Halloween II is more than just a follow-up to the original film as it is very much a companion piece. It does what very few sequels do by picking up exactly where the previous installment ends continuing “The Night HE Came Home!”
Related Story: Part 1: The Original
Because of its predecessor’s ambiguous ending, this is exactly what it gives us – we get to see more of this night of terror with a definitive end that give us closure. While the climax to John Carpenter’s original is already the perfect ending to the story, admittedly, this features a more satisfying conclusion that would have been an effective coda for the Michael Myers/Laurie Strode/Samuel Loomis storyline. However, it could have also been a seamless continuation if were not for the stylistic differences and the narrative confusion of the siblings revelation.
The latter of which is made only slightly more cohesive by the extended TV cut of the first movie, but is almost rendered ineffectual by its “Boogeyman” aspect that this installment neglects in favor of explaining Michael’s backstory that ruins the mystique of the character. While it is flawed and is not the sequel Carpenter’s original deserved, this is the next best thing as the stylistic differences actually work well for a solid entry in the early 80’s Golden Age of the slasher sub-genre. Its predecessor was the template for this. In 1980, Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th added the gore factor that opened the blood gates for a flood of more explicit slice n’ dice flicks. This does though reproduce some key elements…
The film opens with the sound of “Mr Sandman” by The Chordettes playing. While this might seem a strange choice for the soundtrack, this cheerfully innocent little song is turned into something extremely creepy here, especially when used over the last two shots in the closing moments. It is significant as it is relative to Myers’ stalking of Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) while she is heavily sedated in Haddonfield Memorial Hospital. This plot device works to make her more vulnerable as a woozy sitting duck to the present danger of the malevolent The Shape, as he bumps off the residents of the hospital one by one as he works his way towards her, while she drifts in and out of consciousness struggling to stay awake. Unfortunately, this gives Curtis little to do until the thrilling third act; her character is stuck in bed for the first hour with her cracked ankle from the previous events while she is doped up.
Back to the opening sequence. When “Mr Sandman” fades out, there is a recap of the original’s climax when Loomis (Donald Pleasence) shoots Michael Myers six times and he falls off the balcony of the Doyle’s house. Loomis then goes down to investigate the disappearance of Michael, and then the Doyle’s next-door neighbor comes out to see what the disturbance is. Here we are treated to some immensely quotable dialogue in a very cool scene…
Doyle’s Neighbor: What’s going on out here?
Loomis: Call the police! Tell the sheriff I shot him!
Doyle’s Neighbor: Who?
Loomis: Tell him he’s still on the loose!
Doyle’s Neighbor: Is this some kind of joke? I’ve been trick-or-treated to death tonight.
Loomis: You don’t know what death is!
Then Loomis runs off and it segues smoothly into the title sequence with the musical cue of John Carpenter’s famous theme. The familiar piano melody is upped in tempo, now played on a synthesizer that is backed by the loud blasts of the heavily enhanced organ parts. This is an exhilarating take on the classic theme with a darker Gothic-esque version. It remains one of the most underrated compositions by its filmmaker/musician.
This title sequence shows director Rick Rosenthal’s partial dedication to carrying over elements from the first movie. In that previous title sequence, featuring a jack o’ lantern against a black backdrop, through the entirety of the credits, the camera slowly zooms in on it while accompanied by Carpenter’s haunting theme music. As the camera closes in on its left eye, we see an image of a skull and then the lit candle inside starts to go dim until it goes out. Here the camera slowly moves in on the jack o’ lantern as a whole, the candle light starts flickering, and it rips apart to show a skull’s full visage. The camera continues to close in on the skull’s right eye socket until it goes right inside, and we see the first post-title shot from Myers’ perspective. Much like the opening of the original, this POV shot lasts a long time but just a fair bit less clocking in at 1:43 seconds, as opposed to the previous stonking 4-minutes.
