(In Defense of) Halloween 2

There’s no way to put this delicately so I’m just going to come right out and say it. I really enjoyed ROB ZOMBIE’s HALLOWEEN 2. If you kids want to stop visiting your Unk here at Kindertrauma, I’ll understand. Maybe I’ll just set myself adrift on a block of ice like an unwanted, elderly Eskimo. If it helps, I can assure you that your Aunt John would really hate H2 if he ever saw it, so at least you know there is one person you can still count on roaming these halls.

First off, let me make it clear that I have no automatic allegiance to ROB ZOMBIE due to my being a roustabout delinquent who yearns to do that devil sign thingy in your face and play air guitar after tee-peeing your house. I think he has a fetching beard and all, but I’m not committed to him in any way as a symbolic anti authority figure or anything. ( I’m listening to OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN’s “Have You Never Been Mellow?” as I write this, if you require further proof). It just so happens that I always seem to end up enjoying his movies…even H2!

Now, let’s just take HOUSE OF 1,OOO CORPSES and DEVIL’s REJECTS off the defending table, last I checked it was sort of O.K. to like those in some territories. The real rub starts with his remake of HALLOWEEN. To be honest my love for the HALLOWEEN series is pretty fanatical, so much so that I even enjoy blatant rip-offs of the film. When R.Z.’s first HALLOWEEN came out it didn’t so much bring to mind JOHN CARPENTER’s classic movie to me as it did that movie’s sleazy imitators, films like ROMANO SCAVOLINI’s NIGHTMARE IN A DAMAGED BRAIN and JOE D’AMATO’s ABSURD. Those are not particularly well-crafted films, they take the HALLOWEEN premise and run off with it like a stray mutt stealing a hot dog, but I loved never knowing how far into the realm of unpleasantness they might go and I admired their wild tactless enthusiasm.

So too with ROB’s film, nobody could ever really touch upon CARPENTER’s deft directing hand or the lightening in a bottle fatalistic vibe of the first film anyway. Even ZOMBIE’ naysayers may admit that if nothing else he brought in a willingness to explore uncharted territory to a franchise that was becoming sadly domesticated. Yep, he made some weird decisions (“Love Hurts”), but I’d rather that than uniform predictability and more running in circles chasing runes or…uh, I swore I wouldn’t mention his name but it rhymes with Rhymes.

ROB’s sequel works in much the same way as the first film but suddenly he has the audacity to wedge surreal arthouse imagery into the mix. Sometimes it’s maddeningly effective (an alarming pumpkin headed demon tea party of some sort) and sometimes it steers close to drunk relative embarrassing (the first vision of SHERI with the white horse is a “hide his car keys” moment for sure).

Speaking of that horsey! What a troublesome mare, not only was it allegedly stolen from DAVID LYNCH’s barn but it comes complete with a title card explaining its meaning for all you dum-dums out there (hey wow, it even appears in a Rorschach image in shrink MARGOT KIDDER’s office). I know, I know, It’s like ROB graduated from the VINCENT GALLO school of audience appreciation and wants to cram his diploma up your nose, but still, what’s going on here is all so very nutzo crazy outlandish I can’t peel my eyes off of the screen. In fact, I cannot believe this movie is playing in malls across America or that it is a sequel to a major franchise. If you take Mike Myers out of the equation it, at times feels, like you have stepped into some run down theater circa 1981 and are just watching the most rabid, taste defying trash-fest ever made…and yeah, I’m saying that’s a good thing!

Visually H2 is craptasticly glorious, cinematographer BRANDON TROST (who scuzzed it hard for CRANK 2 as well) makes everything either resemble a cigarette damaged Polaroid or a third generation BAVA bootleg. ZOMBIE gets a lot of grief for his so-called trash aesthetic but I’ll take his, clutter happy, neon SANFORD & SON approach over the unrecognizable sterile world seen in other slasher remakes like PROM NIGHT and WHEN A STRANGER CALLS any day of the week. I’m not talking phony out of date SE7EN inspired faux-weathering like you’ll find in the SAW films either, ZOMBIE’s greasy hodgepodge feels authentically piss stained and may actually give you fleas. It’s not all gutter stompin’ by a long shot though, some of the images (like the skeleton with Myers mask crucifixion bit) are just stunning.

Now, the grainy, damaged look of the film will come as no surprise to anyone, but the thing that keeps me fascinated about ZOMBIE’s world is that his characters actually get beaten and damaged too and fittingly it isn’t pretty or inspiring or even fun to behold. Nobody digs down to find a magical powerful self to save the day here. Laurie Strode is a shrill basket case, Sam Loomis is a narcissistic opportunist, victim Linda’s dad has gone postal and the Brackets, Annie and Sheriff Lee, are just barely holding it together. (Hopefully the intriguing dialogue from the trailer that has Annie confronting Laurie about not being the only one whose “life was trashed” will appear on one of the inevitable Director’s cuts…actually any additional scenes involving HARRIS or DOURIF would be greatly appreciated).

