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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


I know and respect some fellow critics who specialize in reviewing horror movies. Many of them regard musician-turned-director Rob Zombie as a talentless hack. While I understand that point of view, I don't agree with it. Zombie has a style and an energy that's more interesting than 99% of the other filmmakers working in the horror genre these days. I'm one of the few critics to give positive reviews to House of 1000 Corpses (Tomato-Meter rating = 16%) and The Devil's Rejects (Tomato-Meter rating = 55%). Zombie's remake of Halloween (Tomato-Meter rating = 26%) was not as original as his two previous pictures, but I had to admit it was effective. It was also successful, prompting the director to warn fans that he had no intention of making a cheesy sequel.

Oh, how I wish he'd stayed true to that promise. Despite Zombie's claims that the studio let him do whatever he wanted this time, Halloween II comes off as a work created by someone who doesn't know what he wants.

This is quite literally the most plotless movie I've seen in a long time. Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton), who thought she killed masked psycho Michael Myers at the end of the first one, has transformed from sweet girl-next-door into neo-punk. She has lots of nightmares that Michael is still alive and coming for her (which, of course is true). Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), the shrink who treated Michael as a child, has now written a book and turned into a media whore.

And then there's Michael (Tyler Mane) himself who…well, he walks around killing people for little apparent reason. Here a typical scene from Halloween II, one which is repeated ad nauseum: Some poor sap comes face-to-face with the hulking Michael, threatens him, gets visibly nervous when he doesn't respond, then gets a knife in the face. Zombie even finds a way to throw in that scene - beautifully parodied for all time by Andy Samberg and Ellen Page on "Saturday Night Live" - when someone goes into the bathroom and opens the medicine cabinet, then sees the killer's reflection in the mirror when closing it.

Zombie clearly has something in mind here, but I have no clue what it is. The film is filled with symbolism. Sheri Moon Zombie (you-know-who's wife) returns to play the ghost of Michael's mother. In all her scenes, she appears in a flowing white dress and white wig, holding the reins of a white horse. Mrs. Myers talks to her son from beyond the grave, issuing him commands. Every time she wanders in, it felt like Zombie was trying to be David Lynch. The picture's one interesting scene is a black-and-white hallucination that apes the style of Guy Maddin, known to many as "the David Lynch of Canada." It's fascinatingly weird, but only constitutes about a minute of the movie's 102 minute running time. Less interesting is the way all the TVs in a hospital are showing an old clip of the Moody Blues singing "Knights in White Satin" while Michael rampages through the halls.

For whatever flaws it may have had, Zombie's first Halloween was at least an origin story, and so there was something obvious to follow. No such luck with Halloween II. The film seems assembled from spare parts, few of which fit together. For example, in the midst of some of the most graphic and gruesome big-screen carnage you'll see, there is a scene in which Loomis goes on a talk show and gets into a comic confrontation with "Weird Al" Yankovic. Later, there's an extended sequence of a band playing a Halloween gig while Laurie and her friends dance and flirt with boys. Then you get all the weird dream/fantasy sequences. Nothing here has any unity with anything else.

I will give Halloween II this: Scout Taylor-Compton isn't bad. She projects a range of emotions believably. With better material, she might prove herself to be a pretty gifted young actress. On the other hand, one has to feel sorry for Malcolm McDowell, who has apparently been given the instruction to overact as wildly as possible at every moment and seems happy to oblige.

Interestingly, on the same day that Halloween II opens comes word that Rob Zombie's next project will be a remake of The Blob. This should come as good news, as it means that he will not make a third Michael Myers installment. But it's bad news in the sense that Zombie shouldn't be remaking older, better movies. His first two films, in particular, showed a sense of creativity and - dare I say it? - artistry that serves him better than this "rebooting" crap. The man has some interesting ideas and a fearless method of presenting them. If Zombie wants to continue making movies, he needs to play to his strengths.

( out of four)

Halloween II is rated R for strong brutal bloody violence throughout, terror, disturbing graphic images, language, and some crude sexual content and nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 42 minutes.

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