The Shape creeps around the back-alleys. He sees Loomis picked up by Sherriff Brackett in his patrol car as Loomis shouts at him “I shot him six times!” He then comes across the back of a house where the kitchen is situated. He sees through the kitchen’s window, an elderly woman preparing a sandwich for her husband who is in the front room watching TV. The camera then moves away from the voyeurism to the interior of the house as she walks away from the kitchen into the front room to see why her other half, who is sleeping in his armchair, is not answering her. We see on their TV, they are watching the channel showing the Halloween horror marathon carried over from the last film. Instead of Howard Hawks’ The Thing from Another World (1951), the channel is now showing George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968).
The camera then goes back to Michael Myers’ perspective for 24-seconds, as we hear a breaking news bulletin on the TV about the three murders committed in the Wallace’s house. He enters the back of the house through the kitchen and picks up the knife the old woman was using to make the sandwich. This shot looks just like the shot in the opening of the original, when a young Michael takes out a butcher knife from the kitchen draw.
It is from here we start to see the stylistic differences. Myers makes his way to a neighboring house where inside is a young woman. This first killing with a knife through her chest is the first bit of blood we have seen since the very beginning of the first movie, which depicted the stabbing of Judith Myers. This is the first of eight gruesomely graphic set-pieces here.
Although, this was not Rosenthal’s decision and he had nothing to do with the filming of these sequences. He wanted to make something closer to the spirit of John Carpenter’s original work, relying mostly on deliberate pacing, suspense and tension. When he delivered his cut though, Carpenter knew it was not what the audience wanted in this new era of prolific bloodletting. They had to compete with bloody offerings released in the same year – My Bloody Valentine, Friday the 13th Part 2, The Burning, Nightmares in a Damaged Brain, The Prowler, etc. The irony is the original Halloween spawned this sub-genre, but was now out of place in it. Forced to deliver the gory goods for the gorehounds with its sequel, the producer now acting as a director, shot this additional material to give the film the shocks it needed to draw its target audience.
There are other reasons why Rick Rosenthal’s original cut was not up to scratch. Here is what John Carpenter had to say about it all in the book Prince of Darkness –
Having seen the dull as dishwater TV version that is essentially Rosenthal’s original cut, I think Carpenter did the right thing here, as his cut is easily superior being for more entertaining. If they had released the director’s originally intended vision, then the movie’s release would have been a disaster.
John Carpenter made a couple of mistakes though cutting his version. There is the almighty timeline gaffe concerning the placing of the aforementioned breaking TV news bulletin. It reports the dead bodies at the Wallace’s house literally just minutes after Loomis shot The Shape. The filmmaker created another continuity error by cutting a scene in which Michael Myers cuts the hospital’s power and the emergency generator starts up. This explains the building’s dark setting from the film’s halfway mark onwards.
It is so strange the hospital is near empty. There is only a handful of staff and there are zero patients except for Laurie, even though there is a nursery full of newborn babies. Every time I watch the movie, this bugs me a bit but it does serve a purpose. While this setting is not visually rewarding as the original’s large open spaces of the suburbs of small town Haddonfield, this is a standard remote setting for a slasher, providing an overwhelming feeling of isolation. In addition, the confinements of the building’s dark hallways and rooms, Rick Rosenthal’s utilization of long shots of Michael making his way through the corridors, and of the monitors as the security cameras capture Myers’ moments – make for a claustrophobic and creepy atmosphere.
We do though revisit the suburbs throughout the course of the proceedings as Loomis continues his pursuit of The Shape. Another key element of the original is reproduced here, as Pleasence repeats the same beats with monologues about how Michael Myers is pure evil. We also see here another nod to the siblings revelation when Loomis and Deputy Sheriff Hunt (Hunter von Leer), investigate a break in at the local elementary school. Michael has left a knife in a little child’s drawing of their family with the sister being the target. One of these scenes outside the hospital, which takes place at the Myers’ house, shows the effect these tragic killings have had on the residents of Haddonfield – a backdrop of a community in panic. Laurie’s High School crush, Bennett Tramer, also plays a part in the tragedy with his death providing a short-lived red herring.
The other big stylistic difference is The Shape himself. Dick Warlock moves much more slowly and his body movements are far more stiffer than Nick Castle’s performance in the last film, making this killing machine more robotic-like here. Warlock is utterly convincing though as a devil incarnate. The mask looks a lot different as well, but actually, it is the same original William Shatner prop. During the time between the filming of both installments, it just deteriorated.
