Sunday, September 13, 2009

Review: Rob Zombie's Halloween II

I knew I shouldn’t have bothered to go see Halloween II, Rob Zombie’s latest bizarre gorefest, but I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for almost any movie given the glossy, Hollywood-makeover treatment, particularly those from the horror genre. This year’s Friday the 13th remake, 2003’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 2004’s Dawn of the Dead – I’ve seen all of them, and enjoyed them all for different reasons.  Some remakes are funny and self aware, poking fun at the genre, while others are just plain scarier than the originals – after all, I like to be really scared, and Jamie Lee Curtis whimpering in a closet isn’t quite as terrifying now as it was when I was ten.  But for every good remake (and obviously “good” is a relative term), there are twice as many remakes that are absolutely terrible – and Halloween II is one of those.

To be fair, Halloween II isn’t so much a remake as a re-imagining of the old story, as was Rob Zombie’s first Halloween.  Composed of some of the same events as the 1978 original, this story takes place in modern times, with a few (absurd) added touches.  Halloween II picks up where the last one left off: Laurie Strode, played by an annoyingly whiney Scout Taylor-Compton, has recently shot Michael Myers (whose body is, of course, missing), and now lives with Annie Brackett, a character from the first movie, and Annie’s somewhat creepy father, Sheriff Brackett.  She is an understandably screwed up gal, which Zombie illustrates with Laurie’s recurring, nonsensical dream sequences and her Nancy Spungen-esque wardrobe.  Just as she’s starting to get back on her feet, Michael (risen from the grave yet again) finds her and proceeds to kill everyone within a hundred mile radius.  Gore ensues.

The movie looks scary enough, to be sure.  Every character is made up phenomenally: Annie with her facial scars, Laurie’s dirty dreads and runny makeup, the sheriff’s greasy, bald head and bulging eyes.  No one is given the Hollywood pass on looks, and that does lend the movie an unsettling atmosphere, at least for a while.  However, the mood is effectively ruined after the first few murders, when it becomes clear that there will be no suspense whatsoever.  In short – and this is technically a spoiler, but you may as well know now – everyone dies.  If you see Michael Myers within a thousand feet of any person, you know for a fact that that person is going to die within the next five minutes.  Now tell me, where’s the fun in that?  By having Michael kill his victims almost immediately, every single time, all tension is eliminated.  I’m personally a fan of the drawn-out, suspenseful chase, which is wholly absent here, but even hardcore fans of gore won’t be satisfied because the killings are so brief and visually confusing.  (Was that a woman’s head or a man’s arm?  Who did he just kill?  I don’t know!  Does it even matter?)

In lieu of suspense or logic, Zombie makes the most bizarre decision of all: he gives Michael Myers sporadic visions of his dead mother (played by Zombie’s wife, Sheri Moon Zombie), a younger version of himself, and a white horse – all of whom do nothing of interest.  Michael’s mother, dressed in a glowing white dress and raccoon eye makeup, orders Michael to kill people while his younger self recites pointless lines and sports an even blanker face.  The monotone voices and vacant countenances of these characters are probably meant to be disturbing, but they instead come off as laughable, forcing one to wonder why Zombie insists on casting his wife in every movie he makes.  Even more puzzling, though, is why the characters were written into the movie in the first place.

There’s also Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), another character who does little to advance the plot or provide insight, but who does take up large amounts of screen time boring the audience and chewing scenery.  All of this strangeness culminates in an incomprehensible ending that just screams for yet another bad sequel... but let me be the first to admit that I’ll probably go and see that one, too.  Call me an eternal optimist, but I’m always looking for my next big scare.  This just wasn’t it.

Final Rating (out of 5):

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