Unconventional is an understatement. For a franchise that seemed to have been retreading old ground over and over again with it’s earlier sequels, you do have to admire just how bizarre and weird Rob Zombie was able to make this film with his new ideas on how the Halloween story should end, regardless of if you thought those ideas were good or not.
Halloween 2 (Not to be confused with 1981’s Halloween 2) is the most character focussed film in the franchise that not only doubles down on giving us the same glimpses into Michael’s head as it’s 2007 predecessor, but which also seeks to analyse Laurie’s trauma after that night and her own plummet into insanity. Guided by the ghost of his dead mother, Michael patiently awaits Halloween night so that he can initiate Laurie into the Myers family alongside the ghosts he sees, while Doctor Loomis seeks redemption in the finale by trying to save her after exploiting the suffering of others to promote his book about Michael.
Indeed, Halloween 2 is an odd film because it is paradoxically so abstract and straight-forward in the delivery of it’s characters motives and trajectories. For example, Michael’s ghost mother outwardly states very early in the film that he needs to make them a family again, and Michael’s own ghost of his childhood self proceeds to tell his mother that he can do this because he knows where Laurie is. But then nothing about Laurie’s trajectory is remotely as straightforward as this until the third act of the film where it is made clear that she is beginning to suffer from the same madness that drove Michael to kill as a child. But even then, it’s not quite clear whether what Michael and Laurie suffer is purely psychological or truly supernatural. By the end of the film both of them are able to interact with and visualise the ghosts of their deceased family while the rest of the world is unable to. And although the franchise is known for having ambiguous elements, I do think the story would have benefited from answering whether this was some mad hallucination or actual ghost stuff because it could have led to a more concise finale.
For instance, Doctor Loomis puts his life on the line to try and help Laurie escape from Michael at the end of the movie. But Laurie is being restrained by ghosts who he cannot see, and who Laurie maddeningly screams about them holding her down. The conversation they have about the ghosts is extremely brief and cut short when Michael absolutely slaughters Loomis. It’s a shame this sequence wasn’t allowed to play out because it was the one part of the film where the real and abstract came together in an interesting way, and I was intrigued to see whether or not Loomis could use his smarts and psychological training to talk Laurie back into sanity so that she could escape. A lot of potential for a tense scene was wasted here by having Michael just slash the Doctor apart before he himself is stabbed to death by Laurie.
And, for the first time in franchise history, Michael’s death in this movie was truly official and irreversible. At least it had that going for it. It takes courage to kill off big-name characters in cinema like this and I admire Zombie’s commitment to it, even if the execution and everything proceeding it wasn’t great.
“Isn’t great” sums up this film. It’s not bad by any means, but it is lacking compared to it’s 2007 predecessor. Michael’s presence feels wasted for most of this movie with him killing people on his way to Haddonfield just because it’s what we, the audience, expect him to do. And it’s all so cliche. You know, in previous movies I could always forgive the occasional scene of people yelling at Michael and trying to scare him off (for being on their property or whatever) because he was a normal-sized guy of normal weight. But it’s so dumb in this film to see Michael getting approached by random person, after random person at the side of the road, all of whom try to intimidate him; The dude is a seven-foot beefcake and there’s no way you’re realistically going to beat him, even if he wasn’t a supernatural serial murderer. And so, after the film introduces the ghosts to us through his perception of the world, he serves no purpose to the film until the ending.
Doctor Loomis isn’t great either – He spends the whole movie trying to sell his book and does so at the expense of others, which he feels the need to redeem himself for at the end by saving Laurie. His arc in of itself is fine, it’s just so removed from the rest of the film’s events that it doesn’t even feel like it takes place in the same world until his book overlaps with Laurie’s trauma and she learns from it that she is Michael’s sister.
And so the movie relies a lot on Laurie to do the heavy lifting. Because of her PTSD she is a much more sympathetic character than she was in her more angsty depiction in the 2007 film. However, the clunky dialogue from that film, that is riddled with swearing and obsessive sexual references, carries over into this one and detracts from a lot of the scenes she is in. But when she is at home with Annie and Sherrif Bracket, who took her in after the events of the first movie, there are genuine moments of warmth in this otherwise suffocating movie that will leave you wanting to see more of Laurie at home simply processing herself. In a strange way, despite Zombie being a director who seems to like the shock, awe and brutal aspects of horror, it is these quiet scenes he made that I wanted more of. But, well, it seems he couldn’t help himself…
Oddly enough the movie starts with Laurie in the hospital – similarly to the original Halloween 2 (1981) – but this extremely prolonged, brutal and committal scene turns out to be nothing but a dream. It’s truly odd. It feels like Zombie was originally making a closer remake to the 1981 film before deciding to do his own thing, but needed to use this footage as he had already spent time and money perfecting it. I don’t know if that’s the case, but it’s certainly what it feels like. Given how very abstract this film is with it’s imagery, Zombie could have more effectively communicated Laurie’s trauma in the introduction through any means other than a 20-minute murder frenzy that has no impact on the rest of the film whatsoever. It’s a shame this scene remains in the film, as you may recall that my main criticism of the 2007 remake was also regarding a prolonged chase scene that really didn’t need to be there.
In fact, I think this hospital scene is a big part of why this film is so jarring – I feel Zombie’s unconventional ideas would have been infinitely easier to get to grips with if the first 30 minutes of the movie weren’t trying to convince you that this was going to follow Halloween’s traditional story structure.
With that in mind the one character that really works and shines here is, surprisingly, Sherriff Bracket who spends his time balancing work with attending to his two traumatised daughters who survived the attack of a serial killer. By the end of the film he loses Annie to a Michael and Laurie to madness, and even has a bone to pick with Loomis after he published that Laurie was Michael’s missing sister. It may also have something to do with the fact he’s the most normal, relatable person in the film and the fact he gives a much more reserved performance than everyone else. Suffice it to say I liked this side character more than anyone else.
Overall, Halloween 2 (2009) isn’t a great film. It has a lot of cool ideas but only manages to execute them inconsistently at best and a bit too forcefully at worst. I liked some of the ghost stuff, despite feeling it was cut short and at least appreciated the fact Rob Zombie decided to do something different with the franchise rather than make another generic slasher flick. Would I recommend it? It’s a very mixed bag and your enjoyment of it will likely be determined by how weird is too weird for you, because Rob Zombie doesn’t pull any punches with his insane imagery and ideas in this one. I thought it was a breath of fresh air, but still find myself conflicted on it as a lot of the horror in this so-called horror movie just isn’t very scary. Shocking, sure, but not scary or even that tense. Though not without merit, every moment I felt worked was followed by one I thought that didn’t, so take that as you will.
At the end of every Halloween review I rank the movies I have seen so far from best to worst. Find the updated list below:
- Halloween (1978)
- Halloween H20 (1998)
- Halloween (2007)
- Halloween 2 (1981)
- Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (1983)
- Halloween 2 (2009)
- Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
- Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
- Halloween Resurrection (2002)
- Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)