Sunday, August 30, 2009

And This Is How You Make a Mess

Like a good chunk of current horror fans, I rank The Devil’s Rejects as one of the best-made genre films of the last ten years, consider House of 1000 Corpses to be an obnoxious but not irredeemable scrimmage in filmmaking, and find the opening half of the Halloween remake to hold a pumpkin full of potential that gets squandered in the rushed second half. The news that Rob Zombie would be following up his 2007 film with a sequel that he once vowed to never touch was odd, but not unwelcome. Maybe, I thought, he needed to get the reboot homage out of the way to find his own vision for Michael Meyers.

Well. Perhaps he did, but that doesn’t mean it works. Halloween 2 (thankfully NOT called H2 in the actual credits) is, like its predecessor, an ugly, occasionally jarring, often annoying, and ultimately chaotic exercise in grisliness. It’s far more interesting than lackluster fare like the latest Friday the 13th or The Hitcher remakes, but ultimately, even the 2 hour running time--filled not in small part by quick shots of fake breasts, blasting music cues, and somewhere around 1872 uses of the word ‘fuck’--leaves us with a rough and confusing film without much to like.

Quick Plot: One year after surviving the return of Michael, Laurie Strode (the now more tolerable, if not quite sympathetic Scout Taylor-Compton) continues to be haunted by nightmares and bad fashion sense. Meanwhile, Dr. Loomis (the always reliable genre stalwart Malcolm McDowell), is thriving as a minor celebrity about to release his second book detailing the Haddonfield attack. And Michael? Well, he apparently woke up somewhere that contains Rob Zombie style hillbillies and has been trekking across the country/state/town/universe (it’s never clear) slaying anybody that gets in his way of reuniting with lil sis. For company, he is occasionally visited by mom Sheri Moon-Zombie dressed up for Halloween in a dime store ghost costume and leading a white horse through snow. (For the record, Zombie has adamantly stated there will be no Part 3--which he also did regarding Part 2--but if there is, I’m dying for it to feature a showdown between Moon’s Pegasus and Brad Dourif on a black stallion).

Also returning is Danielle Harris as the healthy-minded Annie, a far more enjoyable presence compared to Laurie’s new slutty goth friends. In typical Zombie style, other veterans pop up for random cameos with mixed results. Eventually, Michael comes home, Laurie learns some secrets, and we try to figure out what the hell is going on.*

One of the reasons I’ve always preferred Ebert to Siskel is that Ebert reviewed a film for its intended audience, while Siskel would criticize its plot for not being the direction he would have chose. At this point, I’m starting to think my issue with Rob Zombie’s Halloween series is not necessarily his filmmaking, but the tease of character development he’s now given us twice. I was intrigued by the young Michael Meyers as a natural born psychopath with a soft spot for his mother and baby sister, and therefore, I’ve been nothing but disappointed with Zombie’s decision to fast-forward through adolescence and jump into Meyers, now a 7 foot tall indestructible killing machine. As a fan of Chucky, I’ve never had issues with the abuse of realism of horror, but I don’t understand how or why someone with as much talent as Rob Zombie would start Michael out as a person and suddenly transform him into a demon. I don’t want a Part 6 style supernatural explanation, but it feels, once again, like Halloween 2 wants to explore Michael’s psychology but can’t quite shake the limitations of making a simple and grisly gorefest.

High Points
Brad Dourif clearly holds a special place in my heart, and here, he dutifully carries out the role of a guilt-ridden sheriff and ends up being the most sympathetic character in the bunch

Casting Margot Kidder as a psychologist is all sorts of ironically fun

No spoilers here, but one of my favorite performers--goodness no, it’s not Chris Hardwicke--makes a stellar cameo beside McDowell

The final shot is quite haunting, but see my spoiler rant below for more explanation*

Low Points
One of the most effective aspects of The Devil’s Rejects is how truly terrifying scenes take place under the hot sun, so it’s quite disappointing to see the majority of Halloween 2 occur in the poorly lit nighttime

