Thursday, October 27, 2011

REVIEW: Halloween 2

Halloween 2
Director: Rick Rosenthal
Year 1981

Halloween 2 is an exceptionally faithful sequel to the John Carpenter directed classic, starting off mere seconds after the events of the first film. As Laurie Strode is taken to the hospital to be treated for the traumas she endured in the first movie, Dr. Loomis and Sheriff Brackett search the neighborhood for the death defying Michael Myers. After being shot SIX TIMES, miraculously Myers escapes the crime scene, aiming to finish the job and track down Laurie by any means necessary.

The film starts out in such an amazing and almost calming way, with long and extended takes of Myers passing through the neighborhood as police sirens wail and cop cars begin searching up and down every nook and cranny of the quiet little town of Haddonfield. It's a perfect reflection of the slow pacing of the first film, mimicking the patient build up that got the classic set in motion, but then violently everything comes to an abrupt moment of sheer chaos when Loomis thinks he spots the famed killer and begins to chase the fiend across an already chaotic scene of scared suburbanites. What follows is one of the most masterfully accomplished surprises in sequel history, making me feel quite sad for the poor kid who decided to wear a jump suit and faded William Shatner mask for his Halloween costume. Damn that is one hell of a way to go!

....And after a thorough examination.....

Yep.... Yep..... This fucker's dead!

Damn! This startling scene sets in motion the tone of this sequel, while basically summarizing the entire notion of the first film, and that is that no one is safe on Halloween when Michael Myers is set loose upon the world, specifically Haddonfield. With all the pandemonium from the first film spilling over into the second, we get one of the first kills being that of an innocent trick-r-treater. The crazy thing is that it's not by the hands of Michael Myers, but from the paranoid actions of Dr. Loomis. What a hell of a set up.

After that explosive scene, we are then shown where the remainder of the film will be located and that is at the local hospital where Laurie Strode has been taken. Much like the residential streets of the first film, The hospital hallways serve as a hunting ground for Michael Myers. Each room of the hospital almost represents the houses that lined the streets in the first movie, inhabited by a whole new group of young and unexpecting victims. Strangely enough, the atmosphere of the hospital mirrors the empty streets of the first Halloween perfectly, giving off that unsettling feeling of solitude. The decision to correlate the two individual locales was just plain brilliant, keeping the simple aesthetics of the first film intact while giving the audience a familiar setup, but with a totally different location for the mayhem to take place in.

You need a snuggle buddy?

Michael you little pervert.

Another great decision on the filmmakers parts, was keeping the intensity of Donald Pleasence's character, Dr. Loomis, intact. By instilling an almost rabid sense of urgency within his character's mind set, he basically aids the hysteria of the moment, causing more of a problem for the already overworked and stressed Sheriff Brackett. In the first film, Loomis spent a great deal of effort in trying to convince the Sheriff that his quiet little town was in serious danger. After experiencing the horrible events first hand, we would naturally expect Sheriff Brackett to now listen to whatever Dr. Loomis says and follow him without question, but because of Loomis' wreck-less abandon in pursuing his white whale, Michael Myers, he's become an almost equal threat to the town's safety.

All of this is made all the clearer after his accidental accusation of the Michael Myers dressed trick-r-treater that led to that innocent kid's explosive death. This in effect allowed the same head butting that occurred between the two saviors of the town in the first film to continue into the sequel. If it wasn't for that pinnacle event, there would most likely be a more peaceful existence between the two as they hunted for their same goal, the capturing of Michael Myers. Instead, that event skewed the characters into two opposing factions. One that wanted to capture Myers, but within reason and without endangering the lives of any more people, against the other faction who wanted nothing more in the world to end Michael Myers even if a few lives were snuffed out in the mix of things.

The duality of the situation and the dichotomy of their group of avengers was brilliantly accomplished with that specific chain of events and made for a better story in my opinion. When I saw the film for the first time, I came away from that scene thinking that it was brutal as all hell, but in retrospect I now can see the ripple effect that changed the rest of the film into something much more substantial. Great stuff.

Did I remember to turn the stove off? I turned it off SIX TIMES!

Jimmy, what a numbskull.

It also seems like the violence and graphic nature of the film was also cranked up a bit compared to its predecessor. Usually that's the case when a film as classic as Halloween is assigned a sequel. In general, the director and producers feel the need to out-due the previous iteration, but luckily the bar was only raised slightly as not to eclipse itself too far from the world that John Carpenter had created in the first film. We get a subtle addition of bloody kills and nudity, but nothing so shocking to make us think that we've stumbled into a gore encrusted Friday the 13th entry.

