Things That Go Bump is a column that reviews films from the horror and suspense genres. I recommend films on the following scale: Skip It, Rent It, or Buy It.
Be warned, this review is full of spoilers. So skip to the recommendation section on the last page if you want to stay spoiler-free.
I wrote last week that Rob Zombie's remake/re-imagining/reinvention of the Halloween mythos was a brutal, violent, effective film. It knows what it wants to be; it has a goal and a basic thesis for operation. Zombie believed that due to confusing plot lines and too many sequels, Michael Myers was no longer scary. He also realized that modern horror audiences wouldn't find his story scary without a back story that was truly messed up beyond anything imaginable. It worked because instead of being scary, the story was shocking and violent.
I've watched H2 twice. The first was in theaters and I will say that to watch that will only leave you more confused. I saw this again on DVD in the Unrated Director's Cut released on January 12, 2010. I have read countless interviews and even listened to a bit of the commentary from the director and I still don't get it and further, I don't want to. In an attempt to be both shocking and abstract, Zombie and H2 fall well short of anything worth watching. I defy anyone to tell me what is the central purpose or goal of Halloween 2 other than grand larceny of the viewers.
Plot Summary and Commentary – As If It's Going To Help
We open with a title card about the symbolic nature of the "white horse" in dreams. This is the first sign of trouble. When a director or movie studio assumes the audience is too stupid to get it, they give us one of these to set it up for us. It's kind of like an open-book test. You have the answers in front of you, so you pass it, but you probably won't learn anything from it.
Then, we get the big retcon. Debra Myers, played even more incoherently (if that's possible) by Sheri Moon-Zombie, walks into the sanitarium to visit little Michael presumably at some point in his treatment with Dr. Loomis. She presents him with a gift. You guessed it — a white horse statue. He proceeds to tell her he saw her and the horse in a dream the night before. Then, we flash to the title screen, hear the gun click, the shot fire, and Laurie's scream from the end of the first film.
What happens over the next 20 minutes is the best part of the film. Too bad half of it isn't real. Laurie walks down a street holding the gun and is finally picked up by Sheriff Brackett (played quite well by Brad Dourif). We flash to the scene of the "crime" — the old Myers house where the first film ended — and we see the CSI and coroner's department hard at work picking up the bodies and photographing Michael Myers with what appears to be a gunshot wound to the face. We aren't sure that's what it is, but half of the mask is red and burnt consistent with a close gunshot wound to the face. (I learned that watching Forensic Files.) We cut to Laurie being wheeled into the hospital ER and we are treated to nearly every bone-setting and stitch.
We flash back to coroner's attendants loading Michael into a van to be taken to the morgue. After a rather unsettling and completely pointless conversation, the van crashes and Michael escapes. He is seen walking down a dark road toward his mother, dressed in white, next to a white horse. The entire escape sequence is unnecessary. When we see Laurie in the opening, she is alone. So, is it too much to ask that he just gets up and walks away? I guess so, because we have this instead.
We cut back to the hospital and see Laurie sleeping all bandaged up and wearing multiple casts for her injuries. She stumbles to Annie's room (who survived the first film) where she is distraught over her friend's condition. Laurie is escorted from her room but turns around to see the nurse now being stalked and attacked by Michael. Michael proceeds to not only kill the nurse, but rip her to pieces, all the while grunting loudly for the audience. (Hold on to that detail as it is one of the big differences between the theatrical and director's cuts). Michael stalks Laurie around the hospital where she discovers scenes of carnage everywhere. In a scene unique to the director's cut, she falls in a dumpster full of dead bodies — presumably the entire hospital staff. It's frightening and yet is a clue that this is a dream because all of the faces looks the same. That's probably why it was cut. Laurie escapes to the guard shack only to have Michael pursue her there and basically rip a wall down to get to her. He raises the fire axe above his head and just as it comes down — she wakes up screaming in another bed. That's right. The most terrifying 10 minutes of this movie are a dream sequence.
