Monday, October 4, 2010

Halloween (1978) / Halloween II (1981)

halloween1978.jpg picture by sikomike
Trick or treat. Bloody meat. Give me something sweet to eat. If you don't. I don't care. I'm your fucking nightmare! Oh, hello kiddies. I'm just getting ready for my film debut "Siko Mike's HALLOWSCREAM", which will premiere here at Disturbing Entertainment's own SHOCK THEATRE this month in time for All Hallow's Eve. While you wait though, Siko Mike is going to regrue the infamous "HALLOWEEN" franslice all month long. So, watch out every weekend to see what The Shape aka Michael Myers is up to in his journey of slashing in Haddonfield.  And yes Mr. Brackett, everyone's entitled to at least one good scare. I give you, John Carpenter's frightening horror classic "HALLOWEEN".
 On Halloween night in 1963, Judith Myers was stabbed to death by her six year old brother Michael who was dressed as a clown (kid's got style! yippee!).  Fifteen years later on October 30th, 1978, Michael's psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis along with his nurse Marion Chambers are heading to Smith's Grove Sanitarium to pick up Michael to transfer him. When they get to Smith's Grove, all of the inmates have been released and are walking around outside. Loomis goes to open the gates, leaving Marion in the van. Michael climbs on top of the van and pulls Marion out before getting in the driver's seat and driving away.  The next day ( Halloween), teenager Laurie Strode drops off a key for her father at the old Myers house as Michael closely watches her. From that point on, Michael stalks Laurie and her best friends Annie and Lynda. That night, Laurie is babysitting Tommy Doyle and Annie is babysitting Lindsey Wallace right across the street.  Meanwhile, Dr. Loomis gets in touch with Annie's father Sheriff Brackett and the two are on the lookout for Michael Myers.  What starts as creepy stalking soon escalates to murder and one of the most famous and terrifying final fifteen minutes in horror cinema history!
  When I was a kid, I was absolutely terrified by scary movies and couldn't watch them all the way through. I remember getting nightmares and sitting there on the couch with the lights off, covering my eyes.  Hell, I couldn't even make it all the way through the intro to "Tales From The Crypt" and would run out of the room every time that show came on. What? The Cryptkeeper's laugh scared me when he popped out of the coffin in that creepy mansion! The only things remotely horror related that I could watch without getting too frightened was the Nickelodeon television show for teens on Saturday nights called "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" and the Fox show "Goosebumps" that was based off the hit horror book series for kids in the '90s. Yup, I was a '90s kid all the way dude!  Anyway, when I was like eight or nine years old, my dad brought home a movie titled "HALLOWEEN".  I have always been and still am a huge Halloween celebrator. Whoever said that you could only enjoy Halloween when you're a child is full of shit!  So, the title of this film right there caught my interest. And then there was the box cover with this dude with a sweet looking blank white mask.  Ninety minutes later, I was a horror fan for life. Something in Halloween changed me. Maybe it was the use of the holiday. Maybe it was the music. Maybe it was the great story and characters. Maybe it was the interesting villain. Or maybe it was just that Halloween was a great film period.
   Let me first begin with the background history of the film.  The best place to start would be where the horror genre shifted from  the supernatural and the Universal monsters era to the psychotic murderer/slasher era. In 1960, the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, scared the hell out of movie goers with the horror classic "PSYCHO".   It took horror out of the supernatural realm and placed it into Human issues.  Monsters went from being creatures and became people who had gone mad.  The '70s brought on the demon/Satan era of horror beginning with "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Exorcist".    During the '70s, the new realm of terror that Psycho introduced also expanded.  Very graphic films such as "THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT", "THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE", and "THE HILLS HAVE EYES" came along that put Human Beings as the villains.  In 1974, Bob Clark released the very creepy "BLACK CHRISTMAS" that told the story of a group of sorority sisters who are harassed and murdered by a mysterious killer who's hiding in the attic of their house as they are snowed in during Christmas break.  
