26 October 2009

Halloween II

Written & Directed by: Rob Zombie
Full credits from IMDb

Halloween II opens with a thrilling, bravado sequence, a tip of the celluloid hat to its predecessor: Rick Rosenthal’s unfairly underrated 1981 follow-up to John Carpenter’s overlionized original. Like The Bride of Frankenstein, both sequels begin right where the last film left off: police and paramedics arrive to the aftermath of Laurie’s showdown with Michael Myers; they take her to the hospital, he follows, mayhem ensues. But soon enough, Zombie’s back to his usual bullshit: suffocating the horror with trite, perfunctory and insincere attempts at fleshing out the characters with complex psychologies or psychological complexes.

Trying to develop the heroes (and villain) isn’t an inherent misstep. The best horror movies derive their frights by making us sympathize with the victims-to-be: if we can relate to them as ordinary people, the terrible things that will soon befall them become all the more frightening—because then, more convincingly, they could happen to us, too. (One of the best recent examples of this is Wolf Creek, which spends half of its running time getting to know its young and out-of-control Aussies. Cloverfield wasn’t so bad at this, either.) But Zombie’s characters are caricatures, from the liberal vegetarians who only eat egg white omelets (gross!) and whole-wheat pizza crusts (double gross!) to the unwashed lowlives that occupy every random strip joint and wheat field in his America.

Whether their sensibilities are red-state or blue, Myers wants them dead; an indiscriminate marauder, he kills those who are kind to him, those who are cruel, and those who haven’t done anything to him at all. He kills a strip club owner and his mistress; he kills the guy who takes out the garbage. He kills nurses and security guards. He reduces a face to a pile of Spaghetti-O’s, he bashes another into a wall repeatedly. He even kills a dog. The violence is senseless, it’s unmotivated, and it doesn’t move the plot forward; it’s bloodletting for its own sake. “Bad taste,” one character says, “is the petrol that drives the American dream.” Whatever.

But wait! There might actually be something to this movie after all. Myers spends half the film tromping through fields, on his way back to Haddonfield—he is the repressed, literally returning. “Freaks will always find their way home,” Myers’ erstwhile doctor says (whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean). Myers, of course, is making the journey because his mother’s ghost—Zombie has repitched our blank-faced killer as a Jason Voorhees, a murder-monster with a major mommy mania—urges him to reunite with his long lost sister, Laurie. (Surprise!) That is, Myers’ mission is one rooted in family values—in the restoration of nuclear unity; as such, he represents the violence that underlies the suburban ethos. Family togetherness and the American Dream, Zombie posits, are only made possible by war. Myers is Operation Enduring Iraqi Freedom incarnate, which might answer why so many of his victims are working class: they’re just like those fighting men and women overseas. Grade: C-

Watch the trailer:

1 comment:

sugarbiscuit said...

"...John Carpenter’s overlionized original."

You have no idea how much satisfaction I felt reading that sentiment. I recently watched the original Halloween for the first time in a long while (i.e., not since I was a much more impressionable youth) and was really struck dumb by how bad it really is. Outside of the iconic soundtrack (which is truly genius), what the hell is supposed to be so good about Halloween? I can rewatch Night of the Living Dead or Texas Chainsaw Massacre right now and be appropriately creeped out, but Halloween left me wondering what the heck all the fuss is about.