robotGEEK'S Review: Halloween 2 (2009)

* This review is based off of the 119 minute Unrated Director's Cut

Directed by: Rob Zombie
Category: Horror

I can't believe I'm saying this, in fact, I never thought I'd even "want" to actually watch this after not being a fan at all of Zombie's first Halloween film, buuuuuuuut.......I really like this film. Call me crazy!

And I know what you're thinking, "what's with all the remakes if you don't like them?". I hear ya. Sometimes I want to punish myself, or hold out hope that there is a solid one out there. I gotta be in the mood though, as was the case with Rob Zombie's Halloween 2. I wanted to see a Halloween film I hadn't seen before, and you know, I dig a Rob Zombie flick from time to time, even if it has to be one of his Halloween films. So let me be clear. I did not want to see this after seeing the first one. His first *Halloween film was just all wrong. I still can't wrap my brain around some of the gawd awful decisions he made making that film. As much as I love the Halloween franchise, and as much as I love Rob Zombie films, I just can't like Rob Zombie's Halloween.

Without turning this into a review of his first Halloween film, I'll just point out a few quick points of interest that ruined that film experience for me.
I dig Zombie's Exploitation style of filmmaking, when it suits the material. But with Halloween, the hand-held shaky-cam stuff just didn't jive well at all. Not when you compare it to Carpenter's fluid and expertly choreographed panavision extreme widescreen compositions in the original. Yet, because Zombie had made 2 films prior to this using his Grindhouse/Exploitation style, he delved right into this one with the same concept, only ruining what could have been a decent horror remake. I hate that shit and it makes me physically sick. Is it that difficult to keep the fucking camera still man? You know what they say don't you? all that shaky-cam/hand-held/quick-edit crap is a device directors use to mask the fact that they do not possess any talent behind the camera. Is that really the road you want to go down? I surely hope not. Not sure why he feels the need to make so many of his characters back country hillbillies, but when you include that into the Michael Myers/Halloween lore, it's getting pretty old.

But that's not to say that Halloween is not without it's pluses. It certainly has them, but I'll get into that when I decide to do a review of it sometime. For now, I just want to make my point across that he seriously missed the mark with that one. Halloween should have and could have been the start of a fucking fruitful and profitable franchise for Zombie, but alas, with certain key decisions he made it was a missed opportunity.

Which is why I'm more than happy to say that for the most part, for me anyway, he's almost completely redeemed himself with this sequel 2 years later. Holy shit. It's almost like somebody else had made this. As I was watching the first 20 minutes unfold in the hospital, I'm thinking to myself "Now this is the Halloween film I wanted to see!". He's done away with the hand-held shaky-cam stuff, and has amped up the carnage considerably. What writer/director/producer Rob Zombie has done here is spin the franchise on it's head and going a slightly different direction than with the first one. I'm not sure if that has anything to do with the reaction he got from the first film, or if he was already stylistically leaning more towards this visual style because Halloween 2 seems to bridge the gap in two tonally different visual styles he used in Halloween in 2007, and then with The Lords of Salem in 2012. Immediately with this film you see a huge difference. He's taken the time to set up some really killer shots, and though he does revert back to his signature hand-held style from time to time, it's  minimal.

I don't think I've mentioned it yet, but I think the casting of Tyler Mane as Myers was just brilliant. The guy just fits the role so perfectly. And I can say the same thing about Malcolm McDowell. If there was ever any other actor perfect for taking over the role of Dr. Loomis that Donald Pleasance made so iconic, it's him. And overall, the rest of the cast was pretty good. I always enjoy seeing Danielle Harris up on the big screen and always enjoy the cult and character actors he peppers his films with. Sherri Moon Zombie returns, but only for the trippy sequences, so her role is very minimal...thankfully. Look, I think she can be a good actress, and her work in The Lords of Salem is a huge step in that direction, but she's just not there yet, but she could be. One actor I did have a problem with was, amazingly, the lead actress Scout-Taylor Compton, who plays Laurie Strode. I found her to be incredibly annoying. I don't know if it's because of her age, or the constant crying and unintelligible yelling, but she got on my nerves pretty quick. Though, I did like the material she had to work with. Clearly Zombie was really trying to give his lead actress some moments to shine and to show a wide range of emotions that shift as the film progresses, but her delivery ruins what could have been some great dramatic scenes.

