Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #281
Number of Views: Two
Release Date: August 28, 2009
Country of Origin: United States
Box office: $39,421,467
Running time: 105 minutes
Director: Rob Zombie
Screenplay: Rob Zombie
Characters: John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Producers: Malek Akkad, Andy Gould, Rob Zombie
Special Effects: Robert Vazquez, Wayne Toth, Louis Kiss, Lucas Godfrey
Visual Effects: Mark Dornfeld
Cinematography: Brandon Trost
Score: Tyler Bates
Editing: Glenn Garland
Studios: Dimension Films, Spectacle Entertainment Group, Trancas International Films
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Stars: Taylor Scout-Compton, Danielle Harris, Brad Dourif, Malcolm McDowell, Tyler Mane, Sheri Moon-Zombie, Chase Vanek, Caroline Williams, Brea Grant, Mary Birdsong, Margot Kidder, Dayton Callie, Richard Brake, Octavia Spencer, Richard Riehle, Howard Hesseman, Angela Trimbur, Diane Ayala Goldner, Adam Boyer, Duane Whitaker, Betsy Rue, Mark Boone Junior, Daniel Roebuck, Catherine Dyer, Sylvia Jefferies, Silas Weir Mitchell
Suggested Audio Candy
Tyler Bates “Killing Spree”
I’m a big fan of Rob Zombie’s films. House of 1000 Corpses was marvelous, The Devil’s Rejects phenomenal, and The Lords of Salem far better than it was given credit for. His hit to strike ratio is impressive and, in 2007, he saw fit to resurrect one of horror’s ultimate screen badasses Michael Myers, giving the long-faded franchise a new lick of paint and defibrillating its flagging fortunes. By all accounts, his entry was fairly successful. Whilst adding nothing massively new to the formula, it fleshed out Michael’s childhood and offered insight into what triggered his psychosis. It could be argued that this was superfluous as The Shape’s ambiguity is what makes him so terrifying a prospect but at least he strived to give audiences something a little different. His inimitable style was both a blessing and a curse on that occasion but he did have the courage of his convictions, remaining true to his own template, whilst tipping his Stetson to John Carpenter’s enigma in the process.
Two years passed and, after his original received a luke-warm reception from critics and fan boys alike, Mr Zombie decided to revisit Haddonfield a second time. This time his vision was greeted far less kindly and made an example of as what not to do with a series in dire need of reinvention. It was the final nail in the coffin and, despite returning to form with Salem, his copybook had been blotted. I always sat on the fence with Halloween II, there were flashes of ingenuity and plenty of his trademark style and swagger on exhibit, but key factors dragged it down and the end product was painfully conflicted. I put much of this down to my own unrealistic expectation and waited until the dust had settled before venturing back to Myers’ home town for a second outing, hoping nay praying for a more satisfactory conclusion. What I gleaned from the experience was that I really should trust my gut.
Halloween II is single-handedly one of the most frustrating pieces of horror cinema ever committed to celluloid. A great filmmaker doesn’t lose that ability overnight and there are plenty of examples of a man still near the top of his game. The sequel bolts from the blocks with all guns blazing, providing a taut opening twenty-five minutes which choke holds us into submission making ingenious use of The Moody Blues’ Nights in White Satin. In this time he signals his intent, Michael is taking absolutely no prisoners and is hell-bent on making sure that his quarry is obliterated in no uncertain terms. We are given a hospital setting as his bargaining tool and, considering Rick Rosenthal’s original sequel used this locale to such wondrous effect back in 1981, it looks like it may well be game on. That is until the stretch limo turns up.
Inside this gleaming chariot is a man who needs no formal introduction. Dr Sam Loomis, the thorn in Michael’s side, defender of the realm, and the only man capable of stopping a repeat performance. Donald Pleasence, God rest his soul, wore that musky overcoat five times and it fitted him beautifully. Enter Malcolm McDowell, an actor whom has proven his mettle on many occasions, a safe pair of hands it would appear. Sales of his novel, an expose on what steers evil to doing such heinous work, have afforded him a rather charmed existence at the expense of those left in the wake of the bloodbath one year earlier. He has sold his soul to the man and, worse still, appears unfazed by the lives in turmoil and focused instead on the almighty buck. I get that Zombie wanted to shake things up a little but, by creating a hateful protagonist far less honorable than the one wielding the blade, he fritters our sympathy.
Thankfully, he is only a bit-part player in the second film and we still have Laurie Strode to bank on right? Taylor Scout-Compton does her level best, displaying admirable histrionics, and putting her backbone into inhabitancy of our luckless heroine. For all her best efforts however, Strode left Keeper somewhat cold. Jamie Lee Curtis’ measured turn in H20 is but a fading memory, and has been replaced by a potty-mouthed infidel who the audience struggles to identify with. If I had a dime for every time she, or any other cast member, curses then I would be a rich man. Let’s not get it twisted, I cuss like a trooper when in certain confines, but my swear tin would be overflowing after the first act here. This isn’t Platoon, there’s only so many times you can throw the F-bomb before it comes bouncing back to you. Fragrant overuse of expletives harm the experience considerably.
One distinct plus point comes in the form of the ever-reliable Brad Dourif. As Sheriff Brackett he stands head and shoulders above everybody else and his relationship with his daughter Annie forms the backbone of the entire film. Danielle Harris can do little wrong in my books, here she is assured as always and the three-way dynamic between her, Dourif and Scout-Compton is endearing, albeit woefully under-utilized. With a little care and attention this could have provided us with the heart that Halloween is sorely lacking but, instead of exploring their plight as they struggle to come to terms with the barbarity which has befallen them, Zombie decides to pad the picture out with all manner of repugnant rednecks, all of which have the word fodder emblazoned across their foreheads like queuing cattle. In addition, the measly assemblage of teens accompanying Strode are ripe for the picking and resemble an afterthought rather than a tool to move the story on.
The Shape himself, played again by the hulking Tyler Mane, spends most of his time obscured by a hood and wandering aimlessly around mist-laden corn fields. Zombie attempts something different by showing numerous apparitions of his dead mother Deborah (Sheri Moon-Zombie) in flowing alabaster robes, his younger self (Chase Vanek) and the obligatory white horse whom act as spirit guides, leading Michael back to his estranged sibling. These dreamlike visions are ethereally lit and stylishly implemented, if slightly misplaced and, considering this is Zombie’s own take, at least show a willingness to try something a little off the cuff. What is harder to stomach is the overuse of lightning fast cuts which only serve to disorientate and many of the later kills suffer as a result.
Halloween II represents the epitome of a mixed bag. Many of its discrepancies are forgivable in the grand scheme of things but, as a complete package, it’s something of a hotchpotch. Any movie bearing Zombie’s insignia is always going to be a snazzy affair and it certainly is dressed to kill. But after a promising start to his tenure two years earlier, it has to be said, it is something of a regression. As well as sporting a hoodie and showing off his questionable table manners, Myers discards his mask for the very first time. In the words of Weird Al Yankovic – “I’m a little confused. Are we talking about the “Austin Powers” Mike Myers or is this someone else?” I never thought I’d say this but I’m with Weird Al.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Unquestionably vicious stuff as you would expect from such an uninhibited filmmaker. Having said that, for all the perpetual perforations and head stomping on offer and despite a hefty body count, precious little stays with you after viewing. The most sickening acts hinge more on what you hear than what you see and that’s not a criticism, purely an accurate observation. Zombie throws in a dash of T&A just to pep things up although, somewhat remarkably after her fearless turn in My Bloody Valentine 3D, Betsy Rue keeps her clothes very much on. Now if that doesn’t show restraint, I don’t know what does.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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