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Movie Review

Typically, "never say die" attitudes are to be lauded. But sometimes things can be taken too far.

Take, for instance, Michael Myers, one of cinema's most durable serial killers. Over the course of 10 films (eight "originals" and two Rob Zombie remakes), many have tried to dispatch the masked murderer using a variety of means—to no avail. Myers always feels just dandy by the next sequel, ready to wreak havoc again. He is like Aunt Agnes' fruitcake: ageless, repellent and impossible to get rid of.

This time around, Myers makes a remarkable recovery from a bullet to the head, apparently served up by designated damsel in distress Laurie Strode. He revives after the coroner's van hits a cow, then dispatches the surviving transportation guard. With no more obvious victims loitering nearby, he ambles back into town and kills a few people in and around a local hospital where—surprise, surprise—Laurie has been admitted. Quickly they renew acquaintances, and the next several minutes are filled with much stalking, hiding, screaming, sharp implements and—

But wait, what's this? It's Laurie, in bed—not a hospital bed, but a regular bed—screaming herself awake. The opening sequence is nothing more than Laurie's bad dream. Michael Myers isn't really still alive ... is he?

Of course he is!

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Positive Elements

Dr. Loomis, the psychologist who had a hand in "killing" Myers in the first go-round, is a fairly irritating individual. With his tell-all Michael Myers book (The Devil Walks Among Us), he's trying to make a buck from other peoples' misery. (Which, by the way, is pretty much what Halloween II does, too.) But during the climactic showdown, the not-so-good doctor appears to repent, and he risks his life to save someone else by confronting Myers mano a mano.

Laurie shows a great deal of loving grief when one of her friends dies in her arms. And an unnamed woman offers her sincere apologies to Myers after the two men she's with beat him with baseball bats. Not that her courtesy does her any good.

Spiritual Content

There are hints that Myers may be the product of strange occult machinations—a mere puppet, perhaps, manipulated by the spirit of his dearly departed mother. Laurie has a couple of terrifying dreams/visions in which said mother appears to be engaged in some sort of ceremony in front of a big cauldron/urn-like thing, while Myers, as a child, looks on. In one such dream, she sees herself with an inverted cross carved on her forehead. In another, her surroundings are covered with crosses.

With blood, Myers paints some sort of pentagram on a door.

Sexual Content

Myers finds a trio of victims at a strip club—one of them nude at the time. (The camera records her breasts and backside.) She and the strip club's owner are close to engaging in coital relations when Myers bursts in on them. One of Myers' other victims is found naked in a bathroom, covered in her own blood.

A Halloween party (what other kind could there be?) features a legion of scantily clad women, including a few who parade around topless. There, one of Laurie's friends—who can be counted among the aforementioned legion—hooks up with a guy. They go back to his van and start to make out. Both die before they get very far.

Two men discuss necrophilia, with one saying he understood the appeal after he saw an attractive corpse.

Several people make crude references to portions of their anatomy.

Violent Content

"I like when violence seems real and I like when it seems ugly. I like when the act doesn't seem fun," director Rob Zombie told /Film. "I was never a fan of '80s slasher movies. I think they are cartoony and silly. I was more into the violence in movies like Taxi Driver, The Wild Bunch, and Bonnie and Clyde. The violence in those films makes a statement in some way. You know what I mean? It's saying something. And it's either brutal, or depressing, or it's real. But it's never fun."

Zombie puts his money where his mouth is. Because the violence in Halloween II is never fun. And since his film is wall-to-wall violence, that tells you everything you need to know about how "entertaining" it is. I won't go into every piece of detail here, but I'm compelled to elaborate just a little. So be warned:

Many horror film franchises these days, from Saw to Final Destination, make a game out of death, searching for new, creative ways to off someone. Halloween II, for better or worse, doesn't dabble in such histrionics. Michael Myers is a killer, plain and simple. He does his work without mercy, seemingly without thought, stabbing or stomping or smashing his victims' faces long past the point of death until they are empty not only of life, but even the faintest trace of humanity.

His first victim—already bashed and cut and spitting up blood from a car accident—is decapitated with a piece of glass, and we see Myers sawing fervently (the camera looks on from behind) at the man's neck. He later picks up the head and lets it drop in a field. Another victim, the stripper, has her head smashed into a pane of glass repeatedly. At first she screams, but when she's no longer capable of that, she just jerks. And then she's still and silent—dead—and Myers smashes her face into the shattered pane again.

