Saturday, September 12, 2009

Review: Halloween II

* 1/2 / * * * *

Property of The Daily Gamecock

When Rob Zombie, director of gory cult classics like "The Devil's Rejects," remade John Carpenter's original slasher classic "Halloween" in 2007, he opted for a route of more gore and more psychology, exploring the disturbed mentality of killer Michael Myers to middling effect.

In redefining a legend, Zombie tried to look deeper but came up emptier, trading mood and atmosphere for a redundant romp through traumatized childhood and the guts of teenage babysitters.

Zombie's "Halloween II," a sequel to the remake but not necessarily a remake to the sequel, doesn't just slice and dice its victims; it sets its sights on demolishing the whole aura of the genre. By the end, the infamous white William Shatner mask is nearly torn to shreds.

The new installment of the rebooted franchise flashes a year after the fatal events of the previous Halloween. Michael Myers, still on the loose, makes his way through the Illinois countryside to Haddonfield, where his sister Laurie, played byScout Taylor-Compton, lives each night haunted by her encounter the previous year.

Meanwhile, Dr. Samuel Loomis, played byMalcolm McDowell, has published a book about Michael's case, trying to defend criticisms and salvage his professional reputation.

While Rob Zombie's filmmaking is almost undeniably sloppy, it is far from the hatchet job the 2007 film was. What's rewarding about this boogeyman is that it doesn't play by the rules even when it can't find its footing, and lurking beneath its uneven textures and haphazard regard for its accumulating stack of bodies is a filmmaker trying desperately to reinvent the slasher.

Cinematographer Brandon Trost's images are at times gorgeously expressionistic and haunting, using unnatural lighting and wide lenses to distort Myers, while drenching entire halves of frames in total darkness.

It's dark and almost dreamy work, but the camera also loves to revel in muddy grunge and linger on pools of blood. The sound design team shares Zombie's obvious fascination with the ways violence can be heard; as much as the stabbings in the film look like overkill, it pales in comparison to the murders' aural assault.

As creative and driven as the film's aesthetic looks in some areas, it's also obvious and tiresome in others. Tyler Bates's score is always loud and crude instead of creepy and smooth, diluting much of the tension.

Ultimately, "Halloween II" fails to reach an inner heart of darkness. The most it can do is slosh through an ever-swelling puddle of blood.

If Rob Zombie had in mind a gory deconstruction of the irrational creatures lurking in the night, one has to wonder why he's decided to reboot Carpenter's genre-defining work, instead of mining his own demons. If anything, the film is a half-baked series of ideas that echoes and refracts forty years of slasher movies without getting deep enough under the skin of the formula.

As for Myers himself, this gigantic, hulking incarnation is more like a demon from Hell than a crazed boogeyman. He may know how to slice a throat, but his style is more akin to the robotic machines of a slaughterhouse.

He's not a psychopath to be feared, but the object through which Zombie can inflict his massive violence. As such, "Halloween II" is more a grungy garage band of a slasher than a full-blown orchestra. It dreams big, but never gets there

No comments: