Halloween II Review

Published 6 years ago by , Updated September 4th, 2009 at 1:32 pm,

Short Version: Halloween II is the most ambitious and most accomplished movie I’ve seen from Rob Zombie. But it’s still not quite what I would call “a good film.”

screen rant reviews halloween ii Halloween II Review

Screen Rant Reviews Halloween II

Halloween II picks up literally where writer/director Rob Zombie’s 2007 Halloween reboot left off: Michael Myers shot down by his little sister Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton), while Laurie herself is left battered, bloody and half-crazed by her ordeal. The first third of the sequel pretty much revels in the repercussions of the first film, focusing on the survivors and the hell they go through physically, mentally and emotionally as their wounds (literal and metaphorical) are treated and the gore is wiped clean. This first third is also the only real nod to Rick Rosenthal’s 1981 sequel to John Carpenter’s original Halloween, which was almost entirely set in the hospital Laurie Strode is being treated in following Michael’s Halloween massacre.

However, even as Laurie’s body heals with time, her mind is still deeply wounded – so much so that almost every time she closes her eyes to sleep she is terrorized by waking nightmares (shot in the surreal style of a White Zombie video), which get a bit tiresome after the third sequence or so. Helping Laurie deal are her best friend Annie (Danielle Harris), also a survivor of the massacre, and Annie’s father Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif). Meanwhile, Michael’s former shrink Dr. Sam Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) is out and about trying to push his much-despised book exploiting the Meyers family history.

A full year passes and as Halloween once again rolls around, the ripples of Michael Myers’ violence start to eat away at the peace of the survivors, even as the killer himself appears once again to finish what he started.

Now, when Rob Zombie set out to reboot the Halloween franchise, he made it clear from the get-go that he wouldn’t be trying to remake John Carpenter’s 1978 original about a mysterious, murderous stalker. Zombie’s ambition was to get (literally) beneath the mask of Michael Myers in order to explore larger themes of love, hatred and violence and how pervasive and destructive those forces can be.

It was an interesting concept, especially in the case of Michael Myers. The horror icon wasn’t even a “character” in Carpenter’s original film – in fact, the closing credits bill Nick Castle, the first actor to play Myers, as “The Shape” and not Michael Myers. Only in the increasingly absurd sequels to Carpenter’s film was the modern myth of Michael Myers truly born, and even as that mythology grew, the character of Myers himself became increasingly drab and stale: a robotic murder-man with the supernatural ability to resurrect himself from any and every death.

Flash-forward to Zombie’s reboot: I thought the ambition was honorable, but the execution of the film wasn’t nearly up to the challenge of its goals. What we ended up with was an overdone origin story about young Michael Myers and his trashy family (yawn), ending in a by-the-numbers slasher flick that paled in comparison to Carpenter’s deliciously slow-burning stalker creep-fest.

halloween jamie lee curtis and the shape1 Halloween II Review

Which brings us back to Halloween II. With this sequel I think Zombie had a much firmer grasp on themes he was trying to explore and the story he was trying tell in the first installment. And while this sequel certainly does offer a fresh look at the Halloween mythos, with some very strong (read: disturbing) scenes, ultimately Zombie’s skills as a filmmaker – while showing signs of vast improvement – still need time to flourish.

The killing scenes in this film are undoubtedly the high point. Gone are the gleefully formulaic and emotionally vapid death scenes of the average slasher flick; actor Tyler Mane (Sabertooth from X-Men) succeeds in portraying Michael Myers like a flesh and blood reality, rather than a supernatural phenomenon. Each time Michael kills, Zombie lets the camera linger over the fallen victim while Mane provides a distinct and disturbing “performance,” grunting and huffing as he stabs and stabs and stabs, catches his breath and then stabs and stabs again until the walls are crying blood. They are shockingly real and brutal moments of violence that make you actually feel the despair, horror and all the sick emotions you SHOULD feel when witnessing a murder.

A particular sequence set in the strip club where Michael’s mother (Sheri Moon Zombie) used to dance is especially memorable (read: gruesome). You really have to see it to appreciate how brutal it is. Every instance of violence in this film conveys a clear and pointed understanding of Michael Myers’ total disconnect from the rest of humanity. Tyler Mane is easily my favorite actor to take on the role, and even though many people freaked when they first heard he would appear maskless for a significant portion of the film, Mane without the mask turns out to be a far more terrifying presence. Through him we can actually see just how insignificant life looks to those shark’s eyes glistening through the shadows of “Hobo Myers'” hooded jacket; the big man has never been more real, or more scary.

