Scrolling Headlines:

UMass women’s basketball suffers disappointing loss to St. Bonaventure at Mullins Center Thursday -

January 19, 2017

REPORT: Tom Masella out as defensive coordinator for UMass football -

January 19, 2017

Zach Lewis, bench carry UMass men’s basketball in win over St. Joe’s -

January 19, 2017

UMass women’s basketball handles Duquesne at home -

January 16, 2017

UMass men’s basketball’s late comeback falls short after blowing 15-point first-half lead -

January 15, 2017

UMass hockey outlasted at home against No. 6 UMass Lowell -

January 14, 2017

Hailey Leidel hits second buzzer beater of the season to give UMass women’s basketball win over Davidson -

January 13, 2017

UMass football hosts Maine at Fenway Park in 2017 -

January 12, 2017

UMass men’s basketball snaps losing streak and upsets Dayton Wednesday night at Mullins Center -

January 11, 2017

UMass women’s track and field takes second at Dartmouth Relays -

January 10, 2017

UMass hockey falls to No. 5 Boston University at Frozen Fenway -

January 8, 2017

UMass professor to make third appearance on ‘Jeopardy!’ -

January 8, 2017

UMass women’s basketball suffers brutal loss on road against Saint Joseph’s -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops thirds straight, falls to VCU 81-64 -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops tightly-contested conference matchup against George Mason Wednesday night -

January 4, 2017

Late-game defense preserves UMass women’s basketball’s win against rival Rhode Island -

January 4, 2017

AIC shuts out UMass hockey 3-0 at Mullins Center -

January 4, 2017

UMass professor to appear as contestant on ‘Jeopardy!’ Thursday night -

January 4, 2017

Penalties plague UMass hockey in Mariucci Classic championship game -

January 2, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falls in A-10 opener to St. Bonaventure and its veteran backcourt -

December 30, 2016

“Halloween II” cuts to the heart of exploitation

halloween2-knife- Halloween II Official WebsiteSomewhere between Quentin Tarantino’s witty, pop culture-infused banter and the sly commercial sleaze of the “Crank” series, people forgot what true exploitation cinema is like. Aggressive, offensive and always in poor taste, few modern filmmakers have the chutzpah to venture over such tough terrain.

Not Rob Zombie though. The metal rocker turned filmmaker is still devoted to serving up real exploitation films – the kind that leave viewers gasping and respectable critics retching all over their memo note pads. (Ones writing for their college daily need not apply.) With “Halloween II,” he doesn’t disappoint.

Picking up where his 2007 “Halloween” remake left off, Zombie’s sequel catches up with Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton, in a role better suited to Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis) shortly after she’s unloaded a round into masked killer Michael Myers (Tyler Mane). She’s quickly shipped off to Haddonfield’s I.C.U., where, in a clever nod to the original 1981 “Halloween II,” the bloodbath continues.

Even before the body count rises, the opening scene is the stuff of nightmares, giving us an insider’s glimpse as fingernails get clipped off and faces get sewn back together on the operating table. It’s vicious and repugnant, but it’s Zombie doing what he does best.

Fast-forward a year later. Laurie’s traded in her bellbottoms and pullover sweaters for prescription drugs and shredded band tees. The memory of last Halloween still leaves her tossing and turning at night. Shacking up with Sheriff Brackett (Brad Douriff) and his considerably less rebellious daughter Annie (Danielle Harris), Laurie goes through the motions, all the while maintaining a tenuous footing in reality.

Zombie’s affection for Brackett and Annie seems palpable. Perhaps because Danielle Harris has been outrunning Michael Myers since she was 11-years-old,  Zombie keeps her around long past her due date. Sadly, he doesn’t have the same fuzzy feelings for Sam Loomis (Malcolm McDowell). Aside from giving the good doctor little to do, he turns Loomis into the story’s only veritable bad guy. (Myers, as antihero, doesn’t count.)

It’s a far stretch for Loomis, the stalwart savior who always seemed to arrive in time to cry out emphatically, “Don’t you get it? He’s Baaaaaccck!” Zombie twists him into a fame-seeking dirtball, eager to get rich off a tell-all of the murders. If Zombie were a better storyteller, he’d have something here, but instead he pushes Loomis to the fringes of the narrative, until its time for him to get what Zombie surely thinks are his just desserts.

Like most worthy exploitation films, “Halloween II” is an acquired taste.  Zombie’s taste errs toward the tawdry, making it an exploitation flick in every sense of the word. In his 2007 “Halloween” remake, he enhanced Michael’s white trash pedigree, suggesting (in his own flimsy, roundabout way) that redneck rock and a lousy childhood were the impetus for Mike’s future homicidal instincts. But such dime-store psychology didn’t really register with audiences; all that Zombie did was strip away the mystery that John Carpenter worked so hard to create initially.

To his credit, Zombie neglects no part of the franchise. While visions and a prophetic connection between the Myers clan gets introduced later, in 1989’s “Halloween V: The Revenge of Michael Myers, ” Zombie brings vision to the fore in his sequel. His wife Sherri Moon Zombie (a walking case for nepotism if there ever was one) returns in visions – along with a white steed and a bad wig – as the ghostly specter of Michael’s dearly deceased mama.

It may be a little wacky, a little faux-Lynchian on Zombie’s part, but at least he offers up a creative vision. The “Halloween” series has been devoid of such since 1981. Still, some critics have gone on record, claiming that they prefer “the smooth, well-ordered universe” that Carpenter created in the original to the senseless sadism that Zombie unleashes here. What Carpenter did was help set a standard. Tellingly, he quickly distanced himself from the series (although he collected writing credits for the original “Halloween II,” he didn’t direct it).

Zombie’s sequel is sleazier than Carpenter would have envisioned in 1981 – more graphic, even, than the many films that followed in the franchise. Zombie doesn’t go for the jugular like he did in “House of 1,000 Corpses” or its salacious sequel, “The Devil’s Rejects.” In a sense, it feels here (as it did in his promising but hurried 2007 remake) that he’s too tied down with reverence for the franchise to really break out and make it his own.

But his Michael grunts as he attacks his victims and he devours raw animal organs – both ghoulish touches that lend an air of menace to the all-too-familiar killer. His blade produces a loud, walloping sound as it penetrates chest cavities, making the act of killing seem more vicious and visceral. What Carpenter did for creepy ambiance, Zombie seems to do for ultra-violence, before getting stuck in a slasher movie spin cycle wherein all the killings become imitations of each other.

Ultimately “Halloween II” might not impress critics, but it doesn’t have to. It’s for those who still curl up every October 31 to watch the movies (especially the original) air on AMC. And especially for those who, probably like Zombie, still relish every thrust of the blade and every repetitive death sequence. While he’s not a revisionist in the strictest sense, at least Zombie conjures up a little mayhem for them.

Shayna Murphy can be reached at skmurphy@student.umass.edu

Comments
2 Responses to ““Halloween II” cuts to the heart of exploitation”
  1. Lisa Wahlgren says:

    What a great review….I agree totally!!!!!

  2. Joanne Lemay says:

    Great review..Nice job ! Agree totally !

Leave A Comment