Halloween 2 (2009) – Rob Zombie

Happy Halloween Everyone. If you’ve been paying attention, over the last month, I’ve reviewed all the movies in the Halloween franchise from John Carpenter’s terrifying classic, to Rob Zombie’s over-stylized brutal remakes and everything in between. “The Shape” has been slashing throats and crushing skulls for over 30 years now and it’s not clear whether he’s done. At this point, I really hope there is another sequel, either to the original storyline or even to the 2000’s reboot. (Rob Zombie has publicly stated that he has no interest or desire to be involved with any sort of Halloween 3 which is good news for everyone.) Both storylines left the door open for another installment so from a true Michael Myers fan, I’m hoping we haven’t seen the last of him.

Rob Zombie’s 2009 Halloween 2 was an epic shitstorm. Like we’ve seen in several of the previous Halloween sequels, we’re seeing the filmmakers trying to retrofit this complex and convoluted backstory where it doesn’t belong. It takes away from the present storyline and the urgency of what’s happening to the characters. It over-explains things to the point of insignificance (I’ll get back to this). It’s fairly clear that Rob Zombie had no actual storyline left and he just wanted to make a snuff film. He even alludes to, but then awkwardly strays from the Halloween II storyline we know and love (Laurie strode in the hospital). The whole movie is poorly constructed and seems to be an attempt to upset the audience rather than entertain them. Some of the death sequences are so drawn out and painful to watch that it borders on torture porn. Also MICHAEL MYERS ISN’T EVEN WEARING A MASK MOST OF THE TIME. What the fuck, Rob?

Warning: This review contains spoilers to the previous film and some early parts of this film.

Ok, like the original HII, this movie opens right where the first one left off. If you remember, the first Zombie film ended with Laurie Strode introducing Michael’s cranium to a .357 Magnum round from a range of about 8 inches. That’s goodnight nurse, I don’t care who you are. They take her to the hospital and there’s a graphic, painful, and drawn-out surgery scene where she’s screaming and crying. It’s not fun to watch. Michael kills the morticians (He actually saws homeboy’s head off with a piece of broken windshield.) Then Michael heads to the hospital and plays a little more goodnight nurse. You’re like, “OK this is cool. Just like the original HII. But no. After 20 minutes of this, we realize the hospital scene is all a dream. Cut to 2 years later and Laurie is seriously traumatized and losing her shit- to the point where it’s annoying. One second she’s freaking out, screaming and crying and the next second she’s happy go lucky. I think this was sloppy writing/directing rather than complex psychology at play.

We find out that Michael’s body was never found and even though everyone thinks he’s dead, Laurie is still scared that he’ll come back. Malcolm McDowell is back as a snotty rich Loomis who wrote a book about the murders and all he cares about is publicity and book sales. This Loomis is a complete dildo. Nothing like Donald Pleasance’s Loomis or even the Loomis from the first Rob Zombie Halloween. There’s no cohesive story-line really. We just see Laurie unraveling and Loomis being a dickhole while Michael Myers killing random and inconsequential people for an hour and a half with or without a mask (By the way, without the mask, he looks like a giant Rob Zombie-I wonder if that was an accident). There’s a ludicrous showdown at the end and too many important characters get killed. It’s just like they gave up on writing-cranked out the last 15 or 20 pages in like a half an hour and started filming. After the hospital dream scene, this didn’t even feel like a Halloween movie.

One of the most annoying things was the way they tried to explain Michael’s rationale for killing even more. Occasionally we’ll see things from Michael’s point of view. We get a little further into his psyche and are subjected to a silly persistent hallucination he has. He imagines himself as the child in the clown costume from the beginning of the sage. His mother is there in a white dress egging him on to kill again. Ultimately, she wants him to kill his sister so their family can be together again. There’s some nonsense about a white horse and the Moody Blues song “Knights in White Satin” plays whenever Michael is coming. It’s all a little overcooked and yet underdeveloped. Nice try Rob but this white theme is a little heavy-handed for my taste and it didn’t quite land.

Ok, so the directing sucked, the writing was asinine, the characters were weak and underdeveloped, and the overall execution of the Halloween theme was questionable at best. Were there any redeeming qualities of the (so far) final page in the Michael Myers saga? Yes. The way this thing is shot is actually pretty great. It just looks scary. Zombie and the lighting/cinematography team did a great job making this thing look the part. There are some great back-lighting shots with cool silhouettes, interesting camera angles and tracking shots. You could make the argument that it was too dark at times to see everything but if you remember the original, that’s how Carpenter did it too. So props to Zombie on that. Also, true to his roots, Zombie picked a great horror score for this one. The music is not really my taste, but it fits well in this type of brutal horror movie. Heavy industrial music really sets the tone for what we’re watching.