      In the late '70s, a young filmmaker named John Carpenter had made two feature films, "DARK STAR" and "ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13".  Carpenter did Assault On Precinct 13 with an independent distributor named Irwin Yablans.  Yablans wanted to get some independent films made and the only way he knew to do that was to get them made himself. Irwin Yablans wanted to make a horror film and came up with a simple story as his premise.  The film was about a group of babysitters who are stalked by a killer. Yablans then asked Carpenter if he would be interested in directing it and Carpenter agreed as long as he got his name above the title and got full creative control on the project.  The budget was $300,000, which Yablans was able to get from the film's investor Moustapha Akkad.  Carpenter hired his girlfriend at the time, Debra Hill, to co-write the screenplay with him and produce what at the time was called "THE BABYSITTER MURDERS". Yablans realized that he wanted the film to take place on one night and Halloween just popped in his head. After doing research, Yablans discovered that the title "HALLOWEEN" at the time had never been used as  part of a title in the history of the film business. Yablans quickly called up John Carpenter and told him that the film had to take place on Halloween night and be titled "HALLOWEEN". 
    In around three weeks, Carpenter handed in the script and Halloween was on its way.   Carpenter hired a lot of people that he knew from college such as Tommy Lee Wallace to be his production designer and hired his good friend Nick Castle to portray one of horror history's most terrifying villains, Michael Myers, who he named after a guy who put his last film Assault On Precinct 13 in the London film festival where it became a hit since it bombed in the U.S. at the time.  The film was set in Haddonfield, named after Debra Hill's hometown.    To the cast and crew of Halloween, this was just any other film project and nobody knew just how big this low budget independent horror film was going to become.  When it first opened, Halloween didn't do well at the box office. It was treated like an underground film and wasn't reviewed really well.  Soon, a miracle happened and the numbers got bigger and bigger. It turned out that word of mouth got around to how scary Halloween was.  Halloween then became a surprising smash hit that not only shocked the hell out of Yablans, but surprising Halloween's cast/crew as well as Carpenter himself.
    I think the thing that works about Halloween's story is how simple it really is.  It's also dealing with things that everybody can relate to and located in an area that looks familiar to us. If you're not even safe in your own neighborhood or in your own house then where are you safe? Here's a movie with barely any special FX and concentrates solely on story, atmosphere, music, and characters. You know, what a great/good horror movie should do.   I just love that opening scene used with young Michael's POV. It makes the audience think that some maniac snuck in the house, then makes you think that the girl's brother is the maniac and a grown man/teenager possibly, but then you discover that he was just a six year old kid when the father pulls the clown mask off. That was a shocker when I first watched this movie back in like 1995.  I also love how there's a crane shot that pulls up after the reveal of the kid holding the bloody butcher knife and we see that it happened in a neighborhood that looks like any other neighborhood. The escape from Smith's Grove was both effective and creepy. I especially loved it when his hand slides down and cracks the window when he barely tapped it. Just goes to show us how evil this man truly is.   Carpenter is one of the few directors that I know who can make day scenes look just as creepy as the night scenes.  I'm not sure if it was the addition of his music, but that day scene when Laurie is walking is shot effectively creepy.   The shots where the Shape is in the background of scenes is what kept me interested to see what was going to happen. That sequence where he's outside Laurie's window or standing behind the bush is pretty creepy.  There's so many very creepy moments in this film. I love it! It's not really what you see that scares you, but what's lurking in the dark. The screenplay written by both John Carpenter and Debra Hill is fantastic.  Debra Hill wrote a lot of the scenes with Laurie and her two friends Annie and Lynda since she used to be a babysitter when she was a teenager, while Carpenter wrote all the scary stuff and all the Loomis stuff.
     Another thing that Halloween has over many other slasher films is character development.  Laurie was the most developed. She was the kinda girl who was all about school work and doing the right thing. Her friend Annie was all about her boyfriend Paul and wanting to spend "alone" time with him instead of having to babysit Lindsey Wallace.  And then Lynda was the sexually active blonde bimbo of the group that said "totally" about a bazillion times. Plus, she was a hottie and was the comic relief. I can understand why teens today can't relate to them like a lot of us old school horror fans can. They are more '70s era teenagers. Today, they would be more foul mouthed, spicy, and sexually active. You know, like they became in Rob Zombie's 2007 remake.   Dr. Loomis was actually my favorite character in the film personally. I just loved this man's monologues about evil and about Michael Myers. Here's the best Loomis line ever!
" I met this six year old child with this pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes. The Devil's eyes. I spent six years trying to reach him and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I knew that what was behind that boy's eyes was purely and simply, EVIL."
