- Halloween (1978): I always forget this opens with little Mikey murdering his sister’s tits (all we can see thru the mask), it’s not a flashback later. Carpenter has a heavy hand with his soundtrack, which is awesome but often overpowers the dialogue in scenes. Adult Michael Myers (Tony Moran) escaping from an institution in the rain is perfectly goth; could he try any harder? How does he know how to drive, or find his old house, or cut phone lines after half a lifetime institutionalized? We don’t know, but he’s doing good!
Teenage high-school friends & baby-sitters club Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis, b.1958), Lynda (P.J.Soles, b.1950), Annie (Nancy Kyes, b.1949) (ages 20, 28, 29; but JLC looks mid-20s) fart around and see spooky Mikey driving around, then hiding behind bushes, but do nothing about it. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) warns everyone, stridently and repeatedly, that Mikey is evil. EVIL! Honestly I’m more worried about the good doctor’s mental state.
Long segment of doing nothing, there’s a good 30 minutes of this film could be cut at the start, it’s so very slow. Here’s a minute watching Forbidden Planet, admittedly one of my favorite films. Until finally… A KILL! 53 minutes in. Next one’s another 12 minutes, after the sacrifices nominate themselves by fucking. Laurie finally starts investigating. “Your fucking on the phone sounds a lot like someone dying!” (she doesn’t quite say).
Mikey’s staging of his kills like a funhouse is great. Kill spread out on a bed with the stolen tombstone above, jack’o’lantern beside. Hanging one corpse. Stuff another in a spring-open cupboard, oddly illuminated for a dark house. When chasing, he lets his victims see, slowly walks over, waits for them to run around, freak out, and hide… then moves in. Just perfectly theatrical. As noted in Scream, “movies don’t make people serial killers, movies make serial killers better!”. Neighbors in this very white suburb of course don’t help anyone screaming outside on Halloween, like Kitty Genovese.
Laurie’s not helpless, of course, she’s got that killer instinct of her own. And Loomis is looming around somewhere with a gun, as doctors often do. The Sheriff (father of one of the slain girls) is utterly, totally useless. It’s common in horror RPGs to have the police be unavailable or incompetent, and here’s the trope creator at its peak.
★★★★☆ for the first 15 & last 45 minutes, ★☆☆☆☆ for the middle 30.
Note: This film was made for $325,000, earned $47M.
- Halloween II (1981): Immediately starts with the last few minutes of the previous film. Z-grade films often use stock footage or rip off their previous installments, but we don’t usually see that in independent but well-funded films like Carpenter’s. This has a budget of $2.5M, earned $25M. Almost the exact same soundtrack, and same heavy-handedness.
Not quite Steadicam®, but hand-held filming for killer’s POV, might be the first time we’d ever seen that. Pretty soon it switches back to conventional camera behind the action.
Michael is a little different, here played by Dick Warlock (what a great name!)
Even if Mikey gets a couple more kills in, Loomis can’t find him. But he can just about shoot another kid in a white mask, who then gets killed by exploding cars. Pointless death! Nobody is punished for this near-shooting/vehicular homicide.
None of the new characters have much development, even as much as the first movie. Sheriff & then useless #2 cop don’t believe Mikey got away. Ambulance guys and their nurse girlfriends are creeps. Very slow lack of plot movement, couple cops and Loomis wander around looking at things.
Most of the kills in this are very inartistic, just walk up behind, hit or stab, done. No posing. There’s a hot tub scene where Mikey shows a little creativity, and the second kill is more creative/gross. The old doctor & virgin nurse have somewhat more medical deaths, possibly even predicting Dexter! Jimmy the ambulance guy, wannabe boyfriend to Laurie, has the dumbest, most accidental death in any film.
Laurie’s cunning, self-defense instincts have been missing for the first hour, but finally she gets up and wanders around hiding; pretty good for a girl who was stabbed & broke an ankle just hours ago.
The institution finally comes to collect the madman “Doctor” Loomis and implement Reagan’s policy of “care in the community” (let crazy people roam & be homeless). Now we find out why Mikey’s after Laurie!
Of course nothing stops the Mikester. He’s become completely unstoppable and inhuman at this point, an avatar of death. Even the worst possible injuries only inconvenience him.
While there’s a little additional plot & lore here, it doesn’t really feel like a plot resolution. Maybe he’s dead, maybe not. Laurie’s got the thousand-mile stare of Linda Hamilton in Terminator. She’s ready to murder some of her own.
This is basically 92 minutes of film hiding the 30 minutes that should’ve been in the first. I’d love to see a “Halloween Good Parts Edition” without all the flab.