Directed by Rob Zombie. Starring Scout Taylor-Compton, Tyler Mane, Malcolm McDowell, Brad Dourif, Sheri Moon Zombie, Danielle Harris, Brea Grant, Margot Kidder, Howard Hesseman, "Weird Al" Yankovic. (2009, R, 101 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Sept. 4, 2009
Each generation gets the Michael Myers it deserves. John Carpenter's original vision of the masked and seemingly unkillable psychopath was a hugely disturbing leap forward from previous cinematic bogeymen. Compared with the amiably introverted Freudian shenanigans of Norman Bates, Carpenter's pop-cultural touchstone, Michael Myers, could be taken at "face" value (almost literally so, due to the character's choice of disposable faux visage, a dime-store Captain Kirk mask). Myers could be seen as a lone maniac operating in a classic, stand-alone cinematic environment or as a reactionary projection of the sort of post-Vietnam national malaise that had previously spawned Happy Days, EST therapy, and the Bee Gees. However you dissected the minimal gore and maximum suspense on the screen, the character's original modus operandi and operatic spookiness spoke to both a vastly more innocent time and an audience that was ready, finally, to put the horrors of the decade-old Tet Offensive and My Lai well behind them and relax with a feral wild child and some backseat drive-in corn-popping. 1981's Halloween II was less than half the film its predecessor was; Carpenter handed over the directorial reins (while keeping a screenplay credit and upping the freakout ante) to newcomer Rick Rosenthal, who turned in a dully interesting spin that lacked the focus and autonomous shock tactics of Carpenter's film. Feh. Zombie's grim but overdone 2007 series reboot – and this direct sequel, which picks up immediately after the events of the first do-over – recontextualized Myers as the end result of white-trash parenting, the kind of kid-thing that might easily have been voted Most Likely to Re-Enact Columbine in his high school yearbook had he gone to high school instead of staking a claim to the title of exurban maniac of the month. Zombie’s Halloween II seems unnecessary; it has the rushed, nihilistic feel of a contractual obligation, and, while gorehounds will rejoice that the MPAA has apparently rescinded all previous bylaws regarding ultraviolence in American horror films (not a bad thing in itself), Zombie's depressingly thorough re-examination/exsanguination of the Myers mythos is tailor-made for a generation weaned on first-person shooters, instantly accessible YouTube footage of war carnage, and steroid-enhanced wrestling. It's a gut-buster, a chunk-blower, and a mindfuck all in one, but the cumulative effect of watching Myers (Mane) eviscerate a dozen or so knuckleheaded yokels on his killing path to – it's hardly a spoiler at this point – his sister, Laurie (Taylor-Compton), is akin to watching a KNB Effects Group “greatest kills” reel: It's cool, in its red and sticky way, until it's not. After that, it's just dullsville. Zombie proved beyond a shadow of a doubt his ability to craft a truly great horror show with 2005's spectacularly warped and visionary The Devil's Rejects, but Halloween II just feels rote. Even the return of a scenery-devouring McDowell as Myers' former psychiatrist, Dr. Sam Loomis (originally portrayed with far nuttier nuance by the late Donald Pleasence), and the inclusion of some downright Lynchian dream sequences can't get this sibling bogeyman out of the closet and under the bed where he belongs. It's visceral bloodbathery at its most repellent, but worse than that, it's horrific like the aftermath of a suicide bombing instead of terrifying like the bomb beneath the table or the knife behind the back.