While I enjoyed McDowell’s performance, his entire storyline felt like plot filler--especially considering its thin resolution

Zombie has proven before that he can compose a great shot, but here, he randomly chooses scenes to make artistic. As a result, these slow-motioned moments feel pretentious and out of place, while the rest of the filming just looks ugly

Lessons Learned
Post traumatic effects of surviving a nightmarish chase with a giant killer may include developing a goth persona, not wanting to clean your bathroom, and building an impressive tolerance to hard liquor

Illinois is home to the new Chris Hardwicke talk show, conveniently located ten minutes from Haddonfield

If you want to survive a Rob Zombie film, never work in the sex or stripping industry

Black-and-white cartoons are known to inspire vivid nightmares

Another word for a Dr. Frank-N-Furter Halloween costume would be “chick dressing up like a dude who wants to be a chick.” I guess someone did not obtain the rights to the Rocky Horror Picture Show

Jewish people use the phrase ‘kosher’

D-E-A-D spells not dead

See/Skip/Sneak In
Sigh. Fans of Zombie’s first Halloween will certainly want to check out this installment, and some may even enjoy it more. The Saturday night audience I had the displeasure of sitting with hardly seemed impressed at the conclusion, although they certainly seemed jumpy throughout. Despite my fairly negative review, I wouldn't want to discourage anyone from giving Halloween 2 a chance if he or she appreciates this kind of roughness onscreen. Just remember to stop by with some comments on your own take. I'm incredibly curious to hear other thoughts on this installment, especially as word of mouth contains more expletives than the film itself.


My understanding is that Laurie has simply snapped by the end, but my friend and I were both considering the fact that maybe she was the killer all along. The last few kills are committed with no witnesses. The cops can’t get a shot of Michael. The early murders have nothing to do with anything else happening onscreen and therefore could have simply been fantasies of a pre-aware Angel Meyers. If our theory was right, I’d have more respect for the film; at the same time, I’d also be annoyed that Zombie couldn’t commit to that idea. Either way, the ambiguity--and there’s a good chance dear Erica and I are the only ones that felt that--just seems, like the rest of the film, a big old mess.



  1. I just watched this on Pay Per View... I should have checked by here FIRST... ugh, I really did not like it at all. I don't know why I thought I would though. I really did not like his original remake either, but mostly for the fact that I think explaining Mike Meyers makes him LESS scary not more. I will also say that as this movie ended I turned to my boyfriend and said "Wait... so Mike Meyers was never alive? Angel did it all? I'm so confused!" So I'm with you there. I still don't really know what he intended, but it obviously didn't work for me... Sometimes I feel like so much of his films are just an excuse to have his wife look pretty/trashy/scary on screen and everything else is extra. I'm sure that I'm being a little harsh. I just find it hugely coincidental that she's SO VERY heavily featured in this when she could have been left out all together and it would have made more sense and been a more enjoyable film all around. (I don't dislike her either, I just feel like he's adding her to the plot just to do it, not because he has a point of view.)

  2. I don't mind a director taking a different approach to a remake, and oddly enough, my favorite part of Zombie's first Halloween was those first 45 minutes, just because it was something new. The crammed 45 minute version of Halloween shoved at the end made me feel like when you go to a big Christmas show and thew squeeze in a five minute version of Scrooge. Too rushed and nothing new.

    You don't know how happy it makes me to hear you had the same pseudo theory about Michael's non-existence! I still wish she had (or at least, had more definitively) if only to give the film some sort of 'okay, well he tried THAT...'

    And I also echo your thoughts on Sheri Moon. She finally became a decent actress in HAlloween, then was saddled (horse pun!) with a totally ridiculous and unecessary role in this one. She was wearing a dime store ghost costume for goodness sake!

    All that, and I'm still more than positive I'll pay to see his Blob remake.

