A mere 10 minutes in and with some help from a white horse and his kohl-pencil loving wife, Rob Zombie loudly announces his intentions for “Halloween II”: He’s out to make a thinking man’s movie about Michael Myers. One where the immortal murderer sees his dear departed mum (Sheri Moon Zombie) in spooky, hazy midnight hallucinations and she lays out a master plan for family togetherness that involves dispatching young Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton). She also offers motherly advice about future kills (“now go have some fun”) and strokes her hulking son’s furrowed brow.
In a word: Spare me.
Or perhaps I should say spare us, Zombie-comma-Rob, and by “us” I mean all the Michael Myers fans who have been hanging in since the start, the ones who have seen every petrified crap-pile remake and sequel and meta-sequel with the tiniest shred of hope that this director saw the original, or at least read the blurb on the back cover of the DVD. Zombie’s first attempt, “Halloween,” showed a wee flicker of promise because there was an eerieness there (thanks to Daeg Faerch) that nearly balanced out the gore. Not so with “Halloween II,” a mindless, pointless exercise in blood spillage interrupted frequently by crazy, acid-like dream sequences. So “Halloween II” isn’t just a stupid movie, it’s a pretentious one. The fact that Zombie attempts to combine these qualities is about the only original thing this huge, lumbering disappointment has to offer.
Right off things don’t look so bad, since “Halloween II” begins where its not-so-bad predecessor ended: Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton) has survived the Halloween massacre of her brother Michael (Tyler Mane), but not without serious physical and psychological scars. Now living with her friend Annie (Danielle Harris, whom you might remember from “Halloween 4” and “Halloween 5”) and Annie’s father, Sheriff Lee Brackett (Brad Dourif), Laurie’s wracked with nightmares and panic attacks. Her anxiety only deepens when Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) outs her as Michael’s sister and proceeds to turn her name and Michael’s victims into big book sales. Slowly slicing and dicing his way into this storyline is Michael, driven by hallucinations to find his baby sister and stage the kind of family reunion that would make the Firefly family squeal with delight.
That’s really all that happens in “Halloween II” in the way of plot. There’s some random teen-age sex (in a van, no less) that’s generic in its sluttiness included for good measure, or perhaps because that’s a horror movie requirement, but mostly “Halloween II” is a veritable smorgasbord of crunched bones, split throats, stomped-in craniums and severed heads. It’s crass and pointless, and what’s more it’s not inventive or even terribly interesting. If Zombie’s out to startle us with gore, he more than missed his chance — the “Hostel” and “Saw” movies long ago killed off the shock centers of our brains. What “Halloween II” serves up in the way of violence barely merits a raised eyebrow, let alone a quick dip behind the popcorn bucket or a hands-over-the-eyes maneuver. This is positively run-of-the-mill, and on its own the gore would be enough to make “Halloween II” an average horror movie.
The bigger problem here is that Zombie tries to merge Michael’s self-consciously arty and trippy visions with all the killing, and it just plain doesn’t work. There’s a serious disconnect between these two stories that never gets repaired; in fact, it seems like Zombie wrote two movies and tossed both scripts into the air, grabbing the pages and putting them in random order. Either approach would have made a decently watchable movie, but together these storylines create a big mess.
There’s probably not much point in mentioning the acting, since McDowell is no Donald Pleasance, Laurie’s friends are largely dispensable and Taylor-Compton makes Laurie into a potty-mouthed, whiny Anyteen who can barely keep our interest, much less our sympathy. She does, however, get one good line: “Nightmares are chewing at my head again … they just seem to be getting worse.”
After sitting through “Halloween II”? Yeah, I’d say my brain felt decidedly nibbled.