One could probably make the case that Rob Zombie wasn’t going to make anyone happy when he remade John Carpenter’s Halloween. Whether you liked the remake’s first half – a deep dive into Michael Myers’ disturbed upbringing – it was … different. The second half of Zombie’s remake felt forced into story we already knew. Regardless of how divisive the remake proved to be, however, it made enough money to earn a follow-up. And this time Zombie wouldn’t have to fit his vision into a pre-existing mold. Too bad it didn’t help. Audiences stayed away and critics were even less impressed.
One year has passed since Michael Myers terrorized Haddonfield. Though Laurie Strode survived she’s severely traumatized and struggling to move on. The disappearance of Myers’ body on the night of the murders has only fueled rumors and fear. Now it’s Halloween again and Michael Myers is back and determined to reunite his family no matter what stands in his way.
Halloween II Feels More Like a Sequel to The Devil’s Rejects Than to Halloween
In what feels like a homage to the original Halloween II, writer and director Rob Zombie actually conjures up quite a bit of tension in a cat-and-mouse stalking scene set in a hospital. Generally, Zombie’s movies aren’t so much scary as they are endurance tests. Unfortunately, Zombie quickly gives in to familiar impulses. In other words, Halloween II is an ultra-violent sequel more concerned with cool 70s references than actually being scary. There’s no denying the intensity that’s on display. And Zombie knows gritty exploitation aesthetics better than most filmmakers. Plenty of eccentric quirks also abound making the sequel strangely watchable even if it’s an ugly movie.
…Halloween II is an ultra-violent sequel more concerned with cool 70s references than actually being scary.
Like it or not, Zombie also takes his sequel in an entirely different direction than anything previously seen in the Halloween franchise. This time around the shock rock filmmaker includes Freudian-inspired imagery of a white horse guided by Michael’s dead mother (starring a returning Sheri Moon Zombie). Maybe Michael Myers shares a psychic connection with his sister? Or perhaps the events of the first movie drove Laurie Strode mad and everything in the sequel is a delusion-fueled nightmare? Not much makes any sense. But Zombie has eye for cool imagery and there’s plenty of off-the-wall sites on display.
Halloween II Filled With the Usual Assortment of Unsavory Zombie Characters
Similar to Zombie’s other movies, Halloween II suffers from casting and characterization problems. Regardless of where (and when) he sets his movies, nearly every Zombie character is a foul-mouthed, white-trash hillbilly whose cultural sensibilities are permanently stuck in the 1970s. It’s fun to see veteran character actors like Richard Brake (31), Dayton Callie, Jeff Daniel Phillips (Lords of Salem), Mark Boone Junior, and Daniel Roebuck appear in small roles. But Zombie’s dialogue reduces everyone to unlikable, foul-mouthed cartoon characters. The exchange between Callie and Brake, playing the world’s worst paramedics, isn’t so much edgy as it is needlessly tasteless. And Malcolm McDowell’s returning Dr. Samuel Loomis mine as well be an entirely different character.
But Zombie’s dialogue reduces everyone to unlikable, foul-mouthed cartoon characters.
What really hurts Halloween II is just how unlikable its main protagonist is this time around. Perhaps Zombie intended to delve into the effects of trauma – much of the sequel’s first half finds Scout Taylor Compton’s Laurie Strode struggling to cope. Yet two problems quickly emerge. First, Zombie’s screenplay – and filmmaking style – lacks the subtly for a more serious character study. Moreover, Taylor Compton doesn’t quite have the range for what’s required and, as a result, she more often comes across as petulant rather than sympathetic. Perhaps Zombie should have spent more time with Danielle Harris’ ‘Annie’ and her father, Brad Dourif’s ‘Sheriff Lee Brackett’. Both actors excel in their roles giving off a very genuine feeling to their ‘father-and-daughter’ relationship. They’re probably the only likable characters in the entire movie.
Halloween II Has a Few Treats, But Mostly Feels Nasty and Ugly
While it’s maybe deserving of some critical re-consideration, Halloween II is still a mess of a movie. For its first 15 minutes or so, writer and director Rob Zombie shows some restraint and builds some impressive suspense. From that point onward, however, Zombie slips into all of his old habits. As a result, Halloween II is an extremely violent, nasty movie that will appease hardcore gore fans while dividing lovers of John Carpenter’s original. Throw in a strange departure into Freudian territory and (maybe) supernatural horror and the sequel feels far removed from Zombie’s first kick at the can, for better and worse. Ultimately, the end result is like a lot of the shock rocker’s output – not necessarily good, but strangely watchable.