Saturday 2 January 2010

Halloween 2 (2009)...

Well, this is a weird one alright. I have seen such routinely dire reviews for this flick that I was really beginning to expect the worst. Rob Zombie's 2007 Halloween re-do met with much controversy. Some dug it, some despised it. I dug it - although it was naturally not a patch on the original.

I was really quite interested to see H2 therefore, especially when it was launched into such a cold and stormy reception. Perhaps this is why, with expectations set so low, I actually kinda dug this flick too.

Don't get me wrong, it's a weird flick - sometimes good weird, sometimes uncomfortable weird - but there's something about it which impressed me enough to not dismiss it outright. Perhaps it greeted me as a particularly violent plucky sort of slasher movie that knew it was both breaking and relying upon genre convention and audience expectation. A movie that is one part predictable, and one part strange new pastures.

The main failings however, all come down to the script. The three main threads of characters are so disconnected throughout the movie that you never really feel any true connection between them all, and at a too-long two hours you start feeling a bit lost half way through.

I was led to believe, by the myriad of frothy-mouthed and bile-soaked online reviews, that Rob Zombie had truly indulged his obsession with white trash and rock chicks. Fortunately, it was nowhere near as continuous or in-my-face as I was expecting. Sure it's there, and sure we could really do with a different character type taking centre stage in an RZ flick, but I was happy enough to let it slide in the end.

That said, Laurie's transformation into a medicated freak was a tough pill to swallow. It both makes sense and not enough sense, especially when you feel a certain 'revelation' to Laurie should have been there from the beginning as we, the audience, are way ahead of her. Indeed, her tidal waves of changing emotions begin to tire after the first act and you begin to not give a stuff about her. She becomes a bit of a pain to be honest, unfortunately.

Equally, while it's always a joy to see McDowell chomping into a character, the shift in Loomis into the territory of a fame-obsessed, greedy bastard doesn't sit at all well. A reluctant, media hounded Loomis would have made for a more interesting character that you could actually be on the side of, but with the way it is, the third act Loomis has lost your support after the first two acts of prancing around like a celebrity.

As is the way with a Rob Zombie movie, it's filled with genre stars and strong character actors - which helps pull you through the movie. It's a brief treat to see Caroline Williams (from the second Chainsaw Massacre movie in 1986), and a whole host of "oh, that one" appearances are entertaining, if a little distracting. The stand-out performance though, has to go to Brad Douriff who - while underused - demonstrates exactly where H2 should have remained throughout. One particular scene in the third act demonstrates his performance strength and depth vividly.

Now - all this white horse, vision business - it's all a bit pretentious, quite frankly. The first half is far too 'on the nose' and blunt in terms of visions and dreams, albeit in a very stylish manner. Sheri Moon Zombie, while enjoyable in past RZ flicks, feels out-of-place here, and you just begin to wish that RZ would stop casting his wife in all his movies. Not only that, but the replacement for Daeg Faerch (the young Myers from the 2007 film) feels inconsistent with Daeg's warped tyke, who held something darker and un-child-like behind his eyes. Sadly, there's none of that in this movie.

Supporting cast wise, they're all a bit generic, and this is where H2 becomes very dependent on genre convention to the point where it feels like the rather ropey Halloween 4 and 5, especially when the Halloween night party kicks off and we follow the quite pointless friends of Laurie Strode around for the evening.

As I mentioned earlier, the film is very split, essentially following three single paths all at once, but rarely combining them at all until the very end of the film. It feels disconnected and loose, and as such Myer's yomping through fields while occasionally killing some random person off never has any real power or purpose.

As for the beardy giant look of Michael Myers, that I was fine with. It's an interesting diversion from the established look whenever the famous mask is taken off. However, the raw power and one-tracked-mind approach of the character from the 2007 movie is mostly lost.

I did mention that the visions and dreams are very stylish. Indeed, the entire movie is very stylish. It looks superb with crisp editing and creative photography, and RZ proves he really knows how to stage a dramatic scene with a bit of flair and grit. He has continued to grow in this respect, so it's a real shame that he seems to be treading water when it comes to characters and plot in H2.

All-in-all however, and H2 is nowhere near as bad as I'd been led to believe by online outrage. Does it falter? Yes, frequently. Does it improve upon the actually-pretty-good 2007 re-do? Nope. Is it stylish, dramatic and well staged? Yes. Does it keep you on side and on board throughout? Not at all.

Like I said, this is a weird one, and I think that's part of why I kind of dig it. However, Rob Zombie really, really needs to move onto other things. I was gutted that he decided to go with H2 rather than T-Rex last year, and I do hope he gets back to that project, and I also hope that he seeks to explore new horizons in terms of plot and characterisation. He clearly has talent and strong vision, but H2 shows him mostly wasting it or not fulfilling his potential.

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