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Halloween II (Blu-ray / DVD)

Rob Zombie's Halloween II on DVD and Blu-rayReviewed by MattFini

Starring Scout Taylor Compton, Tyler Mane, Malcolm McDowell, Danielle Harris, Brad Dourif

Directed by Rob Zombie

Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment


Somewhere in Halloween II there’s a decent movie just begging to come out. The potential, though, lies largely in its premise and absolutely nowhere within the execution. As far as sequels go, the idea of surviving victims attempting to pick up the pieces of their lives packs lots of prospect, but it’s also in need of a writer who can cultivate the material in an interesting way.

Rob Zombie is not that man.

From the now infamous “white horse” definition that opens the film to our protagonist’s hallucinogenic nightmare sequence, some have argued that H2 succeeds as an avant-garde slasher flick – one that pushes past the genre’s norms to deliver a deeper, more psychological experience. It’s true that writer/director Rob Zombie tried his hand at delivering something more than just a typical follow-up, but what’s also true is that he failed in doing so with even a modicum of success.

Without question, the biggest problem lies in how Zombie has chosen to treat his monster. His version of Michael Myers is that of a real world serial killer – albeit one with superhuman strength and the keen ability to survive having a chunk of skull blown off his head. It’s a contradictory approach in that his Michael is no more human than The Shape of the original series, but instead of keeping the Boogeyman masked in shadows, he’s traipsing around Haddonfield (sometimes in broad daylight) sans the characteristic mask while suffering a seemingly endless string of hallucinations of his dead mother, who urges him to “have a little fun” all in the name of gritty realism.

Rob Zombie's Halloween II on DVD and Blu-rayThis “insight” into the inner-workings of Michael’s mind isn’t particularly deep, and seeing Sheri Moon Zombie pop up every now and again to “remind” him of his task makes him a one-note bore. Moon’s scenes quickly border on the repetitive, serving no purpose other than to illustrate the lack of growth in Michael’s crazy brain. He’s big. He’s pissed. He’s planning a family reunion. Hardly a bold reinvention of the character. The problem is that while he’s boring, he’s also terribly un-scary. Zombie keeps him unmasked for much of the proceedings, and when he slips on that decomposing pale face, seeing so much of Tyler Mane underneath robs Michael of all remaining mystique.

One could argue that mystique has no place with this Michael Myers. That idea works if Zombie could’ve been bothered to make his villain scary. That this Michael spends much of the running time butchering undesirables is a testament to how mismatched the director is to this material. There are better ways to make a monster scary than watching him beat the crap out of a truck full of degenerate drug dealers and stomping in the skull of a sleazy strip club bouncer. When Michael finally gets around to setting his sights on Laurie’s friends (strategically isolating her from everyone, presumably), it’s no surprise that they’re a reprehensible bunch, dropping f-bombs and other profane jewels like they’ve just stumbled out of the Joe Grizzly truck stop. It’s as if Zombie literally has no idea how to write “normal” people, and as a result, everyone in his cast becomes a fork-tongued asshole. I’ve never once heard my female friends refer to each other as “dick-lickers” in the most casual of manners. And that wouldn’t be a big deal if their dialogue wasn’t 100% interchangeable with just about everyone else in the film, and the first film, and any other Rob Zombie film out there. Everybody talks in the most obscene way imaginable all the time. It’s not a stylistic preference; it’s a crutch for bad writing.

It’s just a weak script overall: Why is nobody looking for Michael Myers, and how in the hell did his body just disappear from the scene of the crime after having his brains blown out? We’re never told. Nor is it explained why Michael takes refuge in a dilapidated shack, only to return to Haddonfield two years after the events of the remake. Why is this real word serial killer so intent on returning on Halloween, and if you can buy that, why did he wait two years to attack? How exactly does a homeless serial killer pass 730 days?

Rob Zombie's Halloween II on DVD and Blu-rayBoth House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects are profane and vulgar films, but the raucous attitude suits the grimy material and sleazy characters just fine. To go the same exact route here represents a disappointing lack of vision from a director proving that he has nothing new or interesting to say. Further proof lies in Zombie’s willingness to cannibalize some of the more memorable bits from earlier works. Remember the scene in Corpses where Old Man Private Ryan is gunned down – only to have video footage of Christmas morning flash through his head as he drops into the mud? Halloween II’s director’s cut recycles it in the aftermath of a central character’s demise – an undeniably effective bit (thanks in part to the footage used), but it’s a trick we’ve already seen. Zombie’s career is far too young for him to already start ripping himself off.

