Michael Myers is fucking DEAD!!
Building upon the foundations of films such as Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood , John Carpenter’s Halloween effectively set the template for the ‘stalk and slash’ genre until 1996, when the Scream franchise effectively rewrote the rules. In retrospect, Halloween is surprisingly low on blood, but high on tension, with the camera positioned low and forcing the viewer to try and peer around the next corner. The inevitable sequel, while losing the shock value of the original, was surprisingly effective. Further sequels, however, weren’t (with the exception of the brilliant Halloween III, which has nothing to do with the rest of the franchise). In 2007, musician and film maker Rob Zombie, a man who seemingly thought This is Spinal Tap was a documentary, remade Halloween to minimal effect. Whilst it was a good deal more gruesome than the original, Zombie‘s attempt to elaborate on the Myers’ back story bogged the story down with unnecessary detail. Carpenter’s Myers was purely evil, whereas Zombie‘s is more flesh and blood, and so a far less interesting character. Zombie‘s previous films, The Devil’s Rejects and House of 1000 Corpses were interesting failures, impressively brutal, but ultimately forgettable. He is obviously a horror/exploitation fan, but hasn’t found the right vehicle yet. If someone could give him the money to make Werewolf Women of the SS, then we may be onto something…
Halloween 2 begins with a quote which effectively spells out the premise and, like the original sequel, begins where the first film ended. Carpenter’s hospital setting is reused, and the harsh fluorescent light and grainy look suit the material well. There are several impressively bloody murders and some wince-inducing emergency surgery scenes before the dream imagery adds a layer of pretension. Seemingly dead at the beginning, Myers is soon resurrected and carries on where he left off. When Donald Pleasance replacement Malcolm McDowell, sporting an impressive white moustache, states in an amusing scene that “Michael Myers is fucking DEAD”, you know that he’s not watched this type of film before. As with many slashers. the disposable teenagers are all irritating, but here they all seem to be from the demographic which actually buy White Zombie albums, and thus elicit absolutely no sympathy at all.
The film is proficiently made, sharing the cold, icy feel of the vastly superior Let the Right One In, and with most of Zombie‘s films, the secondary characters are far more interesting than the rather colourless leads. Man-mountain Tyler Mane is an imposing, mute presence, and deserves a better character to work with. His killings are savage and realistic: no one-stab murders for him. The knife (or deer antlers) is thrust repeatedly, compound fractures are inflicted and naked strippers are slammed into mirrors. The rest of the performances are acceptable, with McDowell hamming things up considerably.
Given the right script, Zombie could make an interesting, European-style exploitation film. His use of gore and full-frontal nudity betrays an influence from the Italian genre films of the 70s and 80s, a field which is underrepresented at the moment. There are flashes here of what the film could have been, but unfortunately Zombie is tied down by the Halloween mythos, and the spectre of John Carpenter is never far away. Any film where a TV reporter interviews Big Lou, a guy in a Frankenstein’s Monster mask can’t be wholly disregarded, but, although I enjoyed the film more on the second viewing, it doesn’t stay in the memory. Zombie continues to be a frustrating director. His House of 1000 Corpses character of Captain Spaulding is one of the funniest and most sinister in the genre, but he is stranded in two mediocre films. Here, the visceral presence of Mane is similarly wasted in a character which is badly botched. Zombie‘s contrived ‘look, aren’t I scary?’ pose is amusingly exposed in a particularly unconvincing nightclub scene, with wholesome-looking extras in spotless Halloween costumes dance to lame psychobilly in the cleanest-looking club since the louche lounge bar in Bava’s Hatchet for the Honeymoon. So, we started with a Bava reference, and finished with one. Just like Zombie: all that effort but we’ve gotten nowhere.