When Rob Zombie remade Halloween, his version was clearly outclassed by the original, but to be fair, he wasn’t that far off the mark and there were certainly things to be appreciated about his adaptation. This time he doubles down and tries his hand at reinterpreting Halloween II because, apparently, he just wasn’t ready to leave Haddonfield yet. So, does this version beat out the original sequel or is he once again outmatched by a classic? Well, let’s discuss.
The plot of the ’81 version is very straight forward and picks up exactly where the original left off, continuing the events of that fateful Halloween night. Michael Myers continues his bloody quest through Haddonfield to find and kill Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and eventually tracks her to the hospital she was taken to. As Dr. Loomis and the police search frantically all over town for him, Michael begins brutally dispatching staff in the sparsely populated hospital as Laurie tries desperately to evade him.
Over the years I had heard a lot of negative criticism of Zombie’s version of the sequel and when I finally sat down to watch it, I was surprised and frankly wondered what everyone’s fucking problem was. It seemed to be a pretty faithful adaptation that followed Michael on his bloody quest to finish off Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton) in the hospital. The fact that it was true to the source material but featured top-notch, contemporary gore effects and a great visual style meant it was shaping up to be very stiff competition for the ’81 version. But of course Zombie just couldn’t leave well enough alone and about thirty minutes in…..everything changed.
Alright, spoiler warning here but just as the action in the hospital is really building in intensity, Zombie decides it’s time to pull out the most cliched device in filmmaking……it was all a dream. Yep, the film cuts to Laurie waking up two years later and it turns out she went to the hospital without incident and everything in the Halloween II remake we had watched so far was just her dream. What….the…FUCK! So, now we throw out everything we’ve seen so far to start an entirely different movie, one where Michael’s body is still unaccounted for, Laurie has PTSD but there is no immediate danger.
Currently, Laurie is living with her surviving friend Annie Bracket (Danielle Harris) and her father Sheriff Lee Bracket (Brad Dourif). The bulk of the remaining film that follows seems to be designed as an endurance test for the audience’s patience as we watch Laurie go to therapy, go to work, have emotional breakdowns….eat pizza, you get the idea. This is of course when we aren’t following around Dr. Loomis on his book promotion tour, a subplot so inconsequential to the storyline that it could have been cut out completely without anyone noticing. Zombie has also seen fit to transform his character from selfless vigilante to self-centered asshole who’s outlandish, rude behavior is supposed to supply some sort of comic relief.
Of course, Michael Myers does start to make an appearance here and there, popping up for some kills that are not at all relevant to the plot but at least provide some gory entertainment amidst the dull melodrama of Laurie’s story. “Where has he been the last two years,” you ask? Apparently, just homeless, living in the wilderness and inexplicably killing time instead of people while he waits for his giant beard and Rob Zombie hair to grow out. He is also visited by visions of his mother (Sheri Moon Zombie) who eggs him on to kill although this seems like little more than a ham-fisted way for Rob Zombie to get his wife into more of the movie.
While the remake may be bloated with extraneous plotlines and melodramatic characters, the ’81 version is the antithesis and presents a tightly paced, tense, engaging slasher that is arguably the best of the entire franchise. Considering how well that film still holds up today, there is really no reason to drastically alter the story and the only logical direction to take with a remake is to maintain the central plot and beef up the production value with slick visuals and modern gore effects. While the remake may have still felt unnecessary, it could have been more successful because gorgeous brutality is where Rob Zombie truly excels.
For all the issues with the story in his version, I do have to give him credit for creating a film that is visually stunning, with amazing cinematography and vicious, realistic kills. Honestly, for the amount of sweeping changes he made, it’s confounding that he didn’t just make a completely different movie rather than another Halloween remake. Hopefully, in the future, he will stick to creating his own beautifully deranged films and leave the classics alone.