly expect them to accept the ugliness of her guilt and the stench of her anger. â€¦thatâ€™s just silly. If horror movies, particularly slasher films are built to thrill teenagers then why the hell is this one such a boner killer?
H2, unlike just about every horror sequel I can think of, actually stops and asks Laurie how sheâ€™s doing. Laurie answers honestly but itâ€™s not what we want to hear. How unsympathetic, what a selfish victim to not hide away her anguish.
Sure big bro Mike stomping on a head is alarming but the real horror in this movie comes from the idea that the old idiom about â€œwhatever doesnâ€™t kill you makes you strongerâ€ only works if youâ€™re seven feet tall. The sad reality for Laurie is that the â€œwhateverâ€ that didnâ€™t kill her only made her suffering (and med dosage) stronger. Sheâ€™s a 19 year old who lost her parents, several friends, got the tar beat out of her and ultimately had to shoot a guy in the face to save her own hide; whenâ€™s she gonna get her act together?
Even more intriguing (to me) than Laurieâ€™s down hill dementia-dive are the dynamics of her tumultuous relationship with best bud Annie Bracket (DANIELLE HARRIS), which was lightly skimmed over in the theatrical, or as I like to call it â€œmallâ€ version. I get why they dropped this stuff for the Friday night crowd, dialogue and drama is teen boy kryptonite but itâ€™s the beating heart of the movie and it makes Annieâ€™s ultimate fate that much more devastating. In other words, with the added addition of roughly 15 minutes of extra footage, Iâ€™m not feeling very guilty about this guilty pleasure anymore.
ZOMBIE has a talent for falling between barstools; too violent for this crowd, too dime store pretentious for that one. It just so happens I enjoy that no manâ€™s land. I wouldnâ€™t disagree that Zâ€™s trash-attack approach was an unnecessary crutch but that doesnâ€™t change the fact that he makes a genuine point of grafting frequently shirked emotional levels on to the slasher template. Itâ€™s actually pretty amazing to observe MARGOT KIDDER star of the inaugural slasher BLACK CHRISTMAS attempting to coach Laurie on how to function post assailment and getting a face full of â€œfuck youâ€ in return.
With his long hair and fuzzy face youâ€™d think hobo Mike was a stand in for the director but I think heâ€™s just a decoy. ZOMBIE is really doppelgang-banging neo-Strode. Look at them, two defensive, discordant peas in a pod, up against the wall with something to express that nobody wants to hear. Remember kids, opinions are like assholes, the more you expose your own, the less friends you have.
O.K, Iâ€™m rambling here. What was my point? Oh, yeah HALLOWEEN 2: THE DIRECTORâ€™s CUT and THE BLUE BIRD (1940) are the perfect double feature! They both have petulant protagonists, specifically colored animal symbolism and a ghostly fairy lady leading the way. Donâ€™t believe me? Well, I’m half past give a shit. Iâ€™m sure ROB, Laurie and Mytle understand.
I usually avoid Zombies films like the plague.Â I’m actually going to check this one out now.
I just can’t get past the fact that it’s “Halloween”. I know it’s my own issue. I can never embrace it because he touched in my eyes the untouchable. Now Michael, show us where Mr. Zombie touched you. Noooooooo!!!!!!!
Dammit Unk, you talked me into it.Â As much as it pains me to say this, I am intrigued…
I was perfectly content on living out all the days of my life without having seen this purported shit fest. You singlehandedly convinced me otherwise. Damn yous!
I know the original is sacred. Actually, I think the original is SO GOOD that it can stand up to 1,000Â interpretations.
I know Unk, I get it. But to me the last paragraph you wrote will never right true “..he probably made the most original horror sequel of all time…”Â Because in my eye’s it’s not original. Why couldn’t he have just taken that extra step and created something wholly his own. Then it can be taken completely on his own merits. It’s not like Halloween owns the rights to serial killer movies. Make something truly and wholly original.Â He’s done it before.Â And again, I honestly agree with everything you said (in theory). I would have an easier time if someone reinterpreted another film. I just have a hard time with something that in my eyes didn’t need reinterpretation. It was pure perfection already. Halloween is just holy to me.
Unk, you did it. You nailed me once you brought music into the discussion. You’re right I too enjoy hearing cover versions of songs (even the ones I revere) just to hear that person’s take on it.Â I even have a playlist on my iPod with nothing but cover versions of songs. Maybe I can use that to get past my own issues.Â And it’s funny, my friends love to bring this up Zombie because they know it’s funny to see me get red faced. It’s the only remake I’ll do it with.Â I’ve enjoy many others.Â All the best kind sir.
Thank you for this intelligent review. I thought I was the only one who thought it was one of the best movies of last year.
There was a time when I believed, as you do, that it is the job of a story-teller to push his audience: to FORCE you to think. I thought, as you say here, that deeply personal and genre-busting plot threads should be embraced rather than rejected. After all, that’s how growth happens, right? Without that stretching, every film is just a copy of a copy.
But then I got old. I had a kid. And my perspective changed. Suddenly, I knew that there were certain things I wanted from entertainment that was no more than entertainment. Suddenly, I didn’t have the time or the energy to devote to caring about whether the mindless action or inane comedy or formula slasher flick I watched was “derivative” or not. If I wanted to devote time and energy to a thought-provoking movie, I would. But there were some times when I just didn’t care.
