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Sunday, August 23, 2009

CD Review: Halloween II: A Rob Zombie Film Original Soundtrack

Halloween II: A Rob Zombie Film Original Soundtrack
2009 Universal Music Company
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

A tale of a pair of Halloween II movie soundtracks...

As Hollywood and Rob Zombie by association veritably reinvents the entire horror noir of the past 25-30 years, which has already been done by the greats of the genre such as Carpenter, Romero, Coscarelli, Fucli, Gordon, Hooper, Deodato, Craven, Garris and many others, the question becomes whether or not its newer breed of directors want to tributize or actually rub out the past. The truth of the matter is, today's generation is jealous it wasn't alive or at least far too young when the classics were made, thus green envy becomes outright hijacking.

Zombie's remake of John Carpenter's halcyon Halloween was embraced by some, panned by others. One thing's for sure; Rob Zombie's Halloween is and isn't your daddy's film. Zombie took his favorite scenes from the original source, re-arranged them with an entirely new back story to the famed "Shape," aka Michael Myers and littered his characters and script with more baldfaced and forced profanity than 12-year-old boys in the back of school trying to prove their filthy vernacular prowess. It was to the point you could hardly sympathize with Zombie's Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) because she was as much a potty-mouth as her modern-imbued "Linda" and "Annie." The latter lass also got topless in Zombie's Halloween, which is highly uncomfortable if you're aware Danielle Harris happened to play Michael Myers' waif-like niece in Halloween 4 and 5. This writer enjoys a good boobie scene as much as any other oversexed male, but oy, the discomfort...

Rob Zombie reportedly passed on the opportunity to direct the inevitable sequel of his remake due to exhaustion from the film along with his concert touring duties and El Superbeasto voiceover action which followed subsequently. Malek Akkad, picking up the reins from Mustapha Akkad, perrenial backer of Michael Myers' interminable legacy (Mustapha has said on camera he'd soon see 22 Halloween films made in his lifetime in support of statements made by the late Donald Pleasance), managed to coax Zombie back into the director's and writer's chair for the new Halloween II as Akkad's team of writers couldn't pull off a pliable script.

"Family is Forever" blares overtop the marquee poster of Rob Zombie's Halloween II, which appears to be veering far away from John Carpenter's 1981 sequel with yesteryear nods in the form of scenes in a hospital and the exposition of familial relations between Michael Myers and Laurie Strode. Preliminary reports indicate Zombie's Strode (unlike Jamie Lee Curtis' naive, virginal babysitter-turned-hellcat Laurie Strode) is going to experience a psychosis of her own. Blood is thicker than, well, blood spilled in Zombie's Halloween II as we're going to see things from Strode's point-of-view including a meltdown which we'll soon find out in theaters if it means she'll turn killer like her hulking broski, played by Tyler Mane--who enjoys a rare opportunity to play Michael in consecutive films.

So where does that leave us with the soundtrack to Zombie's Halloween II? One would hope it intended to mimic not the watermark spook notes of John Carpenter and Alan Howarth's terrifying synth score from '81 (albeit reworked from the first film), but at least the dark grace and creepy electro pulse giving it an alarming cadence and still standing as one for the ages.

Save for the unnerving coldwave hellscape of "Nurse Killa" by Tyler Bates, this Halloween II soundtrack is almost Quentin Tarantino-graced in its slick nuttiness. Rob Zombie's selections are hardly metal, save for the cool inclusion of Motorhead's "The Chase is Better Than the Catch" from Another Perfect Day. Thumbs-up to Zombie for picking a cut from one of Motorhead's lesser-heralded but arguably finest albums.

Largely Halloween II is a trip down the time warp as Rob Zombie pulls out the soft seventies soap of 10CC's "The Things We Do For Love" and the ambient fugue masterpiece "Nights in White Satin" from The Moody Blues. You can picture where Zombie might fit these pieces with snaggletoothed bravado if you'll recall his masterful touch of setting his explosive ending of The Devil's Rejects to the tune of Lynard Skynard's "Freebird."

Where Halloween II really confuses in a gleeful way is Zombie's punctuated picks of the MC5's brackish live classic "Kick Out the Jams" (which ought to ring fantastically in a horror flick) and Void's nerve-slitting "Time to Die." Few people forget that Rod Stewart used to rock back in the seventies before he turned adult contemporary, but not Rob Zombie. His use of Stewart's banging rendition of The Temptations' "(I Know) I'm Losing You" is spot-on, particularly the chugging beat jam and the cataclysmic wah-fest after Stewart turns his band free. Very smart use of a hell of a good cover tune and the chaotic implications you can envision pounding on the screen behind the shoulders of Michael, Laurie or even a frustrated Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell, the only logical successor to Pleasance).

The in-between skits and banter fused into the soundtrack indicates Zombie is going for another cuss-fest in Halloween II, and honestly, there's something disturbing about hearing sex moans and breathy "he's...fucking...dead..." on the opening segment. Likewise, the oafish "fucked by Frankenstein's monster" gibberish on "Ass Good" is simply whatever.

