Halloween II

Movie Information

The Story: The sequel to Rob Zombie's Halloween reboot offers more of the same with some odd additions to the original series' mythology. The Lowdown: Interesting, sometimes fascinating, definitely brutal in its violence, but ultimately not all that effective.
Genre: Horror
Director: Rob Zombie
Starring: Scout Taylor-Compton, Brad Dourif, Malcolm McDowell, Sheri Moon Zombie, Tyler Mane
Rated: R

Perception is an interesting thing. I spent the entire running time of Rob Zombie’s Halloween II thinking that while the film was often quite brutal, it wasn’t particularly graphic in the sense of blood and guts. I wouldn’t call it reticent, but neither did it seem to me that it lingered over the gore and pain. What it does do, which seemed unusual, is up the ferocity of the killings. In this film, Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) doesn’t merely stab his victims; he stabs them again and again—with graphic sound—as if releasing some unspeakable inner rage. That must have resonated with a number of critics in a powerful way, since many of the reviews find the movie unspeakably repellent. While I wouldn’t call Halloween II good, I can’t say I found it repellent. (Actually, I found it considerably less so than the very seriously minded The Stoning of Soraya M., which I also saw this week.)

I’m still convinced that Rob Zombie has a very good—maybe even great—film in him, but this isn’t it. It is, however, a lot more interesting than his 2007 Halloween reboot. And by more interesting, I mean it’s obviously more personal. The film is a weird amalgam of Zombie’s first two movies, House of 1000 Corpses (2003) and The Devil’s Rejects (2005), boasting the stylistic frenzy of the former and the grind-house graininess of the latter. At the time of Corpses’ release I wrote that it was “a lot like an art film, a porno loop, a gross-out horror movie and a music video. But none of these elements—intriguing though some of them are individually—ever turn into a single coherent idea.” While I’m not so sure about that final assertion anymore (the film has grown on me), the first part is true and it resurfaces here, but in grubbier terms.

What Zombie has made here is a personal take on the Carpenter original from 1978 and Rick Rosenthal’s 1981 sequel film. Actually, Rosenthal’s film is mostly addressed at the beginning of Halloween II and reduced to a single sequence—one that plays with the viewer, but in a wholly fair manner (pay attention to the use of a Top of the Pops-like clip of the Moody Blues performing “Nights in White Satin”). The sequence might even be viewed as a parody/critique of the gross-out bits that were added to Rosenthal’s movie after the fact, especially since the lingering shots of emergency-room procedures in the sequence are the only such grotesqueries of this sort in Zombie’s film. Otherwise, Zombie uses the Michael Myers/Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) kinship from the original (which he rethinks entirely) and ignores the rest, setting the new film at a later date.

Zombie stands much of the Carpenter-based mythology on its head. His Dr. Sam Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) is a venal, fame-obsessed character, who has used his connection to serial-killing Michael Myers as a springboard to fame (a decidedly postmodern comment on celebrity culture). There’s nothing benevolent about this Loomis, who in fact has revealed to the world—and to Laurie—that she’s really the sister of the notorious Michael in his latest money-spinning book on the subject. Michael himself has been turned into a strange, wandering figure with a family obsession that owes much to Tobe Hooper’s two Texas Chainsaw Massacre films—something underscored by the presence of Caroline Williams (veteran heroine of Chainsaw 2) in the cast.

This family business leads to Zombie’s weirdest embellishment—one that’s as perplexing as it is intriguing. At the beginning of the film he sets up some daffy mythology about a white horse—complete with Ma Myers (Sheri Moon Zombie, who has grown into a credible actress) visiting young Michael (newcomer Chase Vanek) in the insane asylum and giving him a plastic white horse. This is then mixed into young Michael’s dream of her coming to him all in white “like a ghost,” which is the setup for her haunting the whole film as a strangely shabby specter leading a white horse and accompanied by young Michael even in the presence of adult Michael. Got that? Well, it gets screwier because they sometimes seem to be real, but aren’t—or maybe they aren’t. It calls to mind aspects of House of 1000 Corpses and leads to some truly striking imagery, but it feels more bizarre than effective.