Rosenthal has returning cinematographer, Dean Cundey, shoot Michael Myers in a way that brings him right out into the light, employing none of the previous camera trickery. To be fair, we already know from the first movie’s conclusion, which answered the questions set up over the course of the proceedings that Michael must be something other than just human and is near indestructible. We can let this slide, as the same aesthetic did not need to be used again; the “Boogeyman” element can remain intact, as we still do not know what Myers really is.
The needless revelation takes the edge off this though. We did not need an explanation giving The Shape a motivation for his killings. Not only does it contradict the previously told narrative, but rewriting the mythology by making Michael Myers and Laurie Strode brother and sister, explaining something that should not have been even partially explained, is a misunderstanding of what was originally conceived. Part of the brilliance of Carpenter’s first film is the lack of back-story and exposition of Michael, as he is simply pure evil – he kills because that is what he does. Doing away with this ambiguity by making up explanations in reasoning for Myers’ actions – helps to demystify this enigmatic malevolent evil being. If this were not worked into the mythos, there would have been even more of an aura of mystery surrounding the character.
CONCLUSION: A Worthy Companion Piece to the Original or Not?
Well, yes and no. Obviously, it is not in the same league of filmmaking as the original, as it loses certain key elements that made that so unique in its craftsmanship, and watching these two movies as a double bill, the narrative and stylistic differences become clearly noticeable. However, the stylistic differences work very well for a strong entry in the slasher sub-genre that its predecessor innovated. Granted, if John Carpenter’s heart was in it, if he actually wanted to make a sequel with him in the director’s chair, it could have been an even better one. It is though ultimately satisfying, and would have ended the series in a literally explosive way sending out the beloved horror icon Michael Myers on a memorable high note.
Event Coverage: Mark Patton and Kim Myers Talk Freddy’s Revenge in London
Earlier this month Unicorn Nights organized a rare treat for horror fans, not only did we get to view the often under rated A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge but we were also honored to be in company with the two leading cast members. Mark Patton who played Jesse Walsh and Kim Myers who played his on screen girlfriend Lisa Webber were on hand for a Q & A session once the 1985 sequel had wrapped and Dread Central was in London for a full report.
Every horror fan has their own take on Freddy’s Revenge which has always felt like a standalone movie compared to the rest of the franchise. Speaking to fans at the infamous Prince Charles Cinema where the event was being shown they recalled moments that made the movie so special and separate from the other sequels. The bright yellow school bus, Jesse’s 20 inch tongue, Freddy bursting out of a Mark Patton plastic fantastic body, the exploding parrot, Jesse’s dance, Jesse’s fight, Jesse’s scream, the dog with a human head, the horrifyingly beautiful score by Christopher Stone, Hope Lange, Clu ‘fucking’ Gulager, the beautiful Kim Myers (who judging by tonight hasn’t aged) and of course the infamous line when Freddy tells Jesse,”you’ve got the body, I’ve got the brain”, before peeling back the skin on his head to reveal his pumping organ.
When the movie had wrapped Mark and Kim got down to business and answered fans long awaited questions. Myers confirmed that her audition had been grueling and that she had been asked back four times, but it was her read through with Patton that convinced the powers that be to cast her. “It was a dream come true to get the part and the opportunity of a lifetime”, confirmed Myers.
It was also interesting to learn that Robert Englund who of course would return as Freddy Krueger was the very last cast member to sign on for the sequel, and his participation was very much in the balance. Patton made everyone in the room laugh when he answered a question from a fan who said ‘was his screaming really him?’ Patton confirmed it was, before revealing that the sound men were in fear of him. Of course Myers is the only actress to have kissed Freddy and she revealed that the peck was very slimy and disgusting , but it was all about saving the love of her life, and with that, both her and Patton, embraced in what had been a fantastic and memorable night for the fans that had turned up for this sold out showing.
