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Halloween 2 (2009)

10 February 2010 by Phantom Troublemaker No Comment

HALLOWEEN II

2009, dir. Rob Zombie
105 min., Rated R.
Starring: Scout Taylor-Compton, Tyler Mane, Malcolm McDowell, Sheri Moon Zombie, Chase Wright Vanek

Review by Phantom Troublemaker

Take One: The Theatrical Review

After months of anticipation I finally got to see the result of the grueling sixteen hour day that I worked on the set of Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2. It was about five minutes of action in the middle of a bunch of other stuff. Here’s what I thought of it all.

The movie opens strong, giving you the impression that we are getting a remake of Halloween II, but that is definitely not the case. This movie is a sequel to Zombie’s first Halloween and is a completely original take – entirely Zombie’s baby from beginning to end. And for good or bad, both of which make appearances.

The cast is mostly returning from the original. Scout Taylor-Compton and Danielle Harris return as Laurie and Annie, both suffering different versions of post-surviving-a-lunatic-trying-to-murder-you syndrome. Brad Douriff puts in what I think is the best performance of his career as Annie’s dad, the Sherriff. Malcolm McDowell is back as Doctor Loomis, suffering from I-made-a-lot-of-money-from-the-misfortune-of-others-and-might-be-starting-to-feel-a-little-guilty-about-it syndrome. And, of course, Tyler Mane reprise his role as the giant, silent Michael Myers; this time with extra grunting. I’m not going to spoil another returning cast member, and Zombie replaced the now huge and older Daeg with a suitably younger and smaller (and less creepy) kid. He does okay, though.

Everybody does what they are supposed to do. Just like the last movie, Taylor-Compton is really good at evoking sympathy. Watching bad shit happen to her is just tough. Loomis is more of a douchebag in this one and McDowell plays it well. Brad Douriff is the standout of the whole piece, though. His is a genuinely likeable character who we get to know a little bit better. He is defined by his love for his daughter and as a result has what I think is the most impactful moment of the movie.

As for the rest of the cast, you have the same assortment of oddball characters you have come to expect from a Rob Zombie production, which is no bad thing. Margot Kidder even makes a solid appearance as Laurie Strode’s shrink.

If there is anything flawed in the performances, I think it is just Zombie’s style of dialogue. He seems to want the same kind of feel as improv comedies, like Curb Your Enthusiasm or Best In Show; leaving in stuttering and misspoken words. I’m not entirely sure this works for horror movies. While I think I get what he’s going for, it just serves as a distraction and makes the characters seem a bit too awkward. That style of dialogue is very effective when natural; I don’t think it really comes across well for more scripted material.

Also, I have seen complaints about this movie and the first one about how the girls behave; the foul language and just generally trying to be tough and how they don’t’ come across as real. I guess these people never hung out with a wide variety of girls. As a matter of fact, most of the girls I hung around when I was in high school were just like Laurie and her friends.

I really loved the overall story of this film. It is about the fallout from the events of the last movie. Instead of just a continuation of senseless violence, like most horror sequels are, this is an examination of each character who was affected by Michael Myers’ rampage and the courses their lives have taken. I’m just not sure the execution was as thorough as I would have liked. It seems to me that this movie should have been either a character piece or a batshit-gonzo nightmare. Zombie tried to put both together and I don’t think it totally worked. I would actually love to see two versions of Halloween 2 – one, a more serious take looking at the characters, giving them an opportunity to grow and us the chance to really examine their psyches; and a second, more House of 1000 Corpses style thrill ride of violence and intense imagery.

I don’t mean for all of that to sound like I hated the movie because I didn’t. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it, although I was somewhat distracted by waiting for my potential scene. You know when you’re waiting to see your favorite band play, and the opening act is really good, but you just want them to hurry the fuck up and get off stage so you can see your band? That’s how watching Halloween 2 was for me. I just wanted to get to the Phantom Jam scene.

I just knew that it was going to kick ass, because I has seen it all up close and personal. The crazy club, the titties, the band. Laurie Strode’s crazy walk through alcohol-induced Hell. Well, you know how you feel when that favorite band you were waiting for doesn’t play any of your favorite songs? You couldn’t really see any of the awesome shit that was there on the day I worked. Zombie shoots everything too close up (and this happened in some of the rest of the movie, too) to see any of the great looking backgrounds and extras. I know that isn’t the focus of the film, but there was so much cool stuff going on that I hate to know was basically wasted. So much effort was put into shooting a lot of stuff a certain way that it seems a shame for it not to matter. That, and I have no idea if I am visible at any point. I wasn’t all that concerned about it, but I figured I would know either way. As it is, everything was too fast and disjointed to tell. That’s fine, though. I’m sure I’ll be buying the Blu-Ray anyway. I’ll be watching that whole segment in slow motion.

