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“Halloween II”: Confronting Trauma Within Unsympathetic Characters

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I finished off my review of Zombie’s first Halloween stating that I probably wouldn’t be able to rewatch the sequel.

I did, but it wasn’t easy.

Just like the first, the film is about the same themes. A continuation of them; pretty much accompanying the previous as if they were one whole movie that just so happen to be visually different.

I paralleled Zombie’s version of the Michael Myers story with my own. An almost autobiographical understanding of a certain culture that society dismisses, or outright refuse to acknowledge. Myers was a product of this stigmatization, and of the lifestyle itself and what psychological effects they can play on the mind of a naïve child (in the first film, after Myers has committed his first serial killings as a child, he sits with his psychologist discussing one of his many evaluations with a cup of orange juice in front of him).

I also brought up the aspect of “good people” being stuck in this lifestyle. Michael’s own mother was one of them, and his Oedipal complex with her was a defining trait in the construction of him as a killer (“your hair looks pretty when it’s curly”; the stroke of his sister’s leg before her murder; his contempt for objectified women and men who objectify them – does it equate self-projection?).

In Halloween II, there are more examples of broken, psychologically damaged people still trapped in this environment. There are still, however, people who are good at heart. People who haven’t succumbed to something in any severity – especially in the “abyss” of Michael Myers’ own self-deterioration into a “monster”.

To emphasize the “cycle” of these traumatic events, Zombie based the returning characters in Halloween II on this very principle. These people suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. They suffer from survivor’s guilt. Some have further exploited the tragedy and some of them still feel deeply from their experiences. What’s important to note, though, is that this isn’t a random concept introduced for the sequel. Again, it’s a continuation, with Myers’ own trauma being expressed with contrast to the others.

Halloween II

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In the first Halloween, Zombie makes note of this “cycle” in the second half – staging the murder of two of his victims to be shot and edited (and scored by Blue Oyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”) similarly to the murder he committed on his sister and her boyfriend fifteen years prior (making the placement of the “Myers” gravestone emotionally dense). It’s fitting, then, that Michael himself is seen desecrating his childhood home in the climax: a symbol that he’s never going to be able to erase this trauma through any act of violence, no matter how enraged he is, and how hard he tries. But that’s also why he’s an unstoppable force. His actions are primal, and no solution is ever going to fix his trauma.

“Gazing at people, Some hand in hand; Just what I’m going through? They can’t understand. Some try to tell me, Thoughts they cannot defend; Just what you want to be, You will be in the end.”

The Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin” plays during a moment in the opening twenty minutes of Halloween II– a sequence that is the only piece of remake from the 1981 original.

As usual with Zombie, the director has an impeccable knack for meshing music and visuals together. The lyrics are a bit enigmatic, not unlike the surrealist style of Zombie’s film itself. But it’s crucial when realizing his cyclical placement of Michael Myers (and now, Laurie Strode) as figures incapable of escaping their trauma. In one of the song's recurring verses, it says “never reaching an end”. And it says it more than once.

In fact, the Moody Blues song plays out like a repetitive denouement of historical pain – with its repetitive chorus of “I love you” meshed with the reverb-heavy chorus of hellish screams playing in the background of said chorus.

Which is almost entirely the idea of Halloween II. It’s a meshing of reality and dreamlike hallucination. It doesn’t just stay with the character of Laurie as she battles her PTSD and survivor’s guilt (and further learning of her own history), but Zombie himself allows the film around her and Michael to set itself loose on that kind of scattered mental state.

Halloween II

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Just as Zombie did with his The Lords of Salem a couple of years later, he shows the way art connects to our subconscious. Just like the lead character – a relapsing drug addict – brings Georges Méliès into her dream world, the meshing of reality and hallucination has incredible use of these – the “Nights in White Satin” touch not being the only moment of this. He also has classic films playing in the background – the most hallucinatory one being 1925’s The Phantom of the Opera being projected onto the side of a barn at a Halloween party full of people dressed in horror iconography. Laurie’s depression causes her to embrace “dark art” – which finds itself in her visions as upside down crucifixes and “ghosts” posing like Baphomet.