ABOUT UNICORN NIGHTS:
Unicorn Nights is the LGBTQUAI strand of films at the Prince Charles Cinema. Looking at some of the best (and worst) films that appeal to a queer unicorn audience. From Classics like Dirk Bogarde’s Victim and Tilda Swinton’s Orlando to lesbian werewolf love stories Jack & Diane and coming out classic Get Real. Their goal is to not let forgotten films from gay film makers or covering gay subjects be forgotten about and give a safe space for unicorns (as they like to call their audience) to come and enjoy film in the beating heart of London’s film center.
If you are in the London area you can follow Unicorn’s latest events and keep up to date by clicking here!
Also check out news on Mark Patton’s new documentary, Scream Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street.
All Photos: David Bronstein
2017: The Digital Rebirth of the Midnight Movie
This year’s Sundance audience had no idea what they had signed up for when they entered the Egyptian Theatre on January 21st, the midnight premiere of Kuso. While Flying Lotus has established a well-earned legacy through his music, feature films are a fresh venture for him – and his first effort was transgressive enough to be dubbed one of the grossest films ever made. In spite of this film’s instant infamy, however, it didn’t have a theatrical run. Its grotesque pleasures must be sought almost exclusively online. Only some (lucky or unlucky) cinephiles have been able to experience this creation as it, and much of its ilk, should be – in the darkness of a theater.
The midnight movie phenomenon truly broke into the mainstream during the late ‘60s, amidst the academically-deemed Golden Age of American cinema. Now-famous directors like John Waters, David Lynch, and Alejandro Jodorowsky earned notoriety with these works – made infamous by their grotesque natures, sure, but also because they broke cinematic rules in such effective ways. There is something cathartic about watching a film that shows you something impossible, surrounded by others who are just as shocked and moved. This is an experience that audiences can’t truly replicate outside of a theater, at any time before nightfall.
Since the rise of the multiplex and big-chain theaters, independent cinemas have had a more difficult time competing. Why settle for one screen, anyway, when you can have twenty? With blockbusters and a series of misfires (lookin’ at you, Heaven’s Gate) putting an end to the revolutionary Golden Age, there wasn’t a space for midnight movies. Perhaps this was because they defy classification. Their ultimate effect may be disgust or discomfort, but a midnight movie isn’t necessarily horror, or comedy or sci-fi, for that matter. Without a category, they’re impossible to sell – or sell easily.
Film festivals have become the salvation of these less accessible offerings. Kuso was one of eight midnight selections at Sundance this year, amongst the equally harrowing (albeit less gooey) Bitch, the oddly touching The Little Hours, and entertaining anthology XX, to name a few. Big players like South by Southwest, TIFF, Tribeca and AFI sport midnight sections as well, which have premiered recent smashes like Turkish hellfest Baskin or monstrous love poem Spring – while the equally important Fantastic Fest and Sitges Film Festival have focused solely on genre films for years. Fest favorites still rely on distribution to find a broad audience, though, and often the weirdest ones get left behind.
So, where do modern audiences find these films when they don’t get a traditional release? They have to go online. Netflix’s horror section is notoriously uneven, though its acquisition of IFC Midnight’s lineup has improved it immensely. One of the most consistent platforms for weird cinema is far more niche – AMC’s hidden gem, Shudder. It’s advertised as Netflix for horror, but its curators have shown a specific focus on all things strange, regardless of category. This year, they’ve acquired more standard genre fare, like the heinously clever Better Watch Out and the powerful, agonizing Revenge; but arguably their most famous grab is Kuso, which draws an entirely different audience. Fresh acquisitions like Prevenge and We Are the Flesh, along with hard-to-find classics such as Death Bed: the Bed that Eats and The Devils, prove the site’s attention to exposing new audiences to bizarre, world-changing content.
It isn’t to say that weird movies haven’t been made in the decades between these periods; but we seem to have entered an age in which they’re becoming easily accessible again. Prestige talent has begun crossing into weird movies too; see Anne Hathaway in the genre-destroying Colossal or Jennifer Lawrence enduring all sorts of abuse in mother!, remarkable if only for the fact that Paramount released it with no questions asked. Stylish directors like Ben Wheatley and Ana Lily Amirpour broke into the mainstream with their own no-budget visions of strangeness, A Field in England and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, respectively.
