Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Short Attention Span Review: Halloween II (2009 - Rob Zombie version)

Short Attention Span Review: Halloween II (2009 - Rob Zombie version)

DISCLAIMER:  There are two things that I should point out before we go any further.  First, I am a big fan of Rob Zombie's movies, and I understand that these are polarizing ventures.  His style isn't for everyone, but I dig it in a big way.  Hell, John Carpenter is my favorite director, and I've gone out on a limb before* and stated that I found Zombie's Halloween to be superior to the original because I loved both the additional depth and the ramped-up carnage.  Secondly, my praise here will refer ONLY to the director's cut** of Halloween II.  I saw the theatrical cut upon release and deemed it an abject failure.  After a friend nagged me for years, I finally gave the director's cut a chance and found it to be one hell of a horror film.

This is a case where you go in expecting one thing and get something else.  The opening reel makes it seem like Rob Zombie's second dance with The Shape is going to be a blistering rehash of the original sequel--and it is FREAKING AMAZING!!!  And then things take a hard left.  One of the hardest lefts you're ever going to experience while watching a beloved horror franchise, in fact.  And that may be too much for some to overcome, and it may have played a role in my disdain of the original release (though, upon comparison, there can be no doubt that it is grossly inferior to Zombie's preferred version) back in 2009.  However, those who hang on for the ride will get their money's worth--and then some.  While there are numerous departures from the source material at every turn and Zombie cross-pollinates a bloodthirsty slasher flick with the vision quest from hell, the end result is a dark and demented display of cold-blooded terror.  Eerie, vicious, and even heartbreaking at times, Halloween II covers a lot of bizarre ground.  Yet Zombie never loses his focus, and no matter how twisted things get, the center holds.  There is little relief available to viewers in this unsettling journey into madness and despair, and at times Halloween II is so bleak that it becomes extremely hard to endure.  Many feel that The Devil's Rejects is a tough watch, and I would agree, but Halloween II kinda makes that depraved grindhouse epic feel like a Spielberg movie.  Many of the beats take the story to places I didn't want it to go, but the results are impossible to ignore, and the impact of Rob's dedication to painting such a horrid picture is devastating.  There are moments of such unmistakable pain in this one that it emerges as one of the most haunting horror films I have seen, and that's just not what one typically expects from this sub-genre.  Rob Zombie's Halloween II is bold and unconventional when we want it to be familiar, and then it gets meditative and disturbingly introspective when we want it to be titillating.  I have little doubt that Zombie didn't expect fans to embrace this material with open arms, and the decision to forge ahead and challenge audiences with something so profound and terrifying is the very definition of audacious.  I salute him, and while I wouldn't make my dog watch the theatrical cut, I heartily recommend the director's cut to my fellow fright fans.  Just go in with an open mind and get ready to feel the fear.

Final Grade:  B+

Halloween II is everything you expect from a Rob Zombie film: brutal, grimy, frenzied, and profane.  It is also both the strangest thing he has ever put on film and one of the most surreal horror films you're apt to see from an American director.
*see my story When Michael met Rob - A Killer Love Story in RVA Magazine

**strange but true: I recommend the theatrical cut of Zombie's first Halloween and the director's cut of his sequel.  I don't hate the director's cut of the first one as much as I despise the theatrical cut of the second one, but it is a big step down.

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