We learn from a title card that it is October 29. (The director's cut reveals it is two years after the events of the first film.) To say Laurie isn't coping well is an understatement. She no longer looks remotely wholesome, furthering a character change Zombie only skated around in the last picture. She has funky tattoos, wears torn up "rocker" clothing, doesn't appear to have showered in a month, and is pretty much pissed off at the world and feels guilty for surviving the ordeal of two Halloweens prior. We see she lives with Sheriff Brackett and a physically (perhaps not emotionally) recovered Annie and is seeing a therapist. (Note: in the theatrical release, Laurie and Annie are portrayed as close. In the director's cut, they have bitter arguments. Not sure why that change was necessary, but it adds a new element to the director's cut worth mentioning.) We see her with her therapist (cameo by Margot Kidder) and with her trash-mouthed friends at her place of work (cameo by Howard Hesseman). Oh yeah, Laurie has learned the "F" word since the first movie and likes all its variations — a lot.
Then, as if he hasn't stepped on everything he was so brilliant with in the first installment, Zombie re-introduces us to Dr. Loomis who did survive Michael's attack. No longer is he the psychiatrist who felt guilt and a sense of duty to stop his dangerous patient. Now, he's just a jerk trying to sell books and it is a complete shame. Donald Pleasence's Loomis suffered from serious mischaracterization as well in previous iterations. Maybe that's what Zombie was going for – a tribute to just how little there is to do with Dr. Loomis once we leave the hospital. After a great performance in the 2007 film, Malcolm McDowell is completely unlikeable in this version.
We know very quickly from Loomis's book tour/speaking engagement thing that the press hounds him about his involvement with Michael Myers, his profiting from the story, and whether or not he believes Michael is really dead or not. It's the first time characters from Zombie's version of the series have acted like they know they are in a horror film and it leads to another big twist Zombie adds – Michael walking (without the mask) across an open field. He follows a vision (I think) of his mother who tells him (and a vision of his former boyhood self — in clown costume) to be ready to bring them home. Ooo. Ahh. Whatever.
After some completely random (and seemingly pointless) kills in a field, we get a couple of dream sequences (not sure if one is Laurie's or Michael's or both hers) complete with imagery straight out of a White Zombie video, some random killing, and some more of Michael walking in daylight, unmasked, with his mother/younger self visions in tow as they see billboards promoting the Loomis book tour. Annie gets killed quite violently by Michael and prompts one to wonder what purpose she served in the plot. (All kudos to Danielle Harris who did a good job, but working on this must have brought flashbacks to her work on the mess known as Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers.)
We get to see Laurie's breakdown after learning she is Michael's sister (a detail revealed in Loomis' latest book that she happens to pick up at a local store). She not only freaks out, but demonstrates signs of the kind of madness that drives her older brother. I, along with several others, believe Zombie intended for her to be revealed as the killer in this movie. (Check out the Now Playing Podcast's Halloween Retrospective Series to hear more people agree with me.) But we don't get that. Instead, we have this disjointed mess that, itself, plummets into madness over the final act.
Michael, for reasons never explained, has waited two years to come back, fetch his long-lost baby sister (again), to take her to the barn and watch her struggle against the same ghosts he sees. Loomis shows up (how convenient) and confronts Michael. He sees Laurie struggling (she thinks young Michael is holding her) and he tries to get her to see that it's all in her mind. Or is it? Yeah, I don't even want to get it anymore. I just want it to end. This is where the film differs the most. In the theatrical release, Michael stabs Loomis, is shot, falls, Laurie stabs him, and walks out of the barn wearing his mask. In the director's cut, Michael throws Loomis through a wall to the outside. In front of the cops, he takes off his mask (Tyler Mane looking a lot like Zakk Wylde), growls "die" at Loomis, and runs him through with a big knife. Loomis falls and Michael is pelted with multiple bullets before finally falling himself. Laurie emerges to the carnage, picks up Michael's knife, walks towards Loomis, raises it, and is shot down. An aerial shot cranes above the dead bodies on the ground as a remake of the song "Love Hurts" plays in the background. The final scene of Laurie sitting in a padded cell watching Debra Myers and the white horse walk towards her is still there but we can now interpret that as her vision of the afterlife. Or it's a another dream. Or maybe not.
Recommendation – As If It Is Still Not Obvious
According to IMDb's trivia entry for this film, Zombie only agreed to make this when he learned the studio was going to do it with or without him and he didn't want anyone to "ruin his vision" for the film. Thanks for taking care of that yourself, Rob.
Dourif's Sheriff Brackett says in the beginning of the film, "I'd say there's nothing obvious about anything that happened here tonight. Not a [blankety-blank] thing." I could not agree more.
If you are a fan of the first Zombie Halloween, SKIP THIS. If you are a fan of the original Halloween movies, SKIP THIS. And if you like both film series, SKIP THIS.