Halloween II wasn’t screened for critics?? WHAAAAT???

Posted on 31 August 2009 by ShepRamsey

Well, friends, apparently someone at the Weinstein Company didn’t really have much faith in Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, the sequel to his 2007 “reimagining” of the 1979 John Carpenter classic.  Critics weren’t allowed to see the flick ahead of time, so that usually means bad news. 

I don’t really know why they bother, frankly.  Studios seem to do this kind of thing a lot–conjurehalloween-2-poster up a movie (usually a low-grade horror flick or dopey comedy) that seems virtually critic-proof anyway, and then not screen it for critics so that the bad reviews won’t circulate.  But then word of mouth starts to get around about the fact that it’s not being pre-screened, and that such a move means that the film sucks. 

And then not only does that sort of reputation cause the movie to be shrouded in bad publicity, but it also completely closes the door on the small handful of critics who might have actually liked it and given it a good review.  So what’s the point, really?  Are they just saving the critics the trouble of having to see it and review it?

And what about the awful movies that are out there that are screened for critics, get their horrible reviews, and go on to be enormous box office successes?  (Transformers 2, anyone??)  I don’t think it takes a census taker to surmise that most average American audiences just don’t give a damn about what critics think about their precious killin’-and-blowin’-shit-up movies. 

However, I doubt that that’s entirely the case for Rob Zombie’s Halloween II.  Many people interested in this movie are genuinely interested in the artistic quality of the film.  Many loyal horror fanboys are very skeptical about it.  Many have nothing but bile and hatred for his first Halloween movie, while some–myself included–kinda dug it and are maybe a bit curious about his new one.  And the great thing about a horror movie like this is that both demographics will probably be going to see it.

But, Halloween II didn’t exactly do so well at the box office.  In its opening weekend, it came in third place, having been beaten out by the 3-D fellow slasher sequel The Final Destination, and–holdover from last week–Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.  Why The Final Destination, though?  It seemed like Halloween II had more buzz and interest going for it. 

I suppose that it was just a matter of horror fans finding themselves faced with one particular decision this weekend: go see the sequel to the movie they didn’t like or go see the 3-D sequel to the movie they didn’t like.  It looks like they went for the 3-D one.  Maybe a wise choice.  Maybe not.  I didn’t see The Final Destination, so I can’t really weigh in.  I’d kind of like to at some point, if only for the allure of the 3-D. 

I did see Halloween II, though, and I came out with very mixed feelings.  Like I said, I’m one of the people who didn’t think that Zombie’s first “reimagining” was too bad.  And now, with this sequel, he gets even “reimaginier.” 

I had the distinctly unique opportunity to watch a drive-in double feature of Halloween (2007) played back-to-back with the new one (and then followed by my second viewing of Inglourious Basterds) at New Albany, Indiana’s Georgetown Drive-In, the same venue where I first saw Zombie’s Halloween two years ago, when it hl2immediately followed an original print(!!!) of John Carpenter’s version.  Drive-ins aren’t around much anymore, but if you can make it out to one, it’s certainly a fun place to catch such a double feature. 

And the two films make a very cool double feature all on their own, I might add.  Seeing as the opening scenes of Halloween II take place about five minutes after the end of Halloween, it’s really somewhat interesting to watch, and made it almost feel like watching a three-plus-hour Rob Zombie Halloween movie (and I know for some of you, that just sounds like torture).  Of course, once we flash ahead one year later, everything else is just kind of…different.

One of the most jarring things, right off the bat, about Halloween II is how different so many of the characters have become.  Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton), I suppose, is understandably different.  She’s got sort of a tortured badass thing going on, only without the badass part.  As such, she’s just kind of screamy and pointless and annoying, and her stuff is the among the low points of the film.

Brad Douriff’s Sheriff Brackett character seems a bit odd here, too.  Laurie is now living with him and his daughter (and her friend from the first movie) Annie, again played by Halloween 4 and 5 vet Danielle Harris.  Sheriff Brackett has more of a conspiracy theorist-hippy kind of vibe in this movie, complete with long stringy hair, and some weirdo philosophizing.  To be honest, I didn’t really mind this that much.  Douriff is one of those actors who, the stranger his character is, the more fun he is to watch.

