8. Halloween (2007)

“Trick or treat, baby!”

My knee-jerk reaction when starting this list was to put Rob Zombie’s Halloween dead last. The way some people feel about The Last Jedi in regards to Star Wars – i.e., it betrays the franchise – is how I feel about Zombie’s Halloween. In short, it makes me furious. But to call it the worst Halloween film when Resurrection, Curse and Revenge exist would be disingenuous. From a strictly filmmaking standpoint, Zombie’s Halloween suprasses those films. Because Rob Zombie is actually a strong filmmaker.

Unfortunately, he’s a terrible screenwriter. In Rob Zombie’s movies, everyone is a foul mouthed hillbilly obsessed with dirty jokes. That may work for stuff like The Devil’s Rejects, but it’s terribly out of place in the world of Halloween. Everyone here is unbearable, and Zombie’s dialogue certainly doesn’t help. Unlike John Carpenter and Debra Hill, Zombie does not have an ear for realistic dialogue. When the teens in the original Halloween talked, they sounded like real teens. Here, everything sounds forced.

“Oh, come on, babe. I want to do it with the mask on!” Judith Myers’ boyfriend says at one point, trying to have sex with her wearing the famous Shape mask.

“It’s probably just some pervert cruising school Poontang!” cries Laurie’s friend Annie later.

And then there’s the dialogue from adults. The worst offender is Ronnie, Michael’s abusive stepfather. At one point, he looks at his own stepdaughter’s rear end and comments: “Man, that bitch got herself a nice little dumper!” Come on – “a nice little dumper”? What is this?

Even when Zombie is trying to directly quote the original Halloween, he whiffs it. At the end of the 1978 film, after Dr. Loomis has shot Michael Myers, Laurie tearfully asks: “Was that the boogeyman?”

“As a matter of fact, it was,” Loomis replies. Short and sweet, and to the point.

Here, when a similar scene plays out and Laurie asks the same question, Zombie has Loomis reply: “As a matter of fact, I do believe it was!” Why is that “I do believe” thrown in there? It makes the line sound so clunky. To quote William Hurt in A History of Violence, “How do you fuck that up?”

Zombie also has no idea what made Michael Myers so scary. The whole point of the character, in Carpenter’s film at least, was that he was inhuman. He has no human characteristics – he’s an unstoppable force of pure evil. Carpenter’s famous opening scene is so chilling because it reveals that on the surface, Michael is just a normal little boy from a normal, clean-cut family. Nothing made him evil – he just is. That’s terrifying!

In Zombie’s hands, however, Michael is the product of a broken home. He comes from a terribly abusive family, and while that may not have made him a serial killer, it certainly didn’t help. In short, Zombie is trying to generate some sympathy for Michael Myers, and to be blunt, that’s stupid.

After focusing on Michael’s childhood, Zombie has the character grow up into a mute, hulking killer who busts out of the asylum and goes on a killing spree in Haddonfield. He’s out to find his long-lost sister Laurie, played (terribly) by Scout Taylor-Compton. At one point, Zombie stages a scene in which Michael actually holds up a photo of Laurie to force someone to tell him where she is, as if he were a private detective in some old noir film. It’s incredibly silly.

Through it all, Mr. Zombie’s stunt-casting continues to distract. Halloween looks as if Zombie took a camera crew to a Monster-Mania convention and filmed everyone there signing autographs. I get it: he’s a horror fan, and he wants these classic horror stars in his movie. But having Udo Kier, Sid Haig, Ken Foree, Richard Lynch and more pop-up for quick cameos gets real distracting, real quick.

And then there are the main actors. Taylor-Compton is grating as the new Laurie, and Sheri Moon Zombie, Zombie’s wife and constant leading lady, is unbearable as Michael’s mom. The only actors who turn in slightly good work here is Malcolm McDowell, playing Dr. Loomis, and Brad Dourif, playing Sheriff Brackett.

Here’s the thing: if this wasn’t a Halloween movie, if Zombie instead crafted a brand-new slasher film that paid homage to Halloween but never mentioned Michael Myers, or Dr. Loomis, or Laurie Strode, or any of that stuff, I might like it more. Sure, the script would still stink and the characters would still be unbearable. But Zombie really does have a wonderful eye for visual storytelling, and I wish to hell he’d direct other people’s screenplays, because then he might turn in a genuinely great movie.

But this is a Halloween film, and as a Halloween film, it’s bad. It’s more competently made than the previous three entries on this list, which earns it its place here. But that’s not saying much.

Franchise Mythology Revelation: Michael Myers isn’t pure, unstoppable evil. He’s just a misunderstood redneck kid from a broken home.

Best Scare: Young Michael’s first kill – murdering a school bully – is genuinely scary in its brutality, and in the way Zombie films it, with the camera swirling as Michael mercilessly beats the bully to death.

Michael Myers Mask Rating: Good. Until the 2018 Halloween, the Halloween 2007 mask was the closest to the original, albeit with a slightly decayed factor.

