Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Halloween II (2009) & More (An Epic Story)

I really wanted to see Rob Zombie's Halloween II and so I did my usual thing I do when I'm excited about a movie: I avoid as much online preview content as possible. The mostly lame trailer above is pretty much the only thing I knew about the sequel to the remake. That and Sheri Moon Zombie playing the ghost of Deborah Meyers in this one. It wasn't much to go on but something was calling to me. Something important.

I've always preferred Halloween II (the 1981 version) over John Carpenter's 1978 film. Halloween is amazing and obviously a better film but Halloween II is the one I reach for the most thanks to nostalgia. The hospital setting really got to me and after years of catching this film nearly every Halloween, it really turned into cinematic comfort food. The scene where Michael Meyers stabs that nurse and lifts her off the floor while a doped up Laurie watches in confused horror is some kind of devil-magic that still makes me smile. As to why I thought that this kind of beauty would somehow happen in the 2009 version; don't ask me. I was just hoping against hope.

My friend Nafa and I had been talking about going to see Halloween II since it came out back in August but we've both been pretty busy lately. He managed to go and see it and reported back to me that it was awesome. Nearly two months had gone by and I figured that H2 (yikes) was just going to have to be a rental. Then Nafa reminded me that it would probably still be around in theaters through Halloween to pick up some more business. Duh, I didn't think of that.

Finally, last night was our night. We got off work and headed to the University Mall. I've been going to this mall since I first set foot in Tampa 10 years ago and it has been threatening to close ever since. Yet somehow the place keeps on truckin' by managing a few mediocre renovations and adding more dang shoe stores. I would hardly call the Regal University 16 theater attached to the foodcourt my old stomping ground. I haven't been to any screenings of any film there since they opened the Muvico out in New Tampa (we have a new one!). The place was always too trashy and too noisy for me to enjoy the movies there. Of course, any theater can be great if you avoid the crowds by choosing your showtimes wisely and not going to any opening weekend regardless of how excited you are to see a flick. I'm a friggin' expert on that shit now.

With over an hour to kill before the film started, Nafa and I headed to the Halloween store that used to be a Steve & Barry's. This was a slightly half-assed affair but there were some highlights and lowlights nestled in retail hell. I keep hoping that Halloween will become the next big gift-giving holiday but that's a manifesto for a different day. Anyway, here's the goodness:

Blurry because I was trembling.

Beer: the destroyer of man.

My morale is low.

Undead princess, lead me to the truth.

I was getting hungry but nothing in foodcourt inspired me. Nafa reminded me there was a Dairy Queen/Orange Julius near the middle of the mall. It had been many, many years since I had enjoyed OJ. When I was a kid, I used to frequent the Palm Beach Mall where I would get two bacon and cheddar hotdogs and a large Orange Julius. Then after checking out the death metal tapes in Camelot Music, I would circle back for a soda from OJ. One exceptional time, I picked up Peaceful Death and Pretty Flowers by Dead Horse.

Later, in the car, my mom actually asked to read the lyrics while we were stuck in traffic. She was infuriated by the violent and dark content of the lyrics and nearly confiscated the cassette from me. Thankfully, that was the last time she did that. Had my mom read lyrics from bands like Autopsy (disgusting) or Nocturnus (satanic) or Demolition Hammer (violent) or a hundred other bands I was into at the time, my metal days would have been over.

My appetite ain't what it used to be (thank God) so I just got one bacon cheddar dog and a small Orange Julius. The cost of this meal was over $6 but no matter, it was delightful. Poor Nafa sat there watching me moan and eat like a total pig. I probably ruined his appetite. Sorry, duder. With still more time to kill, we ventured to Hot Topic, Spencer's Gifts, and a very bizarre dollar store called Kim's Dollar & More. Here's the surprise: we found cheapness everywhere!

We finally went to the Regal University 16 for showtime and it was not nostalgic at all. I doubt the place has changed much over the years but nothing looked familiar. We got our tickets and Nafa got some crazy coupons. Apparently, he's a frequet Regal customer. We walk down the hall to our theater and HEY WHAT'S THAT GUY DOING?!! There was only one other dude sitting there waiting for the film to start and I swear he had to quickly adjust his pants when he heard us walking in. This was not a good sign. While having him behind us was a risk, I made sure to have at least 4 rows between us and the probably-masturbating guy. This piece of shit would be snoring soon (hmm, why's he so sleepy all of a sudden?) but he would be easy to ignore during Rob Zombie's flick.

Okay, so now that we're reaquainted with the original Halloween II and you've made it this far in my spooOOooky journey through time and space, let's FINALLY see what Rob Zombie has done with the material. There are going to be some MAJOR SPOILERS in my little rant here so don't spill juice on your Milky Way or anything. (I just made that up.) See the movie before you read on.

H2 (I despise and love calling it that) starts us off with a great hospital sequence where Laurie (played by Scout Taylor-Compton) and Annie Brackett (Danielle Harris), who is still in a coma from the first film, are menaced by Michael Meyers (Tyler Mane). But this all turns out to be a dream (get used to it). It is a year later and Laurie is all maladjusted and shit and is now living with Annie (who is scarred up but not in a coma) and Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif). She is plagued with nightmares, takes lots of pills, and dresses in torn and grungy clothes (awesome). Michael's body was lost and there is speculation that he is still alive. Of course, he IS alive and is slowly making his way back to Haddonfield (killing anyone who gets in his way).