But the biggest disappointment in either Zombieween outing stems from the complete lack of tension and suspense. The closest thing resembling it in Part II comes early on when Laurie flees the hospital with her pissed off brother in hot pursuit. She takes refuge in a guard booth outside while he gets his hands on a hatchet and slowly stalks his way to her while an unsuspecting security guard approaches … It’s almost a good bit, but the tension never mounts properly, entirely dissipating before it can generate any real suspense. From then on the murder scenes don’t even try, focusing instead on the unabashed brutality of the killer. Watching Michael absolutely destroy his victim should be terrifying, but the gore is simply a payoff; it’s nothing without the proper build-up.

In terms of performances, Scout Taylor-Compton tries to muster sympathy for Laurie Strode, but the script prevents that from ever happening. Laurie is endlessly whiny, with only a barrage of profanity to convey her plight. Her character’s arc is among the potentially successful aspects of Halloween II, but Zombie’s script traps her in an endless string of scenes where she’s both unsympathetic and unlikable. Danielle Harris fares much better (especially in this director’s cut) but remains sorely underused. Zombie creates a believable character in Annie, and while Harris will always be little Jamie Lloyd to me, she nearly elevates this material above the rubbish that it is with a terrific performance. Brad Dourif is doubly good, but because he’s a “normal” character, he goes underused in this circus of nonsense.

Special mention must be made of Malcolm McDowell’s Dr. Loomis. McDowell’s completely different take on the character was just about the only saving grace concerning the remake, and there was lots of potential to further explore his character and relation to Michael. Unfortunately, Zombie decided that the most natural progression of Loomis was to give him a little bit of fame and turn him into an insufferable ass. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with McDowell’s turn here – he’s clearly having a ball with the material – but the script goes out of its way to make Loomis unlikable. It’s all done in an attempt to give the character a story arc, but his change of heart literally comes out of nowhere and its resolution is about as unsatisfying as the rest of the experience.

Rob Zombie's Halloween II on DVD and Blu-rayHalloween II slashes onto Blu-ray with image quality that faithfully represents Zombie’s grainy 16mm cinematography. Black levels are so deep that they threaten to envelope the action, although the intended look robs the visual palette of much detail and texture – despite the presence of film grain. There’s only so much that can be done with 16mm, but this Blu-ray looks to be a flawless rendition of Zombie’s desired drab atmosphere. The DTS HD MA 5.1 audio track, on the other hand, startles your home theater with an angry and powerful experience. Environments are rich and all-encompassing (especially during the opening nightmare sequence), placing the viewer front and center amidst Zombie’s nonstop nonsense. If you’re a fan of this film, grab this disc and watch it loud. It’s the only way to go.

In terms of special features we get a solid yet skimpy package in comparison to the previous releases of Zombie’s other films, including his original Halloween. Things kick off with a menu that actually has the Halloween theme playing, and that’s something we don’t get until the end credits of the film itself. YAY! Zombie’s commentary is brisk yet interesting. It’s obvious he had a very clear vision of what he wanted to do, and though his premise was solid, in the end it was his execution that comes off as extremely half-baked.

Next up there are about two dozen alternate and deleted scenes offering up some more of Laurie freaking out, more genre celebrity cameos, and even a couple of alternate kills that were pretty damned effective. Mind you, these are sandwiched between lots of filler so keep that remote handy. From there we move on to several bits of audition footage (I still marvel at the fact that the kid who played young Michael was ever chosen), some make-up tests, a few ear splitting Captain Clegg music videos, and of course more of Uncle Coffins’ horrendous stand-up routine. The jewel of these extras comes in the form of the blooper reel that’s home to some really funny moments. And there you have it, folks. The long and short of it!

This director’s cut offers no improvement over the theatrical experience. Moments are extended, the ending is even dumber, and the film’s overall theme is solidified a little stronger (you can’t run from your destiny); but there’s nothing substantially different. Halloween II isn’t the worst horror film of 2009 simply because it’s a sequel to the worst horror film of 2007. Rather it’s the complete and utter failure of everything it sets out to do that makes it such a chore to endure. Zombie’s juvenile script and flaccid direction have brought the once revered Halloween franchise to another screeching halt. We’re no better off now than we were after the debacle of Halloween Resurrection – the only difference being it took the original series six direct sequels to run out of steam. This misguided remake is dead in the water after two miserable outings, and we’re left wondering who’ll pick up the slack from here.