There’s a reason why Ellen DeGeneres’s sitcom had 4 years of pretty good ratings and then the bottom dropped out in her fifth. It isn’t that the viewing public were all so homophobic that no one wanted to watch–her ratings now, as well as the success of Will and Grace in the same time period, prove that. It was that the story lines that season were all thoughtful explorations into what her sexuality meant, and no one wanted that from a sitcom that, before, was primarily about a silly neurotic woman making freudian slips and pratfalls.
I guess what I’m saying is that it’s tough to take a realistic portrayal of loss and emotion from a Rob Zombie film–not just because Zombie may not be the best individual to realistically and viscerally portray a woman surviving horrible loss, but because no one would expect it from him. Or even want it.
Unk, Thank you so much for both of your thoughtful posts about Zombie’s Halloween 2.Â I, like so many horror freaks have an undying love for the original Halloween.Â Â After seeing Zombie’s H2 I was very pleased that Rob took the characters in the directions he did, and felt that with this film he made the story (both films) his own.Â Full disclosure: this is my first time visiting your site thanks to a link from the official Rob Zombie website (where he gives you props for getting the message of his film).
While I’ve yet to see the director’s cut (though thanks to your post I’ll be checking it out soon) I came to pretty much the same conclusion as you did about Laurie Strode.Â The way I see it Zombie was trying to say (mainly through Laurie and Loomis, but through others as well) that people respond to traumatic events differently.Â As you said Laurie went through hell (sorry for the cliche) with her parents and several friends being murdered, and having the same guy nearly kill her, only to have to shoot him in the face, and as far as she knew, killing him.Â I think it would be awfully arrogant of us as fans to assume this young lady would be able to get over such an event in the span of a year.Â Not to mention the fact that Laurie went to live with the Brackets afterwards, who in their own right were traumatized by the events and living a kind of “trashy” lifestyle.Â I think this was a completely plausible place to take Laurie’s character, and while it may be “predictable” that Rob would make her get into a “punk” sort of lifestyle, it’s what Rob knows and it worked very well.
I also really like where Zombie took Loomis’ character.Â It took some balls on his part to do it, but again I think it’s completely plausible that after nearly dieing at Michael’s hands Loomis would re-evaluate his life and take aÂ different approach.Â Again Loomis thinks Michael is dead and he’s devoted so many years of his life to trying to rehabilitate Michael, and seeing that he stayed locked up, then tried to protect the public from him, and then almost dies doing it.Â I’m not saying I know what Zombie was thinking writing Loomis for H2, but it makes sense to think that with Michael dead (as far as he knew) Loomis’ life would seem empty, and the combination of that and almost dieing could bring him to the conclusion that he should live life to the fullest and exploit the resources available to him.Â Sadly for the characters in the story, Loomis goes the route of the tell-all expose, and book tour in order to get rich off of other people’s suffereing (much like is all too common in real life, even if the exploiting others bit is not always intended).Â I could continue about this development of Loomis’ character throughout the film but you probably get my point.
Excuse me if I rambled a bit, it’s just that I’ve been sitting on these thoughts for about a year and reading your post brought it out of me.Â Not to mention that nearly everything I’ve read on any horror website about Zombie’s Halloween films has been negative and closed-minded.Â So thanks again for your wonderful posts, and the great comparisons to “The Blue Bird.”Â As a lover of great old films I’ll have to check that out now too.Â By the way, I’m a fan of Rob’s music too, but definately have no blind allegience to the man or his work.Â I just really appreciate his understanding of horror conventions, and as you (much more poetically) put it he spit in the face of those slasher conventions with this film and it got a lot ofÂ fans’ underoos in a bunch.Â I admire him for that, mainly for going the different route, but sometimes you have to piss people off to do your own thing.
Hey.. I know this review is old, but I LOVE this film, I have seen it more times than I can count. I am finally glad it got the review it deserves.
How did I find it?
Rob Zombie hiimself posted a link to here on his Twitter!
I must confess that I, too, really enjoyed H2. I despised Zombie’s first foray into the Halloweeniverse, but this one was so absolutely nuts that it really drew me in.
I’m not sure what to think about Zombie as a director from this movie. He thinks so little of the audience, that he has a title card to explain his hackneyed symbolism, but he filled the movie with enough insanity to make me think that it’s crazy on purpose rather than falling into a so-bad-it’s-good category. Either way, I enjoyed watching it.
I wrote a 32 page paper on Halloween back in school (year 2000) so I consider myself as big a fanatic (expert? authority?) as anyone.
Loved the Halloween remake. Well, the first half anyway. L-O-V-E-D it. It had what all other remakes lack: it was fun to watch.
Didn’t love H2 as much but in an age if Insidious, Paranormal Activity sequels and Final Destinations it beats any scary movie I’ve seen this decade.
I own the Director’s Cut on DVD, and as much as I like the film, I only watch it near Halloween. It’s not a feel good film. I highly sympathize with Laurie Strode, having been through hell and being expected to go back to normal….she’ll never be the same again!
Her shrillness kinda gives me a headache, though.
You also convinced me to watch The Bluebird :).