  3. Oh, I'm sure I'll see the Blob remake. I also suppose I should have been more clear in the fact that I didn't hate part 1 as a movie, I just didn't like it as a part of the Halloween franchise. If it had been called something else (not that this is even plausible) I would have liked it. You're right that the best part about it is the first 45 minutes, I just don't want them to be about Michael, I want them to be about random crazy kid who killed his family and is now back. I am sure this all stems from the fact that the original Halloween is one of my first horror movies ever watched... (with my dad, when I was WAY to young to watch such things...)

    I also would have liked part 2 better had he really gone the psychological route at the end, because at least then all the gratuitous shots of Sheri and the horse would somehow have made more sense.

    Another big problem I had with it that I failed to mention, and that you only lightly touched one was Loomis. The character assassination of Loomis is almost inexcusable, I have a hard time believing that the Loomis from part 1 would have turned into that much of a prick. (Clearly old school Loomis wouldn't have, but I realize I should only be comparing Malcolm McDowell to himself here) but you're right, at the end of the day, he too could have just been left out all together and the plot wouldn't have suffered at all.

    The biggest compliment I can give either movie is I personally appreciated the casting of Danielle Harris, as a nod to all the old school movies. Also I love her in everything she does for some reason that probably stems from Rosanne... but that may just be me.

  4. I had a similar thought regarding the soon-to-be reviewed Day of the Dead remake. Had it not been called, you know, Day of the Dead, I think a lot of people wouldn't have hated it quite so fervently. I mean, we'd still be throwing spitballs at Nick Canon, but not with quite the same intensity.

    McDowell's Loomis was just a strange choice. I didn't mind the fact that Zombie took him in a different (i.e., jerk) direction, but you're absolutely right about his uselessness in the film. Aside from writing the book that reveals Angel's identity, there was no reason whatsoever to keep him in, unless Zombie just really wanted to make a 2 hour movie. I'm guessing they were just so damn happy that McDowell would come back that it just didn't matter that all of his scenes should have been cut (except for the Weird Al cameo, because HELLO! Weird Al in a Halloween movie!).

    I too loved Danielle Harris, both in the otherwise atrocious 4 & 5 and on Roseanne (super high five for Roseanne!). She, along with Douriff, was also the only thing worth watching in this film (oh! And Weird Al. Did I mention that?).

    It's tough because I feel like Rob Zombie REALLY loves horror and its fans (although clearly he loves his wife more), and he KNOWS how to make a movie. I really want him to do well, but first, has a checklist of about 5 things to NOT do as a director.

  5. You said it perfectly (which is why you have the blog, and I'm simply commenting on it...) Aside frome Danielle Harris, Douriff and Al, this movie was fully worthless to me, it's not even bad but funny... it's just boring and confusing.

  6. Well to be fair, if you make a drinking game out of white horse sightings, Sheri Moon cackles, or uses of the word 'fuck', you'll be drunk enough to think everything's funny!

  7. Too Too true! I now have to add it to the list of movies to watch this weekend at my "Girls Night Horror Fest" I've still got it DVR'd so I wouldn't have to pay for it again and we ALWAYS need an excuse to drink more! Good plan! Then we can walk around the civil war battlefield all wasted and scared aaah, good old West Virginia, we know how to have simple fun...

  8. "'House of 1000 Corpses' to be an obnoxious but not irredeemable scrimmage in filmmaking" ????

    Really? While the last 1/2 hour pretty much sucks once it gets to all that Dr. Satan nonsense the first hour is absolute brilliance.

  9. I think there's a lot of good in House of 1000 Corpses, but I still find it a pretty darn messy film. Like you said, the ending just goes bonkers and the overall effect just doesn't really last. There are some GREAT things going in the beginning, but that's why I call it a scrimmage. It's flawed, but shows a lot of promise, which you can see developed and disciplined in the far superior Devil's Rejects.

  10. This was a tough sit and a very unnecessary sequel, but the Chris Hardwick\Weird Al cameos were great.

  11. If memory serves--it's amazing how long ago 3 years feels--the Weird Al appearance was the only thing that gave me a smidgen of happiness. Sigh. This was a hard one.