Face-Off: Halloween 2007 vs. Halloween II 2009

The Halloween season is upon us once again, and that means it's time for a Halloween themed Face-Off. There has been some major HALLOWEEN franchise news lately, which has prompted me to take a look at a couple movies that the series will soon be leaving in the dust - Rob Zombie's 2007 HALLOWEEN remake and the 2009 follow-up HALLOWEEN II. With the next HALLOWEEN movie set to be in continuity with the 1978 original, Zombie's films will now exist as a completed two-part story... unless someone decides to revisit his vision of HALLOWEEN somewhere down the line. All bets are off when it comes to continuity and timelines these days. So with Zombie's films now relegated to their own corner of the franchise (for now), let's see how they measure up when compared to each other.
Of course, remakes are going to change certain things that have been established by previous movies in a franchise, but with this one Rob Zombie kept the foundation provided by John Carpenter's original (and a little bit of its sequel) and sort of built his own story within Carpenter's. Events in the life of slasher Michael Myers that only took a few minutes to pass by in Carpenter's movie take up the better part of an hour here, as Zombie strongly focuses on Myers' back story. The stalking of babysitter Laurie Strode and the murders of her friends, the main focus of Carpenter's film, is then recreated in what remains of the running time. This is an example of how two filmmakers can tell the same story but come out with very different results due to their differing styles and sensibilities. Zombie's vision of Halloween is much rougher and more vulgar than Carpenter's vision and the franchise it spawned.
Rob Zombie starts his HALLOWEEN II with a similar approach of taking the story of the original sequel but doing his own version of it. The film picks up directly after the events of the previous movie as Laurie Strode is taken to the hospital, and soon Michael Myers - who has survived being shot multiple times - is stalking the halls and killing more people. But 25 minutes in, we learn that the hospital sequence was a nightmare being had by Laurie one or two years (depends on which version you watch) down the line. Zombie now takes us into uncharted territory, delivering a HALLOWEEN movie unlike any that has come before, delving into Michael's mind to show stylized visions of pumpkinheaded royalty, a white horse, and the ghostly apparition of Michael's dead, beloved mother. It is uniquely bonkers; Zombie clearly had no interest in what the fans might expect or in playing by any franchise rules.
Zombie used the characters created by Carpenter and Debra Hill, but endeavored to make them his own. In the case of the teenage characters, that means infusing them with a whole lot more attitude. Laurie Strode is still the good girl, but she rebels against that label a bit and has an edgier sense of humor. Zombie delves into the emotional connection Dr. Loomis makes with young Michael Myers, and then sticks Malcolm McDowell with Donald Pleasence lines that don't work nearly as well when not spoken by Donald Pleasence. In general, the re-used characters don't stack up well when compared to the originals. Zombie also works in some new characters along the way, and most of these people are appallingly trashy, with the father figure in young Michael's life being way over-the-top with his trashiness and vulgarity.
The survivors return - Annie Brackett has gained some maturity after making it through her ordeal, while Laurie has gone off the deep end (and has apparently become a fan of Charles Manson). The former good girl is now out of control, on the edge of a major mental breakdown, and not very likeable. Dr. Loomis has become a conceited, opportunistic profiteer with no concern for anyone but himself. Annie's father, local sheriff Lee Brackett, has a slightly bigger role this time around, which is a bonus since he's played by Brad Dourif. Most of the new characters are just there to die after a few minutes. Laurie gets a new pair of friends, but they're slasher fodder who barely register as characters. With the focus on Loomis's publicity tour and the mental states of Laurie and Michael, there's not much time for anybody else.
We watch this Michael Myers become a brutal monster over the course of the film - when it starts out he's a young kid killing animals. He moves on to people, gets institutionalized, and gradually loses all trace of humanity, hiding behind masks and going silent. When he breaks out of the sanitarium, Zombie's Michael Myers, as played by the hulking, 6'8" Tyler Mane, is not the stealthy force of nature that we know from the other Halloween movies. This Myers has been described as "a bull in a china shop", as he aggressively goes after his intended victims, smashing anything in his way. He does some of the standard stalking as well, but when it comes time for action he's much more intense. He's different, but still familiar.
The size and strength of this new version of Michael Myers is played up even more this time around. He's presented as being so large and powerful you almost expect the earth to shake when he walks. In addition to the usual brutal bodily harm you expect him to inflict, he continues bashing through doors and can even tip over a car with his bare hands. This Michael also looks much different than he ever has before. He's been living off the land, sports long hair and a mountain man beard, has put more layers over his coveralls, including a camo hoodie, and spends a lot of time unmasked. When he does put on his mask, it's rotting and falling apart so badly that half of his face is still visible. This is clearly not the Michael Myers you know anymore.
Zombie did a decent job of putting the Halloween spirit on the screen. Characters dress up for the holiday, classic horror movies are showing on TV screens, trick-or-treaters roam the sidewalk, and a good number of the locations have some sort of decoration going on, whether it be a simple jack-o-lantern (plastic or real) or something more elaborate. There are also fallen leaves scattered around on the ground, as you would expect to see on October 31st. Even Michael Myers gets in the spirit of the holiday, making his own decoration with a corpse and a jack-o-lantern.
The town of Haddonfield hasn't let the Michael Myers massacre kill their Halloween spirit. The town is still celebrating the holiday, with a fair of sorts being held in the town square. Kids and adults both attend in costume, and there are decorations all around, including a large pumpkin. Trick-or-treaters still run around on Halloween night. And if that's not enough, there's the Phantom Jam, where partiers come in costume to watch the band Captain Clegg and the Night Creatures perform and to listen to drunken horror host Seymour Coffins tell bad jokes.
Only five people were killed in Carpenter's Halloween, four of those kills happening on screen. Zombie's Halloween has around five times as many on screen kills, and his Michael Myers really makes a bloody mess of his victims. There are brutal struggles, bludgeonings, and of course plenty of kitchen knife stabbings. This Myers will beat the hell out of someone before they finally die, and even someone who gets a less bloody demise might still get a TV smashed over their head for good measure.
There are some very nasty kills in this HALLOWEEN II, with this super strong Michael Myers slamming people around, breaking bones, snapping necks, and beating heads into mush. He stabs his victims so viciously that even the knifing victims are sort of turned into mush themselves. Despite the brutality, the kills that stick with me do so because of who dies, not because of how they die. Although the decapitation Michael performs with a shard of glass is pretty gross.
Wow... As I put this Face-Off together, I was surprised to find that I was struggling to give HALLOWEEN II a win in any category. While I have my share of issues with both films, I don't hate either one of them, and I thought maybe the sequel might have more of an edge because it's largely an original story, while the remake treads a lot of the same ground John Carpenter already walked. That wasn't the case. Watching them now, the remake stood out as a much stronger film than its sequel, and a better, more "proper" entry in the franchise, despite everything it does differently.

Do you agree with the outcome of this Face-Off, or do you prefer HALLOWEEN II over HALLOWEEN? Let us know your thoughts on these films and the overall HALLOWEEN franchise by leaving a comment. If you have suggestions for future Face-Off articles, send me an email at [email protected].



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