Sunday, August 30, 2009

Film review: Rob Zombie's Halloween II

OK, let's get something straight here, right off the bat: I am a horror film supernerd. I watch, collect, read and write about them. I know who directed what and, sometimes, who was supposed to direct what and why they didn't. I guess this can be applied to film in general, but horror flicks hold a special place in my blackened heart.

That being said, most of my fellow scary movie junkies hate remakes, loathe them, and for the most part I agree. They tend to be generic, boring, predictable and, perhaps worst of all, PG-13. Now quite a few people have argued that even the original versions of these movies fall into those categories, which also holds some weight. Granted, those 70s and 80s midnight movies we grew up with tended to have low production values, shoddy acting and little in the way of plot. But the defining factor that made them so endearing to us, compared to today's slick Hollywood remakes, was heart. There were no focus groups, no Myspace pages, these were people with nothing but some hard-earned cash and a dream. They also tended to be fans themselves; find any old interview with John Carpenter or Wes Craven, these guys were big kids who loved scary movies.

Which brings us to the new Halloween II, written and directed by Rob Zombie. He's somewhat of a polarizing figure thus far into his career as a genre filmmaker; House Of 1000 Corpses and its companion film The Devil's Rejects invited plenty of criticism and critiques. It wasn't until Zombie decided to try his hand at re-envisioning John Carpenter's Halloween, arguably the best horror film of the last forty years, that genre fans really kicked into high gear with equal amounts of praise and derision.

Halloween II
has little in common, aesthetically, with its predecessor. This is clearly an original vision and other than the film's title and characters, really has nothing to do with the Halloween franchise at all. I think that's a good thing, and it definitely works towards the film's favor. Zombie has created a darker, much more sinister world than previously seen in the of Haddonfield, IL universe. Whereas previous incarnations of Michael Meyers showed him to be somewhat detached and almost child-like in his pursuit of victims, the monster on display here takes his business extremely personally. There is genuine vitriol and hatred behind every thrust of the knife.

This film is tough to review without giving too much away (for those of you that care). A quick look at the credits or trailers, however, reveals that both Deborah Meyers and young Michael make appearances. Indeed, their roles in this film are open to multiple interpretations by the time the end credits roll. I could tell some people in the theater didn't get it; then again, they were the same kind of people that don't shut up during a movie, so take that with a grain of salt.

My one biggest complaint was the underdevelopment of certain characters. Malcolm McDowell was an excellent Dr. Loomis in the first film, but here his scenes were almost unnecessary and seemed tacked on as an afterthought. He is supposed to be the character we most sympathize with after Laurie Strode, yet here he comes across as an obnoxious prick. His redemption is in no way satisfying. To a lesser extent, Laurie's new friends had only a few scenes and were completely one-dimensional. I know, this is a slasher movie and people are just lined up for a slaughter, but I think it would have helped the plot development out a bit if these girls had some more going on.

All in all, this is a good film. Rob Zombie has a knack for dialogue, and definitely knows his way around a horror movie. I also think he should get away from established horror movies and strike out on his own. He has the talent and the potential to do great things. Unfortunately there are recent reports of Zombie in talks to do a remake of The Blob. Whether or not that comes to fruition, I think his best is yet to come.


HATE! said...

Hey excellent review Chris. My theater is an hour from me, so I usually have to wait. But it's nice to hear what a fellow film dork thinks. I watched Severance tonight which I HIGHLY recommend.

The Man Comes Around said...

Thanks Luke! I haven't checked out Severance yet, it's on the list now.