Special Features

  • Commentary with writer/director Rob Zombie
  • Deleted and alternate scenes
  • Audition footage
  • Uncle Seymour Coffins’ stand-up routines
  • Make-up test footage
  • Captain Clegg and the Night Creatures music videos
  • Blooper reel

    Blu-ray™ Exclusives

  • MovieIQ and BD-Live connect you to real-time information on the cast, music, trivia, and more while watching the movie!

    Film:

    1/2 out of 5

    Special Features:

    3 out of 5

    Discuss Halloween II in our Dread Central forums!

  • Matt Serafini

    Author (Under the Blade, Feral), slasher movie enthusiast, N7 Operative. Plays games, watches movies, reads books. Occasionally writes about them.

    • hellboundheart

      God aweful. The first one was vaguely entertaining. #2 = drivel. That said, I did like The Devils Rejects… A movie that suited Zombie’s asthetic. Halloween remakes, not so much… Maybe he should remake something with a little more grunge – like Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive. Or something completely new could be nice.

    • Floydian Trip

      I’ll be renting it on Tuesday. I won’t own either of his Halloween movies though because I’m such a huge fan of the original. I don’t own any of the Halloween sequels and never will.

      • Uncle Creepy

        Not even 2? That one’s a classic, man.

        • LifeMi

          I’d agree. Rosenthal’s Halloween 2 had no right to be as kickass as it ended up being. Easily one of the best sequels of all time.

          • robertmundy

            I think we have to realize slashers have very little (if any) artistic or social merit. So, with that said, we have to realize that the Halloween series, as a whole, is ridiculous. Of course, everyone puts the original Halloween on a pedestal and act like it’s “Citizen Cane,” but it’s really not. Here, I’ll address a few issues to make a point: How could who spent fifteen years in a mental asylum know how to drive a car properly? How could he survive multiple gunshots and having an eye gouged out? Or, how come the authorities did not connect the tombstone removal, hardware store break-in, and murders together?

            My point is, you can’t harp on Zombie’s sequel (and don’t get me wrong, I understand some of the reasons,) and exclude the others from your crosshairs. At the end of the day, all slashers are the same. Granted there are some minor differences, but overall, same packaging.

            Slashers are not supposed to be put in the same league as regular cinema. After all, they exist only to scare us, not have us draw analogues or make broader connections.

            • Terminal

              It’s Citizen Kane.

              1. It’s deduced by Loomis that someone in the asylum taught Michael how to drive.
              2. Carpenter made Michael a supernatural being, one impervious to wounds.
              3. You have to remember it was Halloween so of course it was natural to think it was all just random acts of teenage destruction.

              “My point is, you can’t harp on Zombie’s sequel”

              Yeah we can if we choose to. The movie sucks. Period.

            • LifeMi

              A-fucking-men. To add on to this, it is very possible that Michael got some books on automobiles and taught himself how to drive. Not to sound egotistical, but anyone who disses on Carpenter’s original doesn’t have a fucking clue what they’re talking about. It is a perfect film, plain and simple. And yes, Zombie’s sequel deserves every criticism it gets.

            • robertmundy

              What? He was in maximum security the entire time–except during his escape. I am not dissing on the original: I’m just pointing out that all slashers–again–are inherently stupid. That’s why I love them: something to watch that involves little thinking, in contrast to higher cinematic faire. With the exceptions of vulgar rednecks all of the criticisms that were applied to Halloween II can be applied to all of the other slashers in general. Take for instance, “the mindless violence.” Well, that’s every slasher in general. Everyone’s forgetting CARPENTER’S SEQUEL had brutal violence as well: two people get stabbed in the eye with a syringe, the security guard has his head split open (on-screen,) the guard has his throat split open, and the list goes on and on. Or, don’t forget Halloween 4: they brought in a special f/x wizard to amp the blood and carnage levels.

              Again, the list goes on and on and on.

              Maybe everyone’s just realizing they’re not solid entertainment, but the cinematic equivalent of junkfood. At the end of the day, they’re all greasy celluloid hamburgers, but from a different chain.

            • Terminal

              I’ve never criticized a slasher for mindless violence.

              I find other logical reasons.

              Most of my reasons for hating Zombie’s sequel has nothing to do with the violence. It’s the artsy fartsy crap, the vain attempts at symbolism, the utterly dull exploits of Michael, the inclusion of Sheri Moon yet again, etc.

            • Terminal

              “He was in maximum security the entire time–except during his escape”

              It’s entirely possible someone taught Michael how to drive, or as previously stated it’s possible Michael read material on how to drive. It’s all really alluded to and remains ambiguous but it seems entirely plausible.

