Friday, September 11, 2009

Rob Zombie, Won't You Please Come Home?

Well, everybody in the known universe knows my opinion of the Rob Zombie Halloween. While much more graphic in its violence, and filled with extraneous unpleasantness (cruel families, animal abuse), it nonetheless softened the theme in the same way that the glossy remakes of The Fog and Assault on Precinct 13 did -- by removing the elements of existential dread and replacing them with explanations for why evil befalls certain people. If evil is caused, it can be prevented. If it's focused, it can be avoided. That's the exact opposite message of the original Halloween, which is that death is going to come no matter what.

There, that saved you from having to go back and read my old post.

The follow-up Halloween II, set mostly a year after the previous movie, is pretty much more of the same. Traumatized former perk-ball Laurie Strode has become all angsty and counter-cultural. Dr. Loomis has written a book full of revelations that would never pass any publisher's legal department, but which is going to make her freak out. And Michael is wandering around, butchering rednecks in cornfields while he waits for the voices in his head to tell him that Laurie is "ready."

All the surviving cast, and most of the dead, returns, including Danielle Harris (who played Jamie Lee Curtis' daughter in the parts 4 and 5, and is now 32 playing a teenager), even though I totally thought her character had died in the last movie. But apparently not. Sheri Moon Zombie, who did a respectable job in the original, is basically just around to stare vacantly into space (she's also involved in some quasi-Jungian symbolism, but don't get me started). I'm always happy to see Malcolm McDowell, but after years of Scream movies, the Gale Weathers take on Dr. Loomis isn't nearly as interesting as Donald Pleasance's respectable authority figure turned paranoid prophesier of doom. Not McDowell's fault, and I wish he'd gotten to play a better Loomis, although it was fun to see him sharing a stage with "Weird Al" Yankovic.

The major missing person is Daeg Faerch (Little Michael), who supposedly grew too much between segments to play himself in the flashbacks and hallucinations. The role was recast with a slightly cuter kid, although I think it would have been wiser to cut out the flashbacks and hallucinations altogether.

I was happy to see genre stalwart Brad Dourif make a dignified transition to grizzled Dad roles, as the harried but good-natured sheriff trying to nurture his scarred daughter and her emotionally troubled friend. The other real flare of interest is Howard Hesseman -- yes, Dr. Johnny Fever himself! -- in a small role as the old hippie who owns the funky bookstore/record store/coffeeshop where Laurie works. Come to think of it, there seem to be an awful lot of hipsters in little Haddonfield, especially once we hit the artistically multi-media Halloween party, with its professional psychobilly band. It's like Little Austin in the Cornfield or something.

There's no point in even talking about holes in the script ... except, okay, why is everyone so positive Michael is dead? "They never found his body" works in case of fire and flood, but no so much from an ambulance crash. And the police force seems to be working a late night on Halloween, although they're not seen actually doing anything: they're certainly not busting the glaringly conspicuous party full of topless dancers and underage drinking, nor has anyone discovered the bodies of those angry rednecks, the folks in the strip club, or any other uninteresting bystanders I've already forgotten, whom Michael left lying around.

Some of the cinematography is nice, with various shots that made me think, ooh, beautiful composition! You could frame that and hang it on the wall, if you're the sort who likes spooky rainy and/or foggy ambience. There's also loads of crowd-pleasing gore, shot in autopsy photo close-up. But both modes left me with a sense of -- bemused detachment. I never felt drawn in or emotionally involved in the story. The place didn't seem real, the people didn't seem real, and the suspense level was non-existent. Action happened too fast to even react to it, and on the other hand, some scenes were drawn out way past the point of interest.

I know that movie stars all want to be rock stars, and rock stars want to direct, but I seem to remember that Zombie didn't do so badly when he was, you know, a musician. His Zombie-a-Go-Go record label put out a few great CDs, like the classic Halloween Hootenany compilation, and that beautifully packaged The Words and Music of Frankenstein. I don't think it's a coincidence that the best part of House of 1000 Corpses was the soundtrack. Please, Rob, you're good at something: why don't you do it?

(In a fleeting resurgence of his label, Zombie is releasing an MP3 album for the film's fictional band, Captain Clegg and the Night Creatures, through Amazon and Itunes. I've noticed press blurbs all over about the album's "cover art." Does an MP3 download really have cover art, per se? This possibly means that a physical CD is available somewhere, or will be, but I can't say that what I heard in the movie was particularly earth-shaking, so I'm not losing any sleep).

I didn't hate Halloween II, which I can't say about Zombie's first effort in the franchise, but his statement that he's done with it is still a relief. I can ignore his other films, but I'm sort of contractually obligated to see all the Halloween movies (due to that unfortunate pact with the dark forces that once took place). No matter how bad I think a Halloween sequel is going to be, I am compelled!

Since Halloween 3D is already on the horizon, feel free to beat the rush and start praying for my soul now.

1 comment:

memsaab said...

I am v. happy that I feel no compulsion to see these.

The original "The Hills Have Eyes" was enough for a lifetime :-)