Rob Zombie’s ‘Halloween II’ butchers the franchise

Posted Sept. 03, 2009, at 6:28 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:57 a.m.

HALLOWEEN II, written and directed by Rob Zombie, 105 minutes, rated R.

Dear Rob Zombie:

First off, may I call you by your first name? Rob? Robert? Or would Mr. Zombie do? I’m assuming Robbie is out, though given the inherent alliteration Robbie Zombie presents, you might consider adopting it for future use. You know, for marketing purposes. That sort of thing.

Anyway, it doesn’t really matter, as it’s unlikely that we’ll be friends after this.

I recently saw your latest effort behind the lens, “Halloween II,” a remake of Rick Rosenthal’s 1981 horror movie with Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, and feel well enough now to pass along a few thoughts on its risible execution as well as a few regrets for all of that unfortunate explaining you now must be saddled with.

That last part has to be a drag. I mean, how do you explain away unparalleled incompetence on every level? Sure, you can just nod and smile politely while you grind your teeth into bloody posts. Or, if you’re of another mind (and I have to believe you are), perhaps you could use a helpful hand gesture if you’re not in the mood to practice good manners (and I have to believe you aren’t).

Still, no matter how you handle it, trying to get people to understand that you’ve made the year’s worst film has to be trying. And for that reason alone, I feel sorry for you. Sort of. OK, not at all.

About your movie. It’s just a bloody windbag of exploding cows, butchered bodies, nasty necrophiliacs, bloodletting gone berserk and madness running rampant, isn’t it? As John Carpenter proved in the original “Halloween,” most of this could have been handled with a measure of finesse, sustained suspense, violence that was implied instead of exploited, and a core character — Laurie Strode (now played by the grating Scout Taylor-Compton) — who you come to care about. All of that is lacking here just as it was in Rosenthal’s weak sequel. As a result, your movie is a crude, scattered, disjointed mess. It’s a pandemonium of the pathetic.

Let’s talk about Laurie for a minute. In Carpenter’s hands, she was the good girl with the clean mouth and the bad hair who loved children and carved them cute little pumpkins before Michael Myers wreaked havoc on her life and turned her into a screaming banshee. In Rosenthal’s hands, she essentially only reprised the role to be on the run from Michael while providing her share of shrieks. In your hands — literally, since you dictated the script (to an illiterate?) — Laurie now sounds as if she’s graduated magna cum laude from the four-letter school of hard knocks.

What a mouth on that one! Your Laurie is about as likable as a fist in the face — her presence in a room could turn pale walls into shades of black — and so the key element missing from your movie is someone to root for. I could have cared less about your Laurie. In fact, I kind of hated her.

Same goes for the story. Just so we’re on the same page, remaking a horror movie doesn’t have to be a horror show. All one has to do is look to Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead,” John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” Werner Herzog’s “Nosferatu” and Philip Kaufman’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” to see that it can be pulled off with panache. In your movie, you’ve essentially run a knife through the franchise’s gut. And then you do it again and again. Rinse and repeat. Hammer away and hammer hard.

Thing is, beyond the ongoing sense of confusion you generate onscreen, you feel nothing in “Halloween II.” The whole movie is a misreading of what makes a horror film good — attention to the main characters (Malcolm McDowell’s performance as Dr. Loomis is a Razzie in the waiting), and especially attention to designing a landscape that allows suspense to roam and mount. Instead, you overwhelm with a barrage of gore while stuffing in a stupid back story that revisits — through hallucination, no less — why Michael Myers became the serial killer, Michael Myers (Tyler Mane).

With broad nods at Freud (that’s deep), this apparently involves the use of a gleaming white horse and the ghostly vision of Michael’s mother (your real-life wife, Sheri Moon Zombie). Some will remember that Michael’s mom was a pole stripper in your last movie, 2007’s “Halloween,” also a bum remake, but here, she’s aglow with empty eyes, vapid dialogue, a white wicked witch wig, and plenty of mean ideas. I’d say that’s an improvement. Also, it must be noted that the mere fact that you featured this talentless never-was in another movie suggests a healthy marriage and true love. So, let’s toast to that.

What we can pour our drinks over is your movie. Please don’t make another.

All best,

Christopher

Grade: F-

WeekinRewind.com is the site for Bangor Daily News film critic Christopher Smith’s blog, DVD giveaways and movie reviews. Smith’s reviews appear Fridays and weekends in Lifestyle, as well as on bangordailynews.com. He may be reached at Christopher@weekinrewind.com.

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