Halloween II Review

Though undoubtedly flawed, the 2007 remake of Halloween remains one of the more interesting of the recent seventies’ horror re-jigs. Recognising that after six sequels of varying banality, not to mention numerous rip-offs and acts of homage, the basic slash-and-stalk formula was growing more than a little tired, writer-director Rob Zombie opted for a different tact. Here was a film that offered up a biographical take on the horror icon that is Michael Myers, taking us through his childhood and formative years, thereby leaving the events of the original Halloween movie to become almost an extended finale. Certainly, some of the psychoanalysing was overly crass and the whole thing prone to reductive stereotyping, yet Zombie nevertheless displayed a newfound maturity in his filmmaking. Visually assured and taking his material with the utmost seriousness, he was even able to make the ridiculous revelation in the original Halloween II that protagonist Laurie Strode was Myers’ sister come across as somehow logical. Of course, Zombie also found recourse to some of his less desirable tropes - a lack of interest in anyone who isn’t a grotesque or psychopath; an in-jokey fondness for casting cult-ish performers (in this instance Brad Dourif, Udo Keir and William Forsythe amongst others) which only serves to distract the viewer from the action - but overall this was an admirable effort and undoubtedly a far superior offering to Hannibal Rising, another childhood glimpse on one of the genre’s modern day poster boys.

The problem with any prospective sequel to the 2007 version is that it has potentially few places to go. Having opted out of the slash-and-stalk standard in the first movie, returning writer and director Zombie now has to opt back in. All the background detail has been filled in; the genesis story, if you will, has been told. But unlike the various superheroes who occupy our big and small screens, Myers doesn’t have new foes to meet, merely more kids to bump off. It’s the reason why various horror figures have been twinned in the past, from Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man to Freddy vs. Jason, and why filmmakers gave Freddy the post-modern treatment (in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare) or sent Jason out into space (Jason X). Needless to say, Halloween II doesn’t have anything quite so outré up its sleeve.

In lieu of anything new to say, Zombie simply throws in a couple of tricks and contrivances. We begin, much the like the 1981 version of Halloween II, with the action picking up immediately from where the first film left off with the ’surprise’ of Myers being still alive and a number of slayings at the local hospital. Zombie ups the viciousness in keeping with current horror norms, displays some his characteristic bad taste humour (jokes about necrophilia) and then, using the first of these tricks, reveals the entire sequence to be but a dream. His Halloween II, he is telling us, is not the old Halloween II. But does that really make a difference in terms of our entertainment? Put simply, it’s a no. The story proper begins almost a year later with Laurie undergoing therapy (cue Zombie cult cameo in the form of Margot Kidder, most likely a nod to Sisters and, especially, Black Christmas as opposed to Superman or The Amityville Horror given the director’s fondness for the horror genre’s less mainstream efforts) and Malcolm McDowell’s Dr. Loomis undergoing a backlash against his celebrity author status (cue another Zombie cult cameo, this time from Weird Al Yankowic as Loomis enters the realms of the late night chat show). Myers then returns, as indeed he must, to make these situations worse courtesy of yet more murderous activity maintaining the viciousness we’d witnessed at the start.

Zombie’s other new trick is to throw in a load of nonsense about a white horse, an idea that is introduced with an opening quotation from ‘The Subconscious Psychosis of Dream’, a book that doesn’t exist outside of the Halloween II’s reality (it is supposedly written by Loomis himself). The quote reads: “White horse - linked to instinct, purity, and the drive to the physical body to release powerful and emotional forces, like rage with ensuing chaos and destruction.” Quite what this means, and after reading it a number of times I still can’t entirely fathom it, the film never really bothers to fully explain. Rather we get Myers’ younger self (played by a different actor this time around as Daeg Faerch had become too old to return to the role) and his mother appearing in Laurie’s visions accompanied by a white horse thus furthering/highlighting her descent into madness. The fact that this whole sub-element to Halloween II doesn’t make much sense is only part of the problem. More damaging is the even more obvious fact that it just isn’t all that interesting. There’s no desire to try and understand what it all means, rather a realisation that it is simply bogging things down further. Just as the Myers’ various slayings soon become repetitious and Loomis’ strand soon becomes dull, the whole white horse aspect is marked out immediately with indifference.

It is tempting to wonder whether this indifference was matched by Zombie himself. Having reportedly turned down initial offers to write and direct this sequel, you sense that his heart isn’t really in it, and certainly not to the extent that it was in his original Halloween. Save for a couple of those characteristic touches (the cameos, the revelling in his characters’ bad taste) this really is quite an anonymous effort that could have been put together by anybody. There’s ultimately no reason for Halloween II to exist other than to make just that little bit more money - and clearly money talks as the IMDb is already listing a Halloween III as being in production for a 2011 release.

The Disc

A fairly no-thrills release from Entertainment, offering up the theatrical cut of the main feature (only the US Blu-ray appears to be offering the ‘Director’s Cut’ version), a perfectly functional presentation and minimal extras. The picture quality copes ably with the amount of night scenes, incessant rain and the like, framing the film at a ratio of 1.78:1 (slightly opened out from the theatrical 1.85:1) with anamorphic enhancement. As you would expect from a new release of a new production, there are no discernible flaws or print damage. Similarly, the soundtrack - present in both DD2.0 and DD5.1 options - does all that you’d hope. The dialogue remains crisp and clear, the music is typically beefy and the sound effects are captured with the requisite smashes and squelches safely intact. Optional English subtitling for the hard of hearing is also available.

Of the extras, only the deleted/alternate scenes stand out. Seven in total and whilst none are particularly revelatory in plot terms they do demonstrate how Zombie cut back on some of his more self-indulgent impulses. With his casting of cult-ish figures comes the desire to offer them wayward monologues as though he’s attempting to become some kind of horror Tarantino (watching his movies to date demonstrates clearly that he has QT-alike fan affection for his chosen genre). Yet here we find them mostly relegated to the deleted scenes pile, a move that would have welcomes optional commentaries atop them to see if this was a result of Zombie reigning himself in or the studio making that decision.

The other additions are mostly take-it-or-leave-it affairs. The blooper reel is self-explanatory whilst the other two additions (six music videos for the band Captain Clegg & the Night Creatures and some stand-up routines by Captain Seymour Coffins) extend on those seen in the Halloween ball sequence which occupies Halloween II’s middle section.

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