Review: Halloween II-III

After the underground to mainstream success of Halloween, there was no doubt there’d be a sequel. The only surprise was that it took so long. 3 years for one film? Come on, you guys, Sean Cunningham could get 3 Jason movies made in that time! In fact, by the time Halloween II rolled around, Jason had stumbled on screen, and Michael was forced to share the year. 1981. Pretty good year for horror. Solidly entertaining slashers along with genuine classics. But we’re not here to talk about classics. We’re here to talk Halloween. Because it’s October. Cue the music!

Halloween II. This uninspired yet highly entertaining sequel was billed as “More of the Night He Came Home.” In other word, more of the same. Exactly what it says on the tin. And if you go in expecting that, you won’t be disappointed. The film mirrors the first film closely, and often to its detriment. The film begins with a brief recap of the ending of the first before a truncated recreation of the first film’s famous POV shot. After that, plot contrivances keep Mikey Mike out of the film for its bulk. We have a dragging second act with a few memorable moments, then a well-done third act chase scene which, while not rivaling the first in terms of tension, ratchets up the set-pieces considerably. Instead of being “SHOT SIX TIMES,” Michael is blown to bits. Ridiculous that we’re supposed to believe him not dead 10 years after this. Even Jason couldn’t survive being blown up without becoming a demon worm thingy.

Image result for halloween ii 1981 explosion
Ehh, he’s fine…

Clearly this was intended as an endpoint to the series. Laurie’s story is over, Michael’s undeniably dead, taking Loomis with him, there’s nowhere else to go. And how does it work as a series endpoint? Pretty well actually. It’s not bad, certainly, and as a part 2 to the first film, it’s really good. Watching them as a double feature is quite enjoyable. Halloween II’s biggest flaw is that it’s dumb. Seriously DUMB. Let’s look at how they get Laurie in a hospital without any protection. The police abandon their search for a brief while when…well, um…this is really dumb. So some random kid is dressed up for Halloween in a similary Mikey Myers-style mask and coveralls. Pleasance thinks he’s Myers, the cop stops him from shooting, then a random unrelated cop car comes speeding through, slamming the kid into a van and exploding. Listen closely, you can hear the cop driving exclaim “He came out of nowhere!” Yeah buddy, you were driving like 90 MPH on a residential street, and the kid slowly walking across the street came out of nowhere, sure.

There is some dumb fun stuff as well. At one point, an EMT slips on a massive puddle of blood and seemingly dies later of a concussion or something. I…I guess that’s fun.

Image result for halloween ii blood slip

The characters are fine, at least the returning ones are. Jamie Lee Curtis, scream queen, does just fine here, about as good as her performance in the first movie. She just has to run and scream, and she’s got enough charisma to make an audience be invested in a character with no arc. Donald Pleasance is masterfully over-the-top, with his iconic line delivery ranging from over-exaggerated soliloquies on the nature of evil to “I SHOT HIM SIX TIIIMES!!! HE’S NOT HYUMAN!!”

The cops are all interchangeable but likable enough, I suppose. The hospital newbies are just cannon fodder, and their deaths are fairly inventive. Syringe through the eye, hot tub scalding, and blood draining included among the more inventive methods used.

Director Rick Rosenthal does an alright job at aping John Carpenter’s basic style, but lacks his gift for tension or pacing, leading to drawn out, boring scenes, including the climax of the film involving a blinded Michael Myers lunging at Laurie and Loomis. A scene which could be effectively terrifying but which is shot in flat, long takes, leading to it just looking ridiculous.

Also, oddly enough, the song “Mr. Sandman” is used in the opening and closing credits of the film. I don’t know why. 4 years later, the song would be used to much greater effect in Back to the Future to set the scene in the 50’s. Here, it’s just out of place and weird.

All in all, a pretty fun time that drags and really only works as a double billing with the first film. A decent sequel which delivers exactly what you’d expect, Halloween II earns a B-.

b-minus-school-letter-grade (1)

Image result for halloween iii poster

Three words describe a guilty pleasure for me: big, dumb, fun. And Halloween III: Season of the Witch has that in spades. Robots, magic, stonehenge, computer chips, television commercials, lasers, latex masks, child murder, an immortal warlock, Celtic cults, misguided social commentary and Tom Atkins’s glorious mustache. Halloween III has all of that and more.

