Two years ago, musician turned filmmaker Rob Zombie faced fan wrath and geek excommunication when it was announced he would tackle a remake of John Carpenter's suspense classic Halloween. A FBI profiler-lite back story, a few gory deaths. and some serious green at the box office later, and the wannabe master of the macabre is back, offering up a seemingly unnecessary sequel. According to the trailer tagline, this follow-up "completes Zombie's vision" for the franchise. If confusing the crap out of his audience was part of said design, he's more than succeeded.
It's been a year after the events in the first film. Michael Myer's (Tyler Mane) body has never been recovered. Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) is pushing a trashy, tell-all book based on his experiences. And poor Laurie Stroud (Scout Taylor-Compton) is suffering, both emotionally and psychologically. Plagued by visions of the murderous monster, she's now living with Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif) and his daughter Annie (Danielle Harris), also a survivor of the previous killing spree. With Halloween just around the corner and Loomis back in town on a promotional tour, everyone in Haddonfield is on edge. While they think they are safe, Michael has indeed returned -- and he won't rest until he finds the "family" he's been missing all these years. Article continues below
Halloween II is either a work of jaw-dropping, unhinged genius, or the most moronic horror film since Ernest Scared Stupid. It may be the effort of a true terror visionary, but this is one auteur who clearly needs his cinematic meds. Fusing references as diverse as David Lynch, Lucio Fulci, and the grindhouse films he grew up loving, this is unmistakably a very personal project. Free from the mandates of studio and suits, it's as if Zombie simply opened up his skull and let every fright flick he's ever seen come pouring out of his brain -- unfiltered, unfocused, and unfathomable.
One thing's for sure -- Zombie knows brutality. Michael Myers doesn't pussyfoot around when he stabs someone. He wields his knife -- or any other weapon of death -- with laser-like focus and nuclear power. With a body count rivaling almost any other film of its type, no one can accuse Halloween II of failing to provide plentiful bloodshed. But Zombie takes it all further, sometimes too far. There is dog eating, head crushing, and an emergency surgery sequence that is absolutely sickening. In a movie which never knows when to pull back, such excesses can be expected. It doesn't make it any easier to watch, however.
But then Zombie also decides to get all esoteric and symbolic on us, tossing in the ghost of Michael's mother (Sheri Moon Zombie doing her best baneful banshee routine) and the occasional image of a white horse. With a prologue that suggests our killer is guided by such hackneyed hallucinations and a stream of consciousness approach to the plot, we get lost very easily. Even worse, Zombie peppers the film with dozens of "clever" cameos. Instead of paying attention to the mood or atmosphere he's creating, we're often too busy pointing out Stretch (Caroline Williams) from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 or marveling over the inclusion of "Weird" Al Yankovic.
Still, some of Halloween II is quite effective, perhaps the most visceral and vital horror placed on film in the last ten years. The remainder, however, is ludicrous, if not downright laughable. Together they gel to form an imperfect union of fear and fallacy, dread frequently overtaken by fits of impossible to realize ambition. It's definitely all Zombie, for better or worse. It's also guaranteed to fluster all that dare enter its surreal slasher domain.