FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Mar 31, 2010

I'm so totally reminding you...

...that tonight's episode of The Scare-ening will feature the legendary Joe Bob Briggs*. I think you should call in to talk to him- I mean, it's a live program and he's contractually obligated** to take your calls. You can also log into the show's chat room to ask questions if that's more your style.

8pm PST/11pm EST- be there and be square!

* If you don't know who Joe Bob Briggs is, I'm not sure we have anything left to say to each other.

**not true

Track of the Moon Beast!

Click to embiggen!

I realize I didn't mention the awesome musical interlude, or the fact that in the end, Professor Johnny Longbow kills Lizard Paul, who "explodes"- meaning, the screen turns red. What can I say? I start these comics and then they end up in a different place than I'd originally intended. C'est la something something.

I did, however, write about my favorite scene from this film and how much it affected me when I was a dumb kid over at Mermaid, you know, you can read that if you want to.

Mar 29, 2010

a new thing

Check it: comedian, recurring guest on Ghostella's Haunted Tomb, and friend of the ol' FG Bridget McManus has a new show premiering on LOGO TV in about 13 hours (that's 4am PST, kids, the best time slot in the history of ever)! It's called Bridget McManus Presents: That Time of the Month and it's going to have a bunch of...stuff...on it. You can watch a teaser intro here, but it won't tell you anything about anything. I don't know anything about anything, but I do know this: the premiere episode will feature my short film Taste of Flesh, Taste of Fear. KA-BOOM!

Set your TIVOs, or stay up. Or catch it in reruns. Or catch it with Rerun if you have the ability to communicate with the dead. The point is, catch it and getcher lesbian vampire on!

I would also like to mention that next month's episode of That Time of the Month will mark the beginning of an all-new series from yours truly. I'll tell you all about it when That Time draws closer...mua ha ha indeed!


"That's fucking disgusting."

easy like monday mornin'

A few things of note!

- I almost forgot...this is the last week to vote in the Rondo Awards! Voting closes April 3rd. The ballot is daunting and it generally serves to remind me how many movies I have not seen in the last year; however, you don't have to vote in every category. Final Girl is nominated in category 15, Best Horror Blog. I think that's neat and I'm thrilled to be nominated.

- Magnet has snagged US distribution rights to [REC] 2 and...gasp...they're planning an early July theatrical release for the film. THEATRICAL! RELEASE! THEATRICAL! I can't wait.

- This week on The Scare-ening, Heidi and I will be welcoming Joe Bob Briggs as our special guest. Joe Bob Briggs! Yes, of Drive-In Theater and MonsterVision. Yes, that Joe Bob Briggs. Yes, it's very exciting, and yes, you should call in to talk to him.

- I realize that there is an abundance of exclamation marks and a dearth of pictures in this post. Well, 1) there are many exciting things happening in this post and as such exclamation marks are appropriate (though, yes, overused)...and 2) Blogger is being a cooch swell.

Mar 26, 2010

awesome movie poster friday - the GONZORIFFIC edition!

If John Waters and Russ Meyer had a baby, and that baby became a bunch of people and those people made horror movies, they would be Gonzoriffic. If you'll recall (and I know you will), we had Gonzo's Andrew Shearer, Monica Puller, and Rachael Deacon on the completely manic first episode of The Scare-ening.

From their headquarters in Athens, GA, the Gonzo crew makes microbudget films that are funny, gory, and best of all, girl-positive. They make movies without pretension simply because they love making movies- an attitude that's increasingly hard to come by in the indie horror scene, where everyone wants to be famous. None of the Gonzo women call themselves Scream Queens- even though some of them have appeared in more than ten films. I like the way these kids think! Thing is, no matter how I feel about their philosophies or their films, I wouldn't feature Gonzorrific for Awesome Movie Poster Friday unless their productions had...well, awesome posters. Lucky for us they do, proving that microbudget doesn't mean megacrap- also proving that indie horror posters can completely wipe the floor with unimaginative, over-Photoshopped studio output.

