The Next Night He Became a Zombie (Halloween 2, 2009)

h_two_ver4_xlgRob Zombie returned for the sequel to his fairly successful reboot.  My understanding is he had not intended to, but was talked into it.  And from the outset, this one is a total mess.

It opens with a bit of text regarding the psychological significance of a white horse.  It then gives us a flashback to young Michael and his mother having as loving a moment between a mother and son as you can have at a sanitarium.  This right here is continuing a wrong foot.  In the original films, Loomis talks about how Michael was quiet and interacted with no one, to the point where everyone grew complacent around him.

The film just jumps ahead fifteen years, to the end of the previous film.  In an imitation of the original Halloween 2, there is a hospital sequence, but it is only about 25 minutes long and then Laurie wakes up a year later.  Was it a memory?  A dream?  The film is unclear.

We learn Laurie is in therapy and has rage issues.  Loomis, on the other hand is now a psych-babble hack who uses Michael as his money-maker.  This is an unpleasant take on the character, which makes him far less sympathetic.  He is convinced Michael is dead, even though no body has ever been recovered.

Michael, very much alive, has been hiding out, building up his murderous rage.  He is haunted by dreams of his mother, and an avatar of himself as a little boy who speaks to the vision of the mother.  There are instances where Michael grunts as he kills that seem out-of-place.  A completely silent Michael makes for a better Michael.  Michael also spends a lot of time with no mask, which just seems wrong.

Laurie seems to have a sudden psychic connection to Michael that comes out of nowhere.  And Laurie has become an entirely unpleasant.  In fact, nobody is really likable in the film beyond maybe Sheriff Bracken and Annie.  But most everyone else is just hard to like or care about.  This is a bad thing for your lead.  It is hard for the viewer to invest our time and emotion to care about a character we cannot even really like.  And to pretty much have her cast her lots in with Michael (this is the same problem the recent Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel had) is troublesome.

The resolution of the film is nonsense leaving this a complete (as stated earlier) mess of a movie.  It robs Laurie of any actual strength, and ultimately punishes her.  It is pretty clear that Laurie Strode was accepting Michael’s ways.  Her deviant smile before the cut to black is far to dark to be interpreted as triumph over the evil of Michael Myers.

There are some great shots, as Zombie has a real eye for framing shots, especially when going for a creepy vibe.  And there are some solid performances, especially from McDowell, Dourif and Harris.  People need to give Dourif more roles like this.  He shines in the film.  And Zombie (as usual) peppers his film with tons of character actors who clearly had a lot of fun in their roles.

But in the end, the writing and ideas are inconsistent, the characters overwhelmingly unpleasant and a Michael Myers who does not feel at all like Michael Myers.

The Night He Came Home (Yet Again) (Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, 1989)

Halloween-5-posterSo, in Halloween 4, the franchise returned to Michael Myers.  And it was a somewhat decent return.  And apparently did well enough that Halloween 5 was trotted out before the masses a short year later.

The surviving cast from the previous film are back to run an obstacle course of Michael related terrors.  Spoilers are on their way…

As with the last movie, the film doesn’t resurrect Michael.  Instead it shows us that he never actually died at the end of the previous film.  When Myers was shot up and fell down a hole he crawled off right before they dropped explosives down after him.  I supposed this is why no one thought it was important to go down and get Myer’s body.  Myers is found by an old bum before going comatose.  So the old bum keeps Michael alive (never removing his mask, apparently).

The film jumps forward a year to re-introduce us to little Jamie (Danielle Harris), Michael’s niece from the previous film.  Remember how she had killed her step mother with a scissors?  Apparently that was all just a tragic dream.  The events of the previous year were so traumatic that Jamie no longer speaks and is being kept in a children’s hospital.

Her step sister Rachel (Ellie Cornell) visits with a friend Tina (Wendy Kaplan) who was not in the previous  film, but apparently was close to Jamie for quite some time.  Apparently, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) shows up from time to time, being creepy and intense.  He does not believe Myers is dead.  Afterall, he’s been in, like, three sequels now.  He knows better.  And so does Jamie.  See, now she has a psychic connection to Michael.  Poor kid.

So, of course, as Halloween nears, Michael Myers suddenly wakes up from his hibernation  and kills the man who nursed him to health from all those bullet wounds.  Gee, Michael has bad manners.  But then, Michael has work to do, such as killing off survivors from the previous film.   So, I guess you can’t blame him to just saying thanks to the old guy.

And yes, by survivors we primarily mean Rachel.  DUH.  Loomis and Jamie can’t die yet.  Michael cuts through a ton of towns people after killing Rachel and managing to stay one step ahead of the police (The sheriff dealt with Michael in the previous film…so he is not a dummy who ignores the reckless teens and crazy doctors).  At some point, we meet a guy in a pair of steel tipped boots and a trench coat (that’s all we really see of him).  He doesn’t say anything, he just steps off a bus and we don’t ever see him for the rest of the film.

Loomis decides to use Jamie as bait and brings her to Michael’s old house (which, for having never been owned by new residents since the first movie?  Looks like a completely different house).  He sets a trap for Michael.  Michael, of course is not so easily duped and gets past Loomis.  But Loomis manages to lure Michael back out and drop a big metal net on him.  Then Loomis appears to have a heart attack and dies.

