Halloween II (2009) [Unrated Director’s Cut]

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As anyone who has read my review of Rob Zombie’s Halloween, you might know that I was immediately open to it and generally liked it basically because it was different. It wasn’t a shot-for-shot remake, but it was also a bit messy. The first half was certainly very good; Zombie’s chronicling of Michael Myers’ life stuck in institution was well explored ground and written very well, but then the second half feels like a push-pull between something like Gus Van Sant’s shot-for-shot remake of Psycho to Zombie’s interpretation of the original material, which is where the first film fell a bit flat. However, with the “Unrated Director’s Cut” of Halloween II, Zombie goes in a different direction yet again, and it feels like Zombie’s finally made Halloween his own.

It’s been two years since the psychotic events of October 31st in Haddonfield, Illinois, and Laurie Strode is a mess. She’s living with Annie Brackett, who used to be her best friend, but animosity has grown since the Halloween incident. She’s having bizarre visions and a revelation in the new tell-all book by Samuel Loomis catapults her into events that will finally bring a close to the Michael Myers’ rampage.

From the get-go, this isn’t your typical horror film. It doesn’t even seem like a horror film. Sure, there are deaths, stabbings, and freaky visions, but it plays out more like a drama that used horror as its basis. It’s one of the smartest moves ever made in a horror sequel. Rob Zombie is the thinking horror fan’s director, he won’t do a retreading of material, he won’t rehash ideas, he’ll keep going in different directions, and I never cease being interested in what he has to say within his films.

Scout-Taylor Compton provides a fantastic performance as Laurie Strode and really makes Strode her own; the scenes involving Strode and Margot Kidder’s psychiatrist are of a particular note, showing Strode spiralling out of control and Kidder’s psychiatrist trying to work out how to help this poor girl.

Strode is having psychotic visions, and it is one of these visions that is probably my favourite parts of the film involving lots of profanity, almost silent movie-esque looks and a glass coffin which works very well, it’s a scene that has a great impact and is visually pleasing, despite the amount of profanity being thrown at the camera.

Of particular positive notes is the inclusion of home video footage of Danielle Harris as a young Annie Brackett. The Halloween fan will know Harris played Jamie Lloyd, the niece of Michael Myers and daughter of Laurie Strode in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, and there is a poignancy of showing this footage with Harris’ history in Haddonfield. It’s quite moving actually, which leads me to Brad Dourif.

In the first film, Brad Dourif played Annie’s father, Sheriff Brackett, and it wasn’t terribly memorable. It was cool as Dourif is the voice of another horror icon, Chucky the Good Guy Doll from the Child’s Play films, but other than that, there wasn’t anything stand-out about him in Zombie’s Halloween. He completely breaks out in Halloween II, showing a father falling to pieces, and bringing such a reality to his character and such sympathy, making Brackett my favourite character in Halloween II, and is probably the best performance Dourif has ever given on screen. It’s positively fantastic, and words can’t describe how amazing his performance is…you need to see it.

The Blu-Ray disc provides a great picture and sound, loud and threatening, just the way I like it. The image has changed from the cinemascope 2:35:1 of the first film to a normal widescreen image that helps bring across the raw energy the film oozes out of every grainy pore it owns. It’s a faithful representation and helps communicate the raw energy of the film well.

Deleted and alternate scenes are included which aren’t much to write home to mum about, they provide interesting but unnecessary alternative takes of different scenes. What would have been better is the inclusion of the theatrical cut. Audition footage is provided of some newcomers. While interesting to watch, is there a need for it? Do Rob Zombie/Halloween fans demand audition footage of as-yet-unknown actors? Of note is Chase Vanek, replacing Daeg Faerch as Young Michael Myers due to a growth spurt. Vanek provides a good substitute but didn’t seem as gloomy as Faerch was. Make-up test footage is also included, which, too, is interesting, but hardly necessary. A blooper reel is included which probably made me smile once or twice.

There is a fictitious band made for this film named Captain Clegg and the Night Creatures, and about nine minutes of music video is provided, intercutting black-and-white typical “music video shoot” footage with the scene in the film with sprinklings of old horror films and cartoons. They’re all the same and not my cup of tea.

Unce Seymour Coffin’s Stand Up Routines. This guy is also in the club scenes and isn’t funny, but does some jokes that may make you smile, but providing unused footage of unfunny stand-up routines for entertainment is redundant. I didn’t even make it past one minute of it. The whole joke in the film is that this guy is funny because he isn’t funny. Providing 5-10 minutes of unfunny material will keep hitting the nail on the head but eventually bore the hammer into the skull and then eventually into the brain matter, providing a painful experience. My thoughts go out to all who watch this in its entirety.

