The Sleepless Movie Review
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Written and directed by Rob Zombie
119 Minutes

It stands to reason you're here, seeing three and a half stars on a gold review for Rob Zombie's Halloween II and wondering what the fuck is going on. Is Dustin going insane? Is he turning into the new Roger Ebert, where everything gets a gold medal and a seal of approval? Joy, for everything is new again!

Not quite. But I did just watch Rob Zombie's unrated director's cut for Halloween II, a movie which I had already enjoyed in the theater. Sometimes when you like something everyone else says sucks, you need to rewatch it, potentially reevaluate it to see if you're psychotic or everyone else. I can now confirm...everyone else is.

I was a big proponent of Rob Zombie's remake of the original, and I'll still go to the mat for it. While it loses a lot of traction when it starts to follow in the footsteps of Carpenter's film, the new material Zombie added was generally excellent. Some might argue that it's more of Zombie's degenerate rednecks, but I see it more as his color and style and what he's interested in. He produced one of the only remakes that can stand on its own without diminishing its progenitor by owning it and making it his. Even when it does start to lose its way, Zombie's style and direction are potent and forceful. He ramps up the brutality and while I've read reviews that have colored the violence as borderline pornographic, I felt the exact opposite: the killing is indeed sick and ugly, precisely what he was going for. It's not meant to thrill, it's meant to horrify.

I think reading the violence of Halloween II any other way than as a reaffirmation of that attitude is foolish and threatens to miss the point of the film entirely. The killings are gruesome and disturbing, but there is a measure of emotional effect to them as well. Halloween II imparts a very strong fear of death; I get the sense Zombie is increasing the force to compensate for jaded filmgoers who have seen too many slasher films before.

Many reviews cite this film as a cash grab. After all, it's a sequel to a profitable slasher film, and of questionable quality. I disagree, and I think if you pay attention to how beautifully the film is shot, how well-edited and put together it is, how strong the sound design is, and the generally meticulous construction of it...this isn't a paycheck. I'm a horror fan, I know what a paycheck sequel is, and this bitch ain't it.

The biggest failure I think people perceive of it is just how fucking far off the beaten path Zombie goes with it. There's an extended sequence that operates as a homage to Carpenter's Halloween II, but other than that he goes his own way. There's exceptional attention paid to characters, relationships, and how things have evolved and changed over the two years since the events of the first film. The supernatural bent that he experiments with - something very unusual for the filmmaker - has hiccups and missteps, but is also interesting if for no other reason than the effort put in. The ghost of Deborah Myers as what could reasonably be called the White Queen and the image of the white horse are extremely fresh takes on the material and even on older ideas.

His protagonists are diverse, and he's bold in making both Dr. Loomis and Laurie Strode decidedly unlikeable. The events of the last film have had deleterious effects on both, with Loomis selling out and Laurie falling apart, lashing out at everyone around her. At the same time, Loomis's put-upon assistant serves as the voice of the audience, and Danielle Harris and Brad Dourif steal their scenes as Annie and Lee Brackett. I have a soft spot for Danielle in general as someone who's gone whole hog into the horror genre and I've been a longtime fan of Brad Dourif (fans owe it to themselves to see him in The Exorcist III.)

I tend to grade on a curve, praising good ideas and effort oftentimes over their execution. If the execution is fuzzy and parts of it don't quite seem to work but the ideas are sound, I can usually make the extra jump. Even Wes Craven's original A Nightmare on Elm Street is pretty flawed, but the flaws are almost entirely superficial, and the remake proved that on the whole, Craven's film is more or less untouchable. By the same token, some of Zombie's execution is a little fuzzy here, but the ideas and the willingness to go out on a limb should absolutely be rewarded. IMDb would tell you this is a five-out-of-ten.

Don't believe them. If Zombie's first Halloween asked to be taken on its own terms, Halloween II demands it.

- Dustin Sklavos

All written content and colored rating system copyright Dustin Sklavos 2009. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.