Anyway, given these warnings and my unabashed dislike of Zombie's Halloween, I was positively dreading the experience. DREADING IT I SAY. And? Well, I made it through. I'm still here. Maybe it's the booze or the prosties or the cake talking, but...it wasn't quite as bad as I'd anticipated.
Whoa whoa whoa! Put away your torches and pitch forks and hot oil treatments (the bad, not-for-hair kind) and everything else in your Angry Mob Emergency Kit- I didn't say I liked it. I didn't even say I didn't hate it. It's just that I anticipated a Hallocaust of epic proportions and when all was said and done, I've seen much worse. I've seen much worse recently, in fact (hey The Unborn, you can still go fuck yourself).
Halloween II opens with a placard explaining the symbolic meaning of a white horse. From this, we can infer two things: 1) Rob Zombie bought a dream dictionary, and 2) Rob Zombie thinks his audience is stupid. Why else would he feel the need to blatantly and literally define his metaphor? Can't we figure it out on our own? Why, some of horror's greatest films and directors know it's better to show than to tell. It's not as if Stanley Kubrick needed to expound on what mazes are all about before The Shining began; likewise, viewers are left to their own devices in deciphering the deeper meaning behind all the steering wheels and throttles in Shark Attack 3: Megalodon. But this is Halloween II, and as such it needs Sheri Moon Zombie...and as such it needs a dubious reason for her inclusion.
Before she becomes the Ghost
We jump through time to the moments after the climactic events of Halloween; Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) is battered and bloody and en route to Haddonfield Memorial, while Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) is carted off to the coroner's office by two Characters in a Rob Zombie Film. You know the kind: they're that variety of trash Mr. Zombie seems so enamored with. They talk about corpse-fucking and they're oh so funny! Except they're not funny. Or maybe you think they are, in which case...I'd rather not know. I just want to travel back to the moment Zombie began typing their dialogue so I can slap his hand with a newspaper and cry "No! Bad Zombie! No trashy characters! You write real people! Real. People." Seriously, I hate Characters in a Rob Zombie Film. I hate that they use the word "fuck" the way the Smurfs use the word "smurf". I hate everything about them.
These guys aren't around for long, thanks to a Deus Ex Cow in the Road. They hit it, Michael gets out of the van (despite being in a serious accident and, oh, getting shot in the face at the end of Halloween), cuts the surviving paramedic's head off with a piece of glass (which could totally happen), and splits. Halloween II then becomes a truncated version of Carpenter's Halloween II as Laurie awakens in the mysteriously empty hospital, only to find Myers once more in pursuit. He butchers his way through the scant staff members on duty...and when I say "butchers", I mean...BUTCHERS. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I can't believe it's not butter. I've also said this before and I will also say this again: Rob Zombie does not shy away from brutal violence. Anyone bitching about the lack of energy in modern American horror needs only watch this incarnation of Myers go to town with a knife. It's cringe-worthy.
The hospital is where we also get our first taste of "Nights in White Satin" by The Moody Blues- I WONDER WHAT IT MEANS. This serves to remind me of the time I went barhopping with some friends many a moon ago. We ended the night at Norm's Country Lounge (don't ask) and I was well and truly tanked. So well and so truly, in fact, that upon spotting the blue satin shirt our bartendress (new word) was sporting, I asked her name (Trish) and proceeded to regale her with "Trish in Blue Satin". She was not amused, but I'm sure it was unbearably charming.
Before Michael can get his grubby mitts on Laurie...she wakes up. She wakes up. SHE WAKES UP because the first half hour of the film was a DREAM. Does this feel like some sort of cheat? Does this crap on your neck? If you're trying to invest yourself in Halloween II, then yes...yes, it does. It's not so much that it's a dream sequence, it's that it feels more like a do-over, as if Zombie got 2 weeks into filming, didn't like the way it was going, and decided to have Laurie wake up screaming in bed rather than try to write himself out of the corner he wrote himself into.
But yes, it's a fucking dream and actually it's two years, not two minutes, past the events of Halloween. Laurie lives with fellow survivor Annie Brackett (Danielle Harris) and her dad, Sheriff (Brad Dourif). Yes, that is his name (no it's not). Annie and Laurie deal with their mental and physical scars very differently: Annie is quieter than she used to be and sticks close to home, while Laurie is sullen, unwashed-looking, and all ten kinds of sweary. She visits a psychiatrist (Margot fucking Kidder) and downs pills in mass quantities to cope with her anxiety and those pesky half-hour dreams that alienate audiences. Laurie eventually reveals that she's come to resent Annie, that seeing her daily means Laurie can't ever forget about her trauma. I think this is actually an interesting development, and that Laurie's PTSD is worth examining; in the end, it amounts to little more than a few yelling matches. After all, who wants to delve into Laurie Strode when you can delve into Michael Myers? That sounds hot, by the way.