7. Halloween II (2009)

“I’m a little confused. Are we talking about the Austin Powers Mike Myers or is this someone else?”

Rob Zombie’s Halloween II is a vast improvement over his Halloween for one simple reason: he’s no longer trying to recreate a John Carpenter movie. Instead, Zombie crafts a crazy, stylish horror movie full of incredible imagery.

It still has problems, though. Once again, Scout Taylor-Compton and Sheri Moon Zombie are here giving rather bad performances. And Zombie’s hillbilly dialogue still grates. But the ideas on display are so intriguing that these issues are almost forgivable. Almost.

In the aftermath of the first film, Laurie Strode is slowly going insane, haunted by the ghost of Michael’s mother, Deborah. She doesn’t know she’s Michael Myers’ sister yet, but when she eventually learns this truth, it sends her over the deep end. Meanwhile, Michael has become a bearded brute stalking the countryside like Frankenstein’s Monster. And Dr. Loomis has cashed-in, writing a book about Michael’s murders and exploiting everything for personal gain.

All of this is neat, and unlike anything we’ve seen in a Halloween movie before, so I dig it. At the same time, it seems as if Zombie can’t commit to certain ideas. There’s a moment near the end of the movie where he teases that Michael Myers isn’t even real, and that Laurie has been imagining him for the entire movie. But then he quickly reveals that  Michael is real, making the hallucination pointless.

Once again, Zombie’s Halloween thrives on brutality, and there’s plenty of that. Michael smashes people into mirrors, hangs dismembered bodies from ceilings, and fills dumpsters with corpses. In one particularly horrifying scene, he kills Annie Brackett (Danielle Harris, playing a different character here than the one she played in Halloween 4 and 5), one of the few victims who survived him in the first movie. The fact that Annie got away, only to be killed here, is tragic. As is the reaction of Brad Dourif, playing Annie’s father.

Halloween II ultimately suffers from all the fatal flaws of Rob Zombie’s other movies, but at least he’s trying something new here. And for that, I commend him. This is one of the few Halloween movies that focuses on the aftermath of Michael’s attacks, and that’s interesting. I just wish Zombie would let someone else write his scripts.

Franchise Mythology Revelation: Michael Myers can flip a car over with his bare hands.

Best Scare: An opening hospital sequence in which Michael murders a nurse (played by Octavia Spencer!) is horrifying because it just keeps going. Rather than a simple kill, Michael stabs the nurse over and over again as she keeps trying to crawl away. It’s hard to watch.

zombie 2mask

Michael Myers Mask Rating: Okay. The mask is a rotting mess here, to the point where Michael Myers’ beard (which he has in this movie) is poking through. It’s memorable, but not the best.

6. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)

“20 years. Don’t you think he would’ve shown up by now? What’s he waiting for?”

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later attempted to do two things at once: revitalize the Halloween franchise, and cash-in on the slasher movie revival kicked-off by Scream in 1996. For a brief amount of time, things were on track to make H20 something special. Not only was original star Jamie Lee Curtis coming back, but Scream screenwriter Kevin Williamson wrote the story, and original franchise director John Carpenter was set to helm.

Then things changed. Curtis remained, but Williamson’s story was ditched, and Carpenter never finalized the deal. The filmmaker wanted a three-picture deal, but Dimension Films’ heads The Weinsteins balked at the idea, and Carpenter walked, and Steve Miner took over.

The end result? A mish-mash, but an entertaining mish-mash. H20 makes every film after Halloween II null and void. Here we learn Laurie Strode faked her death and went into hiding. She’s now the headmistress of a posh private school. She also has a son, John, played by Josh Hartnett. John is the only one in Laurie’s life who knows who she really is and what’s going on, and Laurie is an overprotective mother, to say the least. Her overprotectiveness is warranted, though, of course, because Michael Myers makes his way to the school and starts killing.

Everything involving Laurie here is good, mainly due to Jamie Lee Curtis’ performance. Unfortunately, since H20 came out in the heyday of the slasher revival, a good chunk of the movie focuses on younger characters, including John’s girlfriend, played by Michelle Williams (!). Everything involving the kids is dull, and all we want to see is Laurie and Michael face off, which they eventually do. But we have to sit through a lot of crap to get there.

H20 is a step up from most Halloween sequels, but a few more rewriters would’ve made the film excellent. A subplot involving LL Cool J as a comic relief security guard writing erotic romance novels is awful, and goes absolutely nowhere. Who cares about that, at all? Give us Laurie vs. Michael!

Franchise Mythology Revelation: Nothing after the original Halloween II actually happened. Laurie Strode faked her death and moved the hell out of Haddonfield.

Best Scare: All those late ‘90s fashions! Am I right, folks?!

Michael Myers Mask Rating: Yikes. There were actually four masks used in H20, and none of them are good. Scene after scene, the mask Michael is wearing changes. On a few quick occasions, you can even spot a CGI mask, and boy does it look like shit.

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