Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Halloween II Directors Cut

I was one of the five people who genuinely liked Rob Zombie’s Halloween II (down from being one of the dozen people who liked his original). Hell I liked it so much I bought the album by the fake psychobilly band featured in the film. Now for the record I’m a pretty big Rob Zombie Apologist. I was one of the few folks who liked his original Halloween remake for all its flaws, The Devil’s Rejects is a truly great horror film, and House Of 1000 Corpses is fun to watch when your drunk. Hell I even found nice things to say about his direct to video goofy practical joke of a cartoon The Haunted World Of El Super Beasto. Not many nice things true, but I found them. And I think I might literally be the only one on that account.

While most thought Halloween II was nothing but two hours of gore and white trash behaving badly, which to be fair isn’t entirely untrue. I found it to be one of the best most original (and yes I know that writing that word in conjunction to a sequel to a sequel to a remake takes me to Armond White levels of crazy) slasher films of the decade. A nasty, occasionally truly scary horror movie, with a perverse imagination, and some really disturbing imagery (The movie’s worth seeing if only for a brief silent film interlude involving a family of shrunken pumpkin heads). While a lot of people where bothered by Zombie’s stylistic excess, cast of rehensable rednecks, and stiff middle finger to series canon, I couldn’t help but find the whole thing pretty exhilarating.

Zombie’s directors cut complicates things thought. It makes his problematic film even more problematic. All the nice things I have to say about the flick are true, and I still say it has a few of the most effective horror sequences this side of The Strangers, but now it has some problems I can’t quite justify.

Not that all the blame can go on the additions. The film was always flawed, between The Strip Club Massacre that manages not to merely be the definition of gratuitous but indeed the thesaurus of it. To the fact that nearly every character demonstrates at one point or another the ability to teleport, to the charaters who might as well have fodder written on their foreheads, and Michael Myer’s new preternatural ability to hunt down and slaughter anyone who has ever so much as served Laurie Strode at Taco Bell, Halloween II was always kind of a sloppy movie. The added hateful bitchery just kind of exacerbates things (that means make em worse Shaun).

The great Outlaw Vern summed it up thusly

The new cut is quite a bit different, but mostly what’s added is unpleasantness to make you not like the characters or enjoy the experience of watching the movie. There are several scenes and extensions added so that Laurie – who had a sweet friendship with fellow survivor Annie in the theatrical cut – is angry at Annie and they’re always fighting. Most of the new material involves Laurie screaming, crying and swearing, getting in arguments with Annie, then screaming FUUUUCKKKK!


But all it does is emphasize Zombie’s biggest weakness as a writer: he seems to think that having sympathetic characters is some kind of sell out move and that it’s somehow subversive to bum you out by forcing you to watch obnoxious, hateful people swear at each other.

The film “restores” fifteen minutes to Zombie's runtime and I’m willing to bet that fourteen of them are Strode screaming fuck at the people who care about her like an unconscionable bitch. The rest is used to make his bizarre ass ending even more bizarre ass. The added hatefullness in Laurie's character does make the ending twist come less out of nowhere, but that doesn't make it anymore pleasant to actually watch.

The thing is that Zombie appears to have forgotten what made his first Halloween remake work. The thing that made me forgive that movies many flaws was the fact that at the end of the day, I liked The Strodes, and didn't want to see anything bad happen to them. And when Myer's attacked the pit of my stomach dropped not because "It was about to get fucked up!" but because I truly dreaded what was happening. There's none of that here. (with the exception of Brad Douriff)

But despite all this, the thing I like about Zombie’s movies is they’re so tactile. Exaggerated yes, but like the nineteen thirties cartoons and black and white horror films he loves to put in the backgrounds of his movies, his movies feel deliberate, hand made. Places like the Java Hole, where Strode works, feel like a place you would actually like to hang out. The bar where the climatic halloween party is held is over the top yeah, but at the same time its kind of cool. I don’t know about you but I’d like to go to that Halloween party. Psychobilly, naked women, booze, and costumes that look like they where put together by a Hollywood production designer. I could go with that.

Say what you will about them but Zombie’s films aren’t antiseptic. And Yeah occasionally this aesthetic makes him do stupid things like hang a picture of Charles Mason above Laurie Strodes bed, despite the fact that a woman whose entire family was butchered by a serial killer wouldn’t be likely to let a huge potrait of a serial killer dominate her room. But they occasionally stumble across a feeling of reality There’s something about his images I just like to watch. They’re tactile.

Still despite all the flaws, both original and additional, I stubbornly like Halloween II. For all the stuff we like to talk about in regards to movies, something remains very primal and binary about them. They work or they don’t. Halloween II for whatever reason, despite all its problems works for me. I hope whoever follows up for the third go round has the balls to follow through on the genuinely mean twist Zombie pulls at the end of the film.