On the other hand, we get some ska punk from the Amerarockers with "Screams," some classic whitey funk with Foghat on "I Just Want to Make Love to You" and some very kickin' psychobilly from the fictitious Captain Clegg and the Night Creatures (created for the film and due for their own full-length album soon) with "Transylvania Terror Train" and "Honky Tonk Halloween."

What all of this says is Rob Zombie has appreciably diverse tastes in music. Even letting his current guitarist John 5 whip up a silky synth score "Laurie's Theme" which is nothing in accord to Carpenter/Howarth pinpoints a sharp musical mind who no doubt thought like the rest of us horror and rock dweebs did with Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper" whispering behind Jamie Lee Curtis and Nancy Loomis in Carpenter's Halloween: incredibly poignant and subtly unnerving. Also having an ethereal and shadowy cover of Nazareth's "Love Hurts" by Nan Vernon cements the deal on a very exciting come-together of apposite music to a film which might get down 'n dirty in a psychosexual manner as indicated by these tracks.

Then again, Zombie's fooled us before...

Rating: ***1/2


Anonymous said...

You really thought Howarth's score to Halloween II in 1981 was terrifying? I thought it was one of the more terrible sequel scores in film music history. It sounded more like an Atari videogame than a horror film. I know this is a minor detail in your review, which overall was an entertaining read. I just thought it was funny that you used "terrifying" to describe Howarth's work. :)

Anonymous said...

The 1981 score is excellent.
I dont hold up much hope for the movie and I wont bother with this soundtrack either.
The actual score is something I would be interested in as Tyler Bates is usually reliable.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Actually, Carpeneter/Howarth's score would've been considered hi-tech for the Atari 2600! :) I am 39, thus when the original Halloween II came out, I was 11 and just learning the more brutal horror films after starting with Universal and the 50s B horror stuff, so the Carpenter/Howarth score was indeed terrifying in its day and for the times, which were nowhere near as desensitized as today's public which has seen it all.

2nd anon, I'll remain skeptical on this film and give it a fair shake though I was very annoyed by the first remake. At least Zombie was very impressive with Devil's Rejects.

Anonymous said...

I'm only 4 years your junior, and although the MOVIE was frightening, I still feel the music lacked.

Seriously, what did it offer that the original score did not? The first score was better produced and did NOT sound like it was recorded on a Casio keyboard. It seemed like as the series advanced (until Howarth took over completely and revamped the score in Halloween 4) that the scores became cheaper and cheaper sounding.

I spent the past day revisiting every score in the franchise, including the brand new one, and I'm still sticking to my guns with the poor presentation of the music to Halloween II (1981). All it was, was a rehash (note: re-recording) of the original score with less-expensive equipment. Whenever I hear the music from Halloween II, it just makes me want to put on the original Halloween, which I don't think is the correct purpose of a soundtrack. I shouldn't WANT to listen to something else. I should enjoy what is presented to me herein.

I'm not trying to detract from your initial opinion, but taken in context with the entire Halloween canon, Carpenter/Howarth's music for Halloween II was laughable at best I would have thought they might have taken a cue from Manfredini (who also took a minimalist approach with Friday the 13th and did great work with it) and engaged the competition by working just a little bit harder with the music.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

That's cool, my friend, and I appreciate your well-spoken argument... I too would prefer the original Halloween score to the second film, albeit the second one really creeped me out back then and it's a nostalgic thing, I suppose, which endears me to it.

Interesting you bring up Manfredini, whom I really love and especially love his opening theme to F13th 2. His post-Bernard Hermann approach may be Psycho-inspired, but his scoring is imprinted on our generation like seldom few others are. I laughed my ass off, however, when I watched Swamp Thing last week (ugh, dreadful movie) and heard so much of F13th 4-7 in that score...I'm convinced Manfredini hijacked some of those sections for the Friday sequels since nobody gave a crap about Swampy back then other than comic hounds.

I digress...

Anonymous said...

Ahh, Swamp you're taking me back. Yeah, Manfredini really ripped himself off with that one.

Anonymous said...

Contrary to his carefully crafted public persona, Rob Zombie is a petulant little girl who screams at his crews who wears lifts in his shoes and brags about how rich he is. He fires anyone who questions his soulless and empty ideas or anyone who might demolish his claim that he knows everything and is everything. Anything that might be creative about his films is due to the crews who work on his films. The fact that each film has a new crew is testament to how distasteful he is to the people who work for him. This is from someone who knows.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Anon 1, yeah, I laughed hard during Swampy when I remembered a lot of those slivers from the Friday flicks...shameful, but funny stuff.

Anon 2, thanks for your insight. I cannot vouch for Zombie's character other than he was very to-the-point in my interview with him a couple years ago, which I was grateful to get. My three experiences working on film crews have been thus far very pleasant, even to the point I was allowed to film a couple scenes and even had one of my suggestions taken into consideration. Those cats are not Zombie's plateau, but everyone's heads were in check and always keeping things fun. Your comments are definitely food for thought.

Anonymous said...

The music for Halloween 2(1981)was better than the original(1978).

Halloween 2 was a better movie than the original IMO....

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