As we know, dear Michael is the most damaged of them all and I get the argument that some of his mystique is lost now that we have what? A full half hour of background information on his childhood, (jeez, it’s not like we know his PIN number or anything). Plus really, this is Mike’s 10th outing, just how much of a blushing virgin do you want him to be?

Of course, dramatically speaking, we’re not talking UNCLE VANYA here, but I really applaud the fact that these people are negatively affected by their experiences and are physically and mentally scarred. I’d rather that than the typical unrealistic horror movie survivor’s reaction of arms defiantly akimbo or stoic martyrdom. In other words, regardless of ROB’s reliance on f-bombs, in this depressive beat down atmosphere you never have to worry that the film will end with Laurie yelling, “Trick or treat mother fucker!” while landing a fatal blow to her bro (that’s very important to me!). There’s no way of disguising the fact that ZOMBIE feels compelled to trample on some icons here (especially Loomis), but as far as I’m concerned this is a mucky alternative dimension where anything goes.

I’ll admit that ROB is not exactly HITCHCOCK when it comes to setting up a suspense scene, he’s more likely to just bludgeon you with imagery and hope something sticks. I’m O.K. with that not being his strong suit because I do think he has something else to offer. This guy does not paint by the numbers, in fact, he paints in broad drippy obnoxious strokes and I frankly adore how raw and intuitive it all feels. He’s like the guy in art class who acts like he doesn’t give a rat’s ass, makes the biggest mess, finishes before everybody else and then ends up with the only work that has any type of energy in the room. He’s not afraid of making HUGE mistakes, and I think in the end that is worthwhile and keeps my interest more than any slick streamlined product ever could. Nobody has any business at all expecting a movie like this to be widely popular considering just how off the wall and surly it ends up being, I however, while fully admitting that it has problems with momentum, especially near the end, find it to be rather refreshing, particularly in its ambivalent attitude toward fan boy expectations.

As a youngin’ there were some horror movies that I found easy to love J.C’s HALLOWEEN was one, HELL NIGHT, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME are other examples. These were movies that were scary in their own way but in the end offered rather romantic visions of terror and the plight of the victims involved. On the other hand there were these other movies like MANIAC, PIECES (hilarious now, not so much back then), and the aforementioned NIGHTMARE IN A DAMAGED BRAIN that pushed me beyond my safety zone and seemed horribly chaotic and made no promises to me about sticking to a tasteful, or even comprehensible path. ZOMBIE’s movies always remind me of artier versions of those latter movies mentioned and H2 is no exception. As much as I respect being in the hands of a technical master who can wrap everything up in a tight bow at the end, as a horror fan, I sometimes require the thrill of taking a walk with somebody who may just do something nutty and random, somebody who just might push me off a cliff for the hell of it and offer no explanation later.

To me HALLOWEEN 2 represents a schlocky anarchistic side to the genre that is nearly dead. (From the look at the critical response nobody’s planning a big funeral either.) Then again none of the other movies I’ve mentioned (including the original HALLOWEEN by the way) were spared the critical sword upon arrival either. If you consider yourself a fan of cult cinema though you might do well to realize that H2 is what it looks like when it’s recently hatched. Here you have it without that helpful twenty-year long chasm between you to make it more digestible and fuzzy cute. It’s not pretty is it?

Ultimately, this movie does not need any recommendation from me; it’s bonkers enough to rally its own crowd for years to come. I will say this though, in my opinion ZOMBIE’s HALLOWEEN 2 is a throwback to the good old days when horror movies still aspired to be reasonably horrible and had little interest in tap dancing for the approval of the mainstream. True, it has some serious fumble moments; it’s messy, ugly and feels a bit like a spit in the face as well, but it’s willingness to tread off the beaten path (I’m not kiddin’ remember that pumpkin head tea party I mentioned?) and its feral unapologetic energy left me feeling invigorated and even hungry for more. I say bring on that crazy loco Director’s cut!

O.K., you can delete me from your Myspace page now, I can take it…love hurts.

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Jeff Allard
13 years ago

Awesome write-up, Unk – it’s enough to make me wish we saw the same movie! I’m not a fan of this one but I hear what you’re saying. I did dig on the visuals as well but as they really don’t amount to anything – and unlike the random weirdness that spikes, say, a Lynch film, I feel they really should’ve – I felt that Zombie was making this movie too much on the fly. A little bit of thought towards where your story is going isn’t such a bad thing, in my opinion. As for the suffering of his characters, I agree that it’s good to see some real pain and characters who aren’t glib about their traumas but on the other hand, I think Zombie just piles on the misery in a way that in its own way is unrealistic. It’s a one-note approach, I think.

As for the craziness that you cite, I think it’s all on the visual end with no real surprises in the story itself. To me, this was a conventional Halloween film at heart – Michael comes back to fuck up some more people, the end – garnished with some wigged out visuals.

For a brief, fleeting moment at the end I thought Zombie was going to pull a High Tension on us and THAT would’ve been very exciting had he done that and been able to pull it off properly. Then it would’ve really taken Halloween into a whole new direction but that turned to be a false expectation on my part.