Mar 24, 2010

a few of my favorite things

On things and the having of things, I am torn. I'm not materialistic and I try not to buy things I don't need or things that are not useful. I have a fuck ton of movies, but my excuse is that I write about movies. Still, I'm a trader-inner of video games, movies, and books as I'd rather have a few that I love rather than a bunch I never touch. But! I have some horror-related things around that I truly adore- things that may be replaceable, but I'd be a bit devastated if they disappeared from my life. I'm a little bit ashamed of feeling that way about stuff, but then again perhaps it's okay to enjoy things. Oh, how the battle rages within my soul! Anyway. Here are the horror-related things I love most in this workaday world, because I feel like making a list and being self-indulgent. Hooray!

1. My beloved Freddy Krueger candle

This thing is so ridiculous, but his beefy lips and Chiclet teeth make my day every time I see them. Given to me by a friend who would not (or could not) divulge where he got it.

2. Secrets in the Shadows: The Art & Life of Gene Colan

I saved up my pennies to nab a copy of this limited-edition hardcover (1000 copies)! The amazing Gene Colan took sketch requests for about 50 people, and I was one. The gorgeous Dracula above is inside the cover. Da-rool.

3. The Polaroid of me and Adrienne Barbeau

Met her at a signing for her autobiography There Are Worse Things I Could Do and she was so damn nice. It's a totally goofy picture and we had fun taking it- two people holding a giant Polaroid camera always makes for a lovely time. And yes, my face really is that yellow.

4. The tape of my interview with Marilyn Burns

Aside from the pure delight at sitting in a hotel room talking with Marilyn fucking Burns, this interview was a personal milestone in a few ways: first, I'm fairly sure this was the first face-to-face interview I'd done with anyone (save the one with my gramma for my 7th grade Social Studies class). Second, though it originally appeared in a Q & A format on Pretty/Scary, a revamped, rewritten, and longer version of the interview was published in Sirens of Cinema magazine, marking my first foray into the magical world of "print". I tape over interviews after I've transcribed them, but this one I'll keep. And yes, I use cassettes. I love showing up at roundtables and plunking down my big-ass Radio Shack tape recorder amidst the micro-sized, fancy mp3 recorders the kids use today.

5. My copy of Fangoria #10

I talked about this puppy way back when I first started talking about the awesomeness of 1981. I've got a bunch of genre mags around, new and old, but Fango #10 kind of sums up my childhood relationship with horror. Gross pictures, cartoons, Hammer movies, slasher movies, Count Fango...I tells ya, it's magic with staples running down the spine.

6. My Black Christmas DVD...

...signed by Margot Kidder. At conventions (and, I suppose, elsewhere) autographs are fairly pricy. Because I am not rich, I tend to be both picky AND choosy about the ones I get. Way back before the remake was even a fart in the brain of whoever farted up that fart of a remake and Black Christmas was still kind of on the down-low, I handed her my DVD amidst all the Superman fans handing her pictures of Lois Lane to sign, and she was surprised anyone even remembered the movie. Say what? Black Christmas is the shit. I'd actually like to get it signed by the rest of the cast members, even Mrs. MacHenry, even though Marian Waldman is dead.

7. My Exorcist mini-poster...

...signed by Linda Blair. Again, yes I'll pay- it's Linda GD Blair! But what I love most about it is...well, look what I made her write. She's aces in my book. Of course, she always was, so I guess she's...more aces now.

8. My horror village

Because my mom is the raddest, she buys me retarded horror stuff, like this horror village. You know, it's like one of those Christmas villages, but this time it's (you guessed it) horror. There's Nancy's Elm Street house, Stately Leatherface Manor, the Dawn of the Dead mall...all kinds of cool stuff with little mini Jasons and Michaels and Leatherfaces and Hari Krishna zombies. We have them all lined up next to each other on a shelf so it looks like Freddy and Jason are neighbors. It's awesome and I love it.

9. Curtains on VHS

I've talked about this, too- a VHS copy of a mediocre (with a few fucking GREAT scenes) out-of-print slasher movie is one thing. A VHS copy of a mediocre (with a few fucking GREAT scenes) out-of-print slasher movie that you bought at Tori Spelling's yard sale is quite another. I'm still not sure that all really happened.