The decision to step up the violence a bit more, but keep it at a moderate level, was a rational adjustment. We often forget, after viewing so many slashers that have come into existence since the first entry in the Halloween series, that the actual first film wasn't very bloody at all. That concept I mentioned earlier about upping the ante, was some of the main thinking forces behind Halloween's competitors. By slasher standards, Halloween has always been a series that lent its success more to the atmosphere that it created rather then the amount of blood splashed across the screen. Halloween 2, catering to this tradition, keeps the bloodletting to a moderate amount while flirting with that concept of the more gore, the merrier.

Good job nurse. Time to give you a raise.

Jamie Lee Curtis snuck into the Suspiria set. You little sneak.

As mentioned previously, the main core of the cast reprise their roles with Donald Pleasence playing Dr. Loomis, Charles Cyphers playing Sheriff Brackett, and of course Jamie Lee Curtis playing Laurie Strode. In the sense of Curtis' screen time, she doesn't really factor into the equation until the later half of the film, but when she does it's a tension filled game of cat and mouse played within the confines of a maze like series of hospital hallways and endless corridors. Her timid portrayal in the first film is nothing compared to her traumatized depiction of the now battered and beaten Laurie Strode. Weary from a night full of surviving the constant attacks from her estranged brother, the Laurie in this film is that of a drugged lunatic, fighting on instinct. The weight of the night's battle is quite evident and Curtis does a tremendous job in making the viewer feel her pain.

On the other side of the coin, both Pleasence and Cyphers do a great job in continuing their already established character's motives, with Cyphers bowing out earlier then Pleasence, but not without leaving a few lasting impressions. Pleasence's Dr. Loomis has a great deal more to do in this film, yet his actions mirror his movements from the first film by having him follow in the footsteps of the famed killer. The detective work that leads him to the hospital and the obstacles that he must overcome in order to make it there in time to save Laurie, is entertaining to see play out. Dr. Loomis the law breaker, who would have thought. All in all, the cast is stupendous, including the fresh meat that Michael Myers gets to slice into and choke the life out of. The film is just a perfect continuation of an already perfect horror film.

How do you like your Michael Myers? Medium or well done?

So long Jamie Lee Curtis. See you in twenty years.

Halloween 2 is a sequel that matches the intense atmosphere of the original, while upping the ante in a number of areas. The kills are a little bit bloodier and the nudity is a little bit... nudier, but the director and crew never forget that blood, gore, and nudity, were never an emphasized thing in the first Halloween. It was the atmosphere of the holiday of Halloween and the silent moments of Michael Myers stalking his prey that really made an impression on the audience, myself included.

In this entry, they've kept the things that work and made a comprehensive continuation of the first film that seamlessly begins where the first film leaves off. If you loved the original Halloween, then it's highly likely that you'll dig the second one. Hey, it's four more days until Halloween so get to watching!

5 out of 5 stars        One Hell of a Sequel to a Classic Slasher Film.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

IMAGES: What's On?

Highschool of the Dead (2010)

That Man in Istanbul (1965)

Halloween 2 (1981)

Ikarie XB 1 (1963)

Mr. Nobody (2009)

Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (1982)

The Day the Sky Exploded (1958)

Mr. Nobody (2009)

Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (1982)

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

REVIEW: Halloween

Director: John Carpenter
Year 1978

Halloween is a masterpiece of the slasher genre and of horror cinema in general. Directed by horror legend John Carpenter, the film exudes the atmosphere of the season of Halloween and introduces us to one of the most iconic killers in the history of film, Michael Myers. The story is classic, following the bloody homecoming of a silent maniac on Halloween. The film has a style and atmosphere all of its own, provided by the excellent direction of Carpenter and the haunting musical score that epitomizes the very feeling of All Hallows Eve. It's a classic in every sense of the word.

Cheer up little Michael. No one likes a sad clown.

This is TOTALLY an awesome film.

With its thick atmosphere and tensioned filled early half, Halloween provides a gradual introduction to the horror, which bursts onto the scene in the closing second half of the film. Much like the movie's killer, the story takes its time to build, peering in on each character's lives to better acquaint ourselves with their daily routines and interactions. The film feels very voyeuristic, often opting to see the world through Michael Myers eyes as he stalks his next victim.

The decision to give the audience the perspective of the killer and really emphasis the notion of walking in his shoes, was brilliantly conceptualized and perfectly executed by Carpenter. There is something both unsettling yet calming about being placed behind the eyes of the killer. In one aspect, we know where he is so there is no fear of being taken by surprise when he decides to quench his blood lust. On the other hand we are, in a sense, contributing to his murderous ways by sharing in this moment, yet are helpless to stop it. Carpenter almost makes us an accessory to Michael's murders, positioning us behind the eyes of the cold and calculating killer. I love the inner depth that the perspective provides and I feel that this is one of the film's most innovative aspects that not many people realize initially when viewing the movie. The simple voyeuristic premise packs a punch, much like the seasonal surroundings during Halloween time.