Sorry I couldn’t share your enthusiasm for this one, Unk – but I promise that your review will be on my mind should I ever watch Halloween II again!

13 years ago

So far, Unk, you’ve managed to write the only interesting review of the film that I’ve seen on the blogs. Excellent job.

13 years ago

The Baron and I saw this on Saturday night and, judging by the audience response there, it seemed like we might’ve been the only folks who had fun with it!  Glad to read that we’re not entirely alone in this.  You responded really similarly to a lot of the things I dug, Unk (that pumpkin tea party delighted me beyond belief) and you make me feel like maybe–just maybe–I wasn’t (that) drunk and (that) crazy.  Sure, the movie’s a mess, but there was enough texture and interesting stuff to hold my interest.  Still wishing RZ would make a non-reboot flick in the soonly-future, though…
A great post, a great review, and a great way to kick off my Monday.  Hoo-rah, mister  🙂

13 years ago

Wow.  Excellent review. The film was indeed in need of some defense. I didn’t dislike his first Halloween, even though “He’s not afraid of making HUGE mistakes”, it was ok. Better than I expected. I find that I do enjoy Zombie’s trash aesthetic for it’s own sake. Devil’s Rejects is a hoot. But overall his work is easy to dismiss, like (very heavy) fluff.
I also like to watch films by film-makers who are scarier than any of the characters in the film. You never know what they are going to do next, they don’t play by the rules, and that is fun.  Very nice post. Yours, Mike.

aunt john
13 years ago

Actually, I did just happen to catch this somewhat endearing hot mess of a mess this afternoon and I honestly liked it a lot more than I thought I would.

Going forward, I pray Mr. ZOMBIE is kept at a safe distance from the Silver Shamrock Novelties Company.

13 years ago

This is a very erudite and proper review, Unk, and mirrors a lot of my own thoughts on the film. Strangely enough, despite the justifiably defended “trash aesthetic” that Rob’s been crafting, I can’t help but become fixated upon individual scenes in his films that suggest he’s going to try, and succeed, at developing a perhaps unconventional but “straight” drama at some point in the future. For instance, there’s a dolly shot in his first Halloween that reveals young Michael, his mom, and Loomis at an emotionally uncomfortable attempt at a festive dinner in the asylum and I couldn’t help but immediately think , “Hey, that’s a better Wes Anderson shot than Wes Anderson had in his last movie.”  Perhaps that’s a trend: please note that Wes Anderon had a better John Woo scene in “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” than John Woo had in his previous film. Which subsequently suggests that some film is going to have a better Rob Zombie-ish scene than something that was in H2. Moreover, from the first Halloween remake, I am also anticipating Sheri Moon Zombie eventually having a “Steel Magnolias”-type role in some mainstream release, the kind where its marketing department has to fret whether or not to include her Zombie surname on its promotion. I don’t think I’m alone in this bit of prognostication.

13 years ago

Saw it 3 times this weekend and would be back everyday this week if it weren’t for real life.

13 years ago

We still ♥ you Unk!!  And, as usual, your post made me laugh my ass clean off.

Eric Eddy
11 years ago

I actually like most of Rob Zombie’s films with the exception of the blasphemous “reimaging” of the Halloween series (I will not say remake, as it has little to nothing familiar in it, aside from character names and a mask).

I will now list the things I hated about the first Rob Zombie’s Halloween that made me avoid the second one like the black plague:

1. The back story. Look, we all know Michael Myers is a nutjob. The fact that Rob Zombie is trying to make us feel symapthy for a psychpopath (in an extremely cheesy and unoriginal way, no less), when Maniac did it much more effectively and realistically. The childhood crap was wholly unnecessary. Michael Myers is crazy. That’s all the explanation we needed in the original, and they didn’t need half of the ****ing movie to tell us that.

2. Michael Myers is NOT Jason Voorhees. The character was mutilated so badly, it has no redeemable qualities. Michael Myers is a silent stalker of large (but not gigantic) proportions. He doesn’t need to bust through a wall/floor/anything in order to be effectively frightening. Maybe Rob watched the crappy Halloween sequels way to much or something.

3. Pretty much everything else in the movie, from the casting to the soundtrack. All of it was unnecessary glitz that is especially unneeded in a so-called “gritty” movie.

OK, I’m done venting.

Drew Bludd
Drew Bludd
7 years ago

Halloween 2 was a lot of fun. Anyone bugged by it needs to get their priorities in check

Amanda Mullins
Amanda Mullins
4 years ago

I love this movie, even though it depresses the hell out of me, hehe. When I first went to see it in theaters, though, the hospital scene made me so squeamish I had to leave the theater for fear of throwing up. I’m talking cold sweat, jumping out of my skin squeamish. I later read that the hospital scene was (spoiler!) only a dream and I kicked myself. Still, now that I have the DVD, I skip that scene every time.

I love Brad Dourif as Sheriff Lee Bracket! I love Brad Dourif anyway, but he brought a sweet warmth to the character. The scene where he breaks down and cries makes me cry every time </3.