30 August 2009

At the movies: Halloween II.

I’m amazed at how much hate is pouring out on this film, from all sorts of places. I had an ambivalent response to Robert Zombie’s take on the John Carpenter masterpiece Halloween last year, but that had more to do with having to take on established classic. With this film- that’s nowhere near the case.

Rick Rosenthal’s Halloween II: nearly thirty years on and it’s still crap. It’s got Jamie Lee Curtis in one of the worst wigs in cinema history, sure, and it sticks in the back of the mind of anyone who has to go to the hospital, yes. But it’s a terrible movie.

So I guess I’m not saying much when I call Robert Zombie’s Halloween II much better than the original Halloween II. It doesn’t really hold together on a narrative plane, nor does it haunt the shadows of the daylight world the way Carpenter’s original did. But this is a film that has some interesting ideas and a nice visual sensibility (firstly, I’m glad Zombie went back to the 1.85 aspect ratio, because he was not at his best working in cinemascope on last year’s Halloween). It’s got several incredibly brutal kills (including a face stomping that makes you forget about American History X and actually manages to rival Irreversible in terms of ‘did I just see snuff footage in the theatre?’ provocation) and a fairly game cast (with Brad Dourif, Danielle Harris, and one-scene wonder Margot Kidder doing most of the heavy lifting). But more than that, it’s got a real sense of free-form ‘anything can happen’ madness afoot.

The pretentious ghostly visions don’t bother me at all (and truthfully, I’d like to see a little more pretension in all movies. Nobody has ever blundered into transcendence by keeping the bar low), and I’m always happy to see Sheri Moon Zombie in any film (does no one else remember that hers was the best performance in the previous film?). Malcolm McDowell’s scenes feel tacked on (and they were), though his interaction with Weird Al Yankovic is kind of priceless.

My one main criticism of this film is that it never really explains why both Michael and Laurie are having these ghostly visions at the same time. The character of Deborah Myers was horrified by Michael’s actions (so much so that she killed herself), but now she is the embodiment of the death urge? In the meantime, she’s gone shakti on us? Perhaps a clearer DVD cut can fix some of this, but I’ll still gladly take this over Rosenthal’s Halloween II any day of the week.

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