There may be no horror franchise remake more maligned than Rob Zombies reimagining of the classic slasher film, Halloween (1978). In fact, this series is so maligned that the great John Carpenter himself thought enough about it to kick dirt on it after its release. It’s a natural fan reaction to hate on new things. Rob Zombie literally had zero chance to make everyone happy with his film. Fans would either chastise him for bringing nothing new to the franchise or crucify him for bringing something new to the franchise.
Fortunately for world of horror fans, Rob Zombie decided creative crucifixion the better path.
In this article, I am not only going to argue that Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2 is a great film. I will argue that it is actually the best of the sordid Halloween franchise outside of the 1978 original. Most importantly, I will argue that the most quoted atrocities committed by this film are actually its strongest features.
A Quick Aside on Halloween (2007)
To be completely transparent, I personally felt that Halloween (2007) left a lot on the table. However, one thing Zombie crushed was the opening. Giving Michael Myers a legitimate backstory that the horror world could sink its teeth into proved to be brilliant. For better or worse, people were talking about Rob Zombies remake, even if they hated its guts and hoped that it would die. To me it was fascinating to see this young kid, not completely devoid of cause, turn into a brutish masked behemoth before our eyes. The brooding husk hiding behind paper mache was both intriguing and menacing.
Unfortunately, Rob’s fantastic open fizzled with a fan-service retread on the back half of the film. Still, the die was cast and the next Michael Myers had been born once again into an unloving world.
Halloween 2 (2009)
Having not been blown away by the original, I somewhat rolled my eyes when I heard about the sequel. Accordingly, I let it languish until the DVD release. That turned out to be a brilliant move as I received the Theatrical Release at the very same time that I received the Directors Cut. Those that know agree that a single review could not cover them both. Not only does the directors cut provide 14 minutes of additional content, this content and the editing leads the film to completely new and interesting places. Most interesting, the Directors Cut provides an even more compelling finale to Zombies Halloween run.
This review only covers the Directors Cut, which stands superior to the original Theatrical Cut.
Fan Service in the Front
After a brief introduction depicting an institutionalized Michael with his mother, again played by Sheri Moon Zombie, the film picks back up where it left off. Sheriff Bracket (Brad Dourif) finds Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) wandering the streets, broken and bloody from her confrontation with Michael Myers. Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcom McDowell) and Annie Bracket (Danielle Harris) are also rescued and taken away by ambulance. Once she arrives at the hospital, Laurie replays of the horrors of the 1981 original in her dreams.
The is about as good a place as any to mention that this film employs the great Caroline Williams in a hospital cameo role.
This time Zombie pulls a reverse and makes his callback to the original up front. The hospital dream sequence quite frankly blows just about every previous Michael Myers pursuit scene out of the water. Zombie’s hospital sequence has everything from frantic urgency, edge of the seat suspense and bone shattering brutality. Sure, it goes over the top when Laurie stumbles into a literal pit of human carcasses, but it’s all just a perfect metaphor for the rage machine that Michael Myers has become and the damage that inflicted on Laurie’s psyche.
Confident that his debt to the fanbase has been paid, Rob Zombie reserves the rest of the film for his own sick creativity.
Downward Spiral of Laurie Strode
One the most outstanding aspects of the Director’s Cut is the treatment of Laurie Strode. She may have survived the initial attack by Michael Myers, but nothing remain but a scarred body and a shattered soul. Laurie struggles even to maintain a healthy relationship with her best friend, despite the fact the Annie might be the only person in the world that can relate to her struggle. Laurie’s shrink (Margot Kidder) struggles keep Laurie’s mental state stitched together as she regresses back to her pills again and again.
It is about time we come to terms with something serious. Jamie Lee Curtis’ version of Laurie Strode isn’t this interesting on her very best day. I said it, and I mean it. It took Jamie Lee Curtis 20 years to finally bend her story arc to nothing more than boresome Ellen Ripley cliché. It then took another 20 years to evolve it to McCauley Caulkin, Home Alone… Zzzzzzzz. Apart from those silly topes, Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode provided us little more than a standard scream queen, albeit a really good one.
My point is not to dump on Jamie Lee Curtis. I love her. You love her. She is great and she is an inextricable part of the Halloween ethos.
However, I will defend the point that a spiritually broken and emotionally complicated Laurie Strode might be the most interesting addition to grace this franchise since “The night he came home”. Scout Taylor-Compton plays a three dimensional character that erupts with uncertainty. All the way to the final frames, the audience knows not if Laurie will melt into a puddle of herself or if she will unlock some internal furnace of rage to save herself. Then we finally learn that the real answer, it lies somewhere in the nebulous chasm between the two extremes.
Rob Zombie exacerbates her unraveling though bizarre visualizations of her mental state. These sequences are as horrifying as any other part of the movie. She oscillates through disorienting visions of her real mother, Deborah Myers, her own rage and visions of murdering her best friend. These visualizations unfortunately circle very close to the reality that Post Traumatic Stress victims feel after surviving heinous crimes. The pain and anguish that Scout Taylor-Compton evokes transcends anything that the original Laurie Strode (1978) ever conveyed on screen.
