Screenwriters: Rob Zombie
Starring: Scout Taylor-Compton, Tyler Mane, Malcolm McDowell, Brad Dourif, Sheri Moon Zombie, Danielle Harris
Running Time: 105 mins
Avoiding the temptation to remake the limp 1981 sequel to John Carpenter's slasher classic, this week's obligatory horror outing Halloween II continues to dive into the disturbed mindset of serial killer Michael Myers. Director Rob Zombie is back at the helm (after initially resisting approaches to return) and under his guidance the Halloween series spirals into a murky black hole.
After his apparent death at the hands of Laurie Strode (Taylor-Compton) at the close of 2007's remake, Michael Myers (Mane) awakens to wreak havoc across America. Zombie builds his sequel around three plot strands that collide for a grim finale - there's Myers's murderous rampage, Laurie's continued trauma after her last encounter with the sociopath, and psychologist Dr Loomis (McDowell, hamtastic and looking like Colonel Sanders) touring the country with a book about his most famous patient. It's Loomis's story that's the most intriguing as Zombie makes a flailing lunge for media satire that ends up being inadvertently perceptive about the resurrected Halloween franchise. Loomis's crass and tasteless exploitation of Myers mirrors the shameless cash-cowing of this waning horror series. "I'm spoon-feeding drivel to the masses," says Loomis at one point. He may as well be talking about Halloween II because this is a truly abysmal, brain-atrophyingly boring stab-a-thon of a movie.
There's initial shock in the violent killings, which become progressively more blood-thirsty and emphatic. Zombie throws Myers at a victim with a quick thud of the soundtrack and the plunging of a knife through flesh... over and over again. It's almost comedic, like in The Simpsons episode where Sideshow Bob keeps stepping on rakes and getting thwacked in the face. These are cheap schlock tactics that lose all impact the more they're rehashed. The creepy tension of Carpenter's '78 original is nowhere in sight here as Zombie favours hack and slash over suspense. Myers never lurks ominously at the edges of the frame as his victims walk on unawares. Why bother teasing your audience when you can have Michael hammer a naked stripper's head into a mirror repeatedly?
The horror icon loses much of his mystique through Zombie's lens, too. Once a random force-of-evil-boogeyman, now there's a backstory and an attempt to humanise, connecting him to the caterwauling Laurie as her older sibling. Myers is plagued by bizarre visions of his mother accompanied by a white horse, giving the impression that he's taking lives for a higher power. The psychoanalysis is a needless complication - slasher villains shouldn't have to be empathised with, they're much more chilling when there's no rhyme or reason to their actions, just a striking aesthetic and an unnerving musical theme (only used here right at the end).
To credit Zombie, at least he has the makings of a somewhat capable director. Filming an explosion with 12 cameras and getting your editor to pick the best shot might be how Michael Bay operates, but Zombie can frame a shot well and strings together sequences in a vaguely coherent manner. Ultimately, that's not enough to save this lumbering mess of a movie, which does no favours for the slasher genre, one that's fast losing any sense of innovation or vitality.
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