Halloween II and III

*Originally written like 2001 or roundabouts when I had no clue what I was doing. Spoiler Alert – I still don’t. These are crappy reviews so I’ve stuck them both together for a double dose of pain.

Halloween II

Halloween-II-1981

After the smash of Halloween it seemed inevitable that there would be a sequel. Carpenter’s films have a habit of ending with a cliffhanger, and fans wanted to see whether Michael would return. He does, just as Laurie is taken to a nearby hospital. Loomis is still on the prowl, and Michael follows Laurie to hospital intent on finishing his work, killing any unfortunate doctors, nurses or patients who get in his way. Once again Laurie and Michael are alone to chase and fight to the death.

Unfortunately this for the most part feels like a cash-in, and is a much inferior sequel complete with weaker performances and more elaborate deaths. There are good points though, Curtis and Pleasance are still great, while the setting is quite atmospheric. Many of the original cast come back for a short while, helping to keep us interested with the plot, and there are plenty of kills. However, much of the film lacks the tension which Carpenter can easily create, and we do not care about any of the new characters. Michael now seems to be entirely unstoppable which further distances us from the reality of the first film. This is okay, and definitely worth watching if you’re a fan of the first.

Halloween III

Halloween-3-09-g

Firstly, yes this has little or nothing to do with the other Halloween films, and it is the worst so far. To gave it credit though it must be said that Carpenter wanted to take the series in this direction, telling a different story in a different film each Halloween. This was an ambitious and exciting idea which had potential, even if that potential was limited. Unfortunately this film is a mess, and flopped, ending Carpenter’s idea. Viewers were expecting more Myers mayhem and were disappointed by the complete change of direction here.

An evil toy maker decides to kill millions of children via his Halloween masks. He is the owner of the company Silver Shamrock, and infuses all the masks with black magic which will burn any child who wears it on Halloween night when a special jingle is played. After a successful advertisement campaign it seems that his mask is a massive hit, and his plan will be complete. Only Doctor Challis and Ellie can stop the evil, but will they?

This was the first Halloween movie I saw, when I was very young, and a few moments have stayed with me since then-  Cochran’s goons on patrol, killing anyone who gets in their way, and the jingle which is admittedly creepy, though a familiar tune. The idea is good, but it falls on its face through a combination of bad acting and poor storytelling, and in the end little makes sense. The shock ending is still good though, but its potential impact is decreased by the fact that we don’t care for the characters, that we don’t really meet any kids, and that we have become bored by the end. Little is explained, most of the deaths are bizarre, while sufficiently bloody. Plus the whole thing looks cheap and doesn’t have enough scares. If there had been a better cast, more thought with the story, and better direction it could have been a lot better. It even could have become an effective satire on Commercialism, especially during the holidays. For fans of the series, watch it once, but don’t expect much.

Let me know in the comments what you thought of the first Halloween sequels and their place in the series!

Halloween 5

Halloween 5

Following on directly from number 4, Number 5 has both the flaws, and the good points of its prequel, making it a respectable horror movie, and superior to the other entries in the series. Like Halloween four, this should now be seen as a strong slasher film in a genre full of rubbish and cliche- it may not be the most original, and it may not have the cinematography, tension or atmosphere of the original, but it does manage some good scares and is one of the more involving knife and run films. And it has Danielle Harris in it.

After the shock ending of number 4, we find that Jamie is now extremely traumatised and expects Michael to appear all the time. She is under constant (though not constant enough) care and supervision, and has lost her ability to speak. Rachel, the other survivor from 4 is sympathetic at the start, but unfortunately conforms to the dumb teen status of her friends. Stupidity it seems, was an enjoyable hobby in the eighties. The various other friends, teens, victims vary from watchable to annoying, most of whom are simply there to satisfy the bloodlust of those people who watch these films. Of course Michael is still around, and the killings begin again. Luckily though (perhaps, as he seems to have got a little Michael Syndrome himself) Loomis is still in the town. He decides to use Jamie as bait to lure and catch Michael, but it now seems that like all good super-villians, Michael is completely indestructible. And he’s brought a few friends with him…