Exploring Michael Meyers
For better or for worse, Rob Zombie created a version of Michael Meyers that has depth. Rob Zombies Michael Meyers has motive. To this day, this fact seems to be the tipping point as to whether someone loves or hates Rob’s remakes. Back in 1978, when John Carpenter created Michael Myers, he intended to create a one-dimensional killing machine. In an interview with Nobuhiro Hosoki, Carpenter’s words describe,
With this, Carpenter stakes a legitimate claim on nature of Michael’s aura. Michael’s mystery does make him scary.
The problem comes in when we start discussing a franchise that spans four decades. Carpenter’s version of Michael Myers was barely sustainable through his sequel (as a writer) as evidenced by Carpenter’s need to go into the “long lost sister” trope and introducing the supernatural reference to “Samhain”. Had Carpenter been one-and-done with Michael, it would have worked perfectly. If they were to make more films, it would require a more complex Michael Myers.
Rob Zombie recognized this up-front and built a character that had more depth. Love it or hate it, Rob Zombie can now weave a larger story, and that is fantastic for the franchise.
The White Horse
In Halloween 2, Rob Zombie loses the natural ability to tell his deeper narrative about Michael Myers via Dr. Loomis and his experiences in the mental institution. To compensate, he introduces the narrative through dream sequences that include young Michael, old Michael, Laurie (Angel Myers) and his mother. In a reoccurring images, a white horse accompanies Michael’s mother. He uses the following quote to begin the film:
WHITE HORSE – linked to instinct, purity and the drive of the physical body
to release powerful emotional forces, like rage with ensuing chaos and destruction
— excerpt from The Subconscious Psychosis of Dream
Through this story-telling device Rob clearly articulates that Michael Myers wants nothing but a return to his mother and his family. He doubles down on the Michael / Laurie sibling relationship trope that so many hated. While this is often referred to as Carpenter’s worst decision ever made in the franchise. Rob zombie does tweaks the formula. This time, Michael’s goal is not to terminate his bloodline, but rather to reunite his family. Unfortunately, his mother, Deborah Myers, is already dead. Do the math.
The juxtaposition of the clean elegant lines of the dream sequences collide harshly against the dark visuals of the film. To an extent, it makes sense that these scenes abrade normal horror sensibilities. However, without these interpolations, Rob Zombie could only rehash the mindless killer on a rampage storyline. His decision to weave a greater tale was daring and creative. It’s this dynamic that makes Halloween 2 a superior sequel to almost any other.
Michael Myers the Man
Returning to Michael Myers, all of this leads to one cataclysmic franchise revelation. Michael Myers is nothing more than a man. He comes complete with complexities, emotions, rage and mortality. Michael Myers is not a black abyssal of unrelenting evil. He believes himself to a man wronged by life, his family and the only man he had left in the world to trust, Dr. Samuel Loomis.
Again, many point to this as an egregious sin franchise. It’s argued that if Michael Myers is anything more than an inexplicable golem of bottomless evil, he is no longer scary. I could not disagree more.
what’s more scary than something real? What’s more scary than something that society could literally be forging as I type these words? Society creates psychotic killers everyday. Michael Myers shoots up schools. Michael Myers hides in dark alleys and murders prostitutes. I highly doubt that Rob Zombie intended to make a political statement with his film, but I wholly believe that he did mean to say that bleak and unforgiving societies give birth to Michael Myers everyday.
Causality does not demand sympathy.
The Mask, The Face and The Voice
Throughout the course of the Halloween franchise, Michael’s mask continually draws attention. The lifeless stare of Michael’s dark eyes through the pale white visage defines his character. Unfortunately, many representations of this mask have ranked from bad to laughable. This time, Michaels mask might rank among the very best of the series. This time, the mask carries the cuts, burns and slashes from his many violent encounters. During his rampage at the strip-club, a large portion of the mask is torn away, revealing his scarred visage.
This would not be the only bit of Michael’s face that we see.
Further exemplifying his humanity, Michael Myers spends a large portion of this film completely unmasked. Here Rob Zombie takes another huge risk. Fans of the franchise have scene fleeting glimpses of Michael’s face, but never before has the camera dwelled so long on the human face of Michael Myers.
In his final shot across the bow of die-hard Halloween fans, Rob Zombie gives Michael Myers a voice. Again, franchise fans point to Myers’ voice as a major trigger for Zombie Halloween haters. Again, I feel that this is a brilliant touch that Zombie suggests for the entirety of his run. In every other Halloween film, Michael dispatches his victims with deafening silence. From Zombies early hospital scene, Michael Myers heaves and grunts as he goes to work. This not only tips the audience off to the brutality of his attack, but again it hints at the Michael’s humanity.