10. Tomb of Dracula #1-70

It took me a few years to assemble a complete run of Marvel's Tomb of Dracula, but dammit I did it in true comic nerd style, scrounging through boxes at shops and cons. A few issues are in stellar condition, a few are in crappy condition, but I don't care. It's the first complete run of anything I've ever collected (beyond, you know, a 10-issue run or whatevs), and it'll likely be the last. Meeting writer Marv Wolfman and artist Gene Colan and asking them to sign my copy of #69, the first comic I ever bought, was a thrill.

Well, there you go. I like some stuff I sue me. Or tell me about things you have that you treasure so I don't feel so lame.

wednesday comix: Q & A with Zane Grant, writer of WE WILL BURY YOU

Remember last week, when I reviewed We Will Bury You #1? And then that night on The Scare-ening, Heidi and I talked with Brea Grant, one of the book's writers? And then Zane Austin Grant, the other writer on the book, was a surprise call-in guest? And they were cool? Remember all that? Wasn't it cool? Well, it gets even cooler because Zane went and answered some questions. Questions from ME! Do you think I'm cool??

One thing I love about both Brea and Zane is that they're actually, you know, horror fans. Talking with them obliterates any doubts you may have about their motivation behind writing We Will Bury You, about whether or not it's simply a vanity project for some actress. I mean...who knew The Driller Killer could provide such fodder for discourse?

I'm an only child, but from my understanding, brothers and sisters are supposed to hate each other and pull each others' hair. Why, then, would you want to write a comic book with your sister? How did the idea of working together come about?

We both like comics and horror movies, and we get along really well, so…. I’m always surprised when people ask about sibling rivalry. I think we compliment each other’s strengths and weaknesses well while working together.

Practically speaking, how did you share scripting duties (ie, did you divide up the characters, etc)?

The way we work is we read a lot about our setting and make notes for stories. Then we get together and outline them, so we knew basically what’s going to happen, but not necessarily how it was going to play out. From there, we just traded off scenes, which I think works for the most part. Can you tell what I wrote and what she wrote? I can’t, because we edited each other so much to keep the tone consistent. Brea wrote all the nasty parts while I looked away and covered my ears, and I did the moralizing parts, so that’s breaks down writing duties into solid categories.

Why is We Will Bury You set in the 1920s?

The 1920’s was the first decade of sexual revolution in the U.S. and a lot of different political ideas were being discussed leading up the great depression, which snuffed a lot of those kinds of things out because suddenly more people were just trying to survive. The lack of certain technologies like cell phones and future weapons makes the spread of mass violence scarier as well. Plus, it just had a good aesthetic that works out well as a setting for a visual medium like comics. We wanted to take the magic of pre-code movies and add it to the outcasts of Tod Browning’s films and make it relevant and entertaining.

What are some of your influences for WWBY, both in terms of horror (whether written, cinematic, or other) and comics?

We try to have a lot of reveals in the books, which were inspired by the surprise endings of EC horror comics. And the shallowness of some of the people Mirah and Fanya run into sort of match the EC tone, where people react almost too normally but they are all hiding something. Also, there is a way in which, we are also reacting to Walking Dead, which pushed the genre in a way by showing horror comics can be ongoing and still have some attachment to the traditional horror genre. I mean Swamp Thing is one of my favorite comics, and it’s horror in a way (he fights mermaid vampires, right?), but it seems like an uncomfortable fit for the genre. A lot of Vertigo horror stuff is like that, especially from the 1990’s, where it’s scary and amazing, but the tone is more psychedelic than horrific, which we eventually delve into. We were inspired, of course, by Romero, but there are other pieces we pull from like Wild Zero (which has a trans person), the Greek zombie film Evil, 28 Days Later, and in the first issue we played with the slasher view from the first page. We give you the view from the husband of this woman he is obsessed with and she is dressing, and he’s nuts.

How did you come across Kyle Strahm's work, and what is it about his art that attracted you? Was there a specific style you wanted when you were looking for an artist, or did it strike you when you found it?

We looked a lot of artists, and Kyle’s portfolio stood out because it was cartoony but had the grotesque feel of too many wrinkles to it, which is how we wanted to write this book. We did some color tests with Zac Atkins, the colorist on the book, on Kyle’s work and really liked the way it looked.

