— “Bad taste is the petrol that fuels the American dream.” That’s the rationalization that psychologist Sam Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) uses to justify his publication of a sleazy tell-all about serial killer Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) in “Halloween II.”
Even if writer-director Rob Zombie meant for that line to be ironic, however, it still resembles the kind of rock that Zombie shouldn’t be chucking at this glass house of a sequel. For a filmmaker who began his career with relatively clever and visionary splatter films like “House of 1000 Corpses” and “The Devil’s Rejects,” Zombie seems to be pursuing the path of least resistance by revisiting the “Halloween” saga.
His remake of the original “Halloween,” which still ranks among the unassailable, paradigm-shifting horror films of all time, was pointlessly bloated and ugly, reveling in white trash misery, as though someone unleashed a slasher in the middle of Harmony Korine’s “Gummo.” And while 1981’s “Halloween II” was itself a shameless sequel (original director John Carpenter co-wrote the script in what seemed like contractual obligation mode, but he couldn’t be compelled to direct it), it’s still more fun to watch than Zombie’s heavy-handed wallow in viscera.
The new “Halloween II” picks up just moments after the first film ended, with Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) and the other victims of Michael Myers being sent to the hospital. True to the original “Halloween II,” Laurie winds up in the local Our Lady of Implausibilities ICU, where there are very few staff members standing between patients and a psycho killer and where all the corridors are dark.
Thankfully, Zombie quickly moves ahead a year, where Laurie keeps having vivid nightmares about Michael, who is presumably dead. She’s now living with Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif), whose daughter is her best friend Annie (Danielle Harris), and trying desperately to put her life back together. Her fragile grip on reality shatters upon the publication of Dr. Loomis’ book, which reveals that she is in fact Michael’s sister.
Zombie goes heavy on the Freudian dream analysis, using a white horse as a symbol of chaos unleashed, resulting in lots of scenes involving the ghostly appearance of Mrs. Myers (Sheri Moon Zombie). Unfortunately, the dream stuff, the wacky scenes of Loomis’ unsuccessful book tour and the rote restaging of slasher-movie set-ups never gels into a coherent vision.
Eschewing any sense of suspense or surprise, Zombie instead focuses on the brutality of the many murders, lingering over scenes of throats being slashed with pieces of glass or skulls being repeatedly stomped in. These homicides aren’t just visually assaulting, but aurally as well — the Foley team must have worked overtime to make sure that each gurgling spurt of blood and crunching bone manifests itself vividly and loudly on the soundtrack.
At least Zombie’s taste in character actors remains unassailable, with appearances by a terrific mix of performers that includes Margot Kidder, Richard Riehle, Daniel Roebuck, Howard Hesseman, Bill Fagerbakke and yes, “Weird Al” Yankovic. After the rocker-turned-filmmaker has made some money for his backers with these sleazy remakes, here’s hoping he has the clout to pursue his own original vision; this makes twice that he’s phoned it in, and both times he’s gotten a wrong number.
Follow msnbc.com Movie Critic Alonso Duralde at http://www.twitter.com/MSNBCalonso.