Directing from someone else's script might be a good step - or at least to work with a co-writer who could shape his ideas, spot for obvious gaffes, and work on consistent characterizations. Take Zombie's handling of Annie (Danielle Harris) in Halloween II, for instance. Here's a character that survived an attack by a homicidal behemoth - a homicidal behemoth who is believed to be dead but technically is still at large. Given this, does her father take preventive action and move out of town? No, he and Annie stay put. Ok, that's fine. Dumb, but fine. But to have Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif) feel as though Annie might be in some kind of danger again - Michael Myers-type danger - and just send one dipshit cop to watch over her? That's ridiculous. Why wouldn't this character err on the side of caution and send half the force to his house? Or why not go himself? Better yet, why not bring Annie to the station and keep her under real protection? Zombie could still have Michael get to Annie eventually, but just not make it so easy in a way that makes these characters seem foolish and unbelievable.
If nothing else, you would think that as a lawman, Brackett would keep a firearm or two in his house and that he'd make sure that Annie and Laurie knew how to use them in case any kind of attack - either by Michael Myers or from anyone else - were to go down again. Annie is short of five feet - you'd think that Brackett would make damn sure this tiny girl would have a chance to defend herself against a bigger, stronger adversary. If Michael came after Annie alone again, why not have her be ready to fight back and not just whimper, scream, and run? It does a disservice to the character and it defies all logic as well. Zombie has a habit, though, of portraying his villains (or more likely what he sees as his film's heroes) as all-powerful and their victims to be incapable of scoring any kind of win against them and his treatment of Annie is indicative of that.
I suspect that Zombie doesn't want to give any credence to any characters in his films other than to his monsters and anti-social deviants for fear of appearing as though he might have some allegiance to the everyday, normal world. Throughout his filmography, Zombie has seemed almost pathologically afraid of showing any kind of empathy or understanding of everyday life. A lot of what good horror is about, however, is showing the invasion of chaos into order. But as Zombie has no patience for order, when chaos enters his character's universe it's hard to notice or care. Halloween II is the most extreme example of this so far, in that every character is damaged goods - or at least Zombie wants them to look that way. The two residences that we see in the film - Brackett's house and the apartment of Laurie's work buddies - are art-directed to look as inviting as a serial killer's lair (Laurie even has a poster of Charles Manson over her bed).
I know that Zombie wants us to see that Laurie, Annie, and Brackett have been changed by the experience of the last Halloween but if you look at the actual survivors of violent crimes, often times you see people who became stronger by their traumatic experience, not weaker. It's a cliche to say that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger but it is often true. There's the famous case of the Central Park Jogger, who was beaten, raped, and left for dead in an 1989 attack. This woman struggled with her recovery - both physically and emotionally - but has gone on to became a motivational speaker for victims of violent crime. In Zombie's case, I think in revisiting his Halloween characters, it was easier for him to take the route of saying "Great, now I have an excuse to make my characters fucked-up! I can do 'fucked-up' in my sleep!" And in doing that, I think Zombie reveals his insecurities and limitations as an artist.
If Zombie were ever to remake The Exorcist, I imagine that he'd make Regan into a tattooed, pierced goth chick before she ever got possessed because otherwise he wouldn't be able to 'relate' to her. Or that he'd begrudgingly make her normal but be happy when he could finally get to the possession because only then would she become 'interesting.' Zombie's films aren't the work of someone exorcising their inner demons, they're the work of someone not wanting to suffer any damage to their street cred - and that to me is the sign of someone who's transparently afraid of showing weakness in front of his crowd. These movies are not the work of an outlaw, but rather the work of someone who doesn't want to get caught shopping at JC Penny. Zombie's brand of bad-ass is a cosmetic affectation more than a deeply felt personal statement and that's why his movies don't have any real bite to them.
It's like a college chick who works at Target with a dyed-black mohawk, eybrow ring and tattoo sleeve. She's making a statement but that statement is "I need everyone to know I'm different. Really different. And edgy, too." And what I'm saying is "That may be true but you'd better off trying to surprise people instead. And by the way, don't put the kitty litter on top of my powered donuts."
Click over to Shock Till You Drop for my Halloween II review.