How are you working with Kyle in terms of the script? Are you giving him detailed panel descriptions à la Alan Moore, or are you using the "Marvel method", or something in-between?

We don’t write poetry in our scripts, though we hope to some day. I’m not sure if you can get away with doing that your first book, the artist might quit. We tend to stick to basic descriptions, dialog, and reference pictures for some things. When Kyle wants more, he asks. Like we were bad about military uniform research and what revolvers officers were issued, so he just asked and we did some research and got back to him.

Why do you think comics are the best medium to use in telling this story?

Comics is the best medium to tell any story…. Heh…. But also, I think horror works best as a visual medium, or maybe easiest as a visual medium is more accurate. People have a stronger reaction to seeing pain than reading about it. I do anyway.

In the better zombie films, zombies are usually representative of a societal issue or a certain populace. I have my own thoughts on what they represent in WWBY...did you intend for them to be metaphorical, or did you just choose zombies for your bad guys?

On societal issues and horror, I had an argument with my friend Carrie, who does tryharderyall blog, about Driller Killer a while back because on your blog, you gave it a kind of class analysis, which is my default to reading pretty much everything except that movie. I think Abel Ferrara drills strangers because he is sexually repressed and the gay art dealer and the freaky girlfriend and ambiguous art band singer throw that repression in his face and he can’t deal, and she agreed with your analysis… in the end I saw the film as doing both. Anyway, I think Romero’s films tore apart race and class and gender in nuanced ways that we aspire to, but we use our zombies as heavy handed metaphor for fundamentalist views about economic and cultural values.

How much backstory/history is there going to be for the outbreak in WWBY? Do you think it's important for writers and/or filmmakers to give a reason why the dead return to life?

In the beginning, We Will Bury You was set up as three volumes and the third would have a metaphysical explanation of the gates of hell and how they had to be closed, but no one gets a contract for 36 issues on their first book, so that didn’t happen. Really, I’m of the opinion that it’s not that important why the dead come back. When people try to rationalize zombies, I usually get bored. Whether they explain it through the occult, like Fulci’s hanging priest or Louisiana hotel with a gate to hell installed in the basement, or nuclear waste like in Return of the Living Dead, it just takes away from the fact that most people would never know why, but just have to come up with a way to live.

Are your zombies slow or fast? On which side of the fast/slow zombie horror nerd argument do your loyalties lie?

Fast zombies are scary and have made slow zombies harder to make scary, which is sad. Our zombies are about mass, so they are slow. I’m scared of those rooms in mansions that have walls that close in on you, sometimes with spikes. I want to find the architect who designed those rooms, but that’s a different story. Our zombies are scary like those rooms.

When I think of spiked rooms, I think of Resident Evil. Actually, when I think of ANYTHING I think of Resident Evil. I love Resident Evil.

Talk a bit about being a comics fan and a horror fan. How did you get into each, what are some of your favorites, etc. What do you consider to be the best horror comic of today? Of all time? What's your favorite zombie movie?

I got into comics when I was a kid, but I was scared of horror comics when I was that young. Now, I am a fan of the old EC stuff like Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror, but I think the best contemporary horror comics are Locke and Key, Creepy, Walking Dead, Hellblazer, Night Business and pretty much any horror books Ben Templesmith does. Brea actually got into horror films before me, so I would watch stuff she rented sometimes. We had seen all the major stuff like the Elm Streets and 13ths and that stuff, and then about five years ago my friend Orion moved in with me and brought his horror VHS collection, which is in the hundreds. So, I got to know the genre a bit better through that, got to see more Italian stuff, and now my friend Carrie has a pretty good collection of VHS horror, some really good/bad Media stuff. My favorite zombie movie is the original Dawn.

Are you hitting any conventions this summer? Any more comics in your future?

I will be at MoCCA fest in New York April 10th and 11th, San Diego Comicon this summer, and Small Press Expo in D.C./Maryland in September. I hope to do some more cons, and we will probably be in Austin and have a release for the second issue of We Will Bury You the last week in April. I have an article about comics creator Dash Shaw coming out in Looking Glass Magazine this month. I’m teaching a comics writing course to teens at Brooklyn Artists Gym, and Brea and I are working on another series we hope gets picked up… and I want to do a comic version of Driller Killer.