I've heard Zombie state numerous times that this was the worst experience he's ever had making a film. Too much studio interference and pressure resulted in a film he's not entirely happy with. For me personally, that's an interesting thing to hear considering in my humble opinion, this ended up being a much stronger film than the first. Originally this film was in other hands, but Zombie didn't want someone else to ruin his vision, so even though he was exhausted from his first Halloween experience, he just couldn't let anyone else handle this so he agreed to come back and write and direct the sequel. Honestly, Zombie knows his shit. It's painfully apparent that he's a genuine film nerd, and when it comes to making films in different styles and tones, he succeeds the way a lot of other horror filmmakers fail. Each and every one of his films to date offer something different in the horror genre, and they're done exceptionally well............with the exception of Halloween. But then here we are with Halloween 2 basically putting my faith back into Zombie and the Halloween franchise. Unfortunately, I believe he's done with these Halloween films and with the horror genre in general. So he says. If this is true, then that would be a shame because while his films are not everyone's cup of tea, he's definitely got balls and talent and I think with a few more "horror" films under his belt, he can deliver that truly great horror film. It's in his blood, I know it. On the plus side though, maybe his retirement from the horror genre will allow him to dip his hands into other genres. I actually see him making a fantastic, violent and gritty as hell action film in the vein of late 70's and early 80's Italian Euro Crime Cinema. His style suits that idea incredibly well.

Here's a bold statement; Zombie's Halloween 2 is one of the top 3 Halloween films. Yes, I said it. In fact, let me blow your mind a little bit more. Rob Zombie's Halloween 2 is the best Halloween film in the last 32 years. Though I consider Halloween III: Season of the Witch to be a great and severely underrated horror film, I do not consider it a Halloween film. So let's just scratch that one and let's say this is the best Halloween film since Rick Rosenthal's 1981 sequel to Carpenter's original classic. Seriously, this has everything that you'd want in a slasher film that all of it's many sub-par sequels were never able to get right ever since 1981. This film is dark, brutal, bloody, intense and you've got a Michael Myers that actually looks menacing as hell and imposing like a force of nature. Sure as a whole, this film is a bit uneven with it's trippy dream sequences and bizarre hallucinations-which honestly kind of take you out of the film a bit-but on all other fronts, it delivers a classic slasher film experience we crave but just don't get anymore.

I mean, tell me that opening hospital sequence doesn't make you all giddy with excitement? I actually wish the entire film had stuck to that concept. That would have been something. A good ol' fashioned "unstoppable killer stalking a hospital picking off people one by one" type of film. And that's where things get tricky, because while there are plenty of flashes of genius that Zombie displays with this film, there are also some unusual and questionable decisions that quite frankly, leave you dumbfounded. For one, he continuously shows Michael Myers face without his mask for a good chunk of the film. That's pretty ballsy. And though I kind of dig the monster roaming the land routine, having him look like a drifter sporting long hair and a long beard was odd. And to top that off, he has Myers grunt......often, whereas in every other Halloween film ever made, he was a silent killer. And get this, he actually utters a word once in the film. Again, another odd creative decision that might have served the film better had it not been included. But above anything, I think it's the dream and hallucination sequences that throw the film off a bit and ultimately make this film while uneven, also weird. But I love weird, so there you go.

I stand by my word when I say this is one of the best films in the franchise. I don't know why it's gotten so much hate. I mean, it's not like "any" of the Halloween films have gotten any love from critics, but in the case of this film, it seemed the critics were exceptionally harsh. And for what? Here we finally have an honest to goodness straight up slasher film (do they even make those anymore?), and still, nobody's happy. The IMDB's 4.8 positive rating is a joke, and Rotten Tomato's 21% fresh rating makes no sense. What movie are they all watching? Get with the program. Enjoy this film for what it is and for what it offers and leave all your snide criticisms at the door. Uneven yes, but a damn fine and brutal slasher flick.

* Update
In my naivete, I feel I may have jumped the gun in my opinion on Rob Zombie's first Halloween film rather harshly. My comments that I made at the beginning of this review in regards to his previous Halloween film were based on my pre-conceived notions and not on a full scale experience watching the film from beginning to end, rather from scenes I saw here and there where I wasn't fully invested in the experience of watching the film the way I should have. I've since changed my opinion on his first Halloween film.....rather drastically too I may add. 

I've since done a comprehensive review of Rob Zombie's Halloween, which you can find HERE.

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