     Plus, I love how Carpenter borrowed two character names from Psycho such as Marion and Sam Loomis.  It shows how inspired by Hitchcock that Carpenter really was.   The kids Tommy and Lindsey were pretty likeable. I felt sorry for poor Tommy when those bullies at school caused him to drop his pumpkin. I just love how scared that one bully got when he bumped into Michael in the school yard.
 The cinematography by Dean Cundey is amazing. I love the blue color tint for the night time exterior scenes. It gives the film a very creepy atmosphere.  Definitely great visuals and I also love how the visuals tell the story. Hands down, the best shot EVER is that part when Laurie is up against the wall crying after finding her friends dead and we slowly see behind her a pale white face slowly brighten up in a pitch black room. In fact, that shot helped inspire my shocking surprise bedroom sequence in my short film "MIDNIGHT SILENCE".  Just a fantastic shot. I also love how that chase from the Wallace house to the Doyle house was done, showing Michael as a shadowy figure walking slowly. Definitely a heart pounder!  I also love the ending.  It just gives me goosebumps every time I watch it.
  I was definitely digging the production design by Tommy Lee Wallace.  The back story behind the Michael Myers mask is hilarious. It actually started out as a Star Trek William Shatner mask that Tommy Lee Wallace found in a mask store along with the clown outfit (used for young Michael at the beginning). Basically, Wallace tore off the eye brows and sideburns, spray painted the mask whiter, messed up the hair a bit, and made the eye holes wider. TADA, we have Michael Myers, the Boogeyman of the horror genre!  It was also cool that they used the same Fall leaves over and over with a fan to blow them since it was actually Spring when they filmed Halloween.
    I have to mention the music, which John Carpenter wrote and composed himself. It is quite honestly some of the most chilling horror movie music that I've ever heard alongside Psycho's theme song and the music for "THE OMEN". Let's put it this way, it is so iconic that Nightmare Mansion at Virginia Beach plays it at the front door. I get chills every time I hear  any of the Halloween soundtrack. Just marvelous!
  The acting is absolutely great! Jamie Lee Curtis was excellent as Laurie Strode. It's funny that the only reason that she was cast was that her mother, Janet Leigh, played in Psycho. And yet she turned over a very iconic performance that began her career. Curtis would go on to play in other horror titles such as "THE FOG", "PROM NIGHT", "TERROR TRAIN, and return to the Halloween legacy in the 1981 sequel "HALLOWEEN II".   Veteran British actor Donald Pleasence is and will always be Dr. Sam Loomis to me.  He would return in four of the later sequels.  Charles Cyphers was really good as Sheriff Brackett.  Nancy Kyes was excellent as Annie. She played the bad girl role really well. P.J. Soles was really funny and sexy as Lynda.  She also had nice boobs. Soles has returned to the horror genre in many independent films and had a brief cameo in Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects by being hit by Captain Spaulding who needed a ride. Plus, she was a bad girl in "CARRIE".   Brian Andrews and Kyle Richards were decent as the kids Tommy and Lindsey. Nancy Stephens was good as Marion Chambers , who would return in both Halloween II and Halloween H20. And future director Nick Castle was menacing and creepy as The Shape. Who knew that the director of "MAJOR PAYNE" played one of the largest horror icons back in 1978? Tony Moran looked creepy as the brief unmasked adult Michael Myers at the end of the movie. I do think that it's kinda unfair that he got all of the credit when all he did was take off the mask and fall off the balcony. Meanwhile, Castle did a great portion of the film as adult Michael Myers like the stalking and stabbing that dude against the wall before doing the infamous head tilt that still creeps me out to this day.  When it came time to quickly grab a glimpse of Michael's real face at the end, Carpenter wanted a more evil look and hired Tony Moran to be the adult Michael Myers, while giving credit to Castle for playing The Shape. Don't get me wrong though, I thought both Moran and Castle did a great job bringing Michael Myers to life. I just thought that both guys should have gotten equal credit is all. The same situation happened in Friday The 13th Part 2 where Warrington Gillette who portrayed the brief unmasked Jason got credit for the whole thing, while stuntman Steve Nash was barely mentioned when he did 98% of the film just about as Jason with the burlap sack mask on. The only way I knew was from watching the Halloween documentary on the DVD called "Halloween: A Cut Above The Rest". I just thought that I would point out that two guys played adult Michael Myers and not just Moran.  Oh well, Moran did look pretty creepy under that mask.  At least he didn't look like a drunken Santa Claus like Tyler Mane looked like in Rob Zombie's H2 (2009).  Bottom line, great performances from everybody involved.
The direction by John Carpenter was just amazing.  Enough said.  Carpenter is my favorite director and I just love everything this man does, even the films that some folks seem to look down on. I for one can't wait for his next movie "THE WARD" to come out. The man is a myth, a legend, and a hero to aspiring horror/action/thriller filmmakers everywhere!
