February 1st sees the release of Rob Zombie’s ‘Halloween 2‘ on DVD and Blu-ray, and it’s safe to say that even for horror’s most divisive director this latest film splits opinion as brutally as the violence it portrays. Auteur fetishism is a rather modern symptom of Hollywood, it’s always existed to varying degrees but only in the past 30 years or so has the director become such a focal point that, in some cases, he now precedes the star on the billing. The likes of Spielberg, Lucas, Tarantino, Jackson, Nolan, Scorsese, and Cameron are marquee names that are as worshiped by audiences as they are producers and studios. Horror provides the most ready-made arena for Auteur fetishism, its lust for sequels and franchises mean that one commercial success, or even better, one iconic character, and you have a genre career for life. John Carpenter, Clive Barker, Wes Craven, George Romero, Sam Raimi, Dario Argento, and Tobe Hooper as testament to that. Join Deadly Movies in a look at horror’s most notorious modern day auteur and the controversy that surrounds his ‘Halloween 2‘.
The very name ‘Rob Zombie’ conjures up fanciful imagery and his appearance isn’t a let down. If you had to draw the antitheses of a rock and roll leading man it would probably look like RZ; long matted dirty hair, an over sized commanding beard, a skinny waistline, sleeve tattoos, and a fantastically rough and ready fashion sense that few can pull off without looking homeless. Add to that his love for facial prosthetics that portray injuries, scars, and stitches. His appearance, while joyously self promoting, isn’t without substance, he was after all the founder and front man of US rock group White Zombie (named by RZ after a 1932 Bela Lugosi movie of the same name). His name, appearance, and rock’n'roll heritage without doubt connotes an air mystique and intrigue that plays into the hands of auteur worship. His movies are as recognisable as he is, sharing visual, thematic, and content traits that make them undeniably Zombie.
Zombie’s on-screen characters come from the bottom run of the US social ladder and the whole share a undeniable redneck rhetoric. Although the term ‘redneck’ may be considered derogatory, in the world of Zombie it is fundamentally celebrated. Zombie finds no interest in so called normal characters, rather you’ll find alcoholics, strippers, abusive parents, bent cops, and of course serial killers, who at times are less the antagonist and more the protagonist. The blurring of the standard cinema representations of right and wrong is a strong Zombie trademark. The purveyors of social law and order are often the real villains, the villains are often the sympathizers. Criticism of Zombie’s movies, after you brush away the prose of horror prejudice or praise horror fandom,is essentially obsessed with the issue of Zombie’s redneck sensibilities. The characters are dirty, their houses and towns are dirtier, and their language is darn right filthy. To many viewers this is just too grating on the eyes and ears. For them Zombie’s perceived glamorising of the hillbilly lifestyle makes for an abhorrent movie experience.
In 2007s ‘Halloween‘ (Zombie’s remake of the 1978 horror classic) RZ had a chance for a big payday and importantly the chance of mainstream exposure. His previous movies were on limited release and only known to genre fans. A ‘Halloween‘ movie would transcend the genre, exposing regular cinema goers to his work. Zombie freely admits that with ‘Halloween‘ he felt shackled by the restrictions that come with remaking a treasured icon of horror. Two years later he arrives with ‘Halloween 2‘, not a remake, but an all out unashamed, unapologetic, full blooded, Rob Zombie tour de force. The restraints have been cut free and Zombie delivers his version of a ‘Halloween‘ movie – for better or worse. And guess what? It’s absolutely filthy, dirty, and grimy. You’ll need a shower after watching it. The redneck rhetoric is rammed up to the nines. The violence is unbelievably visceral, with breaks, fractures, tears, slashes, and all manner of bodily trauma delivered with such fervent realism that it descends into hyper-realism. It’s certainly not a place for the horror novice or casual horror tourist.
‘Halloween 2‘ proved to be the most divisive of all Zombie’s films. Critics almost unanimously dismissed it (you wonder if many actually bothered to watch it such is the low regard RZ is held in by many) and horror and Halloween fans alike celebrated and complained in equal measure. The most unanimous of the protests landed once again at the redneck aesthetic, which it would seem has no place in the beloved ‘Halloween‘ franchise. Strange that a ten movie franchise with so many duff entries is, now that RZ is involved, held in such esteem when prior to 2007 many horror fans would suggest that it had two or three good entries at best. For sure ‘Halloween 2‘ is a brutal experience and hardly high art in a film or horror sense. However it is perhaps the most ‘Rob Zombie’ Rob Zombie movie to date, and perhaps the best of his movies to judge whether indeed he is, as fans will have you believe, a modern day auteur, or simply a hillbilly skank with a juvenile eye for the offensive. For my two cents you certainly can’t deny the man his unique stylings and approach. His auteur status is subject to the most personal of personal tastes.
‘Halloween 2‘ is available from February 1st, rent it and make up your own mind.