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Sunday, 19 December 2010


There he is, working as a security guard for a hospital, minding his own business, when he finds Laurie Strode hiding in his little hut. She's just escaped said hospital and has everyone's favourite Shape after her. And there's Buddy, kind old Buddy, who can't get much sense out of the terrified girl and so instead soothes her with assurances that "it's going to be okay" and "nothing's going to happen", only to then get an axe in the back. Poor, dear old Buddy. He could have been something of a hero, but all he did was serve as an example that in Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN 2, no one is safe.

This idea is mercilessly executed (arf arf!) again, and again, and again throughout the rest of the film, so much so that you soon realise that what could have been one of the film's greatest strengths ends up being just as predictable as almost every other slasher. That nice cop with the best of intentions? Dead. That harmless teen who's looking forward to sex with a fit girl? Dead. That fit girl? Dead. There's something to be said for a slasher film in which most of the characters die, but it's not necessarily a good thing. I'm all for bleak, unrelenting horror, but for it to be most effective you need some sliver of hope, a small ray of sunlight the characters can frantically rush towards. The main driving force in H2 is that everyone wants Michael Myers dead. Not exactly uplifting. Plus, as is the case with these sort of films, there's no guarantee he'll even stay dead (as exemplified by his 'resurrection' (double arf!) at the start of this instalment). Slasher films are the serpent that eats its own tail.

Although H2 is almost a one-note film (more on that in a moment) that treats most of its kills and gore as a gratuitous treat rather than cathartic release, it is enjoyable and not without its merits. Some of the more effective scenes and ideas are the ones that are repeated most often; namely, the wide shots and the use of juxtaposition, both of which are done very well. Regards the wide shots - I'm a fan of any artist who understands the importance of space. Zombie shows us characters in wide open areas, alone in the big wide world. There are also a few successful kills shown via wide shots (the best probably being when Myers steps out from behind a tree...how did he get there? He's one sneaky tramp!) but generally it works in a 'where are you going to run to?' manner - when all around you is open space, there is nowhere to hide. So running is futile. You might as well just give up now and accept a knife to the face.

They say that with music, it's the notes you don't play that are important. This can be applied to films in that it's the scenes you don't see that are important. The most obvious example of this is the 'ear' scene in Reservoir Dogs, but really, it's all down to the audience's imagination and Rob Zombie plays on this notion a few times (successfully) only to then resort back to more cheap thrills and gorehound gags (again, I'm a fan of this sort of thing, but Zombie overplays his hand somewhat so that it becomes expected, and therefore drains those moments of any real visceral thrill).

The juxtaposition is done particularly well in a couple of scenes: Laurie, the Sheriff (who she lives with) and the Sheriff's daughter (Laurie's best friend) are sat eating pizza. The sheriff's being a goofy dad and embarrassing his daughter as he extols the virtue of eating meat. This is intercut with Myers carving up and chowing down on a dog. Mmm mmm mmmm! Later, when the aforementioned fit girl gets killed, her screams and cries for help are cut with/drowned out by interior scenes of Laurie and her other friend having a whale of a time in the nearby bar.

What stops H2 from becoming a one-note film is also the very thing that apparently turned almost everyone off it - the rather clumsy 'psychological' angle. With all the subtly of a brick, Zombie starts the film with a quote about what a 'white horse' symbolises (in a dream context: violence, although there is apparently no actual psychological reference relating to this idea). He then shows us Michael Myer's mum every so often with a white horse beside her. Generally, these bits play out like bad arthouse cinema, with vague dialogue and stark filters, but it's all a bit naff. Having Myers "haunted" by his dead mum, and a vision of his younger self isn't a bad idea, but it doesn't quite work.

Later, we're shown that Laurie shares some sort of psychic link with Myers which does work on one level (they are siblings, after all) but not in the way Zombie possibly intended. How does she see the exact same thing he does? And how can his visions 'physically' affect her? It doesn't quite make sense. Maybe she has the same problem with her brain as he does (which is strongly suggested) but her visions are exactly the same as his, and it feels more like one hefty coincidence that would have been better explained in a true supernatural angle rather than the cod-psychology we get instead.

I fully expected to hate H2 (especially after all the negative press it's received) but I thought it was pretty good - better than the first one, in any case. I kept wondering what it might be like if Rob Zombie really cut loose, but then I'd get reminded that all of his films are exactly that. Except, they'll be points where he remembers he's making something people will actually need to watch, and dials it down a bit, diluting the overall experience and creating an uneven tone. The Devil's Rejects is perhaps his most successful film in terms of balancing his directorial aesthetic with the trailer-trash archetypes and set-dressing he likes so much, but I think it'd be unfair to say Halloween 2 doesn't come close in some regards.

I think, by now, it's possible to look at a Zombie film and know it's one of his, and H2 has that grimy cinematography thing going on all over its scruffy face, sometimes to its detriment (again, you don't need to give a bad guy a deformed mask to make him creepy - this sometimes ends up being a case of 'trying too hard') but usually to its credit (it helps create mood and atmosphere, two things a lot of modern horror movies lack). Plus, his recurring actors are all good fun to watch (Brad Dourif is absolutely, incredibly brilliant as the sheriff; Malcolm McDowell is a not-entirely-unsympathetic Loomis, with some good quotes and a fine line in blasé arrogance) and the kid who now plays young Myers is much better than the pasty fatso from the first go-around. But if there's one thing about this film that really wound me up, and is grotesquely unfair, it's seeing Sheri Moon Zombie appear in the credits ABOVE Brad Dourif. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong. She's by no means a dining table but come on...Dourif out-acts her in his sleep (and I think the sheriff is a far more pivotal character than Myer's mum, in that he reacts realistically to situations, exudes pathos and underpins some major scenes). Okay, your wife's hot Rob, but give the man some proper respect. Seesh!

Other than that, a solid film. I actually think Rob Zombie would do himself (and the audience) a better service if he created his own slasher mythos (I don't think the Rejects quite count in this regard), rather than try to warp a pre-existing one to his particular mindset. Providing he manages to balance his crazy aspirations with his actual decent bouts of directing. And doesn't put his bloody wife in it.

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