Although Rob Zombie has written and directed four feature films, it's more accurate to say that he's remade two films twice. He's a moviemaker who's clearly interested in nosing around his imaginary universes, but he doesn't find anything very special or noteworthy in Halloween II, a film that struggles mightily to add greater meaning and significance to the Michael Myers legend but collapses into an overlong, bloody mess.
My expectations for Halloween II were about as high as they could be for the ninth film in the franchise, because even when working within genre constraints, Zombie frequently underscores his brutality with jarring, sardonic verbal and visual humor. Plus, The Devil's Rejects, the 2005 sequel to his auspicious 2003 debut House of 1000 Corpses, is easily his best work, a scalding, uncompromising blast of savagery and mayhem. For that film, Zombie resurrected the bloodthirsty Firefly family and loosed them on a dirty, sun-baked landscape stinking of sweat, blood, and other bodily fluids and crawling with garish, prickly white-trash parasites. A supremely uncomfortable film, The Devil's Rejects is also an intelligent treatment of the way vengeance warps the avenger, and it contains one of my favorite opening-title sequences of the decade, an expertly paced escape from the law set to the Allman Brothers' "Midnight Rider."
Like Rejects, Halloween II tries to explore its characters in greater depth than typical horror films allow. The film is as concerned with trauma and grief — specifically the soul-destroying nightmares of the 2007 Halloween "Final Girl" Laurie Strode (a crazed Scout Taylor-Compton) — as it is with the slasher film's body-count requirements. (If you're keeping score, though, Myers kills a dozen people and eats a dog.)
Zombie also sends Dr. Sam Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) on a rocky book tour that details the exploitation and glamorization of true-crime stories. In a world where even the strip club where Myers' mom worked now caters to his legend, an exploration of the way the "original" Halloween tragedy was transformed into a cash cow is promising. Unfortunately, Loomis' story doesn't add up to much more than a sideline doodle and a Weird Al cameo.
Anyway, back to the dead teenagers. As a homicidal maniac, Michael Myers is not as creative as the outlandish contraptions and thingamajigs awaiting the teens from the Final Destination franchise. Myers is a silent, unstoppable stabbing and strangling machine whose capacity for gruesome invention is limited at best. Which, again, is not to say that Zombie doesn't try. For long stretches, Halloween II is an unstinting series of blood and gore that lingers on shots of surgical reconstruction, car accidents, and stomped-on faces. Not surprisingly, though, the most affecting slaying is not shown but tactfully suggested through some slow-motion camerawork and the canny employment of offscreen sound. That scene — and an iconic shot of Laurie Strode running through the woods during a full moon— belongs in a much better movie.
Halloween II promises an ending to this deathless tale, but if there's any truth or logic in the last few images, it looks like Michael Myers will never, ever, ever, ever, EVER die.