Again Harris is superb, so much so that the rest of the cast are made to look like amateurs, apart from Pleasance who descends further into madness. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly for a man of his talents, he seems to be getting tired with the series. There are enough shocks to prevent the film from becoming another stab flick, but there are the usual unsurprising elements-teens having sex then getting mutilated, characters there with the sole purpose of being killed etc. The scene in the old house where the police ‘guard’ Jamie is very good, with Jamie showing she may be the only one capable of protecting herself. We see a different side to Michael, just a glimpse, as Jamie tries to get through to him. Again the ending is a shock, though not entirely unexpected, but the man in black thing is intriguing, and the viewer is left wondering what has happened, and what is yet to happen.

The DVD has no real extras, but for fans of the series, or of the first movie who have not watched the rest, this is one to buy, along with number four. They’re cheap, but much better than most slashers around in the cinema these days.

As always, feel free to leave your thoughts on the movie and the review- is this one of the better slasher sequels or yet another average knife-fest? And don’t forget to check out my other Halloween reviews in the DVD section.

Halloween 4

Halloween 4

Michael Myers hears he has a niece and decides it is time for him to rise from his coma and begin his hunt again, having been burnt to a crisp 10 years earlier. He escapes from hospital and heads for Haddonfield, and for his niece Jamie, a pre teen girl. Unlike the previous 2 sequels, Halloween 4 has some effective scares and a decent plot. While it is still a cash in on the original, 4 (and 5) are the only other films in the series which can stand respectably with the original. Not as good, but not as terrible as you might expect. This is largely because of Danielle Harris’ performance, she outshines every other cast member, who admittedly are playing stupid teens ready to be slaughtered, but the range of emotions she shows at such a young age proves that she is among the best actresses of her generation. However, she can’t get a decent role these days and is content to do voices for The Wild Thornberries etc. (since this review was originally written Danielle has featured heavily in both of Rob Zombie’s Halloween movies and starred in Hatchet 2, hopefully carving her way into further big roles.

As with most slasher sequels, the kill count is very high and the death scenes more elaborate and ridiculous, with most of the central characters being wiped out. However, the gore level is low, and the deaths are not as gratuitous or set-piece like as other films. Unlike most slasher sequels though, the script is good, and the twist at the end is very effective, if a little strange. The director does well, creating a fair amount of tension, and we do not simply sigh as we wait for the inevitable next kill and final showdown. Pleasance returns as Loomis and is as good as ever, but he now is beginning to show signs of insanity, as Myers is taking over his life. This theme is explored further is the following film. It seems that only now, intelligent audiences, fans, and critics are realising that this is a decent film in its own right- that it should not be judged because it is not Halloween. Overall this does have a few of the expected flaws of a sequel, but it will surprise you by being better than you would think. The DVD does not have any real features, but for fans of the series, this should be a quick purchase.

As always, feel free to leave any comments- did you find this sequel better than you expected or is it just another cheesy teen-fest?

John Carpenter’s Halloween

Halloween

Whether or not you feel that, excluding Psycho, this was the first of its genre- it is definitely the most influential (for better or worse) and easily the most famous. John Carpenter’s Halloween, like Romero’s NOTD before it came out of low-budget nowhere land, and paralysed audiences around the world upon it’s release, turning it’s cast into stars and ensuring that horror movies would never be the same again. Almost thirty years on, even though horror movies have become much darker and more grotesque, this still stands at the top of the pile as a timeless, chilling and effective film which will have you reaching for the light switch, or knife, when you hear a creaking at the top of the stairs.

A boy who killed his sister many years ago escapes from his asylum, and from the care of Dr. Loomis, the only person who remotely understands him, and decides to go on a kill crazy rampage in the town he was born, seeking and killing his relatives, and any other fool who gets in his way. So begins the legacy of Michael Myers. The film follows Laurie, the virgin teenager and mother of all modern scream queens, dateless and forced to babysit on Halloween night as she tries to escape Myers.