Mar 23, 2010

i wish

the journey is the destination

Fabrice Du Welz's Vinyan (2008) seems to have a polarizing effect on audiences...or at least that's my opinion after reading two wildly divergent reviews of it. Even after scoping out those reviews, I knew little of the film beyond its basic premise...and with critics drawing Cola Wars-style lines in the sand, I was nervous. Would I like it? Would I hate it? Would people like me if I liked it? Or hated it? Would watching it make me smarter or prettier? I tells ya, it had me on the edge of the edge of my seat.

Here's that basic premise I told you about: Six months after losing her son Joshua in a tsunami, Jeanne Bellmer (Emmanuelle Béart) thinks she spots the boy in a video about Burmese orphans. Her husband Paul (Rufus Sewell) thinks she's seeing only what she wants to see, but eventually agrees that they should investigate because...well, what if it's him?

The couple pays massive amounts of money to the shady Thaksin Gao (Petch Osathanugrah), who says that white children have been spotted amongst the orphans. He promises to find their son, so Jeanne and Paul board a boat with Gao and head from Thailand into Burmese waters. When leads prove false, Gao promises that just a little more money will get them closer, that Joshua is surely in the next village. Paul and Jeanne argue over whether or not they're simply being bilked; Jeanne's desperation eventually puts the entire party in terrible danger deep in the Burmese jungle.

That's really all I want to say about Vinyan in terms of plot- and to be honest, not much actually happens in the film. That seems to be the biggest complaint viewers have with the film- that we're constantly waiting for something- some big action sequence, some plot twist...something. Anything. The audience has expectations that need to be met, dammit, but Du Welz refuses to play by the rules. Still, people who are disappointed by the lack of "big moments" in Vinyan have a valid point- in fact, it's probably going to make or break the film for them.

As for me, I loved it. As detractors have noted, it may be a bit sluggish in the midsection (aren't we all?), it may be anemic in the soul department, and it may be pretentious- but Vinyan is all about the journey rather than the destination. And what a journey it is; as this post title indicates, I find that the journey is the destination.

The cinematography by Benoit Debie is a knockout. Every frame screams "art", albeit art heavily drenched in dread. The color-soaked streets Jeanne and Paul trudge through are as frightening as the rain-soaked jungle is later on; both are strange and otherworldly, full of grabbing hands and a distinct sense of the uncanny. Terror seems to lurk on the fringes, always just out of sight. The visuals of Vinyan are bolstered by the true star of the show: the sound design. The movie's abstract opening features almost music that builds and evolves into sorta gibberish- from the get-go, it's terribly unsettling and it doesn't let up.

Du Welz isn't afraid to let a moment hang...and hang...and hang. One particular scene comes to mind, and it's a simple one: the boat the Bellmers have hired slowly approaches shore and comes to dock. It seems to take forever, and the tension is almost unbearable. The jungle is shrouded in a heavy mist, the humidity palpable; the only sound is the steady knocking of the boat's engine- and then there are the noises coming from land. Much like those at the beginning, the noises are indecipherable. Are they animal? Human? We know something is there, waiting for the Bellmers, and again: Vinyan is nothing but dread.

Though Béart and Sewell turn in riveting performances (Béart, in particular, perfectly embodies a haunted, hollow desperation), I would have liked to know more about Jeanne and Paul. Despite all they go through, despite their obvious grief, there's an odd disconnect there which prevents their journey from becoming one I could truly care about. Grief, particularly that of a mother, is a time-tested trope in horror films, from Don't Look Now to The Haunting of Julia to...hell, Friday the 13th. We certainly feel for the couple and we know they're in pain, but we only get glimpses of what their lives have become without Joshua. We know virtually nothing of what their lives were like before he was gone.