Equally accomplished is the performance from Scout Taylor-Compton. One of the things I hate about slasher flick sequels is that I almost never believe that the surviving main character has been through any kind of real ordeal – they don’t have scars, they seem pretty well adjusted to life again, and if they have ANY mental issues it’s usually that corny thought-I-saw-him-in-the-mirror stuff. Not Laurie Strode, though. This girl DOES have scars (the opening scenes of her being treated for her extensive wounds in the ER is pretty gut-wrenching); she’s fighting to hold onto any semblance of a life worth living; and all the while she’s slipping further and further down the banks of insanity, her mind wholly perverted by the violence and hurt she cannot exercise. And Taylor-Compton pulls off that twisted performance pretty well, IMO. By the end of the film, I truly believe that Laurie ends up where she does, making the last frame of the film (Taylor-Compton’s smiling face) truly haunting.

halloween ii bloody scout taylor compton Halloween II Review

Taylor-Compton as Laurie Strode

So why is this film, which has some strong positives, earning such horrible reviews and being lambasted by horror fans?

Well, the “surrealist” aspects of the film certainly help to drag it down. The movie opens with a definition lifted from a college psychology text book, explaining the significance of white horses in dreams and how the image relates to anger and violence. After that erroneous start (having to explain your major themes and imagery upfront is never a good sign), we go through the entire movie having to watch the “ghost” of Sheri Moon Zombie, costumed in a virginal white gown, leading a white stag and a young version of Michael around the screen. Huh?

Yes, Rob Zombie once again makes the misstep of trying to take us into Michael Myers’ psyche, wasting time on the killer’s warped POV instead of letting the premise – Laurie Strode is actually Angel Myers, Michael’s sister who he wants to “bring home” – provide the motivation, while Taylor Mane’s able performance provides the insight into Michael’s rage-fueled bloodlust.

It’s this same “get inside Michael’s head” theme that completely derails Halloween II in its third act. Like Carpenter’s original, Zombie’s sequel is a slow-burning story, gradually cranking up the tension until Halloween night once again comes around. Only, when we finally do get to the titular holiday, suddenly the film shifts from 40mph to 80mph, and all those standout moments of disturbing violence and tension give way to a surrealist “climax” between Michael and Laurie, which hardly makes sense on paper or onscreen. After that massive deflation, the film sputters to a dark, disturbing end without a ray of hope in sight – which would’ve been a very real and mature way of looking at the effects of great violence, IF it hadn’t been so poorly executed from a filmmaking standpoint.

Even Malcolm McDowell’s Dr. Loomis – somewhat of a throwaway character in this sequel – had interesting thematic potential  at the outset, only to have that arch totally fizzle out and be cast aside at the end. It’s the problem of much of Halloween II, and really Zombie’s entire venture into the franchise: the cinematic abilities of the filmmaker fall short of the story’s ambitions.

halloween 2 michael myers Halloween II Review

There are a few rays of hope for Zombie’s future career, though: the hospital sequence at the start of the film is pretty intense and well done, as are many of the killing scenes. There are shades of a really talented horror director at work here, even if those talents aren’t yet fully realized. To be fair: I thought this sequel improved upon its predecessor and is certainly better than Zombie’s horrendous early work like House of 1,000 Corpses or The Devil’s Rejects.

Slasher flick fans, I’ll be honest: you will HATE this film. It isn’t “fun,” it isn’t “scary” and it certainly isn’t “funny.” It is dark, it is disturbing, it is brutal, weird and depressing. Who WILL enjoy it, then? Horror fans with open minds for new styles and people like me, who have stayed loyal to the Halloween franchise through all of its terrible, terrible sequels. Because for all of its massive faults, I have to confess that Halloween II was the most interest I’ve had in Michael Myers since John Carpenter’s original. It’s too bad I can’t extend that praise to the film as a whole.

Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5
(Fairly Good)

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  1. so wtf? it’s a horror movie, not gone with the wind…

  2. Ah Well,
    maybe the new Nightmare on Elm Street will be worth waching.
    thanks for the review Kofi.

  3. Maximum really hort, short short version: It sucked.

  4. Kofi,
    So would you say it was worth seeing?

  5. OK…as a superfan of all the early carpenter, Craven, Argento, Jackson, Romero and Fulci films (and a big fan of Sean Cunnighams’ Friday the 13th) i honestly didnt think the remake of Halloween was that bad. i treated like a stand alone film like you must do these days as a horror movie first fan. I enjoyed Snyder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead (the original is my all time favorite btw), and lets be real…Carpenter’s the Thing remake is probably the best horror/sci fi movie ever (yes even better than Alien and Aliens). Anyway, i hate remakes more than most, especially over the last 7 years, but If you watch Rob Zombie’s films he’s more about the visceral horror (and humor) of cult classics. Yes his first Halloween couldn’t beat Carpenter’s but i bet you its better than Halloween 2, 3, 4, 5, and o yes Paul Rudd’s starring role Halloween 666. I love the lore and all, but Zombie wanted to bring a life to Myers and a contemporary thought process to the horror and violence that the serial/supernatural killer that is Michael Myers. Mind you ive loathed pretty much all but two remakes of the last 10 years and there have been almost 60 of my favorite movies remade

  6. After reading your review, I don’t see how this warrents a 3 out of 5.

    Sounds like a 1 out of 5.

