HORRORTHON '10: Halloween 2: Director's Cut (Rob Zombie, 2009)

No matter its maturity or lack thereof, sometimes an extreme outburst of emotion is affecting simply for its extremity. For example, in Oliver Stone's Alexander, Olympias' (Angelina Jolie) pained exclamation from her hands and knees following sexual assault from Philip II (Val Kilmer), "In my womb I carried my avenger!" - it penetrates my core every time. Rob Zombie's follow-up to his re-imagining of John Carpenter's Halloween is such an outburst, personified in Scout Taylor-Compton's visceral performance. It is two hours of calculated rage, helpless sorrow and twisted love via celluloid, complete with Zombie's knack for composition and beautifully disturbing parallels.

I didn't care for this one at first, my theatrical viewing having seen few ups and many downs through murky visuals and scattered themes. In general, giving Halloween 2 a second shot proved beneficial in that certain trials faced by protagonist Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton) are better digested alongside foreknowledge of plot. Now, rewatches can be different, yes, but not better by definition. If following a proper viewing a film necessitates another run as part of its full scope, it's not doing its job to its best, says I. The difference here is what makes the material I revisited a "director's cut". Zombie's post-theatrical, more focused re-tooling helps the proceedings immensely, going beyond simple benefits of remembering what's coming next.

Michael himself is practiced and pitiless from two years of roughing it like a mountain man after Zombie's first outing with the killer. His mere presence, often in a tight, inescapable space, is a virtual guarantee of sudden and brutal death. All the while a theme introduced briefly in the first film carries on - of peace and merriment elsewhere in spite of isolated horror immediately threatening us. We are reminded that Michael is a man as opposed to an enigma.

Defying slasher trends, Halloween 2 also provides its cast, peppered with "that guys", with adequate fleshing out before tearing that flesh from its bones. This is not a movie to be watched with a sick grin, as here we empathize with our victims and their acquaintances. Zombie has always shown a mind for unschmaltzy sentimentality in the face of vicious evil, going back to House of 1,000 Corpses' father character, Don Willis (Harrison Young). That mind may well be at its least forgiving and most successful here. Zombie continues to honor his predecessors, though, through such nods as the repeated smashing of a stripper into a somewhat symbolic mirror, just as a nurse was repeatedly splashed into boiling water in the original Halloween sequel. Furthermore, Zombie exemplifies his love of German Expressionism through several bold dream sequences.

I'm glad to have returned to Halloween 2 and found a piece I admire in spite of prior disappointment. This film carries more depth and and points of interest than a great number of its contemporaries, and may well be the most ambitious slasher of its decade. For being dominated by darkness, it features an occasionally pleasing use of reds and blues. Its key performances are great, including those of the warm and concerned Brad Dourif and Malcolm McDowell as a loose-cannon Loomis. Overall, the experience feels more like a visual version of Rob Zombie's music than anything else the auteur has done (apart from a handful of his music videos, of course).

Extra Factoid: The band featured in the film takes its name, Captain Clegg & the Night Creatures, from Hammer's title switcheroo on their adaptation of "The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh", which I detailed earlier in the Horrorthon.

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