There's an ambiguity to the film that I enjoyed- how much of this is really happening? Are the Bellmers drawn to the island by a supernatural being or force? This line, after all, can't simply be happenstance:
When someone dies a horrible death, their spirit becomes confused and angry. It becomes...Vinyan.
Are there spirits loose in the jungle, or are we simply witnessing a grieving mother's dehydration-fueled descent into madness? Is Joshua still alive, a lost boy victim to both nature and human traffickers? Again, Du Welz ignores the rules. If concrete answers are your thing, you may find yourself across that line in the sand from me. Don't worry, though- we can still be friends.

This week on The Scare-ening...

...we've got some amazing guests lined up: Heidi Martinuzzi of Pretty/Scary and Stacie Ponder of Final Girl! They want you (yes, YOU) (but not YOU) to call in and ask them questions and tell them what to talk about. It is destined to be the most glamourous episode of anything in the history of ever, no?

The Scare-ening III: In 3-D will really help you hone your calling in and asking stuff skills in preparation for our guest for The Scare-ening IV, an episode in which you will have a chance to interact with a true horror brainiac, hero, and luminary.

Tune in tomorrow (that's "Wednesday" in weekspeak) at 8pm PST/11pm EST and get yer ask on!

Mar 22, 2010

ride the white horse

When I posted on my Facebook page that I had to watch Rob Zombie's Halloween II, I got little but warnings and advanced condolences. Everyone told me I'd be really sorry if I indulged; you know: it was two hours of my life I'd never get back, I could never un-see it, I'd be better off lighting babies and/or myself on fire...okay, maybe not that last one. But still, the collective "Do not do!"s from my fake cyber-friends made me feel that watching H2 would be akin to marching off to war without a gun or body armor or even a face: I'd get my body and soul crushed in what would inevitably be a losing battle. To put it mildly, undertaking a viewing seemed to be a foolish endeavor, but it had to be done. And yes, like a soldier headed off to war (or a nogoodnik heading off to the Big House), I spent my last 24 hours of freedom in a drunken stupor, cavorting with hookers and eating cake. Isn't that how they do things?

Anyway, given these warnings and my unabashed dislike of Zombie's Halloween, I was positively dreading the experience. DREADING IT I SAY. And? Well, I made it through. I'm still here. Maybe it's the booze or the prosties or the cake talking, wasn't quite as bad as I'd anticipated.

Whoa whoa whoa! Put away your torches and pitch forks and hot oil treatments (the bad, not-for-hair kind) and everything else in your Angry Mob Emergency Kit- I didn't say I liked it. I didn't even say I didn't hate it. It's just that I anticipated a Hallocaust of epic proportions and when all was said and done, I've seen much worse. I've seen much worse recently, in fact (hey The Unborn, you can still go fuck yourself).

Halloween II opens with a placard explaining the symbolic meaning of a white horse. From this, we can infer two things: 1) Rob Zombie bought a dream dictionary, and 2) Rob Zombie thinks his audience is stupid. Why else would he feel the need to blatantly and literally define his metaphor? Can't we figure it out on our own? Why, some of horror's greatest films and directors know it's better to show than to tell. It's not as if Stanley Kubrick needed to expound on what mazes are all about before The Shining began; likewise, viewers are left to their own devices in deciphering the deeper meaning behind all the steering wheels and throttles in Shark Attack 3: Megalodon. But this is Halloween II, and as such it needs Sheri Moon Zombie...and as such it needs a dubious reason for her inclusion.

Before she becomes the Ghost and Mrs. Muir of Mrs. Myers, there's a flashback to young Michael's sanitarium days- I guess to remind us that the boy had a healthy relationship with his mother, that he was in control of his faculties, and that this version of Michael is not the abstract embodiment of "pure evil" as he was in John Carpenter's original film. Oh well. When Michael tells mom about his dreams of a white horse (I WONDER WHAT IT MEANS), she tells him to "Cheer up- no more gloom!" He doesn't listen to her, and I guess that's why a lot of people end up dead...dun dun dunnnn...15 years later.

