Franchise Expansion (Or Implosion): Rob Zombie’s ‘Halloween II’ (2009)
by Ben Martin
Franchise Expansion (or Implosion) is a column that looks at franchises that have new installments or releases forthcoming. In looking at a franchise, each entry in a franchise will be given a review and then be examined as part of the bigger franchise. (i.e., Was this sequel a worthy expansion of this franchise or was it an implosion of sorts?)
Most folks, myself included, go to certain movies around the holidays. However, my favorite holiday of Halloween did not gain a film that genuinely celebrated it until 1978’s Halloween. John Carpenter’s classic slasher flick is rightfully considered one of the best horror movies ever made. It gave us an icon of modern horror in Michael Myers. More than that though, it created a franchise that spanned 11 movies, 5 continuities, and 40 years With the upcoming 11th entry, Blumhouse’s Halloween, set to be released on October 19th, I’ll take a look back at the Halloween franchise. In doing so, I’ll trace precisely how one of the most convoluted movie franchises in history got to the already divisive entry and why we need it. But first an “Extreme Vision” must come to its conclusion with Halloween II (2009)!
Much like Rob Zombie’s filmography, the writer/director’s experience with filmmaking is that some projects go better than others. In my estimation, Zombie tends to make better movies when he’s passionate about them. However, Halloween II (2009) proves to be the exception. After his experience on Halloween (2007) and working with a big studio, Zombie had no desire to do a follow-up. But, after finding that a sequel to his remake was having trouble getting off the ground; the hardcore auteur had a change of heart.
Zombie decided that he didn’t want anyone else to take over what Dimension Films’ marketing department described as his “Extreme vision.” As a result, the filmmaker agreed to make Halloween II for the studio and The Akkads. That is if Dimension Films would bankroll Zombie’s exploitation epic, Tyrannosaurus Rex. Thus, the deal was made; after making Halloween II, Bob Weinstein would fund Zombie’s dream project. Alas, as the way in Hollywood, it was a horror show from the beginning. (Furthermore, Tyrannosaurus Rex never did get funded or made.)
According to Zombie most of the slashing that happened on this flick was to its shooting schedule and budget. Throughout his director’s commentary, Zombie speaks explicitly about what a “Miserable experience” getting Halloween II made was. No matter what I might criticize a film for, I’ve never gone so far as to say filmmaking is easy. To the contrary, I’ve had a little experience making movies, and it’s not easy at all. Hell, it’s a miracle any movie ever gets made. Watching Halloween II makes such a fact abundantly clear. While the movie was evidently hard to make; it tells a pretty simple story.
Rob Zombie’s Halloween II picks up two years after the events of that terrible Halloween night. The body of Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) was never found and the horror he brought to Haddonfield, Illinois has affected everyone involved tremendously. Laurie Strode’s (Scout Taylor Compton) has been thrown into a downward spiral. She’s deeply depressed, mentally unstable, and hooked on prescription pills. Laurie’s living with her best friend and fellow victim, Annie Brackett (Danielle Harris) and her dad, Sheriff Lee Brackett (Brad Dourif); alas, the change of domestic environment doesn’t seem to be helping. Meanwhile, Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) has garnered celebrity and success from having Michael as a patient. Something he won’t be able to enjoy much longer as Michael returns to finish what he started!
There’s no doubt that Halloween II is a messy and compromised picture. In watching the film, there are times when you can nearly feel Zombie’s apprehensions. Thus, the movie that results is a nasty piece of work, and not one that will be to everyone’s taste. Yes, this sequel is still a brutal (perhaps the most violent of the whole series) exploitation film. However, unlike its predecessor, I feel that Halloween II has some artistic integrity. Not only does it feel more like the movie Zombie wanted to make; Halloween II also feels like a creator throwing the compromises back into his producers’ faces.
Furthermore, I find this sequel to be better than its predecessor in most ways. The dialogue, on the whole, is better than in Zombie’s remake. (Except for that scene where a coroner drops 15 F-bombs in a row.) Of course, it helps that the majority of the victims in this flick who were in the previous installment have received rewrites and character reversals. As a result I found them to be much likeable. These characters also serve as portraits of what the the trauma depicted in a horror movie could do to someone. In regards to characters, it should be noted that Loomis’ completely rewritten to be a deplorable individual. Sure, that’s uncharacteristic, but I felt it fit with what Zombie was trying to do with this follow-up.
Speaking of fitting with tone, the visual tone of this flick is meeting with its narrative. Gone is the sheen 70s homage that helped serve as the remake’s visual palette. This time around, Zombie trades sheen for grime. Then again, the movie is shot in a flat aspect ratio on 16mm film; so grime would indeed be the result. Therefore, Halloween II looks like the grindhouse flick it is. It’s not pretty, but nothing about this sequel is supposed to be.
Halloween II is simultaneously an entertaining and ugly movie in every way. Alas, it also has its fair share of issues. As I said up top, this film had a rushed and compromised production. Thus, Halloween II is a movie full of ambiguity, with no discernible level of intentionality. On top of that, the film features subplots that feel forced. Ones which seem only to exist so that Zombie could have his wife, Sheri Moon Zombie reprise her role as Deborah Myers. In addition to all those problems, the film features odd editing choices.
I’m in the minority in regards to this flick. No matter though, I’d take this sequel over that cliche-laden “Birth of a serial killer” style prequel/remake any day of the week. Sure, this movie is over the top. But at its core, the picture is also a B-movie examination of trauma. Furthermore, its a story that did took different angles from the rest of the films in this franchise. While it’s highly doubtful that Zombie would’ve returned, this storyline could have gone in exciting directions. As such, I find Rob Zombie’s Halloween II (2009) to be a Franchise Expansion!
Despite me thinking that a continuation of Rob Zombie’s interpretation could have been interesting; is not what fate had in store for the Halloween franchise. Join me next time when I review the film this column has been leading up to Halloween (2018)!