But Laurie isn’t the only survivor of the first suffering – even though her mental instability is the one Zombie decides to visually present in surrealistic montages and moments absent of logical reality (like shared visions).

There’s the parent of a survivor, that survivor herself, and then there’s Dr. Loomis returning to further cash-in on the bloody family history of the Myers’ without any remorse following the characters in the first film pointing out he’s profiting off of “blood money”.

They all act out in varied ways, but they’re all reacting messily to a messy history.

“Good people stuck in this cyclical lifestyle.”

It’s all there. Repetition after repetition.

Good people whose environment failed them – committed by a psychopath that was created by that very environment before them. And Zombie doesn’t just use that characteristically, but through his presentation of sequences, too.

A pinnacle murder sequence has the same off-screen form as the first film, but is edited in such a way to fracture the situation (shown out of chronological order with the discovery of her mutilated body) – but this time, the resolution is different; and it causes for a retrospection on what death actually means in the slasher film. Zombie’s Halloween films aren’t interested in sensational violence…

It’s brutal...

It’s built out of a psychological rage…

It’s loud.

And just as Zombie has done throughout his entire filmography, he presents home video footage that shows – just again – how history and the events within the trajectory of our lives can haunt us - and create who we are.

In the case of a character like the one we lost here... a product of environment – suffering for the histories of others.

No way out.

Repetition – like the skipping vinyl needle heard on the soundtrack before the film fades away from her slaughter.

 

 

Treading away even further from character repetition, I turn your eye to the first murder that young Michael Myers commits in the beginning of the first film. While bashing his bully to death with a thick branch, Zombie cuts to trees above the murder – showing the isolation from help this victim has, and the spinning brutality and pain inflicted on him by his killer. How we know that Zombie doesn’t want you to applaud this killing – no matter how much an asshole this kid was? He doesn’t let us see a lot of the gushing of gore – instead focusing in close-up onto the victim’s tortured face – and letting the panning camera show the trees (in broad daylight) to emphasize life lost, rather than a movie character lost.

Why do I bring this up?

Around the end of Halloween II, after a surrealistic sequence involving a car accident – Zombie has the horn of car blaring continuously, and he once again pans around to the trees. Bringing Zombie’s killing spree all the way back to its original state – and showing further that he doesn’t want to kill Laurie out of rage, but as some sort of tormented peacekeeping. A retraction. It’s what he’s wanted – and, most of all, gives depth to Myers’ own obsession with Halloween night – his wanting to repeat it over and over.

His wanting to turn the clock back.

His wanting to relieve the trauma through the brutal killing he projects onto others for nearly two decades.

What’s even more painful, is that he’s doing this out of the only love he ever knew, and lost. Not just “Nights in White Satin” with its chorus, but the recycling of “Love Hurts”; used as the final song for this tragedy after playing in the first film as an exploitive background track to the Myers’ mother being objectified at the stripclub – of which Michael returns to here, and sees “Home of the Michael Myers’ Mother”, and inflicts his violence onto everyone there by smashing their faces into mirrors to completely erase their own identities; objectifying them through his monstrous rage.

Halloween II

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To further show a more “meta” infrastructure to Zombie’s theme of repetition – it calls to mind the fact that he is, with these films themselves, repeated films – via “remake” or “reboot” projects. So the films themselves (even though, it only remains half of each of them) act as repeats of their formers, but are constructed in a way to which that is the main theme of Michael Myers, Laurie Strode, and other supporting characters as victims to their class status and their inability to find peace with their trauma.

This is why the film connects with me on an autobiographical level. It’s a film that doesn’t apologize for being a painful experience. It doesn’t have any sympathy with the viewer feeling safe. If Halloween was a film about a stigmatized society creating a flesh and blood monster – then Halloween II is a further exploration that many more monsters can be created out of perfectly good, but psycho-sociologically trapped, people.

An unstoppable cycle.

An incapability to separate love from trauma.

“Love hurts, Love scars, Love wounds and marks; Any heart not tough or strong enough, To take a lot of pain, take a lot of pain. Love is like a cloud, It holds a lot of rain. Love hurts. Ooo, love hurts.”

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