Visually, this is the least impressive of Zombie’s movies. I think he is still feeling out his style, because he tries some new things here, like shooting everything in extreme close-up. Conversations, murders, walks through parking lots; nothing is safe from Zombie’s exclude-the-background shots. It is somewhat disorienting and makes it a little difficult to follow things sometimes. Also, I am extremely tired of shaky-cam.

The effects are all top-notch. The opening scene featuring Laurie in the Emergency Room is actually hard to watch due to the realism of her injuries. The deaths are all solid, but Michael Myers seems to enjoy throwing people around a lot before he kills them, so they get a little monotonous after a while. They all look good, though.

The score is another strong presentation by Tyler Bates. I like the choice to avoid Carpenter’s Halloween Theme, though “The Shape Stalks Laurie” does show up near the end. The incidental music didn’t entirely work for me. It isn’t bad, but most of it isn’t entirely appropriate. Zombie obviously loves the 70’s, but this movie clearly doesn’t take place then. I’m not saying it should have been all 90’s stuff or anything, but why are all these kids listening to The Moody Blues and Foghat? I was a teenager in the 90’s and I didn’t know anybody who listened to Rod fucking Stewart.

Overall, I didn’t like this movie as much as I thought I would. I really hate to say that, but it is true. I can sum it up like this: I know that there were a ton of awesome ideas and a lot of great looking stuff for the Phantom Jam. I know a lot of hard work went into shooting it, but the scene itself is just kind of a jumbled mess where nothing is presented quite as strongly or interestingly as it could have been. That how the whole movie seemed, too. I feel like I know what Zombie was going for with Halloween 2, he just didn’t quite succeed with it. It’s almost like he just went into the editing room and said, “Fuck it. I know I shot it all right, I’ll just throw stuff together.”

Again, I did like the movie, I just feel that it could have been waaay better. It’s hard to see unfulfilled potential.

Rating: 2 out of 5 Barely-Glimpsed, Costumed Extras

Take Two: The Home Video Review

Anybody who has been reading my nonsense knows my history with this movie. I went unnecessarily nuts trying to be an extra, I spent sixteen hours being an extra (and foolishly wished I could do more) and was ultimately disappointed with the finished product. I am a big enough boy to admit that a significant portion of that disappointment probably came from a combination of sitting there waiting for the scenes I thought I might be in and completely failing to see my handsome visage in any of those scenes. I was looking forward to seeing the Blu-Ray so that I could verify frame by frame the absence of Troublemaker and simply so that I could watch the movie again without having to worry about me being in it. Or not, as the case seems to be. The first thing I did was go to the Phantom Jam (how the fuck can you call it that and not feature the Troublemaker? Seriously, Rob! I would have been way funnier than that dickbags host you got…) scene so that I could check for me. After verifying that I was nowhere to be seen, I could watch the movie and enjoy it (or not) for what it was.

I’ve got to say, Zombie’s Halloween II isn’t bad at all.

The home release differs significantly from the theatrical release, though; so my original opinion may not be too far off for what I saw at the time. The Blu-Ray Director’s Cut of the movie features a whole lot of footage that is essential to the plot, not to mention a somewhat different ending that may not actually be an improvement. All of the scenes that have been extended or put back into the movie expand on the story in a fairly critical way. We get a much better sense of where Laurie is after the events of the last film, what her relationship is with Annie – the other survivor – and a much better grasp of Annie herself; who just came off as sort of a bland bitch in the theatrical cut. All in all, the home release makes for a much better movie. I want to watch it again to see if I actually dislike the alternate ending or if it was just jarring because I had no idea it was coming.

As far as the rest of the Blu-Ray goes, it has all of the features you would expect – a commentary from Zombie, alternate and deleted scenes and extra takes of Uncle Seymour Coffins’ terrible fucking “stand-up” routines. I saw these live and trust me, you are better off never having seen them except for one thing – you can hear me yell “We still love you!” at the end of the last clip. It’s not worth it. Really.

You should go ahead and expect a double-dip on this one just like the original, because I know Mr. Zombie was shooting another documentary while filming this one. Maybe I’ll show up in that.
If you hated the one you saw in theaters, this won’t change your mind. If you weren’t too sure about it, I would strongly recommend you give this one a rent and see what got left out. It makes Halloween II a much stronger movie and, while it is still in my opinion the least of Zombie’s efforts so far; I know I’ll end up watching it a bunch more times. It is definitely a grand and interesting movie, if not necessarily a warm and yummy good time.

Rating: (a very high) 3 out of 5 Well-Stomped Douchebags

Until next time, stay creepy

-Phantom

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