Overall, John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN is the ultimate horror movie classic. It is a horror film that does everything right and set the bar for true terror. I'm surprised that none of these knock offs have tried to go back to basic storytelling instead of over the top kills.  Halloween is a film that has lived on through three decades and continues to find more fans. I am, have been, and will always be a fan of the original. No matter how many crappy sequels or remakes come out, there is only one John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN!
 Well, that concludes the beginning of the Halloween legacy kiddies. What's wrong? Too scared?  Stay put! There's another Halloween film to regrue!  It's time to visit Haddonfield Memorial for a good slashing.
 halloween-ii-movie-poster1.jpg picture by sikomike
Welcome back to Haddonfield. The Boogeyman's hometown. Laurie Strode has been through enough and is on her way to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital after surviving the grasp of Haddonfield's most creepy babysitter stalker, Michael Myers. The horror is far from over because Myers has followed Laurie to the hospital and the truth about Laurie Strode's connection to Michael Myers is finally revealed.
    After Dr. Loomis fires six bullets into Michael Myers, he shockingly discovers that Michael is still very much alive and on the loose. Laurie Strode is taken to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital after being wounded in her confrontation with the Shape.  But, Michael soon finds his way to the hospital and slashes through the staff in order to find Laurie and kill her. Meanwhile,  Sheriff Brackett discovers that his own daughter Annie was one of Michael's unfortunate victims. Loomis teams up with another officer to track Michael down.  During his search, Marion shows up with a U.S. Marshall and is under orders by the Governor to bring Loomis along. During the ride, Marion tells Loomis that she discovered something about Laurie Strode that was locked away to protect the Strode family. It turns out that Laurie Strode is actually the younger sister of Michael and Judith Myers.  She was born two years before Judith was murdered and then adopted by the Strode family  two months after Michael was sent away. This explains why he specifically picked to stalk Laurie. To finish what he began back in 1963.   Dr. Loomis forces the Marshall to turn the car around so that he can stop Michael before he can harm Laurie.
   In 1978, John Carpenter made the ultimate horror classic called Halloween and changed the horror genre forever.  Other filmmakers took notice of Halloween's success and decided to copy it to gain equal success. One of these filmmakers was Sean S. Cunningham, who had produced the very controversial exploitation revenge film "THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT"  with writer/director Wes Craven. In 1980, director Sean S. Cunningham and screenwriter Victor Miller released a little horror film called "FRIDAY THE 13TH".  Friday The 13th did really well at the box office, which opened up the possibility of a second installment. In 1981, Friday The 13th Part 2 was released that was also successful.  The slasher trend took off with films such as "PROM NIGHT", "TERROR TRAIN", "THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW", "MY BLOODY VALENTINE", and "THE BURNING".  Halloween's executive producer Moustapha Akkad took notice of how much Halloween changed the horror genre around.  There was talk of a possible sequel to Halloween going around. Many audience members assumed that Carpenter and company had set the ending open for a sequel, which co-writer/producer Debra Hill answered by saying that a sequel was the farthest thing from anyone's mind while making the original.  Someone that Akkad was in talks with proposed a deal for a sequel. After much thought and consideration, Akkad accepted and Halloween II was green lit.  The idea of a sequel didn't appeal to John Carpenter or Debra Hill, who were just happy with the great film that they had already made in 1978. Carpenter and Hill finally agreed that they would write and produce the sequel.  The original Halloween was a suspenseful and more atmospheric horror film that relied on music, characters, story, mystery, and atmosphere. Halloween II however rode on the coattails of Friday The 13th and the slasher trend by adding in bloody kills and adding a twist that made the rest of the franchise take an interesting or bad turn depending on who you ask. 
     The screenplay by John Carpenter and Debra Hill is definitely inferior to what they wrote back in 1978, but it is definitely in my opinion the best Halloween sequel.   John Carpenter basically drank a six pack of beer every night as he wrote Halloween II because he just couldn't think of a thing to write since he wrote everything that he wanted to with the original. Truthfully, Carpenter didn't really want to be a part of this sequel at all. He was kinda committed to do it.  The reveal that Laurie was Michael Myers' sister was written with the help of alcohol. Plus, this was the era of unexpected relations. Look at Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back! Nothing against these character connections, but they do get old real quick. I also believe that it kinda tainted the rest of the franchise.  I can only count like maybe four or five good Halloween films out of the total of ten.   What made Michael so scary for me in the original is that he was just evil. Plain and simple. No connection to Laurie besides her being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It kinda hinted that possibly she reminded him of Judith possibly, but it wasn't confirmed until this film that the two are siblings. Michael Myers should have just been evil. No other explanation.  It could have been fucking anyone that he stalked and tried to kill. THAT'S SCARY!  I don't fully blame Carpenter for this since he hated the idea anyway. At least he did make the best out of it and didn't allow his complaints of making a sequel interfere with his writing. 