            • LifeMi

              Wrong again, robertmundy. People weren’t criticizing the violence in RZHII because it was mindless; it was because it was so poorly done and extremely out of character for Michael Myers; the kills in H2 and H4 were superb and, when you really look at them, there actually wasn’t that much blood. You can keep arguing all you want, but Zombie’s film deserves every single criticism that comes its way. Not only was it a complete disaster in every way, but it proved that Rob Zombie is a hack who got lucky with The Devil’s Rejects. I would go all the way and call it the worst slasher I’ve ever seen. As for your argument that all slashers are inherently dumb, it’s like this; no film is inherently dumb. It’s the people who make them and the creative decisions they make that make them dumb and RZHII is guilty as charged. There’s only one genuine good thing I can say about this piece of filth; it’s not as bad as Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 4.

            • Terminal

              Yeah I think it’s been established for decades that slashers are dumb. You’d have to be pretty stupid to consider slasher flicks modern art.

              Mundy everyone knows slashers are cinematic junk food. I’ve known that since I was a kid watching F13 The Final Chapter over and over laughing as Jason jabbed his knife in to the fat chick eating a banana.

              I don’t watch slashers for insight and substance. I watch them because they’re fun and cathartic and just a good time.

              But really I am so tired of debating this awful movie, so this is my final word on Zombie’s monstrosity. I never want to see this movie again, it’s awful, and I seriously furrow my brow at anyone who defends it.

              That is all.

              Later.

            • robertmundy

              Pardon my lack of better wording, I was not trying to say YOU CANNOT HARP ON IT–as in the manner of free will.

        • Floydian Trip

          2 is OK but I’ll just stick with JC’s.

    • PelusaMG

      As I’ve said from the moment I saw it, I liked it… I will buy it on DVD… :)

    • Floydian Trip

      Speaking of nothing interesting going on this movie is a helluva lot more entertaining than the scam Paranormal Activity which isn’t even a movie.

    • doubleh55

      Does Zombie explain why he choose not to make his film logical in any way? For example, how did Michael Myers actually kill Laurie’s friend in the van? Why was it filmed completely differently than the rest of the movie? How did he know Laurie would be at the party? How would Michael know that is her friend? Why would Michael then double back to Laurie’s house? Why did he act like he was trying to find information on Laurie if he knew everything he needed to know? Why did it take him two days to get to Haddonfield and two hours to get back to his shack? How did Loomis learn of the location and get there in 20 minutes? How does somebody who gets shot in the face at point blank range survive without medical attention? How did that ugly little fucker turn into an 7 foot tall giant without working out? Seriously, nobody can defend this bullshit without lying to themselves.

      • Floydian Trip

        So this is the first slasher flick you’ve ever seen then?

        • Shambling_in_Bandages

          That would be a legitimate point if the director of said film didn’t go out of his way to say how “realistic” his ‘Halloween’ movies were.

          • Floydian Trip

            Rob Zombie talks alot of smack. Always has. There’s no way to make a slasher flick logical or intelligent it doesn’t work.

            • robertmundy

              Amen. At least someone here is speaking words of wisdom. I think with Zombie’s film they are realizing that slasher films are inherently stupid. But, oh no, the preceding films are a separate kind of slasher!!! How stupid for me to forget.

    • X-Count

      I have no desire to ever see this “film” again. Coming out the theater. Me and my people all felt like Zombie held us at gunpoint for our $6. It truly was that bad. I had to smoke a fuckton of weed and watch Hatchet right after it to forget about the travesty we had just seen. Easily for us the worst film of 2009 and I actually like Zombie’s remake of the first film….

      • Floydian Trip

        The successor to Roger Ebert ladies and gentleman.

    • Cash Bailey

      Rob Zombie has no idea what he’s doing or why.

      That’s as nice as I can ever be about his cinematic output.

    • Terminal

      Halloween 2 is Rob Zombie trying to be artsy fartsy, and he fails at it. Zombie just isn’t that kind of filmmaker. He’s a pure novice and he can’t seem to write anything beyond juvenile trailer trash hillbilly nonsense and Halloween 2 proves that.

      All the attempted symbolism is ridiculous and the movie is just so goddamn boring. Halloween 2 is not as bad as the first Halloween but it’s pure dreck due to the fact that there’s not a single interesting thing that happens in it. It’s pretty much one of the worst movies of 2009 without a doubt.

      I still can’t believe some people think this movie is just ahead of its time. It’s almost as ludicrous as the people who said Black Xmas was purposely bad.