Presenting a new generation with films that challenge, provoke, disgust and distort is essential; we live in a time of upheaval and anxiety, so why not explore movies that show the world in all its chaotic glory? Even so, that connection of a dark theater is missed – and fans can hope that somehow, the system will change again, allowing for a fresh cycle of movies that only play at night.
12 Spooky Video Game Farms To Celebrate Your Thanksgiving
Happy pre-Christmas, everybody! It’s once again that magical time of the year, where all the department stores get out their light up Santas and tinsel to celebrate the birth of capitalism. The Spooky Month is gone, all praise be to the glorious Coca-Cola Company. Oh, and there’s also something about turkeys and stuffing your face with enough pie to temporarily shut down your brain’s ability to recognize your in-laws as the enemy.
Now if you’re like me and your family is an impossible five whole hours away from you, you might be spending Thanksgiving alone. No shame in that, just a single adult man alone in his room on a day meant for loved ones. But that doesn’t mean that we very-much-not-lonely-and-totally-content-with-our-life-choices individuals can’t have some fun! So this year, I’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving by remembering the American heartland that made this all possible. The noble farmer, tilling the soil from dusk till dawn until automation made his job mostly just pushing buttons. So join me if you will, with my list of 12 Spooky Video Game Farms to Celebrate Your Thanksgiving!
12) All is Dust
All is Dust is pretty much the reason that this is a list of “Spooky Video Game Farms,” and not “Top Spooky Video Game Farms.” This is a game that I once used to kick off a series of negative reviews I called “Bottom of the Bargain Bin,” you can go ahead and read my rambling review if you are so inclined. For the rest of you, I’ll recap by saying that All is Dust is bad. None of that wishy-washy some redeeming nuggets that you can see through the rest of the turd. It’s just plain bad. But what it does have going for it is that, A) it is 100% free, B) it 100% takes place on a farm, and C) it’s so bad that it sticks in my brain as being entertaining. Play if you’re very bored or truly deranged.
11) Farm for your Life
Although not really living up to the “Spooky” part of the “Spooky Video Game Farms” list, I’d be remiss to leave it out. Taking place after the zombie apocalypse, you must do your best to raise livestock and run your restaurant by day, and defend it from waves of zombies by night. It’s part tower defence, part Harvest Moon, part Cooking Mama, part Diner Dash, and part Minecraft. For only $10, it’s definitely worth checking out just for the unique premise and adorable zombies.
10) Monster Rancher
Whereas Pokémon was about a small child going forth into nature to enslave its creatures and force them to fight in the ultimate bloodsport, Monster Rancher was about setting up the ideal monster sex palace. Okay, you still make them fight. This is a monster raising (or, if you will, monster ranching) simulator after all, it would be pretty bleak of the ultimate goal was to just chop them up and sell off the best bits. It never did as well as Pokémon, but I always found something charming about Monster Rancher’s take on raising your monsters. Rather than just fighting to get bigger and stronger, you could raise their individual stats by making them do chores like tidying up or running laps. I got much more of a sense of attachment to my individual monsters when I felt like I was their dad, making them mow the lawn for their own good. Then, later as their pimp, I forced them to mate and produce supermonsters.
9) Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler’s Green
Somewhere out there some, search optimization program must be whirring its little algorithms in confusion as this is the first time anyone has mentioned Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler’s Green in a decade. A tie-in to the equally unloved Land of the Dead, it actually serves as a direct prequel. You play as Jack, a farmer who on the night of the zombie outbreak finds his farm besieged by… well you know the drill. Road to Fiddler’s Green gets bonus points for not only partially taking place on a farm, but for starring an authentic American heartland stereotype farmer. Now let me be clear, this game is pretty bad. But it’s even more so that endearingly simple kind of bad, where the zombies are so easily avoided it’s like the scene from Dawn of the Dead where the bikers are basically just having an orgy around them. I have no idea where you’d get your hands on it, but give it a play if you want some good ol’ fashioned bad game.