Overall, the movie is a big swing and a miss, but if you’ve come this far, just watch it so you can say you’ve got the whole series under your belt. And who knows, I’d be surprised if this was the last we see of Michael Myers. Now, I think this movie will get a halfway decent rating below-which just proves that the rating system is not perfect- in fact, far from it.

  1. Is it scary: 3- Don’t make the mistake of confusing blood with scares. This had a few intense moments but overall, not conventionally scary.
  2. Originality: 3- It just felt like reprocessed, repurposed horror/Halloween stuff. It was like the Spam of horror movies.
  3. Blood: 7- Pretty Goddamn bloody. Almost too realistic and traumatic to be enjoyable.
  4. Believability: 2–The story and writing are ridiculous. Characters do the dumbest unbelievable things.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 7- Like I said, Zombie did a good job here. The film is shot very well and really looks scary.                                                                 

Final Score: 22/50

Halloween (2007) – Rob Zombie

Without even a hint of hyperbole or exaggeration whatsoever, I can say that Rob Zombie’s 2007 Halloween remake is not only a crime against the franchise, but against mankind and against nature itself. Not many people know this but Rob Zombie violated 2 UN treaties in the creation of this film and has been officially declared a war criminal. He is currently thought to be hiding out somewhere in the mountains of Argentina.

In his typical fashion, Zombie cranked up the grittiness, the brutality, the swearing, to make this already heavy-feeling slasher even heavier and darker. He brings an element of realism  to it that may be appealing to some fans but I think it takes away from the mystique of the Michael Myers character. I’ll get more into the plot shortly, but Zombie explains away Myers’ psychotic behavior by establishing a traumatic childhood. He takes Michael Myers and turns him into the fucking Columbine shooters.

Myers was so scary because he had no reason to snap and start butchering people. If you explain it away by saying he had a rough childhood and he was bullied, blah blah blah, I think it trivializes Michael Myers. I understand the approach of trying to make him more realistic as a source of more fear, but this changes the movie altogether. Rob Zombie is humanizing the monster. It’s scary in a different way to see an innocent little boy be tormented and mistreated to the point where he snaps. But that’s not Michael Myers. That’s not Halloween. 

The film is long. We spend a lot of time seeing Michael as a child. Zombie is just building his case for Michael to snap. Michael is growing up in a “white trash” kind of house. His mom is actually nice, but she’s got too much going on to take care of little Michael. Also she’s a stripper and kids harass him at school for it. His step dad is a drunk and he’s home all the time on some kind of disability. They scream and fight constantly. His sister Judith is nasty and she’s a skank. There’s a deadbeat boyfriend around too. Textbook toxic home life and family. No support for the kid. One day a bully is messing with Michael and he beats him to death with a log. Then on Halloween night, his mom has to work and his sister is supposed to take him trick-or-treating, but she stays in to bang her boyfriend instead. Michael starts slicing everyone up, except baby sister (Who will become Laurie Strode).

Michael spends 15 years in a mental hospital with Loomis (Malcolm McDowell). We see a good bit of his psychological decline over this time. They play up his obsession with masks and whit his surviving little sister. Finally, Loomis tells Michael that he has failed him because he’s not getting any better. He quits and leaves Michael alone in the hospital. Of course, one day Michael breaks out and heads straight for Haddonfield. Then we basically pick up where the original movie started. Things are mostly the same, though there’s a bigger body count, of course. The ending is a little different, but we’re still set up for a sequel.

In general, this movie has a different feeling or a different tone than all of its predecessors. It feels darker, more visceral, and more serious. It’s less entertaining to me, to watch somebody get killed in a really realistic fashion. I don’t quite know how to explain it. In all of the previous films, there is an inherent screen or filter that removes what we’re seeing from reality. This movie didn’t have that as much. I’m not sure exactly what I’m trying to say, but to me, it is a negative. To be fair, the same point might be seen as a positive from some other horror fans point of view. It’s just not for me.

I don’t think it can be disputed that Zombie took liberties with the storyline that he shouldn’t have. He trivialized the Michael Myers figure and he changed the face of the franchise. If his two installments are the last thing we see of Michael Myers, I’m going to be more than a little upset.

Again, to be fair, this isn’t the worst movie ever. Credit where credit is due. It has some solid scares and it actually tells an interesting story. In my mind though, it didn’t have to be Halloween. It could have just been another mediocre Rob Zombie blood-bath flick. I will say that he did a good job with the Michael Myers mask. Probably the scariest mask of the series. Also, Danielle Harris, who played Jamie Lloyd in H4 and H5 plays Annie-daughter of the sheriff and friend of Laurie’s from the first film.

Overall, the movie isn’t that bad if it stood alone, but I think it took advantage one of the best horror franchises out there and that is just unforgivable. Still, for die hard Halloween fans, it’s a must-see.

