I thought it was barely a movie, but Rob Zombie was much happier with it than with its predecessor. Here's a quote from an interview he did with Ain't It Cool:
"THE DEVIL'S REJECTS was a film where everything just worked; everyone got along great, and it was just an incredible experience. HALLOWEEN
was miserable. Every day was a problem, everything was fucked up, people who usually love each other fucking hated each other... and it was one of those movies where we grinded to the end of the schedule. And you're like, "Why was this such a bad experience?" HALLOWEEN
II was just like DEVIL'S REJECTS. Probably every director says that you can't figure out why sometimes it just connects and everything seems to go perfectly. But for some reason, the creative team was totally in sync. And for some reason on HALLOWEEN
, the creative team was just totally out of sync the whole fucking time. That's why, even when the movie was number one, I was so depressed."
Incidentally, this is the tenth Halloween film. The franchise has Donald Pleasence's five and its odd one out, Season of the Witch
, after which comes the 7+8 reboot (Jamie Lee Curtis) and the 9+10 re-reboot (Rob Zombie). This isn't the first film called Halloween II. They both even write "2" in Roman numerals.
What I respect about this follow-up is that Rob Zombie's doing his own thing. He's cut loose. He's shaken off his John Carpenter straitjacket and isn't even using the famous theme except at the closing credits. He tried to use it earlier, but it didn't fit. Michael Myers is seen walking around without his mask and for most of the film isn't even on the rampage. He kills, yes, but he's basically lying low for twelve months until his favourite holiday. Thus a lot of the movie isn't really going anywhere, but is merely looking at what's happened to the survivors of the last film.
Incidentally you'll be surprised by the identity of some of those survivors, e.g. Myers himself. This is never explained. Also arguably Loomis didn't just come back from the dead but grow some new eyeballs.
Rob Zombie sees this as a film about change and how different people react to surviving horror. Laurie Strode is a wreck, unaware that she's Michael's sister but still on a downward spiral into a not dissimilar madness. She's also swapped personality traits with Annie. Dr Loomis is disgusting. Sheriff Brackett didn't seem hugely different to me, but Zombie describes him as follows... "He's old, he's worn out, he's just this beat-down guy with these two girls he can't deal with." The only person who hasn't changed of course is Michael himself, who in his head is still ten years old. All these people we see dealing with their lives, often badly. The only thing that stops you from realising that this film is introspective and almost arty is the regular super-brutal killings.
All this is nearly cool. There are also "this director has lost his mind" hallucinations looking like nothing so much as virgins and unicorns, except that the white-clad lady in them is Laurie and Michael's mother (Sheri Moon Zombie). I could have sworn that in the last film, she was a foul-mouthed stripper in an abusive relationship. However Michael would seem to love her and at least you can't say it's not twisted.
In theory this is great. In practice I have a problem with Zombie as a director. I love his musical sense, as you'd expect from a musician, but he tends not to pay attention to his actors. Even when they're speaking, the camera keeps finding more interesting things to look at. This makes the film feel dynamic and fast-moving even though it isn't, but it de-emphasises what the film's trying to be about, i.e. its cast. Now admittedly the veterans survive this. Brad Dourif is solid and to my surprise I loved Malcolm McDowell's Loomis, who's so shameless that all comparisons with the magnificent Donald Pleasence are rendered impossible and instead I found myself relishing the antics of this sleazeball. He's the best thing in the film. However Scout Taylor-Compton almost disappears as Laurie Strode, which is bewildering given that it's her film and built around her even more than it is around Myers.
There's one cool thing in the cast, though. Danielle Harris returns again, putting her on a par with Curtis for appearances in this franchise. Admittedly she's fairly peripheral to the Rob Zombie films, as opposed to her key role of Jamie in 4 and 5, but it's still nice to see her. Weird Al Yankovic also gets a TV chat show cameo.
I appreciate the tone. It's no fun. The killings are ugly and there's no sense in which we're meant to be cheering on the bad guy. Myers isn't a crowd-pleaser like Jason Vorhees, but instead somone who does thoroughly unpleasant things and is in no way comfortable to be around... but despite this, again his broken psychology has been put centre-stage in the movie. The movie's also often so dark that it's hard to see what's going on (which some people will like), while the swearing's less silly than before (which is good).
Overall, I don't think it works. It's too static and Taylor-Compton breaks the film by being a null in the middle of it. Zombie also occasionally has a tin ear for dialogue. I can also see the hallucinations being a negative for a lot of audiences, although personally I thought they gave the movie its personality and I admire Zombie for going so off-the-wall as to include them. I particularly loved the Wizard of Oz Mad Hatter's tea party, for instance.
One day, I'll watch this again. It's a richer film than it looks, which is rare enough to be worth noticing in a slasher movie. I like the "inheriting the mask" thing, which Zombie does far more interestingly than all those Friday the 13th films that attempted the same. You can get into the characters and start noticing that Loomis, for instance, isn't as bad as he's being made out to be and that there appears to be a decent man underneath that tasteless behaviour. For starters I don't see that he's to blame for any of Myers's killings, despite what people say. I like the way that Zombie's musical sensibilities become a motif, e.g. the Rocky Horror concert. I also like the topless women. There's plenty to chew on here and I think I'll appreciate it better on a repeat viewing, once I've got the story out of the way and can see better what's underneath the direction. Surprisingly, I've decided I like Rob Zombie. The Devil's Rejects and The Haunted World of El Superbeasto
are going on my to watch" list.
"I love you, brother."