Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon: Halloween Franchise (Part 1 to 3)
In order to discuss the franchise of a film, some deeper detail has to be made on certain character and story elements. In short, spoiler alert!
Of course, what is the season like without the Halloween franchise. Spanning over eight films and two “remakes,” this series has a legacy of films that took such a simple premise about a serial killer and went all the way. No one would think John Carpenter’s masterpiece would reach this far in horror history. A simple story that scares you with the subconscious and classic monster movie cliches while giving a fresh feel to them. In a nutshell, that is very much what the first movie about, but is there more to it?
The story centers around Michael Meyers, an infamous killer who was sent to a sanitarium after murdering his sister when he was a child. The opening scene in general is a good idea of what this movie is like. The first kill is all through first perspective and you don’t expect the murdere to be so young which makes the reveal more frightening. 15 years later, Michael breaks out and is off to find is old home but kills more teenagers in the process. What makes this “boogeyman” frightening is how he has no agenda or reason to his kills. We can only guess he is doing this because of the trauma as a kid but less motive behind his body count, the more tense it feels. Even the look is creepy enough with a boiler suit and a white William Shatner mask. Again, its basic but something about it feels realistic to the point its frightening.
As always, there has to be heroes. Jamie Lee Curtis plays Laurie Strode, a kind hearted babysitter that will go as far to put her own life on the line just to save two kids. She is the innocent and pure heroine that we want to see live at the end. She’s smart but funny when she needs to be. Its odd seeing Jamie Lee Curtis here before her forte into comedy seeing how popular she was as a scream queen. But the biggest highlight is of course Donald Pleasence as Dr. Sam Loomis, a psychiatrist that has looked after Michael and studied him a long ways back. He’s the one that knows what is going on but keeps falling on to deaf ears. Donald brings a very chilling presence considering his character knows Michael Meyers too well to the point we think we are dealing with more than a man here. Loomis keeps saying how Michael’s eyes are like that of the devil. That is all we need to know of how monstrous this killer is and why Loomis has to stop him.
While Halloween is not strong in plot, its big on atmosphere and characters. There’s a chilling sense from start to finish that reflects the cold and eerie feel we get from the holiday. Even for the low budget, Halloween really doesn’t feel cheaply made. Its slick, intense and engaging right from the opening credits. Its by far a masterpiece in its own right.
With the success of the first film, the last thing to expect is a Halloween II. Well, the last one ended on a cliffhanger so I guess it makes sense to see “more of the night he came home.” It’s funny how one has a choice here. They can either watch the first film and just leave it on an open note that Michael is still out there or if they want to see the story continued, they have the sequel. For me, I like the notion that there is a continuation and what we get is by far near superior to its predecessor. Sure it has problems but its on the same eerie tone as Halloween while pushing the envelope to keep the series fresh.
Jamie Lee Curtis returns as Laurie Strode and spends most of her time in a hospital slightly traumatized. Again, she is still the same girl we cheered on from the first film but this time the stakes are raised. When Michael Meyers comes after her, a chase ensues throughout the hospital where Laurie has an injured leg and hobbles quickly from the masked murderer. It seems strange how Michael keeps walking at a slow pace but something about it feels intense right down to the score and its dramatic stings.
Donald Pleasence also returns as Dr. Loomis and is given more to do. My problem with the first film is how both Loomis and Laurie never cross paths until the very end. Here, they finally intersect and we get a sense of support as opposed to a random psychiatrist coming to your house just to nab a serial killer. The bulk of the movie has him running about the town Haddonfield looking for Michael while trying to piece together why he came back in the first place. They do a give a reason which somewhat demystifies him but I feel it works in its favor. I wish I could give it away but its built up as this big twist so I best let you find out for yourself. Viewers who eagerly awaited this sequel were treated to a new cut of Halloween that premiered on NBC around the same time the sequel was released. This version alluded to why Michael is after Laurie Strode as footage was shot back to back. I best recommend checking this version out which thankfully is available on the new Blu Ray set.
