Movie Review: HALLOWEEN 2 (1981)

Halloween II Poster Art

Halloween 2 art

[Editor’s Note: Halloween: The Ultimate Collection is now available and contains EVERY Halloween movie made! Check it out!-TMW]

Halloween II -1981- Directed by Rick Rosenthal

Starring Donald Pleasence; Jamie Lee Curtis

“You don’t know what death is!” — Dr. Samuel Loomis

By 1981, the runaway success of Halloween had lit a fire under the burgeoning slasher genre, with 1980’s sleeper hit Friday the 13th picking up the ball started by Carpenter ‘s film and rolling with it. Suddenly cinemas were saturated with masked maniacsoften with a theme tying to a holiday- stalking attractive teenagers and dispatching them in increasingly inventive and violent ways.

So it was that Halloween executive producer Moustapha Akkad joined forces with Universal Studios and Dino De Laurentiis to continue the saga of unstoppable killer Michael Myers in the 1981 sequel Halloween II.

Picking up immediately where the original film left off, part II continues the story as Michael relentlessly hunts Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), the survivor of the previous film, who has since been moved to the local hospital. Meanwhile,  Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence, again delivering a fine performance) is still hunting the killer, albeit with a lot more help from the local police as the murders from the first film have been discovered.

Halloween II is something of a mixed bag. It definitely nails some terrific scarescinematographer Dean Cundy (who shot the original and would later go on to film dinosaurs for Steven Spielberg in Jurassic Park) returned to film this one as well, so it looks and feels a lot like it’s predecessorbut John Carpenter returned only for writing duties with his long time partner Debra Hill, allowing Rick Rosenthal to take over at the helm.

Rosenthal actually does an admirable job considering whose footsteps he has to follow,  but the film relies heavily on the standard slasher cliches, with obvious set ups for creative kills replacing the layered suspense of the previous movie.  Also, Jamie Lee Curtis has zero character development. Forget the smart, strong woman from the original.  Here Laurie spends the majority of the running time in a drug induced haze.

Still, there’s an undeniable sense of danger and urgency as Michael relentlessly pursues his victims and, once again, his perpetual silence and ability to shrug off physical trauma are employed to maximum effect. The kills are fairly spectacular as well, with a scene involving an overheated sauna a particularly horrifying standout.  Plus, Halloween II earns points for having an actual ongoing storyline rather than being a mindless retread, which gives the events unfolding onscreen a little more weight than one normally sees in this type of film.

It’s not quite the equal of the previous film, but if you accept that it’s a bloodier, more traditional slasher flick instead of the suspense masterpiece the original was, Halloween II is hell of a lot of fun.

**** out of ***** stars. A worthy, if somewhat inferior, follow up to the classic.

Check out the Halloween 2 trailer:

Movie Review: KING KONG VS GODZILLA (1962)

King King vs Godzilla DVD Cover

King King VS Godzilla Blu-Ray Cover

KING KONG VS GODZILLA

There are very few things in this life that are considered critic proof. Troma, Three’s Company and the Police Academy movies come to mind as products that succeed even when they are pretty much universally panned by the press.

If you were a child in the sixties through the nineties, you know of one other franchise which wears a bulletproof vest against serious analysis.

GODZILLA!

Kaiju is a Japanese word that means strange creature, but is interpreted by most Americans to mean giant monster. And there is no Kaiju monster bigger in popularity than Godzilla!

When vintage Godzilla films are viewed through a child’s eyes, all that can be seen is the King of the Monsters, doing battle against a flamboyant array of Kaiju enemies.  And even when we watch these Godzilla films with more mature eyes, our nostalgia for them overcomes any glaring faults with the films.

Of all the Godzilla films, the one that created the most buzz  was King Kong vs Godzilla.  Imagine it if you will as the Freddy vs Jason of Kaiju films.

Universal recently re-released King Kong vs Godzilla on Blu-Ray & DVD. I watched it with my six year-old, and he absolutely loved it. Originally released in 1962, the story starts with Godzilla who is freed from an iceberg. Meanwhile, the owner of a pharmaceutical company travels to a tropical island to capture and return King Kong to Japan for publicity. As both monsters converge on Japan, a showdown is inevitable.

If you are a Kong purist, you simply must put all of your arguments away. It is assumed that Kong, though much smaller than Godzilla in the original RKO film, has grown larger because of his berry diet on the island. Kong can also harness electricity and wield it as a weapon.

In their first encounter, Godzilla gives Kong a shot of radioactive breath and Kong stumbles away, confused. He scratches his head as he leaves as if to convey, “Shoot, no one told me he could do that.”

King Kong from King Kong vs Godzilla
Come on, Kong! Sober up, man!

Kong is later drugged by his island berry wine and airlifted into a final battle against Godzilla. One thing that is worth pointing out: Kong spends a fair amount of time getting drunk and passing out (like many other leading men of his day, I would imagine).

Kong wakes up long enough to realize that he has been tied to a giant raft heading for Japan or floating in the sky via giant balloons while a raging Godzilla bellows beneath him. You almost feel sorry for the big guy, but he manages to pull up his boot straps in the final act and say, “Okay, let’s do this!”

King Kong vs Godzilla is notable for a couple of milestones. It is the first time either monster has appeared in color or widescreen. It is also the most popular Godzilla film of its day.

I recommend this movie, especially if you have little ones.

Check out the King Kong vs Godzilla trailer:

Movie Review: HALLOWEEN (1978)

Halloween DVD Cover

[Editor’s Note: Halloween: The Ultimate Collection is now available and contains EVERY Halloween movie made! Check it out!-TMW]

 HALLOWEEN (1978)

Halloween DVD Cover

“I met him, fifteen years ago; I was told there was nothing left; no reason, no conscience, no understanding; and even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, of good or evil, right or wrong. I met this six-year-old child, with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes… the devil’s eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… evil.”

     –Dr. Samuel Loomis

 

If horror fans are going to talk about the genre as it relates to Halloween, then there is no calendar year of greater importance to that discussion than 1978. That was the year a young filmmaker named John Carpenter released his third film, a terrifying essay of almost non-stop suspense titled Halloween.

 

For those of you who may have been off the planet for the past few decades,  John Carpenter’s Halloween tells the story of a psychopath named Michael Myers, who breaks free from a sanitarium on October 30th, 1978 and – pursued by Sam Loomis, his long time doctor (the late, great Donald Pleasence turning in a superb performance) –  cuts a path of death and destruction back to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois, the same locale where he murdered his older sister Judith as a little boy back in 1963.

 

Once he returns home, Michael dons an eerily expressionless white mask, picks up a large butcher knife and embarks upon a reign of terror that would alter the course of horror film history and elevate the slasher genre as a box office force to be reckoned with.

 

The genius of Halloween is that it’s all about fear.  The film is more interested in getting under the viewer’s skin than grossing them out. There’s violence, but no overt gore. The chills come from watching the silent killer play sadistic cat and mouse games with his victims, a trio of local babysitters (including a young Jamie Lee Curtis, in her first major role)  he targets from afar early on and proceeds to hunt for the remainder of the film.

 

Michael Myers is presented here as pure, unstoppable malevolence, the absence of reason in the face of pure evil. He is death incarnate and rightly earns a place as one of the legendary cinematic nightmares.

A huge hit, Halloween spawned multiple sequels, the first of which would bring the killer back to terrify audiences in 1981.

 

***** out of ***** stars. I still consider this the greatest American horror film ever made, with only The Exorcist seriously challenging it. If you’ve somehow never seen the original Halloween, treat yourself this October 31st.  But don’t watch it alone.

Check out the Halloween trailer: