Rob Zombie's Halloween II: H2 Movie Review

Rob Zombie's Halloween II: H2 Movie Review
Cops in cars, the topless bars… never seen a weirdo so alone.
Updated: 08-28-2009
Storied murderer Michael Myers doesn't just have issues, he's got a lifetime subscription. Same goes for this hideous mess, H2.
Now, it's no secret that I'm a diehard fan of writer/director Rob Zombie's work — from his days as a shock-rocker and music video director in the band White Zombie, right up through his last film the 2007 Halloween remake. I proudly count The Devil's Rejects among my tops of any genre.
While I much preferred the first half to the second, my overall positive review of Zombie's Halloween remake was pretty controversial. I still haven't lived it down (just a few months ago, I was on a horror webmasters convention panel and this was brought up to me again). But to be honest, I liked it. There is the key word: honest. And now: I honestly hated H2.
First of all, H2 is 100% dependent on the viewer having to've seen the first film, which is always a bad idea. (But at least there's not 10 minutes of clips from Halloween in the beginning, ala all the Friday the 13th sequels.) If you have not seen the first movie, it will be even harder to follow than it already is. And actually, I don't mind "hard to follow" (I'm a fan of surreal films; I even liked Anthony Hopkins' Slipstream) — what I do mind are bad movies.
The story, such as it is, opens on Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) and her friend Annie Brackett (Danielle Harris) being sutured up in the hospital after they've been rescued from hell bent murderer Michael Myers (Tyler Mane). Every blood-soaked stitch, bit of stretched skin, ravaged innards, and sickly suctioning sound is fetishized to the point of numbing nausea. I understand and can appreciate the idea of showing that after someone is savagely attacked by a knife, the pain is far from over. But this is not a documentary on surgery, it's a movie.
What kind of movie it wants to be, I have no idea. There are good elements to it: there's the aftermath, both physical and psychological, showing the pain, sadness, and guilt of the survivors. There's the slasher angle. There's the realistic approach of presenting Michael Myers as a homeless person, surviving on raw meat. There's another idea presented that the masked one has gone even more insane and is justifying his actions by imagining "Mommy made me do it" (Sheri Moon-Zombie is back as a dead Deborah). And it's also a comedy!  (Yeah. Really.)
The opening hospital sequence morphs into a dream, which Laurie wakes up from and wherein we learn that it's almost October 31 again. Scarred but moving on, she is residing with Annie and Annie's dad Sheriff Bracket (Brad Dourif). Laurie's gone off the rails, living fast and headed for dying young. But she hadn't counted on just how young, when Michael returns to Haddonfield to finish what he started. Goaded by the specter of their mother (yes, Laurie is Michael's sister), Michael kills anyone and everyone because "It will take a river of blood to reunite our family."
Gauging from the veiled apologies from Zombie and the cast, H2 was written in only three weeks, shot in 33 days, and then the script changed daily (and also, the actors could improvise and say whatever they liked… um, there's a reason for writers and there's a reason for actors). Still, that's no excuse for the abominable overuse of gimmicky shooting and editing tricks such as repeated ultra slow frame rate use (which actually speeds things up, making heads look like they're spinning), chainsaw-like quick cuts, skip-framing and goofy, drawn out slow-motion sequences out of nowhere. The music is also an assault on the senses, practically beating you to death with relentless bass tones.
While The Devil's Rejects was also shot on Super 16 film, it was done by the vastly talented and experienced DP Phil Parmet. Super 16 is an extremely unforgiving medium, and there is no room for error, especially when it's got to be blown up to 35 mm for theaters. New (to Rob Zombie) DP Brandon Tost has not done his resume any favors here: not only is the movie ugly, but so is everyone in it. I can understand if the victims of Michael's past crimes need to look thrashed and stressed out, but would the ideal image of the ethereal Deborah be envisioned as a strung out meth addict too? Even the ten year old boy looks as though he's 100 years old. It's possible to make a gritty film and not make the actors look so old and used up.
Michael Myers sometimes has his mask (apparently the paramedics let him keep it for the ambulance ride in the beginning) and sometimes not. The movie is very focused on the facial aspects - there's lots of head-stabbing, cheek slashing, kicks to the cranium, etc. (No open casket funerals for the victims here!). Then there's the abject suffering… you can't really do a slasher horror movie that's sad. It's too disconcerting. And not disconcerting in an interesting, thought-provoking way; there isn't enough drama to compensate for the brutality.
The lighter aspects are good (Brad Dourif, Malcolm McDowell and Mary Birdsong are the only highlights), but unlike some of the detours in his other movies (with the exception of the Chicken Farm in The Devil's Rejects… I still don't like that scene), these don't work at all. Random characters are introduced, then killed off quickly and without suspense. There's a pair of cops in a squad car talking about necrophilia, and there's some strippers and skeevy club managers, then a trio of hillbillies in a truck who get off'ed for no apparent reason. Maybe it's because they're somehow standing between Laurie and Michael, but I couldn't be sure. Besides, Laurie is right there within Michael's grasp throughout the story, so that doesn't make any sense either.

There's an overall bitterness and jadedness to the filmmaking that's alienating. Go ahead and make a nauseating film, but please: have a point.

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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson



Related Coverage:

H2: A Dream to Some, A Nightmare to Others!

Interview with Rob Zombie

Interview with Malcolm McDowell

Latest User Comments:
Am I the only one that liked this movie?
Have you ever thought to yourself that either you, or the rest of the world is completely insane? Because honestly I saw this movie and believe this is Rob Zombie's BEST film. I don't see the validity of most of these complaints that RZ has basterdized arguably Carpenters BEST films. I believe this was MEANT to be darker and meaner and far more violent than the original Halloween or it's sequal. The shaky camera, the darkness of the scenes, I see that and think, "thats the way it should be". Although I do agree with most that the Sherri Moon Zombie and (whoever played Michael as a child) scenes were excruciating to watch. The entire Dr Loomis arc was a total waste of time and totaly destroyed the legend of what Donald Pleasance did with that role. I personally thought the Loomis stuff was filler to be honest. All in all I truly think that people are responding to the seemingly non stop barrage of remakes/reboots/re-imaginings. I don't blame them, I'm getting sick of them too....but this one doesn't qualify, this was an excellent movie, end of story.
09-11-2009 by Wheelz discuss