Michael is taken into custody.  As he sits alone in his cell there is the sound of gunfire and…OH YEAAAAAAH…it’s the guy who stepped off the bus, here to break Michael out of Jail.  HOLY CRAP!  Did not see that coming!  WHAT’S NEXT?! The credits?  Are you kidding me?

Now, it’s one thing to end on a cliffhanger when your next film comes out the following year-like say, the Lord of the Rings Films.   But Halloween 6 didn’t get released until 1995.  That’s a long time to make your fans wait for resolution.  Okay, they probably did not intend for that long of a wait.  But seriously, the ending is totally out of left field, especially for a slasher film.

This was a definite decline.  Jamie is a more annoying character as a mute than as a screaming or crying child.  Loomis is now obsessed with Michael in a really creepy fashion.  Yeah, in the fourth one he was intense, but I never really saw Loomis as the time to put a child at risk.  I did feel there was one really strong moment in the film.  Myers has Jamie cornered in the attic and she asks him to take off his mask.  And he does.  It is bizarrely touching as the audience does not get a look at Michael, but his niece sees her uncle’s face for the first time ever.   There is also a creepy moment where Michael is wearing a different mask (one that belonged to a guy he’s killed-Tina’s boyfriend) and driving a car with Tina believing it’s her boyfriend (this seems to happen a lot, women thinking Michael is their boyfriend).  It’s one of the few really tense moments of the entire film.

On the other hand?  It’s still better than Halloween 3.

The Night He Came Home (Again) (Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, 1988)

halloween-4-returnI doubt most people cared, outside of the producers…but the failure of Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (a movie without a single witch) certainly killed interest in another Halloween film. It certainly killed the plan to make each film a separate entity.

In 1987 or so, the producers decided it was safe or a good idea or something to revive Halloween. And they apparently felt that # 3 was far enough away that they could try it again. But this time, they returned to the well that started it all.  They got the future director of Free Willy 2, Dwight H. Little, to direct.

Jason had been brought back from the dead already, and Freddy was enjoying success. And yet, the producers decided not to bring Michael Myers back from the dead. Spa-lars follow.

Instead of returning Michael from the dead, they simply had him in a coma in the ten years since the end of Halloween 2(which, although it was released in 1981, took place in 1978). They were not likely to get Jamie Lee Curtis back, as she had become a household name, and in the 80’s, horror was something you did at the start of your career and then disavowed later. But since Halloween 2 had created the importance of family ties for Michael, they felt they had to have a relative. So the writers and producers came up with Laurie Strode’s daughter Jamie and killed Laurie off in a car crash.

Like her mother, Jamie was growing up with an adoptive family, none of whom seemed aware of the dark family member from her past. They did get Donald Pleasence back as Dr. Loomis. This gave the film some legitimacy. Sure, the cynical part of me presumes Pleasence was collecting a check. But honestly, he seemed to genuinely want to be a part of the series. And he certainly tried. Loomis came off creepier and more devoted than ever.

When Loomis learns Michael has awakened from his ten year coma, he knows what this means and heads for Haddonfield. He ends up walking most of the way, as he catches up to Michael at a gas station. Michael blows it up and leaves Loomis stranded.

Michael gets to town and starts stalking his niece as she gets ready for the Halloween festivities. She keeps seeing the boogey man, but no one really believes her until it is to late. Loomis gets to town and convinces the Sheriff that Myers is back. The town goes on high alert (people were skittish, as the power has gone out) and a posse forms to hunt Michael down.

They end up chasing him to a school, and then the posse take Jamie and her older adopted sister Rachel (Ellie Cornell) with them to keep the girls safe from Michael. But if it were that easy, well, it would not be a Halloween movie, silly duck. No, Michael manages to kill every member of the posse. Rachel takes over the truck and crashes it, launching Michael a few hundred feet. The police arrive just in time. as Michael lumbers closer The cops unload a hail of bullets into him and he falls down an abandoned mine shaft to his death (who am I kiddin’?).

Probably one of the strongest moments of the film is at the end, when the camera gives us a “killer’s eye view”-reminiscent of the original Halloween in which we see a person getting stabbed, everyone runs over to the stairs when they hear the scream, and Donald Pleasence just starts screaming “NO! NO! NO!” over and over, finally the camera pans to the top of the stairs where Jamie stands, a blank look on her face and a bloody pair of scissors in her hand. It evokes this idea that Michael lives on, that Loomis cannot beat the evil that resides in Myers. It’s particularly effective. There are also some really nice visual uses of shadow and reveals of Michael that cause genuine jump moments.

Director Dwight H. Little shows a lot of promise, and this was his fourth feature. He has gone on to direct a lot of action/suspense based television. The dialog is a bit stiff, but the characters over come it for the most part. The character of Rachel is especially pleasing, because she is confident and strong. It’s interesting that the Halloween films seemed devoted to a small town look and aesthetic. The prettiest girl in town doesn’t look like a California blond pin-up. While attractive, Rachel seems real, both in personality and appearance.

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