We jump through time to the moments after the climactic events of Halloween; Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) is battered and bloody and en route to Haddonfield Memorial, while Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) is carted off to the coroner's office by two Characters in a Rob Zombie Film. You know the kind: they're that variety of trash Mr. Zombie seems so enamored with. They talk about corpse-fucking and they're oh so funny! Except they're not funny. Or maybe you think they are, in which case...I'd rather not know. I just want to travel back to the moment Zombie began typing their dialogue so I can slap his hand with a newspaper and cry "No! Bad Zombie! No trashy characters! You write real people! Real. People." Seriously, I hate Characters in a Rob Zombie Film. I hate that they use the word "fuck" the way the Smurfs use the word "smurf". I hate everything about them.

These guys aren't around for long, thanks to a Deus Ex Cow in the Road. They hit it, Michael gets out of the van (despite being in a serious accident and, oh, getting shot in the face at the end of Halloween), cuts the surviving paramedic's head off with a piece of glass (which could totally happen), and splits. Halloween II then becomes a truncated version of Carpenter's Halloween II as Laurie awakens in the mysteriously empty hospital, only to find Myers once more in pursuit. He butchers his way through the scant staff members on duty...and when I say "butchers", I mean...BUTCHERS. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I can't believe it's not butter. I've also said this before and I will also say this again: Rob Zombie does not shy away from brutal violence. Anyone bitching about the lack of energy in modern American horror needs only watch this incarnation of Myers go to town with a knife. It's cringe-worthy.

The hospital is where we also get our first taste of "Nights in White Satin" by The Moody Blues- I WONDER WHAT IT MEANS. This serves to remind me of the time I went barhopping with some friends many a moon ago. We ended the night at Norm's Country Lounge (don't ask) and I was well and truly tanked. So well and so truly, in fact, that upon spotting the blue satin shirt our bartendress (new word) was sporting, I asked her name (Trish) and proceeded to regale her with "Trish in Blue Satin". She was not amused, but I'm sure it was unbearably charming.

Before Michael can get his grubby mitts on Laurie...she wakes up. She wakes up. SHE WAKES UP because the first half hour of the film was a DREAM. Does this feel like some sort of cheat? Does this crap on your neck? If you're trying to invest yourself in Halloween II, then yes...yes, it does. It's not so much that it's a dream sequence, it's that it feels more like a do-over, as if Zombie got 2 weeks into filming, didn't like the way it was going, and decided to have Laurie wake up screaming in bed rather than try to write himself out of the corner he wrote himself into.

But yes, it's a fucking dream and actually it's two years, not two minutes, past the events of Halloween. Laurie lives with fellow survivor Annie Brackett (Danielle Harris) and her dad, Sheriff (Brad Dourif). Yes, that is his name (no it's not). Annie and Laurie deal with their mental and physical scars very differently: Annie is quieter than she used to be and sticks close to home, while Laurie is sullen, unwashed-looking, and all ten kinds of sweary. She visits a psychiatrist (Margot fucking Kidder) and downs pills in mass quantities to cope with her anxiety and those pesky half-hour dreams that alienate audiences. Laurie eventually reveals that she's come to resent Annie, that seeing her daily means Laurie can't ever forget about her trauma. I think this is actually an interesting development, and that Laurie's PTSD is worth examining; in the end, it amounts to little more than a few yelling matches. After all, who wants to delve into Laurie Strode when you can delve into Michael Myers? That sounds hot, by the way.

Yes, Michael really did survive getting shot in the face. Where has he been for two years? We don't know. His body disappeared from the crime scene (I guess) and he's been living off the grid à la baghead Jason Voorhees (I guess). Myers has gone all mountain man, growing an indigent crazy-style Bigfoot beard. He spends most of the film walking to Haddonfield in search of Laurie, killing strippers and other Characters in a Rob Zombie Film along the way, rendering Halloween II into Cold Mountain II: The Knife-ening. As he walks, he has visions of a white-wigged mom telling him that he needs to kill kill kill so they can all be a family again- you know, just like she did when she was alive.

Time out: Aarrrrrgh I wish all the stupid metaphor bullshit wasn't in the film. It doesn't work. It doesn't work (and if you listened to Episode 2 of The Scare-ening, you know that it wasn't always in the script). I try not not think about it, because it hurts me in my brain place. While it was happening, my body rejected it like a bad organ transplant! I tuned it out and went to my happy place, the place with the hookers and the cake. I dreamed a dream of a metaphor-less Halloween II, where Laurie and Annie and the others lived up to that glimmer of hope in a throwaway line, where Michael was scary and unknown and he was The Boogeyman. It was a nice dream. I liked it.