Image result for tom atkins halloween 3
I’m going to take this space to say that this romantic pairing is just not on. He looks 40, she looks 19. Carpenter also paired Atkins with Jamie Lee Curtis in The Fog, where he looked 35 and she looked 19. He’s not even that handsome aside from the mustache, what is going on here?

Michael Myers is strangely absent here. This was to change the direction of the series into an anthology brand thing, like what Cloverfield is turning into. Each year, a new Halloween scare. This film garnered a negative critical response for being an insane fever dream of a movie pitch that somehow got made despite its lack of making any sense, and a negative audience response for not really being a Halloween film at all.

And is it a good film, ignoring the whole not having Myers thing? No. No it isn’t. But it’s amazing. It feels more like Halloween than any other film than perhaps The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s got everything: Robots, magic, stonehenge, computer chips, television commercials, lasers, latex masks, child murder, an immortal warlock, Celtic cults, misguided social commentary and Tom Atkins’s glorious….oh wait. I did this already.

What’s the plot? Good question. So Tom Atkins is a divorced (alcoholic?) doctor who works for this hospital where this guy comes in after he was almost murdered by this other guy, and he’s like clutching this mask and he says to Atkins, “They’re going to kill us all.” Atkins is like, “Dafuq?” and moves on with his day, until, get this, another guy comes in and kills the dude by sort of, like, crushing his skull or something. And a nurse is like, what are you doing, and he just walks past; she walks in and is like, “DUDE, there’s totally a dead body!” The guy’s gone to his car and explodes in a flaming wreck, and Atkins is like, “This is definitely not on the up and up.” The murdered man’s daughter shows up and cries ‘cuz her dad’s dead. Then she meets Atkins and says, “Something something masks something.” They decide they need to investigate because something’s wrong and they go to where the masks are from, which is like this factory town, and all the factory workers are imported, and there’s sort of some discontent but it doesn’t really factor into the plot whatsoever. And like this other saleslady, who’s there for legitimate reasons, accidentally activates a laser thing which buggifies her face in the motel room adjacent to Atkins’s. And Atkins doesn’t notice because he’s too busy getting freaky with a girl half his age at most. Eventually they go on a factory tour, things are looking suspicious, and Dan O’Herlihy as Conal Cochran kidnaps them Bond-villain style, before explaining his plot to kill children with laser masks and TV commercials (which is sort of commentary on the excessive consumerism of American society but it’s super underdeveloped) which activate them. His motivation? Either he just likes pranks, or he’s an immortal warlock carrying out a centuries-old tradition. It’s definitely one of the two. So Atkins is bound with one of the masks on. Why not kill him right away? Well, so he can enjoy watching John Carpenter’s Halloween on the telly before the killer commercial airs and buggifies his face too. Atkins breaks the TV, cuts his bonds and escapes through a conveniently placed oversized vent, frees the girl, and they kill all the robots (did I mention O’Herlihy’s henchmen are Irish robots? Because they’re totally Irish robots.), seemingly foiling part of the plan. They escape to stop the commercial from airing, but it turns out that either the girl’s been replaced with a robot or she’s been a robot all along. I really don’t know. She tries to kill Atkins, he kills her, and runs to a gas station that was in the beginning of the film. He uses the phone and convinces 2 of the major national networks to take the commercial off-air somehow, but it still airs on one, and the film cuts to black with Atkins screaming “TURN IT OFF!” So presumably hundreds of thousands, if not millions of children were killed. Dark, yet fun.

And that fever dream of a paragraph represents how cohesive the film actually is. It’s a lot of fun, but ultimately, it’s a bunch of disparate elements which never really gel together, which is why I’m giving Halloween III: Season of the Witch an A+. Why? Because I love it. Deal with it.

a plus grade

So there’s my thoughts on the continuations of Halloween that John Carpenter was at least somewhat connected to. Next week, we’ll look where Moustapha Akkad took the franchise independently. But before then, a review of some other horror film. Probably some silly 80’s nonsense, maybe Fright Night, maybe Pet Sematary, maybe 976-EVIL, maybe something else. But until then, farewell and adieu!

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