Retro Review: HALLOWEEN II (2009){0}

If you have a baby who loves to, say, take off his diaper and smear the walls with his own feces, it’s not really the kid’s fault. It’s the fault of the parents who allow a small child with a poop fetish to run around unchecked, free to do whatever he likes with his diaper and his doody. And by this point, it’s virtually impossible to blame Rob Zombie for the irredeemable refuse he calls his movies, because let’s face it: Someone gave this filth-obsessed infant another $25 million with which to create another crap-caked masterpiece. And to those who looked at the final version of Zombie’s Halloween II, and deemed it worthy of horror fan consumption … well, those guys are either monumentally clueless about what makes a good horror flick, or (much more likely) they knew they were looking at a shit portrait, and they just didn’t care.

But that’s enough of an analogy that Zombie himself would probably appreciate, if only for its simplistic grossness. Suffice to say that if Zombie ever, at any point, CARED about his 2007 Halloween remake, then he surely does not any more. Because this “horror rocker,” this “serious aficionado” of all things scary, this celebrity poser, has now slapped four separate films together and the plain truth is that each one is more unwatchable than the one before. Even those who (somehow) defend Zombie’s earlier pictures (apparently The Devil’s Rejects still maintains a few fans) will walk out of Halloween II in a ridiculously bad mood. And those (like me) who dread Zombie’s new movies like they would Novocaine-free root canal, find themselves once again irked, annoyed and really, really bored.

I jotted the phrase “opening wander, not bad” into my nerdly notepad after only about 20 seconds of Halloween II. What I meant was that the film’s first scenes, those of a lone woman wandering deserted streets while clutching a bloody gun, are actually pretty creepy! I was temporarily impressed. I should have got up and left after the first two minutes, because that was the only halfway-complimentary thing I could find to jot about. All you need to know (besides “avoid this movie”) is this: It’s a year after the murders of the first film, and the film opens with a meaningless 20-minute passage that insults the entire audience by turning out to be, yup, an elaborate dream sequence. In an effort to fill as much screen time with as little effort as humanly possible, Zombie pulls the shameless “dream sequence” ploy about three more times. Not only won’t you be able to tell if the murders actually happened; you simply won’t care. And don’t even get me started on the “Mike’s Dead Mommy Dream” subplot, which exists only to fill (even more) screen time while giving the director’s wife another source of residual checks, and feels like little more than a goofy Stevie Nicks video.

Another clunky device employed to pad the film out is a woefully written tangent of a subplot that sees Dr. Loomis on a book tour, more than happy to exploit some real murders in the name of a quick buck. Zombie clearly sees himself in the Loomis character, which is why the undiscerning character actor Malcolm McDowell is allowed to spout dialog like “Go on feeding drivel to the masses!” and “Bad taste is the petrol that drives the American dream!” That, ladies and gentlemen, is social commentary as filtered through the mind of Rob Zombie. But one gets the impression that Rob Z. isn’t actually all that interested in silly stuff like “words.” Those are for geeks, right? Instead we get an endless deluge of screenwriting blunders (nothing’s funnier than hearing how Rob Zombie thinks teenage girls talk), hilariously telegraphed “jump” scares, a whole lot of redundant shrieking, and … plain old ugliness. And I’ve already wasted way too much life on this film to touch upon lead actress Scout Taylor-Compton’s insufferably shrill, keening, shrieky, blubbery performance. Hey, apparently I haven’t.

Some horror films aim to challenge you by dishing out extreme and/or graphic violence, and in many cases (often with foreign horrors) the effect works like a charm. Zombie’s approach however, is not to focus on the tension, the dread, the gore, or the horror. Nope, he’s just interested in the suffering. How an arbitrary character (like a nurse who turns out to be a dream sequence nurse) must weep and beg and plead before being stabbed 15 times. How a young woman’s dead body is framed like a Playboy pictorial. How there’s not a pained expression, a confused sneer or a filthy grimace that Zombie won’t linger on for 10 seconds longer than he needs to. This is not shocking, incendiary or brave horror-making. This is a trip through a morgue with a freaky dude who likes to touch corpses, spout profanity, and giggle at the basest things imaginable. Grow the hell up, Rob, seriously.