What may be Myers' most horrific killing takes place offscreen. We hear scream after scream as we watch an unrelated scene. But not content to leave well enough alone, Zombie eventually shows off the victim—in a bathroom covered with her blood—gasping and gurgling her last few minutes of life away while Laurie holds her.

Myers kills at least 14 people and a dog before the end credits fade and his grim, cruel world is mercifully wrapped in black. Most he stabs to death. One he impales on a set of antlers. Another he crushes with his foot—his heel smashing repeatedly into his victim's skull until it looks like a smashed melon. He snaps someone's arm, sending the bone through the skin. He gouges someone else's eyes out.

Myers eats part of the dog he kills. He pushes a car off the side of the road and sets it on fire. He tears through a guard shack with an ax.

A van hits a cow. A man pulls a gun on Loomis. The sheriff threatens and points his gun. Someone is shot a couple of times. The end credits feature cutaways to realistic-looking murder scenes, corpses and all. Some of the pictures look as though they were meant to be "taken" during the police investigation of Myers' killings, but not all.

Doctors pluck glass from Laurie's open wounds and peel off a loosened fingernail. We see that her fingers have been broken. In one dream sequence, Laurie tapes a friend to a chair and slits her throat. In another, Laurie sees herself as a corpse in a glass coffin: She's revived somehow and thrashes about her crystal tomb.

Crude or Profane Language

Nearly 150 f-words. A dozen s-words. Characters misuse God's name about 20 times (several times pairing it with "d--n"). Jesus' name is abused three or four times.

There are many other swear words featured, but little need to relay them.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Laurie appears to be taking several kinds of prescription drugs, presumably for psychological issues related to her last run-in with Myers. She drinks beer with friends before they decide to head out to the Halloween party, where she drinks a lot more. By the time she and one of her friends leave the party, she's staggering and slurring. She and her friends drink at other junctures, too, and Loomis sips wine and a mixed drink.

The sheriff and one of his deputies smoke cigarettes.

Other Negative Elements

Laurie vomits into a toilet. A man is killed while urinating.

Conclusion

Unlike Jason Voorhees of the Friday the 13th movies, Michael Myers had long been, simply, evil incarnate. Sure, we've been told a thing or two about his past, but for the most part, Myers had no elaborate backstory. He just appeared—a killer's killer. His mask amplified that sense of the terrible void. He was unknowable, faceless, voiceless, merciless.

Rob Zombie decided to change all that. His Myers is a madman made, in part, by circumstance. We see him as a child, talking with his mother. Indeed, even as a killer, we still see the child, mingling with the 7-foot-tall monster he's become.

Zombie says he's read a lot of books on serial killers. And he incorporated that scholarship into his version of Myers.

"See, I think these people become scarier when they become humanized," Zombie said in his /Film interview. "At one point, these guys were little kids. How did this little kid become this psychotic maniac?"

So, in Halloween II, we're invited to look behind the mask—very literally, in fact. Myers' mask is old and tattered, and he doesn't wear it all the time, so we see the face underneath.

And as Zombie shapes a face for Myers, he takes it away from Myers' victims.

Psychologists tell us that we identify our humanness from our hands, our feet and most especially our faces. We have a far more visceral reaction to seeing someone getting an injection in the cheek than in the arm. Watching it "hurts" more, somehow. Our faces not only identify us as human, but they mark our individuality and express our emotions. They are the visible manifestations of our souls.

Myers, at Zombie's direction, takes direct aim at those faces: Bludgeoning them. Smashing them. Shredding them. The damage inflicted on some is so bad they no longer look human. It is, I imagine, a very deliberate psychological assault on audiences—a hopeless, nihilistic statement that speaks volumes about what the film wants to accomplish.

Even many of the most loathsome horror flicks made over the years have shards of morality thrust into their stories: In Saw and Friday the 13th, for instance, the killers' targets are primarily those who, in the films' ethos, "deserve" it. Halloween II makes no such distinctions. Death, or insanity, comes to us all, it seems to say. Goodness passes, but evil—like Michael Myers himself—is eternal. The world Rob Zombie wallows in is one where God is gone, but the devil is very much among us.

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