It’s been a hot minute since I last produced a Sunday night Slashers review, things have just been too busy lately… However, as I write this it is Halloween morning and how could I possibly miss another Sunday Night Slashers review on a year where Halloween falls on a Sunday! Just as fittingly how could I speak about any film other than Halloween itself (and number 2 of course – after all they do follow on from one another perfectly).
Let us start with Halloween, released in 1978 just a week before Halloween, it is set in the same year and follows Michael Myers as he escapes from an asylum after having killed his sister when he was just 6 years old. The whole time he was in the asylum he was under the care of a psychiatrist called Sam Loomis, whom we also follow while he is in pursuit of Michael who is spending his free time stalking babysitter Laurie Stode and her friends.
Myers makes his way through several people during the course of the film with his weapon of choice being a kitchen knife he stole in one of the homes. The weapon is iconic for Myers along with the boiler suit he stole from a victim and of course that iconic mask which he takes from a hardware store, although of course we since know that it is actually a Captain Kirk mask.
This film managed to combine so many perfect elements, especially considering it was an independent release, which all culminated in it being one of the most financially successful movies of all time.
Irwin Yablans and Moustapha Akkad managed to convince John Carpenter to work on this film together, pitching the idea and agreeing to give him full creative control. They worked brilliantly together making a horror film full of suspense and almost devoid of blood – incredible for such an important part of slasher movie history!
The brilliant teamwork didn’t end there though with the casting being the next step in its success. Jamie Lee Curtis made her big-screen debut and they couldn’t have chosen a better scream queen (with her mother, Janet Leigh, of course being the original scream queen from her performance in Psycho). Nick Castle and Tony Moran (although most of the work was done by Castle) played Michael Myers, producing a real-life movie monster, a believable boogeyman who moves with perfect precision, becoming an incredibly effective killer whilst moving at almost half speed! Finally rounding out the core dream team was Donald Pleasence who gave a performance of Dr Loomis almost as psychotic sometimes as his patient.
If for some reason you haven’t seen the first Halloween movie, which is quite frankly a horror classic and a cornerstone of the slasher genre, and don’t want a spoiler, stop reading now because Halloween II is a direct sequel to the first. It was made in 1981 but picks up minutes after the first movie finishes.
As I said the second film picks up right where the first movie left off, with Michael Myers having been shot by Dr Loomis and seeing him fall from the window, however when they check to see his body it is gone and Loomis along with Sheriff Brackett are left to try and pursue him whole Laurie is taken to hospital.
In the carnage more innocent people die along the way, and not just at the hands of Myers, as he makes his way across town and to the hospital where Laurie has been taken. Especially once he arrives at the hospital we see a real change in the way Myers kills and see a complete change of direction for the way the film is executed. The first movie had very little blood and gore, whilst this film really embraces the carnage which Myers brings to the neighbourhood… We even see him essentially boil someone alive!
This movie certainly went in a different direction to the first, even though they had wanted to keep it on a fairly linear path from the first. Decisions were made to ensure that it didn’t get left behind the trend of other horror movies at that time, and even though it was no longer John Carpenter at the helm, having pass direction on to Rick Rosenthal, it was actually Carpenter’s idea to bring in more gore and nudity.
Not that I’m complaining of course!
Although saying that, even though I am a huge fan of gore in horror, I have to admit that the level of suspense in the first film was much higher and I think it was a slightly more enjoyable movie. Watching both of them back to back though still does work very well and makes for one really long brilliant horror movie. If you watch it in this way, you can see a spike in the violence, but to be honest, as the movie progresses and Myers spirals more out of control and desperate it actually ends up feeling like the increase in violence and gore perfectly portrays this.
We do also find out some more information in this film which partly takes the series into a slightly more paranormal direction and also partly sets Laurie up for a tory line which is used and ignored throughout the franchise however it best fits the narrative.
There are clues that Myers is linked to the occult which gives a little clue as to why he seems impossible to kill and we’re told that Laurie is actually Michael’s biological sister and was adopted after her parents died. This explains of course why Myers is so fixated on her and as such is not exactly the biggest shock of the franchise.
There’s not an awful lot to be said about the cast because it’s much the same as the previous film, which means that it’s just as kick ass as before and it’s actually really refreshing to see the level of continuity they were able to offer 3 years later for a film which is literally set just minutes behind the previous one.
This was originally supposed to be the final Halloween movie featuring Michael Myers, and as such you can watch the two in succession and be left feeling like you have just watched one long complete and awesome horror movie… But being aware of the franchise it is always nice to know that they didn’t leave it there in the end! Come on that can’t be a surprise to you! He’s one of the most well known movie villains of all time. He is absolutely iconic and has been played by no less than 16 actors in 11 movies (so far).