While the plot is hardly outstanding, it is Carpenter’s direction which makes this a classic. He knows how to create and build tension, to get the most from his cast, and for any wannabe directors this is essential viewing, as it was all done on a low budget. Employing original camera angles, effective use of the hand-held, and a memorable score all help create an atmosphere that most modern horror movies cannot reach. Everything in this movie is designed around ensuring that the tension is unrelenting. This was also one of the first ‘modern’ movies that showed youth that the world was not as safe as they had been led to believe, that our parents are not as reliable or trustworthy as we thought. The scene where Laurie is turned away from a neighbors house by a simple flick of a light switch underlines this. Suburbia is not sanctuary, and sometimes we can only rely on ourselves. However, it is when Laurie is pushed, that her strong character and instinct to survive and protectc comes out.

Jamie Lee Curtis is of course outstanding in her role, but the supporting cast are all strong. Pleasance creates a legend opposite to Myers with only a few scenes and not much dialogue, and Loomis and Cyphers in smaller roles are effective as always. The film seems ageless even now, looking past the hair and fashion largely because the themes of being threatened and scared by an unseen force, and being held under seige by the same force when it presents itself are still relevant today. Something as simple as Myers peaking out from behind a bush can still send shivers, and yet there is a beauty in the cinematography- like Assault On Precinct 13, sunsets lend a reflective, emotive force, but it is after the sun has set that the fun really begins.

This 2 disc edition is a must for all horror fans, with lots of extra features which compliment the film.

As always, feel free to leave your thoughts- is this Carpenter’s best? Is this the definitive slasher movie?

Halloween 5: Danielle Harris, Donald Pleasance

Halloween 5

Following on directly from number 4, Number 5 has both the flaws, and the good points of its prequel, making it a respectable horror movie, and superior to the other entries in the series. Like Halloween four, this should now be seen as a strong slasher film in a genre full of rubbish and cliche- it may not be the most original, and it may not have the cinematography, tension or atmosphere of the original, but it does manage some good scares and is one of the more involving knife and run films. And it has Danielle Harris in it.

After the shock ending of number 4, we find that Jamie is now extremely traumatised and expects Michael to appear all the time. She is under constant (though not constant enough) care and supervision, and has lost her ability to speak. Rachel, the other survivor from 4 is sympathetic at the start, but unfortunately conforms to the dumb teen status of her friends. Stupidity it seems, was an enjoyable hobby in the eighties. The various other friends, teens, victims vary from watchable to annoying, most of whom are simply there to satisfy the bloodlust of those people who watch these films. Of course Michael is still around, and the killings begin again. Luckily though (perhaps, as he seems to have got a little Michael Syndrome himself) Loomis is still in the town. He decides to use Jamie as bait to lure and catch Michael, but it now seems that like all good super-villians, Michael is completely indestructible. And he’s brought a few friends with him…

Again Harris is superb, so much so that the rest of the cast are made to look like amateurs, apart from Pleasance who descends further into madness. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly for a man of his talents, he seems to be getting tired with the series. There are enough shocks to prevent the film from becoming another stab flick, but there are the usual unsurprising elements-teens having sex then getting mutilated, characters there with the sole purpose of being killed etc. The scene in the old house where the police ‘guard’ Jamie is very good, with Jamie showing she may be the only one capable of protecting herself. We see a different side to Michael, just a glimpse, as Jamie tries to get through to him. Again the ending is a shock, though not entirely unexpected, but the man in black thing is intriguing, and the viewer is left wondering what has happened, and what is yet to happen.

The DVD has no real extras, but for fans of the series, or of the first movie who have not watched the rest, this is one to buy, along with number four. They’re cheap, but much better than most slashers around in the cinema these days.

Feel free to comment on the move and my review- Is this your favourite of the sequels or do you think it’s just another slasher in an over-populated swamp?