By the end of the film, there should be no surprise when Michael shows that he can speak. Many scoff at the single utterance of the word “DIE!”, but really, what else would he have to say for Dr. Loomis? Michael is a man and I wholly admire Rob Zombie’s audacity.
The Life and Death of Annie Bracket
Cameos in remakes are a welcome banality in horror remakes. Usually, these present themselves in the form of throwaway roles that only a keen eye could identify. Rarely do directors commit to former franchise actors for pivotal roles in their remake. Anyone who grew up with the Halloween franchise instantly recognizes Danielle Harris as Jamie Lloyd from the middle tier of franchise films. Rob Zombie boldly casts Danielle in his remake as Sheriff Bracket’s daughter, Annie Bracket.
Annie acts as Laurie Strode’s best friend. Through the course of Zombie’s two films, she proves as crucial to the story as Laurie does. In Halloween 2, Annie Bracket provides a necessary anchor to Laurie’s unhinged character. She is the only person in the entire world that can relate to the horrors that Laurie witnessed. Despite that fact that Laurie’s mania causes her to resent her best friend, Annie perseveres through the struggle. Sheriff Bracket’s love for both girls makes Annie’s character all the more endearing.
Considering the brutality that Annie Bracket faces, her final moments prove to be some of the most respectably done in the entire film. As her moment approaches, a thick malaise hangs in the air. When Michael appears at her bathroom door, the look on Annie’s face immediately communicates her implicit doom of her situation. She knows instantaneously that her only hope is escape, but as she tries to flee, Rob Zombie painfully slows the camera while making her escape in the most excruciating slow motion sequence in cinema.
When Michael finally catches her, he unleashes the most brutal attack of the Zombie era and possibly the entire series.
It all comes to an emotionally crushing moment when Sheriff Bracket receives the notification that a 911 call came from his house. As he arrives, he know what he will find, but he still rushes to the scene as if there were anything that he could do. As he finds his baby slumped on the floor in a pool of blood, the film cuts to scenes of Annie’s childhood. She plays with a puppy and opens birthday presents. It’s this appeal to a father’s love that makes Annie’s demise all the more painful.
Dr. Samuel Loomis, Scum Bag Extraordinaire
Malcom McDowell really crushes the role of Dr. Sam Loomis. Certainly his performance will never eclipse that of the great Donald Pleasance, but Zombie’s version of Loomis differs so significantly from the original that it should be considered awesome in its own right. This Loomis tries to take full advantage of his 15 minutes of fame, but society still harbors hard feelings and many think that Loomis carries the blame for Michael’s rampage.
The genius of McDowell’s performance comes from his awkwardness. He ever so slightly misses his punchlines and feels awkward in his presentation. In turn, his crowds react awkwardly. He’s an accomplished man that lacks self-confidence. This becomes so apparent when his administrative assistant suggests that his Michael Myers campaign crosses the line. He responds, “When I want your opinion, I’ll beat it out of you”. Loomis’ acclaim among society can be seen by the push and the pull of the people around him. His biggest fan is a guy that love serial killers. His worst enemy (besides Michael) tries to kill him because he blames Loomis for his daughters death at the hands of Myers.
In the end this chicken comes home to roost as Myers bellows, “DIE!” before burying a Bowie knife into Loomis’ ribcage.
But Really, Why All of the Hate?
Lest we forget that prior to Rob’s reboot, this franchise invited Buster Rhymes and LL Cool J to invigorate the franchise. Does anyone remember The Curse of Michael Myers? Don’t talk to me about the Directors Cut, it’s garbage too. The series had literally died a slow painful death before Rob Zombie came along to resurrect it. Far worse Halloween movies had been made prior to Rob Zombie’s stewardship, and less interesting ones have been made since. It seems that this film gets more shade than it probably deserves. Rob Zombie just has that effect on people.
However, it’s never wrong to dislike a movie. The style of Zombie’s reboots are different, and that may not work for every one. There are worse sins. Those sins include never taking any chances and recycling the same tired story. Disliking a movie is one thing, but discerning horror fans much challenge lazy narratives. Concerns concerns the extreme violence and torture porn are laughable. At the time of its release, real torture porn was being released at an epic pace. Halloween 2 represented the few films that dared to be different.
Fans that only want to see a modern CGI version of the movie that they grew up with will likely hate these reboots. Other fans pine for originality that invigorates a tired and mundane franchise. Halloween 2’s greatness comes from everything that everyone claims to hate. Deeper characters, motives and backstory take Halloween 2 into a whole different plane of horror movie existence. Delving into Michael Myers humanity, while controversial, creates a much more effective plot device than wacky Celtic death cults.
I don’t think that any Halloween film can top the 1978 original. Without John Carpenter’s vision neither Rob Zombie nor I would have a Halloween franchise to talk about. However, outside of the original, Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2 is not only the BEST Halloween sequel, it’s one of the BEST horror sequels of all time.
Cats and dogs can live together and John Carpenter and Rob Zombie can co-exist peacefully.