A cynical and comically prickish Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) is making the lecture circuit with his newly released book about Meyers. His book reveals that Laurie is actually Michael Meyers' sister. Laurie reads this, spazzes out, and heads over to her friends' place. There she gets drunk, dresses up like Magenta from Rocky Horror (genius), and heads out to a wild Halloween party where she binge drinks and spazzes out again. Meyers kills one of her friends at the party AND books it back home to attack Annie (finishing the job this time). A big showdown ensues between Michael, Dr. Loomis, Laurie, Sheriff Brackett, and the Haddonfield police department.

Thank you, Rob Zombie. Thank you for raping my eyes. Halloween II is so over the top and nuts that I can only describe it as taking a nauseous ride on a roller coaster made of circus peanuts as it zips through a universe of flickering fluorescent stars. The supernatural (I think) overtones and the gritty splendor are quite captivating. However, the film is also one of the most relentlessly violent and perturbing things I've ever seen in theaters. Every time I started to settle into a safe and comfortable place, the violence would come lunging back to plunge the knife in over and over again. And again!

I think Rob Zombie woke up last November 1st with a happy stomachache from too much Halloween candy and wrote down his nightmares. That is the real genesis of Halloween II. The director's obsession with the 70s, characters who inhabit the fringes of society, and constant strings of expletives were in full force. More importantly though is the film's oddness. There are a handful of dream sequences, hallucinations, or whatevers that broke up the would-be monotony of all the violent setpieces. Remember in Halloweentown II: Kalabar's Revenge when the bad dude wanted to turn everyone's Halloween masks into their own real faces? No? Well, it's like that. Sort of.

As a horror fan, I have two ways of thinking. The first is this: okay, this part of the movie is awesome. The second way of thinking: okay, everyone is going to fucking hate this part of the movie and it is still awesome. There are so many of the latter that I can do nothing but mirth-sigh (whatever that means). Now I'm not being contrary to any negative reviews this film most likely has received (haven't read any reviews just yet); I honestly feel that with every wrong turn Halloween II makes, I'm along for the ride. This film tries to do wrong by me but it can't. Better luck next time, yo. Contempt for the audience? Maybe. Contempt for the material? Probably. I heard rumors that Zombie didn't want to do this film. GOOD! He should only do projects he doesn't want to do from now. The proof is in the puddin'.

Forget the modern setting, Halloween II is a journey through a 1978 that never existed or perhaps one that is yet to come. Jason Vorhees gets resurrected by a bolt of lighting and Michael Meyers gets brought back by a cow. That is impressive. I'm having a tough time communicating how important this film is. Purists concerned with deviations from the established rules of the Michael Meyers saga (yes, he takes the mask off in this one) can nitpick if they want to but I am no purist. All I care about is mood (most important), gore (quite important), and boobs (least important) but Halloween II is more than that.

Is this flick a thinker? Yeah. And why not? There is some heavy (not like literature of anything but heavy) shit happening here. Were the dream sequences there just to screw us up or is the whole thing a dream? Did Zombie go all Eyes Wide Shut on our asses? Could be. The film is very dreamlike and there are too many oddities for it to be just accidentally sloppy writing. Beauty is the key here and there are so many gorgeous shots burned into the back of my eyes. Plot and script were put in danger for aesthetics and that is all I ever ask horror movie directors to do. I don't give a double God damn about the mechanics. Just give me smoke machines and freaky lighting.

Rob Zombie's Halloween and Halloween II are just what I needed. They heal the damage done to me by House of 1,000 Corpses (1/3 awesome, 2/3 suck) and The Devil's Rejects (that heroic death scene at the ending just ruined the whole thing for me). Both films had the atmosphere but failed miserably in other ways. This is Rob Zombie really coming into his own. Malek Akkad, I implore you, keep throwing money at Rob Zombie projects. It's working and don't let anyone tell you it ain't. "Nights in White Satin" trumps "Free Bird" every time.

After this magnificent movie ended, I had to reenter society so that I could go home. This was not an easy transition. Rob Zombie had made my world a prettier place. Colors were more vibrant and I walked a little slower to catch all the details. On the way home, Nafa and I discussed the film the entire way. This was his third time seeing Halloween II at the theater but the film's frenzied energy still had him in its clutches. He dropped me off at home where I ran up the stairs to my apartment and started babbling about the film to my wife who nodded many times and thanked me for not taking her to see it.

Escaping the theater. Soooooo nice.


  1. Thank you for this, its nice to find out I am not alone in my feelings for this movie. I absolutely loved how Rob Zombie dispensed with the hospital stuff from the original H2 rather quickly and jumped right into his own version, twisted, dreamy, and beautiful. Some of those shots were breathtaking! And how great was it to actually have to think at a Halloween movie? I think I want to go see it again right now.

  2. So I finally know of two others who liked this film. Thank God!
    Great write-up!

  3. Great story! Love the pic of you escaping the theater.