Halloween II really raises the stakes and even adds new characters to the mix as well. My favorite is Budd (Leo Rossi) who just doesn’t give two cents about anything and constantly has a vocabulary of swears. It knows how to balance the humor and scares really well. Speaking of which, viewers might be unsettled to see a difference in the violence as the gore is raised up a bit. From a needle to the eyeball to someone drowning in scolding hot water, these kills are not subtle at all. This would continue the streak of having each sequel try and up the kills but it feels somewhat unneeded. Director Rick Rosenthal originally intended the film to be on par with the “not too” bloody tone of the first film but extra scenes of blood and gore were added to compete with other horror films at the time and raise the scares. As much as I don’t want to sound like I’m contradicting here, but they do add a level of terror but I feel sometimes less is more. Its not as bad as today’s horror films that show guts and limbs getting hacked so I’ll give credit where its do. If you really feel that squeamish, Shout Factory was able to release the original TV cut that supposedly is what Rick Rosenthal originally intended with his version. Fans also might want to check it out as it contains a lot of additional footage and even an alternate ending. Overall, I’m happy with what they did with Halloween II and is probably one of my favorite sequels. It doesn’t rehash and tries new angles with the characters to keep it fresh. Unlike later titles we will examine that keep repeating and failing to obtain new stuff.
In fact, the first two movies were meant to be connected to each other. Almost like The Godfather Part I and Part II, they were meant to have one story span over two films. The rest of the sequels were meant to have a different story almost like an anthology series. Well, the plot hole in that plan was that the first two films were one story. And another sequel meant a continuation of that story. People were confused to understand why there was no Michael Meyers and immediately hated it. In fact, for the longest time this movie got so much negativity that it stood out like a black sheep. But in due time, many have revisited and reevaluated it to the point where its become a cult classic and a crowd pleasing entry. So, where does Halloween III: Season of the Witch stand with me? I’m just going to say this right off the bat. I really enjoy this entry a lot.
A novelty supplier called Silver Shamrock creates a set of masks that are a hot priority for the season. Ever more so they boast a big giveaway on Halloween night and invite kids to gather around the TV sets with their masks on. Dan O’Herlihy is the owner of the Silver Shamrock factory and you can tell just how much fun he has with this role. He loves the Halloween season, he likes playing all sorts of tricks and even going as far to have an endless gallery of windup toys and machines. But it turns out the masks are one big ploy as he plans to play “the joke of the children.” He celebrates Halloween the hardcore way as he plans to sacrifice tons of innocent young kids. How? The masks are equipped with a microchip that is set off to somehow kill them. What makes this possible? He stole one of the Hedgestones from Britian and uses some stone chips into the microchip because they are part of Druid magic. This is probably the biggest problem with the movie. I like how overly creative it gets but there are times when it can get silly. Thinking about how one man is able to steal a giant boulder is just too much to think off. And how the science is able to mesh with the dark arts is also a head scratcher.
But what makes this movie work is the performances and just how it soaks itself in the Halloween season. There’s a speech Dan O’Herlihy’s character has near the end about how dark and foreboding the past Halloween was that really sends a chill. The look of the movie is good too with the feel of a 1950’s B movie like Invasion of the Body Snatchers-ish vibe. The idea of a corporate giant that is killing those with consumerism is a frightening and very subtly executed idea. In fact, a lot of the holidays seem to get really corrupted by giant corporations these days when you think about so the message of the film does half work.
Tom Atkins as plays a character named Dr. Dan Challis who gets word of the masks and tries to figure out the mystery behind them. At first, I didn’t like him seeing how much of a womanizer he is. But on repeated viewings, the character has grown on me. He has an ex-wife and is trying to playboy up his life a bit seeing how miserable it gets. This might thrown some people off and make it seem that he’s a jerk but really he’s just looking for a good fling and adventure.
There’s really not much else I can say except really just see this one. It might be cheesey on first viewing but on repeated viewings, it does get better. Had this movie NOT been titled Halloween 3, it would have done better or at least be seen as a separate film. The final nail in the coffin is how we see TV commericals for the original Halloween which clearly cement its trying to be a follow-up. This always stood out to me as weird but if you make the argument that the film exists as a “dramatization” in this universe, it sort of works. Still, its probably the more original of the series compared to what we will examine down the road.
Posted on October 27, 2014, in Horror-Wood 2014 and tagged B-Movie, Donald Pleasence, Dr. Loomis, Halloween II, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Horror, Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon, Jamie Lee Curtis, John Carpenter, John Carpenter's Halloween, Laurie Strode, Micheal Meyers, Silver Shamrock, suspense, Tom Atkins. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.