It All Happens In The Dark

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The Second Time’s the Charm

Halloween II (2009)

When I heard Halloween II was being done by Rob Zombie I was less than interested. His remake of Halloween sucked on a major scale, so why waste time on the sequel to a suck fest? Well, for some reason or other, in what at the time must have surely been a moment of weakness or a total loss of my mind, I gave the Halloween II trailer a look-see. And I liked it. But what does that mean? Nothing really. Movie trailers are often better than the films they represent. But seeing it did awaken a curiosity in me about the movie – and I’m glad it did.

We open with a flashback to young Michael in his Sanitarium days. It is Christmas and Mama Myers (Sheri Moon Zombie) brings Michael a white horse as a present – not a real white horse, silly, but a white horse figurine. Michael says it reminds him of a dream he had where Mama was dressed all in white – “like a really beautiful ghost” – with a white horse and she had come to take him home. Mama tells Michael that whenever he looks at the horse he can think of her. I have to say, I liked the actor (Chase Vanek) who played this young Michael a lot better than the young Michael from the previous film.

Now we cut to Halloween night years later, immediately following the events which ended the first film. Laurie is wandering the rainy streets of Haddonfield having just shot Michael in the head and is still clutching the gun. Scout Taylor Compton really does earn her Laurie Strode card here. She gives an amazingly dedicated performance and though she still isn’t MY Laurie Strode, I was willing to accept her interpretation this time.

Sheriff Bracket (Brad Dourif) finds Laurie, takes the gun and hauls her to the hospital. What follows is a really gruesome and well done emergency room scene with Laurie being operated on. We are allowed to see the full extent of her injuries and she has suffered a lot more bodily damage than Laurie ’78 did.

The paramedics take Dr. Loomis from the Myers house and yes, he is still alive.

I really, really like the opening scenes of this film – and the only thing that mars them is the foul van drivers transporting Michael and Lynda’s bodies. For the most part Zombie has restrained himself from populating this film with overly vile characters. They do still crop up  – but now it is not EVERY character. He now allows room for characters one can care about and sympathize with. When Danielle Harris was originally cast as Annie I thought it was a mistake. She wasn’t bad in the first film, but here I loved her. The evolution of her character and Danielle’s performance are the highlights of this film. I found myself wishing this sequel had focused on her instead of Laurie. The best writing in the film comes courtesy of Annie’s dialogue.

But back to the action – after the van crashes, only one of the men inside appears to still be alive, and bleeding profusely and hearing someone banging around in the back he calls, “Help me!” Who exactly does he think is going to come to his rescue? Well, Michael takes care of him and afterwards sees a vision of his mother in the road before him – and lo and behold, she is all in white, and with a horse of the same color. He walks toward her. Did he always want a pony? Is that why he kills? Based on the crackerjack psychology of the ’07 remake this would not surprise me.

At Haddonfield General Hospital, Laurie’s operation is over and she awakens in recovery. I really liked the use of “Nights in White Satin” and the accompanying footage that is laced throughout this segment. I have always found it to be quite a melancholy song, and it really adds something here.

Michael makes an appearance, but it is after visiting hours, so he cannot see Laurie. Do you think that will stop him? Laurie is on the run again, and Michael has killed every damn person in the hospital and as Laurie tries to escape she falls into a pit of carnage and piled bodies. I like that Zombie filmed a response to how deserted the hospital in the 1981 version was – and on a Halloween night no less.

Zombie really plays with light and shadows in this film. This is eerie and beautiful stuff. There are so many startling, memorable visuals that it is almost threatens to overload your system.

I don’t know why I enjoyed this movie as much but I did. Maybe because even though 1981’s Halloween II was a decent film, it was nowhere near as amazing as its 1978 older brother so I was willing to give this “remake” more of a chance. Or maybe it is because aside from those opening moments, this film doesn’t attempt to recreate anything from the movie that it shares its title with. Or maybe it is just that this is a much better film than Zombie’s previous effort. Also, we aren’t saddled with over an hour of  Michael’s backstory here.

Michael is truly terrifying in the scenes at the hospital, and it is unfortunate that for the following majority of the film he is reincarnated as Grizzly Adams.

Everyone fits their roles much better this time. Even Brad Dourif who I never FELT as the sheriff, I appreciated. The only letdown is that Loomis is written as a total asshole – Malcolm McDowell does what he can – but sadly the character has become such a douche that he makes Weird Al look good. Even the doctor’s retribution in the end is hollow. Dr. Loomis is the weakest link in these two films, which is a shame, because his character was such a driving force, and one of the few constants in the original series.

Zombie’s writing has really matured with this effort – the characters don’t all seem like a variation on the same white trash stereotype – they have something approaching layers, and even a humanity that Zombie’s writing has never tapped into before.

Laurie’s mental health has deteriorated so drastically that Margot Kidder is now her therapist. In the original theatrical version Margot was barely there, but thankfully in the unrated director’s cut she has quite a few more scenes and her presence is felt – I really enjoyed seeing her and she is sublime.

There is basically little story besides Michael returning and Laurie being really fucked up. Sheri Moon Zombie’s Deborah gets all Friday the 13th on Michael – “Kill for Mommy, kill for Mommy.”

Zombie stages some crazy cool dream sequences that are truly nightmarish. An especially nifty bit shows Laurie sprawled out on a buffet table – looking unmistakably like a sleeping beauty – snow falling, and ghoulish Alice in Wonderland type creatures dining around her. We also get a shot of her in a glass coffin, furthering the fairy tale feel. If Laurie is Snow White, Sheri Moon Zombie is the evil queen, and Michael is the henchman who is tasked with taking her into the woods. They do all make it to the enchanted forest in the end but no one gets a happily ever after.

I know I said before that “Love Hurts” should never be in a Halloween movie, but now I take it back. The cover that is presented here, in the end, as the camera glides down a long, long white hallway makes the scene snap, crackle and pop.

I could have done without this Michael using vocals – he grunts when he kills and as he plunges a knife into Dr. Loomis he exclaims, “Die!”

For the most part Zombie has tightened things up and excised what didn’t work. After Halloween ’07 I never thought I’d defend Rob Zombie’s involvement in this series, let alone praise it. I know a lot of people absolutely hate this film – it sure isn’t for everyone – but I found it satisfying and provocative. This is the best film Rob Zombie has made. B-

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