Otherwise, the film is pretty much what you might expect. There are the standard slasher elements combined with Zombie’s penchant for older horror pictures. There’s a nice nod (that unfortunately goes nowhere) to Erle C. Kenton’s The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), and Halloween costumes drawn from Jim Sharman’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). Zombie also evokes elements from his own work—by the end of the film, for example, Michael’s mask looks more like the human flesh from Corpses than a Halloween accoutrement. All in all, it’s an interesting work—within the confines of its genre—but it’s not a truly good one. Rated R for strong brutal bloody violence throughout, terror, disturbing graphic images, language and some crude sexual content and nudity.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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10 thoughts on “Halloween II

  1. (Sheri Moon Zombie, who has grown into a credible actress)

    I don’t believe you, and I don’t think I’m going to watch this film to be proven wrong.

  2. Ken Hanke

    I don’t believe you, and I don’t think I’m going to watch this film to be proven wrong.

    I said credible, not brilliant. And I’d never be so rash as to suggest you go watch this.

  3. Sean Williams

    I confess that I have never seen a single one of the Halloween movies, so whenever I read about the antics of “Michael Myers”, I always imagine the Saturday Night Live actor.

  4. Wes

    There’s actually a joke about that in this movie, as I recall, Sean.
    Ken, I’m not sure if I felt the hospital sequence was fair (though you’re absolutely right about the Moody Blues bit) – it seemed as though we were shown an awful lot of details from an omniscient perspective that Laurie wouldn’t have been aware of ultimately. I know that’s certainly possible in the kind of scenario Zombie was setting up, but it didn’t fit quite well enough with the tone to convince me.

  5. Wes

    PS – That was a difficult opinion to express without giving anything major away. A newfound bit of respect for the tough job of the movie critic.

  6. Ken Hanke

    That was a difficult opinion to express without giving anything major away.

    Further testament to that lies in the fact that I can think of no way to respond to your objection without giving too much away.

  7. Wes

    Fair enough. I’ve mellowed a little on that objection in the few days since I wrote it. The more I think about it, the more it seems that part of the aesthetic project of the movie as a whole is to cast doubt on what is really happening and what is not – throughout, not just in specific sequences. This is done with odd and sometimes provocative choices about what to show with a gritty, graphic realism, and what to make loopy and surreal. I agree with your assessment that it may be more bizarre than effective, because ultimately I’m not sure I could find any consistent rules to the aesthetic that would help puzzle out the story. By the end, I was not even convinced that I could say for a fact who the killer was. Now for a slasher movie, that’s interesting, but it’s still weird. I hope that’s not giving too much away, and, as an aside, I’ll point out that one good thing the film has going for it is that it has genuine surprises that I want to keep from potential viewers. I can’t think of another movie this mainstream in the genre I’ve been able to say that about for quite some time.

  8. Ken Hanke

    By the end, I was not even convinced that I could say for a fact who the killer was. Now for a slasher movie, that’s interesting, but it’s still weird

    But at least interesting. It’s also something I so wasn’t looking for that I’d need to see the movie a second time to see if it holds water. That may have to wait for DVD.

    I’ll point out that one good thing the film has going for it is that it has genuine surprises that I want to keep from potential viewers.

    It is not entirely surprise free and that, as you note, is unusual these days.

  9. Chad Schuermeyer

    I saw Halloween II a couple weeks ago. Now, this is not my type of film. The only reason I saw it was that my mother was in it. (she was the nurse asleep and later dead draped over stair rail in the beginning of the film)

    I thought it was good. Not the greatest film, but good. Now, I’ve never seen the first Halloween movie, so I didn’t understand a lot. And it was a tad predictable. But, it wasn’t a bad movie.

  10. Ken Hanke

    Now, I’ve never seen the first Halloween movie, so I didn’t understand a lot.

    Either the most interesting or irritating aspect of Zombie’s film lies in the fact that even if you know the first movie — or the entire run of pre-reboot films — there’s no guarantee that you’d understand a lot of what goes on here. For me, that’s what makes this more interesting than most such films. Not that it’s incomprehensible, mind you, but that it can be read more than one way.

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