Time in: Remember Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell)? He's here, too! He's turned into a total money- and fame-grabbing douchebag, capitalizing on the horrors perpetrated by his old patient Michael Myers. He also serves as the voice of Rob Zombie, particularly when he says things like "Did you just mention 'journalists', 'cool', and 'positive' all in the same sentence? Without throwing up? That's an oxymoron." Touché, Mr. Zombie! Way to show people who criticize your work. Much better than, oh, simply ignoring it all, or perhaps ruminating on the fact that sometimes they're right. High road shmigh road, I always say!

Once Laurie reads a copy of Loomis's explosive tell-all, she's understandably dismayed to learn that she's Michael's long-lost sister. She decides to go nuts and booze it up with some new friends at the town's Halloween party, a rather massive affair that gleefully ignores the series of murders that took place the same night two years prior. As Laurie parties it up, ol' stick-in-the-mud Annie stays home. Michael kills the police officer that Sheriff Dad posted outside the house. He gets inside...and I'm not gonna lie: I thought the entire sequence was really well done. To Annie's horror, Michael is suddenly there, looming in the doorway behind her.

Zombie makes an effective use of slow-mo, and then wisely cuts to black before the violence starts. We hear it all, and that's enough- later, when Laurie comes home and finds Annie dying on the floor, the blood and destruction everywhere tells us everything we need to know. I was surprised to find myself a bit upset that Annie died- yes, I actually cared the tiniest bit about the character. I know, right? Weird. Much of this owes to Danielle Harris and Brad Dourif working a bit of magic with the very little they were given. Annie's death is the best sequence in the film- and I don't mean it's the best of the worst...I mean it's actually good.

Unfortunately, then it's back to Happy Myers Family Fuckery as mom urges Michael to kill Laurie so they can all be together. I guess she expects Michael to kill himself afterward to complete the plan...? It doesn't make much sense.

Michael takes Laurie to some abandoned cabin place, and the cops and Loomis (who totally had, like, a change of heart) show up to put a stop to it. They do so as Michael is shot down in one of those blazes of glory Rob Zombie seems to enjoy so much. Unfortunately for the whole wide world, Laurie has also fallen under the crazy spell of Ghost Mom! She's a bona fide Loomis-killing, dirty-haired Myers nutso. She ends up in a metaphorical hospital room...err, corridor, where she spies Ghost Mom and a white horse. I don't know what it means, so don't ask!

What a mess. Halloween II was destined to be a mess, I think, when you consider Zombie's claims that he told all the story he needed to tell in Halloween and he didn't plan for a sequel. The finished product feels like he made it up as he went along, with its numerous disjointed scenes that lead nowhere and that damn metaphor. The Director's Cut, which is the version I watched, clocks in at a whopping 2 hours- and the DVD includes 23 deleted/alternate scenes. Twenty-three! Doesn't anyone tell Zombie when ideas don't work, when they should be excised? When they shouldn't be shot? I don't think so- and that's exactly what he needs, if only to stop the colossal waste of money. More imporantly, the ideas that do work need to be developed rather than glossed-over or buried. And please please please, no more Characters in a Rob Zombie Movie.

I said earlier that Zombie gives good violence, but I suppose I should add a...when you can see it to that. Too often I couldn't tell what was going on because...well, because:

Can you tell what's going on there? Hint: someone's getting killed. See, there's shadow and atmosphere, and then there's plain ol' bad lighting. Halloween II is almost exclusively the latter. Atmosphere, in fact, is sorely lacking. The movie just isn't scary, which is a shame. Michael Myers is one of horror's greatest characters, and when given the proper treatment he's still absolutely terrifying. There are more chills in the end credits' use of a modified version of John Carpenter's original Halloween score than there are in the rest of Halloween II, a sad reminder of what was and what isn't.

Sorry if that doesn't make sense. I may have made it through Halloween II, but it wasn't an easy tour of duty. I'm still a bit shell-shocked...I think this calls for some cake. And hookers!