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HALLOWEEN II
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Sheri Moon Zombie, Scout Taylor-Compton, Brad Dourif, Malcolm McDowell, Tyler Mane
Director:  Rob Zombie
Audio:  DTS HD 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Sony
Features:  See Review
Length:118 Minutes
Release Date:  January 12, 2009

“Freaks always come home.”

Film ***

It’s been rather exciting for me to watch Rob Zombie evolve as the master of horror for the new millennium.  Even before the release of his first movie House of 1000 Corpses, I knew that Zombie was the man to resurrect the genre by taking it back to its hardcore and unapologetically anti-establishment roots.  His knowledge of the format throughout the history of cinema was well documented in his music, and with a chance to write and direct his first picture, all of it came through with a serious vengeance.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous review, my initial reaction to a remake of Halloween was scorn and disdain, until I learned that Rob Zombie was the man behind it.  And his version, despite a few flaws, rang out like a true re-imagining of a horror staple, and showed Zombie growing ever more confident as a filmmaker.

There’s just something about his passion for what he does that’s undeniable and infectious, and truth be told, Halloween II as a whole might be my least favorite movie from him so far…but again, even with some flaws that are impossible to dismiss, there is such an intensity, such a savage joy brought to the project by Zombie, that I can’t bring myself not to recommend it.  At least, to horror fans, and if you’re not one of them, you’re definitely reading the wrong review right now.

Zombie originally did not want to do a sequel, but knowing that the studio planned to proceed with or without him, decided preserving the integrity of his vision was worth coming back for.  The series has definitely evolved away from John Carpenter’s original offering, and this one is officially a complete Rob Zombie reboot.  No need for comparisons any more; Zombie’s movie stands alone and apart.

It’s darker, more intense, more horrifically gory than before, but Zombie has grown into a signature style that combines unsettling visuals, taut suspense and upsetting impact into an experience that is hard to define as entertaining, except for those who understand and appreciate his roots, passions and intentions.

This sequel picks up right where the original left off, with Laurie Strode (Compton) heading to the hospital after her ordeal, psychiatrist Sam Loomis (McDowell) in a similar state, and Michael Myers (Mane) dead.  But fans know better than to believe that, right?

Flash forward a couple of years…Laurie, now orphaned, is living under the care of the town sheriff Brackett (Dourif), but the nightmares haven’t stopped, and she seems one bad experience away from never returning to normal.  Loomis has published a new book to much financial success, but is getting badgered by those who see him as capitalizing on the tragedy.  And Myers?  Well…Halloween is coming, and fueled by visions of himself in his youth and his departed mother (Sheri Moon Zombie), he has unfinished business, and a whole lot of blood is going to spill on his way to complete his murderous mission.

The first fifteen or twenty minutes of this movie are as terrifying and suspenseful and yes, gruesome as a movie can get, and in many ways, sums up everything you need to know about Rob Zombie as a filmmaker perfectly.  He crafts shots and edits sequences that are unshakable from your subconscious mind, and doesn’t leave anything pleasant behind.  There is a fierce passion driving every frame of the movie, and that’s what I applaud and respond to as a critic and fan.

The drawbacks?  Unlike some of Zombie’s earlier works, this is a completely bleak and humorless excursion that sometimes feels more like an endurance challenge than a piece of entertainment.  The violence is harsh and unforgiving, and Zombie punctuates it by bringing us uncomfortably close to the victims.  This is no slasher film where you don’t know or much care about those that comprise the body count…there is some real grief and pain here.  It’s a decidedly unique touch…but hard to stomach.

At nearly two hours, the film is also a bit long, and some stretches seem a little padded or unnecessary.  But considering the disc holds about 23 deleted scenes, I suppose it could have been much worse.

This movie will repulse and sicken a lot of people, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I get my usual torrent of emails accusing me of insanity for daring to give it a cautious recommend.  And my usual caveat is, if you don’t know and understand completely what a Rob Zombie movie is going to deliver you, then for crying out lout, put it back down on the shelf and get a Sandra Bullock movie instead.

BONUS TRIVIA:  Look for Margot Kidder and "Weird Al" Yankovic in small roles.

Video ***

I’m mostly quite happy with this high definition transfer from Sony.  There is a noticeably graininess throughout…not overwhelming, but you’ll definitely pick up on it…that I believe is more attributable to Zombie’s visual throwback style than any inherent flaw in the transfer.  Images are generally sharp and well-defined, even in the MANY darker moments.  Some of the shots of sheets of rain coming down are so clear and so distinct that I dare to throw out the adjective “beautiful” toward a movie that relishes in ugliness.

Audio ***1/2

The uncompressed audio delivers what you expect…maximum dynamic range from the scares and terrific music soundtrack (and by the way, Rob Zombie must love Lynryd Skynrd; seems he uses them in every movie!), with good uses of the surrounds and subwoofer to keep the atmosphere menacing and strong.

Features ***

As mentioned, there are around 23 deleted scenes, and I say ‘around’ because honestly, I lost count.  There is also a typically terrific, entertaining and informative track from Rob Zombie, who is always a distinct pleasure to listen to. 

There’s also a gag reel, audition and make-up test footage, some music videos, and some routines from Uncle Seymour Collins.  The disc is also equipped with BD LIVE, but for some reason, I couldn’t get it to work on my Ethernet-capable player…a first for me.  Maybe it was because I tried to access it prior to the street date…if anyone else has trouble, shoot me an email and let me know and if necessary, I’ll notify Sony that there’s a rampant problem.

Summary:

Halloween II might be considered a misstep for Rob Zombie, but if so, it’s a misstep so passionately undertaken as to earn a bit of apprehensive admiration from me.  Word is there will be a third installment, and this time Zombie will NOT be involved, and frankly, a sequel minus his fervent devotion seems like a scary endeavor.  And not the right kind of scary.

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