Halloween II - 2009 (2009)
Directed by Rob Zombie

Starring Danielle Harris Malcolm McDowell Scout Taylor Compton

What I love about "The Devil's Rejects" is that it's a true grindhouse movie. It feels like something that would have shown on 42nd Street in New York in the '70s before making its way to VHS. It's part of what makes that movie a masterpiece.

So I, like so many other older horror fans, was truly disappointed with the travesty that was Rob Zombie's 2007 remake of "Halloween." A colossal letdown. And when word of a Rob Zombie sequel hit, it seemed like disaster was going to strike twice.

Well, Rob Zombie's "Halloween II" is far from a disaster. It's frankly Zombie's best movie since ..., well, since "The Devil's Rejects." It's miles ahead of his "Halloween." At times, it brings back some of the tone and eeriness of "Devil's". And the reason "Halloween II" works better than "Halloween I" is that it's really Zombie's own movie. Gone for the most part is the overused "Halloween" theme music from the remake.

Pretty much everything that was good about Zombie's first "Halloween" is in here times 20, and much of what was bad has been removed. I think Zombie knows that his first remake was not up to snuff. A piece of corporate garbage really, with some impressive Zombie touches thrown in, simply because he was the director. Granted, this film is corporate too, but at its finest moments it feels like something that would play in a grimy grindhouse theater.

Zombie shot his followup in 16 mm, to give it some of the grittiness of his greatest movie, "The Devil's Rejects." In an intense 20 minute opener, we see his Laurie Strode character from the remake (Scout Taylor Compton) once again hunted down by Michael Myers at the local hospital. It's a powerful opener that captures the primal essence of a slasher movie. During the escape police, I felt like I was watching scenes from "Maniac" more than a Carpenter "Halloween" clone.

After the opening attack, the film flash forwards one year, with Strode in therapy, two days before the next Halloween. She's still friends with Annie (Danielle Harris) who survive the attack from Zombie's first "Halloween" (although not Carpenter's). They are vastly different characters in this film -- Laurie certainly isn't the virginal character we remember her as, that's for sure. She's weathered, stringy-haired, F-bomb dropping and working class -- not a bookworm by any stretch of the imagination. But this is a different movie. Malcolm McDowell goes over the top as Zombie's vision of egomaniacal Sam Loomis, who's now basically just in the business of selling books about the serial killer he once treated. His latest, "The Devil Walks Among Us," is due to be released Oct. 31 in this film.

The best parts of the film as it moves along are the ones that sprang completely from Zombie's head, such as the visions Myers has of his mother (Sheri Moon Zombie) riding a white horse and visiting a nightmare "Last Supper". There's also Myers' reappearance as a growling hulk wearing a hood. In one scene, a lone child encounters Myers and asks, "Are you a giant?", in a scene reminiscent of the child's encounter with Boris Karloff's "Frankenstein."

The film was shot in Georgia, which gives it an American gothic feel. And it's got plenty of rednecks to serve as butcher knife fodder when they get in Myers' way. Meanwhile, Laurie is having white horse visions that mirror her brother's.

The film slows down a bit as its thin plotline gets a little too overlong. We know what's going to happen -- Myers is going to get to Laurie. The kids that Laurie is partying with on Halloween Night are all gong to die. Dr. Loomis is going to get away from his book tour and join the drama and confront Michael Myers.

OK but not great, this film was beaten at the box office by the terrible "Final Destination" 3D sequel, which opened on the same day. Although it certainly earned more than many of the previous "Halloween" sequels, it didn't match the box office success of the 2007 remake.

Here's hoping Zombie's next is an original Zombie.

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

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