  7. cut off my thought…short handed…I enjoyed the first for what it was and all of Zombie’s movies…Homages to classics which are fun visceral horror/comedies

  8. @790

    It’s an ambitious horror film that tries to do something original and falls short. It gets a lot of points for the attempt. If it was a by-the-numbers horror flick that fell short, it would get a 1. It’s surprisingly strong in a lot of parts.

  9. I guess I’m biased on these glorified murder films.
    Snuff films or “horror slasher films” throw off the scale for me,,,

    I do see what your saying but I could never give this a 3. But your review was good and I understand your pov. I only hope Zombie moves on to something more original.

  10. I’ll watch it.

  11. I absolutely loved this flick. I am a 30 year old who grew up on the horror genre. That being said somewhere around the late 90’s the horor genre died, and outside of a few flashes in the pan, and the occasional Rob Zombie flick I have been less than interested. This review basically falls short not becuase of lack of effort, but because of YOUR subpar critical thinking skills. Zombie made an amazing film. I mean look at it like this, some dudes comments actually said he loved the Friday the 13th remake? That’s what horror is up against. Trust me that Friday the 13th remake isn’t fit to get Rob Zombie a cup of coffee!

  12. I guess most critics have subpar thinking skills because hardly any critic liked this.

  13. the fact that people actually think that this fillm is any good what so ever makes me sick. The ideas explained are decent. A good horror movie is like a roller coaster ride where you get excitement from the adrenaline rush of being scared. This movie is not meant to scare you, it is meant to disgust and disturb you. If that envokes the same adrenal response in you that is previously mentioned, then seek out professional help. This is meant to desensitize the masses, and movies like this are what caused exponential downgrade in horror movies in the last two decades.

  14. Guys I’m going to go 2.5 on this. Some felt 3 was too high, I felt the film lands right in the middle of the good/bad divide so 1/2 of 5 = 2.5 end of story.

  15. Well… the film did it’s job for me. There is at least one little blond white girl scared tonight. Shoot…

  16. Pat have you even been to the movies this summer ? or at all this year ? there is by far way worse movies then this,
    one thing i like about Rob Zombie is that he really gets peoples emotions involved as in he creates the mood of the scene, making the viewer think bloddy hell stop slashing them already etc, apart from that he doesnt have that much character development skills.
    he should have stopped at the first one becuase that was more like an origin movie much like the texas chainsaw massacre: the begining or hannibal rising no need for another remake

  17. I thought the visuals were pretty impactful.
    The violence was extraordinarily brutal.

    That is about where the good ends.. and the bad begins.

    the plot was not strong.

    The entire horse, and angelic mother theme was over-the-top.

    The dialogue was forced at times.

    I DO think the final 60 seconds of the movie was by far the best of the entire movie.

    Just the ending was worth the price… at least the matinee price.

  18. a quick comment: “perverted by the violence and hurt she cannot exercise”… is something stopping her from getting to the gym?
    I think you may have meant “exorcise”. :)

    Congratulations, this entire article was an immense pleasure to read, and fairly well-balanced to boot! A true pleasure. Thank-you.

  19. @Mike E.

    Damn… we try hard but you seem to be our resident proofreader. :)

    Vic

    • Alright I feel the need to post a response too. This movie was awful. I just watched it for the first time and I must say, what the hell were the people making this movie thinking. First off, Sheri Moon Zombie cannot act. So were forced to sit through and hour and 45 mins of watching her deliver all her poorly written lines with her 12 year old girl on helium voice. Second, why ruin the Dr. Loomis character? He was a sympathetic character in the originals who sacrificed his ability to have a normal life for the safety of the people Michael was coming after(Laurie, Jamie, etc…). In this movie, he is just a greedy Dr. with dreams of being famous at the expense of others. I mean they even wrote in a scene where he is complaining about his picture because it isnt the “New Loomis”. Michael I think was changed too much to actually like the character. The original remake wasnt bad, he was written as an intense brutal murderer similar to the original. Now he grunts and groans and even at one point in the alternate ending of H2 ::Spoiler Alert:: he actually rips off his mask and tells Loomis to die before stabbing him. Oh and did anyone else notice that, without the mask, Michael just looked like a 7+ foot tall Rob Zombie? I don’t know what they were thinking but this movie gets 1 our of 5 because even the gore couldnt displace how bad everything else was.

  20. The Long And Short Of It:

    Like every Rob Zombie film, I felt it to be over wrought with every single thing he has learned about filmmaking, i.e. using every single camera angle, sound effect, special effect, blood pack available, etc. Halloween 2 and his remake of the original are simply, not scary. At all! Simplicity is the key here. Minimize the locations. Keep it relatable. One house. A hospital. Someplace anyone (you!) could be. Both films are a mess.