Just playing a little bit of peek a boo.

Mr. Pleasence, did you just fart?

There is something about the holiday of Halloween that is just nostalgically intoxicating. Be it the loaded buckets of candy, the carved pumpkins, the plethora of fright films running none stop, or the chilly moon filled nights, the day of Halloween, and building up to the night, is just a special time of the year. Capturing something as unique and individualistic as this concept within a film, not to mention reinventing it and placing yourself within the staples of the holiday, would seem to be an impossible feat, yet Carpenter has done just that.

He brought together all of the elements of Halloween, the sights, the sounds, and the senses, and wrapped a demented story around it about a disturbed young man who returns to his home to finish the bloody killing spree he started fifteen years earlier. By aligning his film with the holiday and relishing in everything the day stands for, Carpenter's movie has in the process, become a part of the very concept of Halloween. It is now tradition for many movie fans, to watch Halloween on Halloween night, and that is one hell of an accomplishment for a small low budget film that really wasn't aspiring to be anything but a well put together movie.

That Michael Myers. What a creep!

Let me take a stab at it.

What elevates the film for me and really captures that perfect sense of Halloween spirit, would have to be Carpenter's outstanding soundtrack. There is such a vivid sense to the music and an awe-inspiring sensibility that captures the beating heart of both the genre and the holiday to perfection. Much like the entire catalog of Carpenter's original scores, there is a quality to his musical work that paints a picture all in itself. None do this more succinctly and eloquently then his Halloween compositions. When those melodies kick in, you're instantly transported to that strangely empty neighborhood on Lampkin Lane, being silently stalked by a mysteriously silhouetted and masked figure.

What's great about these individual themes that Carpenter has crafted for the film, is that they can be played without the accompaniment of the actual visuals of the movie and you still get that distinct image of Laurie Strode being watched by the pale faced Michael Myers. There's even moments in some of the compositions that you can almost hear the sound of dry leaves being tossed around by the cool October breeze. Either that our I'm just going crazy, but there is just something about the overall sound of Carpenter's musical work on this film. It sets you right in the middle of the holiday, forcing you to look over your shoulder for that masked man hiding behind that row of hedges down the street.

Michael you big goof.

The Boogeyman is going to get you Laurie.

 Aside from Carpenter's wonderful contributions to the film, let's not forget the amazing efforts put in by the entire cast of the movie. Jamie Lee Curtis as the vulnerable, but capable Laurie Strode, is played in a very subtle tone. You feel that she could be an everyday girl, with nothing really remarkable about her. Curtis' subtle portrayal of this understated heroine, is remarkable in its simplicity and very effective in keeping the film fixed in reality. Donald Pleasence also brings a sense of weight and respectability to his role as Dr. Loomis. His fervent determination and intense demeanor in trying to alert the people of Haddonfield, is so genuine and earnest that you can't help being swept up in his mission to stop Michael at any and all costs.

The secondary cast is also top notch, providing another layer of believable characters. The role of Lynda, played by P. J. Soles, and the role of Annie, played by Nancy Kyes, are both believable teenage girls. Their conversations between each other and their interactions were both natural and entertaining, with both actresses showing a great deal of spunk and personality. Charles Cyphers, who plays Sheriff Leigh Brackett, also does an amazing job as the law of the land and father of Annie. I've always enjoyed the small bit parts he has played in many of Carpenter's films and he always brings something unique to his characters that help them stick out among the already stellar cast of actors.

Hell, if you really think about it, the film is just put together perfectly with everyone and everything seeming to fit naturally into place. Halloween is definitely a film that earns its cult and classic status.

I'm going to shoot you six times. SIX TIMES!

It's a little out of season for snow angels Michael.

Halloween is just a remarkable horror film that seems to hit every right note when it comes to replicating the overall atmosphere of the season of Halloween. The voyeuristic camera shots of Michael Myers stalking his victims, the remarkable original soundtrack, and the attention to the ambient detail of Halloween, all lend to the powerful presence of this movie.

Provided with the film's exceptional cast and masterful director, Halloween will go down as one of the best slasher films ever made, while setting itself up as the yearly tradition alongside trick r treating and costumed parties. With five more days left until Halloween, I'm popping this bad boy in and getting myself in the Halloween spirit. Six times! I'LL WATCH IT SIX TIMES!

5 out of 5 stars             A Holiday Slasher Masterpiece!

Sunday, October 23, 2011