Monday, October 3, 2011

30 Days of Fright - 02: Halloween II (2009)

Horror is a funny old business. Setting out to make a career in this particular genre requires a certain mindset. No matter the media, be it books, comics, music, TV, or cinema, when you decide that horror is for you then you just have to accept a few fundamental truths. You will wear a lot of black. You will start talking in an overly dramtic fashion and say the word "Greetings" instead of "Hello". You will get funny looks from people in the street, especially small children and elderly women. You might get a tattoo. Of a bat.

There are some obvious and famous folk who have made successful careers from Horror. Stephen King, Ozzy Ozbourne, Garth Marenghi, Dani Flith, and the musician and director of last nights film, Rob Zombie - a man so dedicated to horror that he changed his name to Zombie, for crying out loud.

Picking up the story immediately after the events of the 2007 film, Halloween II opens with the sheriff of Haddonfield finding young Laurie Strode walking along in the rain, clutching a gun, drenched in blood, badly injured and severely traumatised. The action moves along as expected, following the police response to Michael Myers murdering rampage including the collection of the bodies and Laurie’s emergency treatment at the hospital where she undergoes surgery for her wounds. As she sleeps off the anaesthetic a rather improbable accident befalls the van transporting Myers body and it’s revealed that he’s not as dead as was thought.

One year later we discover that Lauire isn’t doing very well. She’s living with the sheriff and his daughter (who had also been badly hurt by Myers) and is somewhat off the rails and undergoing therapy to help her deal with the previous October, especially the deaths of her parents. Meanwhile, Loomis the doctor who had been working the Michael Myers case, is on tour for his latest book about Myers and his family and is coming to Haddonfield for Halloween in order to help the promotion of the book, regardless of the objections of the families involved.

Despite everything Laurie had been through she remained blissfully ignorant of the fact that she’s Myers sister until Loomis’ book spills the beans further traumatising her, just as a large stranger bearing a striking resemblance to her dear brother approaches Haddonfield just in time for the 31st.

I gave you blood, blood, gallons of the stuff, I gave you all that you could drink and it has never been enough...

Sequels to remakes can work as was seen with the follow-up to the reworked Texas Chainsaw Massacre; in the case of Halloween II the film doesn’t quite click as a sequel even though it does everything a sequel should, it continues the story and answers the questions concerning what happened after the events of the first film. Where Halloween II slips in this regard is that even though Rob Zombie directed both films there is a marked difference in style between the two outings.

In the first Zombie Halloween (now there’s a great name for a film!) Rob managed to contain his usual stylistic leanings and made a really good but understated film. In Halloween II he let rip and seems to have approached the making of the movie in the same way as he makes albums or tours, where every woman on screen is covered in tattoos, there’s a grungy graffiti look to every building and the cutting edge of fashion is what punks were wearing in 1975. This works really well in only one scene in the film, the Halloween party, where it all fits and feels OK. The rest of the time it only serves to make the people you should be cheering for incredibly unlikeable.

Zombie’s style is the root of the major problems with Halloween II. Laurie’s character has gone through an awful lot and it’s easy to see how she’d stray from the path she was on at the start of the first film, but in changing her from the sweet kid she was to the hard-rocking messed up chick she is in the follow-up makes her hard to like as a person. The same goes for her friends too as they’re all cut from roughly the same cloth; all except one girl who appears to have been done up to resemble Laurie from the first film and is therefore the only one the audience can appreciate.

In dealing with the character of Myers himself, Zombie’s first film delved into the background of the character and the motivations for and slide into proper psychopathy. This made Myers a more interesting and believable character then he perhaps deserves and it also set the bar very high for his further development and story. In this film a more supernatural side to Michael has been introduced, starting off with what appear to be visions of his mother and his own younger self that eventually graduate up to the level of ghosts that haunt him and encourage his pursuit of mayhem.

The visions only serve to get in the way and don’t add much at all. As a slasher flick no motivations are needed beyond “he’s a nutter” and having a supernatural slant only makes the whole thing unbelievable and therefore much less scary. If Myers is just a fruitloop who works out a lot then what he gets up to could happen anywhere, even where you live. But if his is a ghost story then we’re safe if we don’t believe in such things.

On the up side, Weird Al makes a cameo appearance as himself and asks the question everybody asks of the Halloween movies, that is, are we talking about the Austin Powers Mike Myers here? (I made that joke back in 2009 too – so Weird Al is a thieving gypsy!).

I came away from Halloween II planning to give it a low score, but I just can't bring myself to do that. As bad and all as this film is, it's strangely haunting. All day today the visuals, particularly the visions Myers experiences and the off-kilter night club scene,  have been stuck in my head and there's something to be said for that. Rob Zombie has managed to really muck up the Halloween franchise with this film but it firmly stands as a triumph of style. Shame there wasn't more substance.

One Thumb Up and One Thumb Down for Halloween II (2009)

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1 comment:

  1. ZOMBIE HALLOWEEN for the love of god somebody make hat movie!!!