8) Dead Secret
This is the part where if this were a “Top” list, it would begin in earnest. Like a Jigsaw victim tasked with beating Five Nights at Freddy’s, this is a game that surprised me. I’m not really keen on the whole fixed point VR thing, as it tends to only lend itself to jump scares, but Dead Secret won me over with some thrilling chases and overall creepy atmosphere. The bizarre plot contains oni-masked demon spirit guides, magic slugs, dream machines, and the phases of the moon. It’s definitely something worth checking out, and is available on all major VR headsets. Even without one, I found the game enjoyable.
First of all, if you don’t find Minecraft scary, fuck you. You’ve obviously never played it. I do not care how blocky the graphics or adorable the sheep are. You try to listening to the zombies moaning softly in the distance as you huddle in your makeshift hovel and pray the night to be over. How about you place the last block on your new swimming pool, only to hear the telltale hiss of a creeper just behind you. Then you can come back and tell me that Minecraft isn’t horror. And don’t tell me it’s not a farm, either. All you do in Minecraft IS farm. It’s a game about building things to eventually grow more things so you no longer have to go out of your way to collect things. That is the literal transition from hunter/gatherer to farming.
6) Slender: The Arrival
Now that it’s been 4 years since its official release and the hype/controversy has died down, I’m free to say nice things about Slender: The Arrival without sounding like a pandering YouTube twat. In retrospect, the part of Slender that I really didn’t like (other than the community) was the first randomly generated section. The whole 11 or so interchangeable environments with 8 pages scattered between them just felt unnatural, a cheap way to lengthen gameplay at the cost of a cohesive world. However, I found the game to be pretty good when it got to the more linear scripted areas. One such level was titled “Homestead,” and takes place on a spooky farm complete with grain silo and quaint little hilltop church. It’s a pretty solid little piece of horror, and definitely worth watching someone overreact to on YouTube.
5) Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil 4 is not a game wanting for memorable locations. It’s got a spooky castle, a spooky military base, a spooky mine, a spooky… ancient ruins? I mean hell, this is a game with an underground lava fortress and a minecart ride! That being said, I don’t know a single person who doesn’t immediately associate Resident Evil 4 with the first pitched siege battle in the farming village. Many of the game’s most memorable moments come from these first few chapters in the decaying rural town, including the enduring introduction of Mr. Chainsaw-McSackface. That alone deserves a spot on this list.
4) Dying Light: The Following
When I gave Dying Light: The Following a five-star tongue bath awhile back, much of that was due to my own personal disappointment with DLC releases. You really have to give props to a DLC pack that is at the same time affordable, lengthy, and adds something genuinely new to the title. For The Following’s case, that came in the form of lengthy rural sections you had to get across in your sick customizable buggy. It was unique compared to the previously cramped and vertical spaces of the main campaign, adding even more freedom to a game about freerunning.
3) The Walking Dead
Back in the day, Telltale Games was that cute little indie company putting out new Sam and Max games and the CSI tie-ins. That all changed in 2012 when The Walking Dead put them on the map. Before then, no one expected that a game you could play on your iPhone would make you cry. Of all the heartbreaking and shocking moments, perhaps the most is the dinner at the St. Johns’ farm. Clementine will remember that…and so will I.
2) Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
The last two additions on this list basically write themselves. I’m choosing to give Resident Evil 7: Biohazard the second slot because it’s just way less recognizable as once having been a plantation. As someone who doesn’t find country bumpkins scary, the crazed hillbilly trope of films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre or House of 1000 Corpses never really got to me. The Baker family? These people scare me.
1) Outlast 2
Of course the top spot on this list goes to Outlast 2. If you Google “horror games on farms,” it’s the first result. And there’s good reason for that. Outlast 2 takes everything unsettling about rural Americana and cranks it up to 11. You’ve got slaughterhouses filled with people, rotting cattle, a syphilitic cult leader, pits filled with dead babies… the list goes on and on. It’s genuinely terrifying. I’m not even someone who likes the weaponless approach to horror, but with Outlast 2 it’s as much about the setting as it is the jump scares. Definitely check it out.
Well, there you have it horror fans. A nice sampling of 12 Spooky Video Game Farms to Celebrate Your Thanksgiving. I tried to include a little bit of everything for everyone here, but let me know if I missed your favorite heartland horror! Happy pre-Christmas to all, and to all a good… fright?
…I’ll see myself out.
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