Finally is the audio commentary from Rob Zombie. Zombie is always great to listen to; he’s intelligible and explains certain ideas, cuts, and things become even more clear. He’s a great guy and while he does fall into the audio-commentary no-no of describing what is on-screen, he balances that out by explaining the ideas behind the scene or a story behind the scene, which is alright. He’s insightful company and worth checking out for Zombie fans.

The disc is highly recommended for Zombie fans and for fans of horror in general. This isn’t your typical horror film, not is it your typical Halloween film. But I liked that; it’s refreshing and visually outstanding and has some fantastic ideas. I challenge all who saw the theatrical cut and hated it to watch this fantastic, albeit somewhat slow director’s cut, and try not to change their minds.

The inclusion of the theatrical cut would have made for some nice analyses, and the inclusion of Captain Clegg music videos and Seymour Coffins’ stand up routines are unnecessary waste of precious data space. A faithful reproduction of the image and audio provides the film with a great visceral experience. I could have loved it more, but I loved it more than I expected to. Four skulls.

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge

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From the truly cool opening title cards that would fit more with Terminator than they would with Freddy Krueger, everything goes downhill in this truly below sub-par sequel that’s confusing, unmemorable, and laughable.

It’s been five years since the events of A Nightmare on Elm Street, and a new family has moved into the house that the famous Nancy Thompson (the heroine in the first film) use to live in, and things start out peachy-keen…then spiral out of control.

I usually enter the world of a horror movie sequel with a open mind, honest, because they usually all suck, some more than others. But A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge is an all-new level of sucktastic, but has four things going for it: the very awesome artwork (to your left), a horribly corny title that’s so-bad-it’s-freakin’-awesome (Freddy’s Revenge), the aforementioned Terminator-esque opening titles, and Robert Englund.

To be honest, Freddy’s not my favourite horror movie icon (I hesitate to call him a slasher movie icon), but I like the concept of a demonic sandman killing teenagers in their dreams, leading to the idea of no escape. It is, at least was, refreshing when it first came out, and there was an element of fear, of fright, embedded in the concept that you couldn’t do anything but be glued to your seat, even in this day and age. It was also something different, which is also a good thing. This, however, is titled Freddy’s Revenge. Wasn’t the first film the spawn of his revenge, killing the teenagers of the parents that killed him?

I haven’t seen the sequels, and if I have, I don’t remember them, but this first foray in to the fabled Land of the Sequels proves to be a redundant foray, giving a confusing and badly-written story, disappointing and predictable climax as well as some hokey acting (which, really, is to be expected).

Robert Englund, you have to give the man credit, has kept up appearances through the first film up until Freddy VS Jason (2003), so that’s some damn good commitment. But even what he brings to the table seems lost in this story.

We see where he worked, a factory (making…what? Not explained…), which is where the all-too-predictable and all-too-convenient climax happens, and there is so much here that isn’t really used properly. I could tell there was a story, I could understand what the film-makers were trying to say (sometimes), but this should have gone through some more drafts before filming began, because the execution of this story turns what Wes Craven brought, a truly original and frightening concept, into something confusing and hardly frightening (a few spontaneous combustions involving a toaster, which the family keep afterwards, and exploding birds? Come on…) But most of all, this sequel turns the refreshing story into something unnecessary.

I can’t really recommend this, not even to Krueger fans, but I’m sure all the die-hard fans have already seen it. It’s a silly and worthless sequel and even Robert Englund can’t really save it. Skip it, and go onto A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, whose title is only slightly less corny than this film’s title. See? It’s already better.

One-and-a-half stars.

Bioshock 2 (Xbox 360)

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NOTE: There is no review of the multiplayer portion of the game.

He’s nicer than the other Daddies…

To judge Irrational Games’ Bioshock as mere by-the-books shooter would be a horrible disservice to everyone involved in the making of the game. It was a refreshing, unique, deep and moral game, filled with mesmerising graphics and textures, a creepy and atmospheric soundtrack, and some memorable characters that could haunt your nightmares, as well as an adaptive storyline and gameplay. So, naturally, I had a feeling of unease when I had heard that, yes, there was a sequel being made, but – by someone else. Of course, Bioshock has stayed in the 2K family (Irrational Games was known as 2K Boston and 2K Australia at time of Bioshock’s release); but its sequel went to 2K Marin (who developed the PS3 version of the original game).

2K Marin have not failed Andrew Ryan.

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