Yes, Michael really did survive getting shot in the face. Where has he been for two years? We don't know. His body disappeared from the crime scene (I guess) and he's been living off the grid à la baghead Jason Voorhees (I guess). Myers has gone all mountain man, growing an indigent crazy-style Bigfoot beard. He spends most of the film walking to Haddonfield in search of Laurie, killing strippers and other Characters in a Rob Zombie Film along the way, rendering Halloween II into Cold Mountain II: The Knife-ening. As he walks, he has visions of a white-wigged mom telling him that he needs to kill kill kill so they can all be a family again- you know, just like she did when she was alive.
Time out: Aarrrrrgh I wish all the stupid metaphor bullshit wasn't in the film. It doesn't work. It doesn't work (and if you listened to Episode 2 of The Scare-ening, you know that it wasn't always in the script). I try not not think about it, because it hurts me in my brain place. While it was happening, my body rejected it like a bad organ transplant! I tuned it out and went to my happy place, the place with the hookers and the cake. I dreamed a dream of a metaphor-less Halloween II, where Laurie and Annie and the others lived up to that glimmer of hope in a throwaway line, where Michael was scary and unknown and he was The Boogeyman. It was a nice dream. I liked it.
Time in: Remember Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell)? He's here, too! He's turned into a total money- and fame-grabbing douchebag, capitalizing on the horrors perpetrated by his old patient Michael Myers. He also serves as the voice of Rob Zombie, particularly when he says things like "Did you just mention 'journalists', 'cool', and 'positive' all in the same sentence? Without throwing up? That's an oxymoron." Touché, Mr. Zombie! Way to show people who criticize your work. Much better than, oh, simply ignoring it all, or perhaps ruminating on the fact that sometimes they're right. High road shmigh road, I always say!
Once Laurie reads a copy of Loomis's explosive tell-all, she's understandably dismayed to learn that she's Michael's long-lost sister. She decides to go nuts and booze it up with some new friends at the town's Halloween party, a rather massive affair that gleefully ignores the series of murders that took place the same night two years prior. As Laurie parties it up, ol' stick-in-the-mud Annie stays home. Michael kills the police officer that Sheriff Dad posted outside the house. He gets inside...and I'm not gonna lie: I thought the entire sequence was really well done. To Annie's horror, Michael is suddenly there, looming in the doorway behind her.
Zombie makes an effective use of slow-mo, and then wisely cuts to black before the violence starts. We hear it all, and that's enough- later, when Laurie comes home and finds Annie dying on the floor, the blood and destruction everywhere tells us everything we need to know. I was surprised to find myself a bit upset that Annie died- yes, I actually cared the tiniest bit about the character. I know, right? Weird. Much of this owes to Danielle Harris and Brad Dourif working a bit of magic with the very little they were given. Annie's death is the best sequence in the film- and I don't mean it's the best of the worst...I mean it's actually good.
Unfortunately, then it's back to Happy Myers Family Fuckery as mom urges Michael to kill Laurie so they can all be together. I guess she expects Michael to kill himself afterward to complete the plan...? It doesn't make much sense.
Michael takes Laurie to some abandoned cabin place, and the cops and Loomis (who totally had, like, a change of heart) show up to put a stop to it. They do so as Michael is shot down in one of those blazes of glory Rob Zombie seems to enjoy so much. Unfortunately for the whole wide world, Laurie has also fallen under the crazy spell of Ghost Mom! She's a bona fide Loomis-killing, dirty-haired Myers nutso. She ends up in a metaphorical hospital room...err, corridor, where she spies Ghost Mom and a white horse. I don't know what it means, so don't ask!
What a mess. Halloween II was destined to be a mess, I think, when you consider Zombie's claims that he told all the story he needed to tell in Halloween and he didn't plan for a sequel. The finished product feels like he made it up as he went along, with its numerous disjointed scenes that lead nowhere and that damn metaphor. The Director's Cut, which is the version I watched, clocks in at a whopping 2 hours- and the DVD includes 23 deleted/alternate scenes. Twenty-three! Doesn't anyone tell Zombie when ideas don't work, when they should be excised? When they shouldn't be shot? I don't think so- and that's exactly what he needs, if only to stop the colossal waste of money. More imporantly, the ideas that do work need to be developed rather than glossed-over or buried. And please please please, no more Characters in a Rob Zombie Movie.
I said earlier that Zombie gives good violence, but I suppose I should add a...when you can see it to that. Too often I couldn't tell what was going on because...well, because:
Can you tell what's going on there? Hint: someone's getting killed. See, there's shadow and atmosphere, and then there's plain ol' bad lighting. Halloween II is almost exclusively the latter. Atmosphere, in fact, is sorely lacking. The movie just isn't scary, which is a shame. Michael Myers is one of horror's greatest characters, and when given the proper treatment he's still absolutely terrifying. There are more chills in the end credits' use of a modified version of John Carpenter's original Halloween score than there are in the rest of Halloween II, a sad reminder of what was and what isn't.
Sorry if that doesn't make sense. I may have made it through Halloween II, but it wasn't an easy tour of duty. I'm still a bit shell-shocked...I think this calls for some cake. And hookers!