Of all of Rob Zombie’s films Halloween II is probably his most maligned, which is a shame, because it happens to be his best. It is his magnum opus, a remake that has the bravery to extend, rather than imitate, its source material. It is also the film that most clearly reveals the thematic concern of all of his films: family.
Despite the lashings of blood Zombie coats all of his movies in, he is at heart a surprisingly sincere filmmaker. He is obsessed with the notion of the family unit: it drives the plot of House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects, Halloween, and of course, Halloween II, a film that sees a character try and fail to escape her genetic lineage.
Indeed, the most interesting thing about Zombie’s films is the interplay between his capacity for horrendous violence and his tendency to inject warmth into the proceedings. His movies are like episodes of The Brady Bunch in which a terrible murder has just broken out, and despite the shocking amount of violence the film contains, the most striking images in Halloween II are the visions of Michael’s beautiful mother walking a white, luminescent horse.
It’s kitsch, of course: very kitsch. But it’s meant to be, and the kitsch proves to be the source of the brilliance. Zombie’s attempts to humanise Michael Myers feel intoxicatingly tongue in cheek as well, and Myers’ transformation from cypher like killer into shaggy shaman is as touching and warm as it is cartoonish.
Every one of the cast members do fine work: Danielle Harris is warm and believable; Malcolm McDowell is brilliantly self-indulgent; Scout Taylor-Compton is nuanced and complex; and Sheri Moon Zombie turns in the role of her career as a neon-blooded Virgin Mary type.
Exactly why Halloween II has been so maligned is unclear. But what it lacks in lavish critical praise it more than makes up for with its heart, humanity and horror. It is American horror at its very best; camp, crazy, and excessive in all the right ways.