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Why I Love Rob Zombie’s Halloween II in the Face of Adversity

rob_zombie_s_halloween_ii_poster_[Editor's Note: Last week, I ran a piece in defense of 2009's Friday the 13th reboot. It was just one of many new editorials I'm happy to be posting here at Shock under our new push to really separate us from derivative cycle of news. You want more meat to chew on and we're trying to respond. That said, contributing writer Christopher Jimenez handed over this piece and I'm pleased to say that it falls directly in line with what we're trying to do this year – offer something to think about and provoke conversation. Read on!  – Ryan]

I was recently asked which of Rob Zombie’s films I like the most in spite of itself. I answered Halloween II and all I got was silence. The needle skipped, jaws dropped and heads turned. It was quite a surprise that I would name that film, so I proceeded to defend my choice. I can see that you have a similar look on your face so let me explain.

Yes. When I saw Rob Zombie’s Halloween II in the theater, I was mad. I felt it was incoherent, incomplete and self-indulgent. When it came out on blu-ray as a Director’s Cut, I, of course, picked it up because I’m a completest (for the most part). As I watched the film I found that I was really enjoying it and the places it took me. Why? Then it hit me. I was watching the film on its own terms not mine. I often preach that you need to watch a film for what it’s trying to be, not what you want it to be. Yet, I found that I was doing that the first time out. Halloween’s second half was faithful to the original in structure and that was comforting to me. This one was its own thing completely and I was in the wrong headspace. Now, I look at it from a completely different perspective and am very pleased with what I have in front of me.

The film opens with a nod to Rick Rosenthal's Halloween II by taking place in a hospital before Lori wakes up and we realize that it’s all a dream/partial memory. Lori has turned into a very damaged girl who is angry at the world and is scarred inside and out. The same goes for Annie. These girls lived through something traumatic and it shows. They are broken young women and there may never be hope for them to return to normalcy. The same goes for Doctor Loomis. Caught up in the fame of the book and the reality TV culture that we live in, he is a very different animal than Donald Pleasence. Finally, we have Michael Myers himself, who has become a dirty drifter.

Okay, this is not John Carpenter’s Halloween that we grew up on but that’s just it. It’s not Carpenter's vision. This is Rob Zombie’s world and it’s going to be different. It’s far more reality-based. Like any director, it’s made up in the image of the world he knows. This is who these people would be in the real world. If you think about it, even Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie Strode ended up an alcoholic in an insane asylum so let’s just walk away from that argument right now.

Michael MyersThose angry at the interpretation of Loomis believe this was flat-out character assassination. On the surface it may seem so, but again, I say: Look at how this would play out in today’s society. It’s so easy to get sucked into fame and self-importance. Loomis becomes a greedy man that must find redemption. He is more than an obsessed and slightly crazy vigilante psychiatrist.

And finally, we have Michael. What happens to you when you are a 7’ hulk with no family, whose home has turned into a media circus headquarters in the most sensational massacre in town history? You wander. You scavenge. Eventually you can lose it and become lost in your own delusions. For Michael, it is his mother. They only woman who he ever felt a connection to and the only person to ever show him the love he felt he deserved. It makes since for him to talk to his mother in this version and to want to kill Laurie. He wants her to be part of the family he has in his head: Mother, his childhood self, and Laurie – the perfect family structure that he never had.

Also, great was the overall aesthetic of the film. It screams Halloween in a way that no other film really has. It celebrates the visuals of the holiday and it does so in grand style. You can’t fault it for loving the holiday. Now, for all the good in the film when taken on its own, there are missteps. Is there too much Sheri? Yes. The climax in the barn with her present is confusing. She and young Michael are in the barn with adult Michael and Laurie, talking. I feel that their image should have disappeared the moment the helicopters showed up and reality came crashing in. Instead, they react to it, their hair blowing in the wind. This is a bit confusing at first, but it was the director’s choice.  I disagree with it, but it’s not my film. Actually, the over-use of Mother Myers is probably my biggest complaint. It seemed like a gimmick and it seemed forced. That being said, there is a lot more good than bad. For those who want to maintain that Zombie himself hates this film and that’s a good reason that the rest of us should, let me remind you of a man named George Lucas who hates his original films, too.

halloween 2I digress, but you get my point. These are not John Carpenter’s characters and were never meant to be. They are the product of a different generation, different ideas and different consequences. This is a film where everyone dies at the end. I know it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation when it comes to remakes, but let’s face it: Halloween's reviews were atrocious at the time of its release and Halloween II’s were just as bad if not worse.

So, after I made my points, we had our drinks and the night went on with a better understanding of why I love the film. I don’t know if any minds were changed, but I know that there was a better understanding of the film was trying to do and say.

Watch it again on its own terms and its own merits. After nine sequels of Michael coming to town on Halloween and killing teenagers having sex and being the tool of an ancient cult, is this film really as bad as you initially thought? You don’t have to agree with me, but tell me what you think.

Has your evaluation changed over time?