Rob Zombie's transition from scary heavy-metal maven to slash-and-splatter movie maker is completed with Halloween II. The director of House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects is so mainstream he's a sequel sell-out now. No wonder he's moving on to "creature features" — he announced this week he'll remake The Blob.
But, frankly, we have a right to expect that he'd have picked up tips on how to create suspense on screen by now. Apparently, he thinks he's the new Dario Argento — the Italian guru of gore. Halloween II has shades of the artsy-fartsy — pretentious, capital "S" symbolism and zero characterization or suspense. Yes, we all need a lesson in what seeing a white horse in your dreams means to psychotherapists. But, dude, rent some Hitchcock. It's not the wholly expected "sudden" stabbing or the graphic, sound-effects-assisted decapitation or impaling that gets us. It's the chase, the rising terror at what the victim (and the viewer) fears is coming. H2 picks up the story with an extended "later that night" sequence following up on the carnage of Halloween. Zombie shows us, graphically, what machetes, axes and butcher knives do to a human body and how — if you have insurance — the medical system might treat those thus traumatized. But is Michael Myers dead? Apparently not, as Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton) is chased out of her trauma ward bed, across the rainy parking lot to "safety" with the security guard.
"My name is Buddy. It's going to be fine."
Of course it isn't. And of course Laurie wakes up just as Michael is smashing his way in to get her. Again.
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A year has passed, and Halloween approaches. The lost "body " of Michael Myers has been laying low, eating wildlife and dogs and fantasizing flashbacks to when he was a disturbed kid and his dead mom was there to comfort him. She's still comforting him, with her white horse.
The former leader of White Zombie cast his wife, Sheri Moon Zombie, as Michael's mom. She's still waiting for that call from Inside the Actor's Studio.
During a couple of brutal nights of unprovoked terror, Michael works his way back into Haddonfield for another "final" shot at killing Laurie and other scarred victims of his last rampage.
A cute touch — Malcolm McDowell returns as Michael's surviving shrink, Dr. Loomis, this time out pushing a book he has written to cash in on the tragedy. Zombie hurls the indignities of "marketing yourself" at Loomis — sharing a talk show couch with Weird Al Yankovic, signing books for drooling mass-murder fanboys.
The script is generic, save for some pained and painfully obvious attempts at "funny" improvisation. ("Sheriff" Brad Dourif tries to decipher the origins of "I'm starvin', Marvin" for his daughter and Laurie.)
And every so often, the bad actress with the white horse shows up and "calls" to Michael or Laurie or her husband for another close-up.
Zombie has a sense of humor (Weird Al, and look for Margot Kidder as Laurie's therapist). He has an eye, and an ear for old rock and pop tunes — he beats The Moody Blues' Nights in White Satin to death here. But story, character and editing really fall down in this one. It's not even as scary as his Halloween remake, and that one was perfunctory, at best.
He's not the new Argento, or even the new John Carpenter (who also remade The Blob). With Halloween II, Zombie shows conclusively that he's not interested in growing, getting better or ever becoming an original. He's just a hack with a made-up name, a cult following and a wife who can't act.