Contributor: Rick McGimpsey
Remember in my last review when I said reviewing a remake was difficult because everyone knows the story already? Well, Rob Zombie’s Halloween II bears no resemblance to its 1981 counterpart so that will not be a problem here. In fact, this movie bears no resemblance to any of the other Halloween films at all. After the success of the 2007 remake Rob Zombie was given the freedom to do whatever he wanted with the sequel and as a result what we got was the strangest entry in the franchise since Halloween III.
The story picks up precisely where the last one left off. Laurie is taken to a hospital and the “body” of Michael Myers is being taken on a gurney to the morgue in an ambulance. The two ambulance drivers become distracted and hit head on a cow on the road. The driver’s head is mashed to a pulp and the other paramedic in the passenger seat is not much better off. He suffers from lacerations, broken bones, and who knows what else but it doesn’t last long since Michael awakens from the crash and slashes the mans throat with a piece of broken glass.
He tracks Laurie to the hospital where he kills several of the nursing staff, but before he can get to his sister she awakens from the experience which is nothing but a nightmare. It’s unclear if the death of the ambulance drivers is real or a part of the dream and the film does not say. She is now living with Sheriff Brackett and his daughter Annie who, a year after the events of the previous film, have still not fully recovered emotionally. Laurie and Annie’s relationship is starting to fall apart as Laurie’s PTSD is causing her to fall deeper and deeper into insanity.
Elsewhere, Michael is wandering about on his own while having strange visions of his mother dressed in white followed by a ten year old version of himself and a white horse. These apparitions are telling him it is time to bring Laurie home and so he heads to Haddonfield to find her.
Meanwhile, Dr. Loomis has become extremely famous and has published another book disclosing more details on the Myers case. The book is an overnight sensation and he is asked to appear on talk shows and speak at seminars. All the fame goes to his head and Dr. Loomis turns into a monstrous diva with a high opinion of himself who takes himself more seriously than he ought to. In fact he takes himself so seriously that he actually becomes offended when he shares a guest spot on a talk show with Weird Al. I’m not sure what Loomis’s problem is here, but if I got a chance to meet Weird Al I would not be upset no matter how serious my work was. And here we get a great scene where Weird Al jokingly asks Dr. Loomis if Michael Myers is the actor from Austen Powers. It’s about time the connection got made.
Although some people are not taking the Doctor’s ego seriously others are enraged at him and claim he is profiting off of the tragedy of Michael Myers’s victims. A leading point of contention that many of his critics have against him is that he displays no discretion with the information he reveals in his book. In fact it is through this book that Laurie finally discovers that she is Michael’s sister which had not yet been told to her. This further causes her mental health to fracture.
Laurie trying to get away from her emotional problems goes to a party. When she returns home she finds her friend Annie murdered by Michael who has been going though Haddonfield killing anyone who got in his way on his quest to find Laurie. She flees and hitches a ride in a car, but fails when Michael kills the driver and knocks her unconscious. He takes her to an abandoned shed where she begins sharing in Michael’s visions of her mother and the younger Michael Myers. The police arrive and Dr. Loomis who is with them tries to reason with Laurie who is hallucinating that the younger Michael is holding her down. The elder Michael Myers kills Dr. Loomis just before Sheriff Brackett shoots him down. Laurie approaches the downed Michael and stabs him multiple times. Completely maddened by all this trauma she takes Michael’s mask which is crumbling to bits and puts it on before leaving the shed.
Later at a psychiatric hospital she is sitting alone on a bed when she suddenly has a vision of her mother and the white horse coming for her. She looks on them and starts to grin.
For a long time I was not sure what I was supposed to make of this movie. Except for the visions this sequel is ultra-bloody, gritty, and realistic with its execution. It stands to reason that Michael’s mask would fall apart which explains why for much of the film we see Michael without it. Instead he dons a hoodie and his face is covered in shadow most of the time and when we do see his face it’s covered in a long beard. A shaggy Michael Myers is certainly a step away from the series’s usual trends, but, when you think about it, it makes sense. Would Michael really shave? I doubt it. Then of course he would have a beard!
Being realistic is what this movie does. It does things that make sense if this story happened in the real world. The characters who survived the last film have severe emotional issues and PTSD. Michael has a beard. The mainstream media are callous to true life tragedy and making jokes about how Michael’s name is similar to Mike Myers the comedian from Austen Powers. These are the sort of things we would expect to happen if Michael Myers really existed.
Halloween II puts Michael in the world we live in today. The horror genre has always reflected the fears of its reflective generation. In the atomic age 1950’s and 60’s B movies depicted giant monsters created by nuclear waste because nuclear Armageddon was a strong fear among the movie-going generation. In the 1970’s through the early 90’s films were about serial murderers like Jason, Freddy, Michael, or Leatherface in reaction to how violent the world was getting in those decades.
Rob Zombie’s Halloween II was released in 2009. This is a time period where we have the internet and the news media is daily reporting school shootings, terrorist bombings, and bodies of young girls being found in rivers. The world is violent and ugly and the close, quick transmission of information in the digital age has created people callous to all of it. People no longer can bat an eye at real life violence the way they would in 1978.
And it is into these times that Rob Zombie puts Michael Myers. The violence in this film is brutal and realistic with a raw tension that is completely unlike the stylised fantasy gore of typical slasher films. The news media is depicted in a way similar to the way it was depicted in Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers. None of these journalists, talk show hosts, and speakers give a shit about the innocent lives that were murdered. They are cashing in on information and using it to bolster their own popularity. Halloween II shows us monsters on both sides. It’s not just about the boogeyman any more. Real life horrors are thrown at us relentlessly. When Sheriff Brackett discovers the body of his daughter we see him break down and the films shows us glimpses of his memories of her as a child. It’s a heartbreaking scene that reminds us that in an ugly world these lost lives are still losses and not mere statistics rising as the world becomes crueler.
Looking at the film this way has allowed it to grow on me. I hated it when I first saw it, but every time I re-watch it I understand what Zombie was trying to do a little more. I must confess I like this sequel a better than the 2007 remake. In fact it is quickly becoming one of my favourite entries in the franchise. Unpopular opinion, I know. But, I stand by it.
The 2007 film was just a take-it-or-leave-it exploitation interpretation of the original 1978 classic. This sequel on the other hand does something different and for the first time in a long time actually has something to say. The message may have been missed by most fans which is why it failed miserably, but the more I view it the more I like it.
Thanks to everyone who has been following these reviews. Next year I shall be reviewing a new franchise. See you next year and have a Happy Halloween!