Halloween II remains enormously flawed as a film, and Rob Zombie flawed as a filmmaker, but damnit I kind of like them both.


The Film Connoisseur said...

Im one of the ones that didnt hate the original, I enjoyed it. First half was new stuff, second half was a remake. Not a bad idea.

All I hear about this movie is bad reviews. Yours is actually the only positive one Ive read. But that could have to do with you being a huge Zombie fan.

Im a huge zombie fan, I doubt Ill hate this movie as much as everybody does. Heres hoping it wont suck..as much as everyone says it does.

Evil Dead Junkie said...

Yeah I'm definitely one of the more positive ones.

Keith Phipps over at The AV Club didn't hate it either. Basement Of Ghoulish Decadence and Outlaw Vern had some nice things to say about it as well.

You might end up pleasantly surprised by it.

Emily said...

Wait, Zombie actually found a way to incorporate more uses of the eff word in the director's cut? That's kind of incredible, as I lost count at 971.

Sigh. I've been talking a lot about H2 in the past week or so on a few podcasts and blogs, but you present such an interesting and well said review that I suppose I'll have to say my peace again. Deep breath.

H2 is a miserable experience, but rather fascinating for that reason. A few fellow film goers agree that Zombie may have been consciously trying to sabotage the series to end it where he chose. I'd buy that.

I think Laurie as a flawed female heroine is interesting, but you can't have a slasher film if the audience hasn't mustered one sneer of sympathy for the lead. Then again, my theory--and it kills me that director's cut hasn't supported it--is that there WAS NO MICHAEL. We never quite wake up from Laurie's dream--if you think about it, Myers' presence is never explained. She's dreaming, he's there, she wakes up and he's fighting rednecks miles away. As much as I'm willing to surrender this to awful editing and Zombie having no sense of place, I really did want to believe that the reason NONE of the early killings are actually referenced in the movie is because they didn't happen. All of that, up and until the murders start happening directly to Laurie's friends (and Taco Bell servers, wink wink) is simply in Laurie's head as she spins into psychosis. It would somewhat explain why nothing in the first hour mattered, and why that final scene with her mother (agggggghhh a whole story unto itself) and Loomis was such a chaotic mess.

It bums me that this wasn't Zombie's intention, as I would have imagined it would come out in the extended version. I think I was clinging to this theory to validate the movie, but ultimately, it left me with such a giant headache. I do appreciate some of the imagery and EDJ, you definitely put some of stronger touches in perspective, but overall, it's just such a bizarre mess.

Evil Dead Junkie said...

That's a lot to chew on Em, thanks for the comment. That's an interesting take on the material, It'd be nice if Zombie was thinking as creatively as you. lol.

I still had some sympathy for Laurie, just because I think that Scout Taylor Compton does a good job with the character.

There's no doubt, that it's a bizarre mess. But like you said its sort of even more fascinating because of it.

If you want ANOTHER twist on it... SPOILER...

According to Vern, Zombie on the director's commentary on the director's cut, says he was apparently trying to imply that Laurie was DEAD at the end in the sanitarium. WTF.

Zombie really does kind of fuck up his ending. It's just the same events but not as well done.

Troy Olson said...

Wait, there are other horror fans out there that don't despise Zombie? I not too deep into the horror aficionado mindset, but I thought the general consensus was he sucked. Did all of the hate came from these remakes?

I for one think THE DEVIL'S REJECTS is great stuff, but for some reason just never felt the need to watch the HALLOWEEN remakes, mostly due to the fact that I'm just so tired of anything relating to any of the big, major horror icons anymore. So while I can't comment on if they are actually any good, I'm kind of just hoping Zombie goes on to make something that I do want to watch (WEREWOLF WOMEN OF THE SS, anyone?)

Evil Dead Junkie said...

Yeah I really do hope he makes Tyrannosaurus Rex next as opposed to the awful sounding Blob remake.

The Film Connoisseur said...

Ill check it out and get back to you on that Evil, also, Im looking forward to his T-Rex movie as well, some of the pre production art work looked promising.

A blob remake, that doesnt sound so bad either. I love that The Blob film from 1988. Cool gooey effects. In fact, that ending left me wanting a sequel, with the evil priest holding that last piece of The Blob.

Emily said...

Man I looooooove the 1988 Blob and consider it one of the biggest missed-sequels of all time. I don't know how I feel about Zombie taking those reins, but I'm willing to give it a shot. I do believe he remains a good filmmaker and unlike most of the guys who end up with studio tickets, someone who actually cares about the films he makes. Devil's Rejects ranks somewhere in the top of my best-of the decade, but if he doesn't successfully step out of his comfort zone soon, I may eventually have to consider Zombie a one-note director.


Laurie was dead? Whaaaaa?

Evil Dead Junkie said...

To be fair it makes more sense in his "new" ending. Which is basically a really ineffective retread of His Devil's Rejects end.