There aren’t many horror films that are more immediately divisive than Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake and its sequel. Some people love them more than the original—I don’t agree, but I get that. For younger people, Zombie’s movie is the Halloween they grew up with. The original is too slow for them. There are also many fans who absolutely hate Zombie’s Halloween features because they feel like these two efforts ruined everything that was great about the original. They strayed too far from the source material. They destroyed the character of Michael Myers with their new approach.
But even if I have some issues with Zombie’s remake, I think the approach was right. A remake should be a different entity than the original, it should take the story and tell it in a new context with a new perspective. That’s exactly what Zombie did. He told the same essential story of Halloween, but he did it entirely in his own world, through his own very distinctive style. Maybe it leaned a little too heavily on the white trash elements and maybe there’s visually no distinction between the flashback and present day sequences, but we had seen the supernatural approach to Michael Myers. Taking a grounded, realistic-yet-stylized sort of Batman Begins approach was admittedly a great idea.
Where I think it lost a lot of fans that weren’t inherently put off by the director’s style is in the pacing. It’s so much its own thing for the first hour and then it jumps into a rushed recap of the events of Carpenter’s original Halloween. There’s still interesting stuff here, but we don’t get to spend any time with it. It was an experiment that didn’t work for some. But the awkward pacing was actually born from the fact that, initially, the prequel stuff and the remake stuff were meant to be split into two separate movies.
It was purely Rob Zombie’s Halloween until it jumped into retreading Carpenter. But Zombie had the chance to go balls-to-the-wall with his follow-up, Halloween II. He did exactly that and the reactions were even more divisive than they were for the remake.
Honestly, though, as much as Halloween II might fail as an entry within the general Halloween pantheon, it gets points for being such a radical take on the material. Zombie had a great opportunity with the sequel that he did not waste, and the movie is better for it. After the ending of the remake, he was able to take the characters into any direction he could think of.
He had the ability to completely change the surviving characters by virtue of the way that they process grief. Yes, Halloween II might have glaring flaws, but it many of them could have been avoided. On that same token, the film could even have been a masterpiece if someone had managed to utter three words:
“Rob, that’s stupid.”
Those words could have changed everything, like breaking the spell at the end of a Disney movie. See, all of the pieces are in place for Rob Zombie’s Halloween II to be a batshit, Fulci-inspired surrealist masterpiece. Nothing makes sense because nothing needs to. This is The Beyond with Michael Myers injected into the middle of it, and that’s awesome. At times, in its best moments, that’s the film that Halloween II manages to be.
The only problem is that that’s not the movie Rob Zombie realized he was making. If you listen to the commentary track or read interviews he’s done about the film, he’s pretty convinced that he was carrying on with his uber-realistic portrayal of Michael Myers and that world.
That this is a feature about Laurie succumbing to the same mental illness that her brother suffers from is an interesting idea on its own. But Laurie experiences this by not only seeing a mother she can’t remember, but by sharing her visions with Michael, seeing the exact same things that he sees, often at the same time.
Rob, that’s stupid.
That’s not how mental illness works. No matter what you have that causes a hallucination, be it schizophrenia or a tumor, nobody else is going to see exactly the same thing you see, because these are psychological manifestations. On that same level, hallucinations can’t tell you anything you don’t already know. Laurie has visions of her mother, young Michael, and even her birth name, long before she actually becomes aware of any of these things.
This is at times a very bizarre, weird, trippy, surrealistic funhouse ride of a movie. It would have been so much better if Zombie was able to recognize that he was making a film about nonsensical brother-sister psychic hell visions instead of thinking that any of that is something that people actually go through. Less of the White Horse and more of the bizarre dinner scene with the pig masks and Halloween II could have been something legendary. The only thing it gets right in its approach to psychology is the genius—and kind of empowering?—casting of Margot Kidder as Laurie’s therapist.
There are a few interesting twists and turns the movie throws out there in approach to realistically dealing with trauma. I genuinely love the fact that the returning survivors of the remake were all completely changed by what happened and are dealing with the trauma in entirely separate ways.
Laurie is not coping with it at all. Annie seems fine and well-adjusted until you realize that she can’t leave the house. Loomis believes that he failed on such a monumental level that his self-loathing has transformed him into exactly the asshole he thinks he is. Hell, he can’t even look at a picture of himself in the classic goatee and trenchcoat, and I think that’s a great touch. And then there’s Brackett, who actually becomes the Dr. Loomis figure by wanting to make sure that whatever happened cant’ ever happen again.
But as a whole, the mistake with Halloween II lies in approaching it as a realistic film when that’s so clearly the opposite of what it wants to be. Zombie shouldn’t have cared how Michael survived getting shot in the head. He shouldn’t have felt the need to explain where the opening dream sequence begins and ends because those things shouldn’t matter to a movie like this. Halloween II is meant to be a batshit, illogical fever dream and had those avenues had been truly embraced, it could have been a surrealistic masterpiece of the modern era.
Instead, it’s all over the place, often pulling itself in two directions. But there are times when it comes close to being the rambling lunatic it was meant to be. And for that, I’m glad.