  1. Is it Scary: 4- There were some solid scares in this one. Nothing to lose sleep over (to be honest, I had trouble keeping my eyes open towards the end).
  2. Originality: 3- It’s a remake so it can’t be that original. It’s like they watched a 60 minutes special on the Columbine shooting and then watched Halloween and mixed the two.
  3. Blood: 6- True to form, Zombie made this one pretty gory, even for a Halloween movie.
  4. Believability: 4- I guess it was fairly believable. Maybe too much so. There were lots of little distracting issues though. At one point, Loomis is dumping his .357 revolver into Michael and you can clearly see the chambers are empty. Little things like that.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 5: Zombie did an adequate job here. It definitely looks scary.

Final Score 22/50

House of 1000 Corpses (2003) – Rob Zombie

2003 house of a thousand corpses 1

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to have Rob Zombie masturbate all over your face for like 90 minutes? Actually, if you ever met him, you could just ask him and I’m sure he’d do it. But in case you don’t run into him any time soon, you can just watch his 2003 shit-stain, House of 1000 Corpses.  I’m just going to come right out and say it. I don’t like Rob Zombie. I know a lot of horror fans love him for the viciousness and grittiness of his films. And I’ll admit openly that I carry a bias into any Rob Zombie movie. What he did to the Halloween franchise was one of the most horrible atrocities in the history of the universe. There’s only one movie that I’ve ever bought a ticket for and walked out of the theater half way through, and that was The Devil’s Rejects: Rob Zombie’s 2005 follow-up to House of 1000 Corpses. To be fair, I went into this movie thinking I wouldn’t like it. Now, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but it was still a pretty big piece of shit.

Rob Zombie wants to offend you and gross you out. He wants to make you uncomfortable. He uses these weird negative film shots and cuts to scenes of ladies dancing in their underwear. It’s all fancy and overproduced and it just feels cheap and gimmicky to me. I get what he’s going for-and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. He wants to mess with you. Everything about this movie is supposed to be unsettling. The story line doesn’t make a lot of sense and it really unravels towards the end. I think this is intentional. Being confused and unsettled is how he wants you to feel. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned but it’s just not for me. It’s overly stylized, pseudo-artistic, and intentionally grotesque without much substance to back it up.

House 1000 corpses tunnel

The characters are actually pretty interesting and fun, albeit over the top in terms of acting and dialog. For the first half of the movie I was like “Damn, I’m actually enjoying this.” Early on, the plot was even entertaining-It had Dwight from The Office and Chris Hardwick as the main characters. They were bad actors but the whole thing was intentionally sort of bad. Now, the plot starts off fairly simple but then it gets a little complicated and unwieldy and the last 30 minutes are kindof surrealistic and everything unravels logically. It starts with these four college kids driving through a little redneck town. They stop for gas and go into this little roadside freak show/horror museum. The proprietor, a crazy, awesome, and fucked up old clown (he’s by far the best character in the movie) tells them about a local legend of a crazy doctor from a mental hospital named Dr. Satan.

Dr. Satan did sick experiments on his patients and eventually they tried to execute him. But his body disappeared from the hanging tree overnight and nobody knows what happened to him. So the four friends go to try to find the tree. Of course they get stranded in the middle of nowhere and they seek help from a psycho family of freaks who lives in the woods. To everyone’s surprise, the family of freaks turns out to be a bunch of deformed and psychotic murderers. So the friends try to escape this insane house of horrors only to find out that the family is somehow involved with Dr. Satan.

House 1000 corpses Dr Satan

Like I said, it seems simple enough but it really starts to spiral out of control. Now, it wasn’t all bad. There were some good parts to it. The set design was really good. Everything you see is definitely scary. Towards the end when everything gets really crazy, it’s actually pretty intense and surreal.  There are continuity issues too. If you scalp someone in one scene, he shouldn’t just be bald in the next scene; he should have no skin on his head. Come on Rob, get it together.

In short, not the worst thing I’ve ever seen and it had some good points. Visually it was interesting, but I’m not a fan of his wild, gimmicky film-making.

1.      Is it scary: 4- I think it could have been scarier if he had reigned in the plot a bit and kept the weird camera and editing tricks down. Its grotesque, not scary.

2.      Originality: 6- I’m torn a bit here. I don’t want to give big points on this one, but I think it took things in a new direction.

3.      Blood: 7- Pretty gruesome. I’d say this is at least 50% of the draw of this film- the fact that it’s gross.

4.      Believability: 2- I don’t think it was supposed to be believable. And it wasn’t. The characters are not realistic in any way and the story line just sort of falls apart at the end.

5.      Setting/Cinematography: 7- I will say the setting for most of this was awesome. The psycho family’s house was creepy as hell and the weird underground lair they find themselves in at the end is pretty badass and scary too. I think the setting would have warranted a higher score, but I’m deducting one point because of the gaudy camerawork and editing.

Final Score: 26/50

House 1000 corpses eye