    The characters are alright. Laurie doesn't really do much in this film except lay in a hospital bed until Michael comes after her and then we get a chase.  Loomis is awesome as always with his monologues about evil and Samhain/Halloween. I love this guy!  Plus, I love how he fired the gun to get the Marshall to quickly turn the car around to get to the hospital to save Laurie from Michael.  Marion shows up briefly and is okay. Basically all she really did was explain that Laurie was Michael's biological sister.  We also have the hospital staff, who are basically used for Michael's body count. There's Karen, who's a nurse with a nice rack. Budd, who's the asshole. Jimmy, who helps take care of Laurie. Mrs. Alves, who's the head nurse.  Sheriff Brackett is briefly in the film until he finds Annie's body and has to leave. Jill, another nurse.  And of course everybody's favorite boogeyman, Michael Myers. 
   The kills are decent in Halloween II. We get your standard slashing of throats. My favorite though is when he kills Karen by dipping her face in scalding water and we see parts of her skin boil off. It looks pretty real too. I also love when Michael has injected a needle right in the pupil of Dr. Mixter's eyeball and it looks like his eye cracked like glass. Michael also injects air into this woman's temple. Not bad kills by 1981's standards.
     The music by both John Carpenter and Alan Howarth is alright. It is nowhere near as chilling as Carpenter's original music from the original Halloween, but I have heard worse in the franchise.
I forgot to mention this in the review above, but I find the opening credits sequence with the camera slowly zooming in on the lit Jack o' Lantern against the pitch black back ground to be incredibly creepy. I love in this film where the Jack o' Lantern's face splits apart, revealing a skull inside and the camera zooms in slowly into the skull's pitch black eye sockets. Really great stuff!
   I enjoyed the cinematography done again by Dean Cundey. 
       The acting is pretty decent. Jamie Lee Curtis did alright with what she had as Laurie Strode. I do find her character more interesting in the original and Halloween: H20 as well.   Donald Pleasence is awesome as always as Dr. Sam Loomis. The guy is just a delight to watch.  Charles Cyphers is alright in his brief return as Sheriff Brackett.  We won't see Sheriff Brackett again in the franchise until Rob Zombie's 2007 remake, which starred Chucky in the role.  Lance Guest was good as Jimmy. Pamela Susan Shoop was good and sexy as Karen. She can be my nurse anytime! Leo Rossi was a dick as Budd. He didn't last long. Gloria Gifford was pretty good as Mrs. Alves, the head nurse.  And Dick Warlock was definitely creepy as Michael Myers. He had the walk down perfectly. He's the best Michael Myers since Nick Castle/Tony Moran.  Nancy Stephens was also pretty good, returning as Marion Chambers. She would return to the franchise briefly at the beginning of Halloween: H20 in 1998 just to get killed by Michael. Everybody else did decent with what they had. Not bad acting at all.
   The direction by Rick Rosenthal was actually pretty good. I like that he took note of Carpenter and still managed to give the film a creepy vibe. I love the shot where Michael is standing in the room with all the babies and looks like just a shadow.  Rosenthal definitely did a good job in the director's chair. Too bad that he had to direct that God fucking awful Halloween: Resurrection in 2002.
Overall, Halloween II is still inferior to its source material, yet still manages to be my favorite film in the franchise since the original.  It's a bit creepy and definitely fun to watch every October.
Looks like we survived the Shape this time.  Excuse me, I think I need a doctor. Fine, Dr. Satan will do. Sounds like a nice fellow.
3.5/4 STABS



Fred [The Wolf] said...

You already know how I feel about these films, so a long comment would be moot. Both great films. Both mandatory watching this month. Excellent reviews.

Trick or Treat Pete said...

Excellent reviews to the best two films in the Halloween franchise!
I did enjoy Zombie's remake, to a point, but thought there truly was no need to remake Halloween as there was nothing that needed fixing.
Dreaded Dreams
Petunia Scareum

JennyB said...

I know I'm going to ruffle some feathers by saying this but I wasn't too pleased with the first Halloween. I know, I know I'm crazy but It's just how I feel. I did enjoy the second Halloween movie.

Yes I enjoyed Rob Zombie's Halloween movies more that's just because I love everything he does since I'm a hardcore Zombie fan.
As always great review!