But the real oddball of this movie is Malcolm McDowell’s Sam Loomis, an oddly cynical, money-grubbing hack and a complete 180 degrees from the character that Donald Pleasance played in the original films.  However, I’m also inclined to say that this material was some of the best of what the movie had to offer.  No, it wasn’t close to resembling the original character, but it sort of works in its own unique, misanthropic, and darkly funny kind of way.

However, the problem is that he seems to really have no place at all in this movie.  Halloween II suffers from that fact that it seems kind of like three different movies all rolled up into one.  And none of them blend well with the next at all.

The first movie here is the Laurie Strode sadness, despair, and impending doom story–essentially the slasher movie aspect.  This part of it didn’t really work for me at all because it spent too much time trying to make me care about characters that I never came close to giving a damn about.  And when they all get what’s coming to them from Michael Myers, I was just bored and annoyed. 

And none of it really blended well with the Michael Myers inner demons stuff, which comprises the second movie that’s going on here.  Michael is on a missionhalloween2, basically.  He sees visions of his mother (and of his younger self, who has been replaced by an actor who isn’t nearly as effective and creepy as the kid in the first movie) looking all gothic and eerie and telling him to kill Laurie (his sister, remember?), so that the whole family can be together once again. 

All of this stuff I really liked.  I liked the crazy visuals and I kind of dig Rob Zombie’s concept for Michael’s motivation for wanting to kill Laurie.  It’s pretty simple, but it’s also kind of fun, extremely trippy, and very, very self-indulgent on his part.  Whether or not you enjoy this is entirely dependent on how much you enjoy Zombie’s indulgences.  I sorta did.  Sue me.

Where all this falls apart for me is in the fact that Zombie only takes this stuff as far as a very run-of-the-mill slasher flick, where bodies are piled up merely to satisfy arbitrary action beats within the film.  He sets up some cool thematic ideas and surrealism, but only pays it off in stabbings.  Ultimately, it’s all concept and trippy visuals and nothing else.

And last but not least is the almost completely pointless storyline involving Dr. Loomis’s book tour, which basically centers around him being a total pompous and insensitive dick to everybody, and people constantly berating him for being a pompous insensitive dick by cashing in on the Michael Myers murders that took place in the previous film.  None of this has anything to do with anything else going on in the film and thus feels extremely awkward when they try and bring it full circle with the rest of the movie in the film’s final ten minutes. 

Nevertheless, it’s kind of amusing and charmingly strange in its own right and might very well have made a kind of cool movie all on its own.  But I’m sure Rob Zombie would sooner die than make a simple straight comedy, so I’m afraid all this will have to do. 

Halloween II is one hell of a mixed bag, and I’d be lying to your face if I said it was totally successful.  It has its moments, for sure, but it has its other moments, too, and the scale doesn’t strike the balance I would have preferred.  And if you’re a Halloween purist and you won’t stand for a film that isn’t wholly reverent to the source material, then this movie is not for you at all.  If you’re up for a little change, however, you might want to check it out. 

I can’t say I’m surprised that it wasn’t screened for critics, but frankly there are a lot more embarrassing movies than this out there right now.  It’s reasonably well-acted, very well-shot, but the whole story is a lot of incoherent nonsense.  (For some, maybe that won’t matter.)  It’s a movie that appears to be aspiring to be so much more than just another slasher movie, but has no clue how to get there and winds up being a just another (albeit visually arresting) slasher movie. 

Some people are saying this movie is monumentally, earth-shatteringly bad, and I don’t agree at all.  The “fuck Rob Zombie” bandwagon seems like such an easy one to hop up on and I won’t do it.  I can’t totally recommend the flick, but I won’t flat-out condemn it, either.  So, in other words, if “it’s not as bad as you think” is all the recommendation that you need to motivate you to check it out, then, by all means, go!  It’s not as bad as you think!                           

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