That may seem like a cheap shot. It's not meant to be. I phrased it as a shocking statement because Zombie's movies have a pretty bad reputation, even among the horror community. As someone who has liked every Rob Zombie movie in varying degrees, I've seen a number of his actors give good performances. He's the guy responsible for bringing Sid Haig back into the popular culture. Bill Mosely has never been better than he is in The Devil's Rejects. Even Zombie's own wife Sherri Moon Zombie shows tremendous growth by the time she had to carry last year's The Lords of Salem. He tends to stunt cast a lot his roles with genre icons and actors who engender good will because of our affection for their previous work, but none of these actors lazily trade in on our nostalgia. Everyone gives it his or her all.
Tobe Hooper's Spontaneous Combustion, the Stephen King adaptation Graveyard Shift, Body Parts, The Exorcist III, Grim Prairie Tales, Critters 4, Alien Resurrection, Urban Legend...the list goes on. He's a guy with bona fides, and when Zombie cast him as the (largely ineffectual) Sheriff Brackett it seemed like just another example of the director filling every part with a familiar face. He's fine in the movie, but is mostly on hand because Rob Zombie wanted Brad Dourif in his movie and not because the role is particularly demanding.
All of that changed with Halloween II, Zombie's follow-up to his remake that is not a remake of the 1981 Halloween II directed by Rick Rosenthal (save for an extended opening set in a hospital). The sequel is very much free to be its own thing, and Zombie writes and directs a movie that's as much a heavy emotional drama as it is a brutal slasher film. Halloween II is about people who are physically and psychically destroyed by the events of the first movie, whether it's Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor Compton) dealing with survivor's guilt or her best friend Annie (Danielle Harris, also never better), whose attack at the hands of Michael Myers has left her scarred in every possible way. She has retreated into the safety of her home, never going out, no longer getting along with her surrogate sister Laurie.
Late in the film, Dourif has a scene with Malcolm McDowell's Dr. Loomis (who is still the weakest thing in the movie, having been turned into a cynical publicity whore getting rich off the Haddonfield murders), who he blames for Michael Myers' return. Brackett is furious to the point of wanting to either punch or shoot Loomis, but Dourif doesn't just play the anger -- what he plays is grief. We have seen so many horror movies in which characters discover the dead bodies of friends or loved ones and react only with shock and fear that we forget how few of them actually deal with loss. Dourif has picked up on that and informs Brackett with such a palpable sense of grief that it actually hurts to watch him in those late scenes. He's so good.