      It’s awful, it will be forgotten until Zombie makes another crappy film revolving around psycho hicks.

      • Floydian Trip

        And how do you get to be a non-novice filmmaker? By making movies. House was rough everyone can agree on that. Devil’s was an improvement in every way I think everyone can agree on that too. Then the studio dragged him into making these movies and although it is his style how much can he learn from working with the studio on a story that’s been told a dozen times. The man needs something original now to pick up where he left off with Devil’s and hone his skills. He does have some.

        • Masked Slasher

          He certainly does have some skill.

          But there’s hasn’t been much growth from House to Halloween II and that’s the most disappointing thing.

          I honestly don’t think he’s got much more to do/say. Hopefully I’m wrong.

          • Floydian Trip

            How much can anyone say when their job is to make a remake? He did make it his own but there’s only so much wiggle room. As I said before the studio wanted to make it not him. How many aspiring directors on this site would have turned it down knowing full well they;d get put through the ringer when it came out. I’d say none. It’s a job. It’s directing. There was money behind it.

            • Masked Slasher

              I’m not sure what your point is.

              Because it’s a job (one I’m not disagreeing that almost anyone would’ve taken) we should be more lenient on it?

              Being a fan of his first two films, I was kinda excited to see what RZ would do with Halloween, but I don’t think he succeeded in the least.

              I listed a full list of reasons why in my review, but I harbor no ill will toward the man himself. I just really think he was the wrong person for Halloween.

            • Floydian Trip

              I geuss my point is that I’m pretty sure that everyone would also agree that JC’s original is a horror masterpiece. There was nowhere to go but down. I thought he handled it pretty well compared to what a typical studio hack would have done with it.

            • Terminal

              Uh, Zombie IS a typical studio hack.

            • Floydian Trip

              I beg to differ.

            • Terminal

              Care to elaborate?

            • Floydian Trip

              I don’t think it takes any kind of serious film study to know that Rob has more talent than most of these other so called directors they get to do these remakes.

        • Terminal

          Zombie has skills? In what way? I haven’t seen anything brilliant come out of the man. And I can’t get behind the notion that he’s just doing it out of the studios demands. It’s almost as far fetched as the people who were declaring, “He’s not doing the remake for the money!” Yeah sure, I buy that.

          You say he needs something original, then what about El Superbeasto? That was a miserable piece of shit.

          • Floydian Trip

            I’m sure it has its audience. I don’t like animation so yeah I agree it sucked but it was a cartoon so of course it did.

    • fceurich39

      the damn theatrical edition is going to be hard to find in stores it’s a damn shame the blu-ray doesn’t have both versions

      • Floydian Trip

        Wow! A Legit complaint. Yeah, Blu-ray’s should contain all version of films. There’s no excuse.

    • The Woman In Black

      Maybe it’s just me … but I don’t see H2 as nearly the failure that Matt does. And (just to explain where I’m coming from) out of all the horror icons, Michael Myers is my favorite. We watched the director’s cut last night, and I found myself feeling pretty much the same as I did when watching the original version in the theatre. I was fairly entertained, especially by Harris and Dourif, but mostly I was enthralled by the pure audacity of Zombie to make HIS film, critics and fans be damned. The new cut — and ending (which I rather liked) — resulted in a more cohesive whole, and while it’s not something I’d watch over and over again certainly, I didn’t hate it … or even dislike it all that much. H2 is its own entity, and I respect it for that. It’s nowhere near the best thing I’ve seen, but on the other hand, it’s nowhere near the worst either. Maybe I’m just subjected to a lot more crappy movies than most people.

      • Masked Slasher

        Nah, different strokes and all that good stuff.

        Although I have a feeling we’re going to disagree again real soon once I submit my Jennifer’s Body review in a few. :)

        • The Woman In Black

          I heard you were rethinking your opinion after seeing it again, so maybe we won’t be at odds after all! lol

      • Cinemascribe

        No, it’s not just you. I was unhappy with several aspects of H2 when I saw it, but despite my reservations I actually managed to give it a positive rating.

        You can check out the review here:

        http://www.horrorwatch.com/reviews/movies/halloween-2-2009.shtml

        (In the piece, I mistakenly spelled the sheriff’s name as Bracken, not Brackett. I resubmitted the review with the correction (plus having done further editing to shorten it a bit) and the revised version never showed up. Still bang my head against a wall now and again over that one)

      • Floydian Trip

        This is why I enjoy reading your stuff. You’re real and honest and I never feel there’s any kind of bias in anything you do. Don’t change.