HALLOWEEN II (1981) and HALLOWEEN (2018): A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

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HALLOWEEN II (1981) and HALLOWEEN (2018): A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

MAJOR SPOILER WARNING! In order to properly compare these two films, I have to give DETAILED SPOILERS. If you haven’t seen Halloween II (1981) or Halloween (2018), there are MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW for each film. You have been warned!

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Comparison In Horror is back!…and in this installment the comparison is between the two direct sequels to John Carpenter’s original classic Halloween. In 1981, the success of Halloween led to an inevitable sequel, Halloween II. Recently, for Halloween‘s 40th anniversary, a new film, Halloween (2018), was made that went back to the source and erased all the previous sequels, as a direct continuation of Carpenter’s original story. It’s created a unique situation where one classic film now has two direct sequels…remember, Halloween H2O, acknowledges the story elements of Halloween II, so it is not quite a direct sequel to the 1978 classic. Two direct sequels that take place forty years apart, let’s take a look these two films and compare…

(Click on the highlighted movie titles to go to the full length reviews and on the photos to enlarge them!)

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THE STORY

Halloween II takes place on the same night of the original, basically picking up right where the first film leaves off. The flick continues with an injured Laurie Strode (Jaime Lee Curtis) being taken to a hospital in Haddonfield, while Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) and the police scour the neighborhood for the still at large Michael Myers (stuntman Dick Warlock). Unbeknownst to them, Michael has discovered Laurie’s whereabouts and heads to the hospital to find her, leaving a trail of bodies along the way. Once there, he begins to decimate the hospital staff, one by one, in search of his prey. It is in this film that it is revealed that Laurie is actually Michael’s other sister and he has come home to finish the job he started 15 years ago.

Halloween (2018) opens forty years later to find Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) living in solitude after some failed marriages and loosing custody of her only daughter Karen (Judy Greer). She’s taught herself to survive and fight and is in a constant state of preparedness for Michael Myers’ (Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney) possible return. As for Michael, he was recaptured after that fateful night and has been re-incarcerated in the Smith’s Grove Asylum ever since. A pair of British journalists (Rhian Rees and Jefferson Hall) visit Michael, on the eve of his transfer to an even more secure institution, and try to evoke a response by presenting him with his old mask. Of course, that night, the transfer bus suffers an accident and Michael escapes, reclaims his mask and heads off to Haddonfield in time for Halloween. Hearing of his escape, Laurie intends to protect her daughter and granddaughter (Andi Matichak) and goes on the hunt to confront Michael once and for all. By ignoring all the sequels, this film eliminates the subplot that Laurie is Michael’s sister and returns her to a random victim.

Except for both films being direct sequels to John Carpenter’s Halloween, the stories are vastly different.

 

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MICHAEL MYERS

Obviously the Michael Myers in 1981’s Halloween II is the same as in John Carpenter’s Halloweenas the film picks up minutes after the first movie. He’s about twenty-one years-old and is a brutal killer, murdering anyone he encounters during his pursuit of Laurie. It starts out as random neighbors, as he flees from the police and Loomis, to various hospital staff once he finds Laurie at Haddonfield Hospital. He uses a variety of weapons or his hands to brutally dispatch his victims. His mask is still new, stolen earlier that day from a general store. There are hints that there is something supernatural about him, a pure evil more than human.

Halloween (2018)‘s Michael is a Michael forty years older than when we…or Laurie…last saw him. He’s got grey hair, is balding and covered in scars from his first encounter with Laurie. Once reunited with his mask, it too is showing wear and tear, with cracks and thinning hair much like it’s wearer. Despite being 61 years-old, he is still a strong, brutal and efficient killer murdering any innocents he encounters on his way back to Haddenfield and Laurie. In comparison, he seems a bit more vicious here, using his bare hands more often and otherwise mostly sticking with a simple kitchen knife, ironically obtained in a nice homage to Halloween II. He still prefers gas station coveralls and stalking women home alone or babysitting. The supernatural hints are downplayed here, save for a few lines in a nice homage/vocal cameo by Dr. Loomis.

In neither film does he ever speak and any emotions are marked by a shifting of his head or an intensifying in his movements. While he seems more interested in babysitters than their charges in the 1978 and 1981 films, 2018’s Michael has no qualms killing a young boy with a gun…but will still spare a baby. In the 1981 sequel, he started to appear more invincible and unkillable like his cinematic rival Jason Voorhees. In the 2018 sequel, he is back to being more human and can be hurt or injured.

 

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LAURIE STRODE

The Laurie Strodes portrayed in both films are a vast contrast due to the proximity and/or passage of time to the original film’s events.

In Halloween II Laurie is a terrified high school girl who is still traumatized from her encounter with Michael that night. She is basically a damsel in distress, continually on the run from Myers once he reacquires her. She actually seems to have a little less fight in her than she did in her earlier battle with the masked killer, though understandable being wounded and sedated by the hospital staff. Loomis once again comes to her rescue.

In Halloween (2018) we find a Laurie Strode who has been haunted for forty years as a result of the attack by Michael Myers and the murder of her friends. Aside from a few failed marriages and having a daughter from one, Laurie has lived a solitary life where she constantly prepares for Michael’s return…in fact she actually prays for it. The only way Laurie can purge the events of that Halloween night in 1978 from her mind is to kill the man who traumatized her and turned her into the paranoid recluse she now is. When she hears of Michael’s second escape, instead of hiding, Laurie arms herself and the hunter becomes the hunted. Laurie is more Sarah Conner than damsel in David Gordon Green’s film and Jamie Lee Curtis gives one of the best performances of her career.

 

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THE SETTINGS

The settings for both of these films is Haddonfield, Illinois and despite taking place forty years apart, not much has changed. In both films Haddonfield is a small suburban midwestern town that seems to celebrate Halloween enthusiastically. Halloween II ‘s town is still mostly unaware there is a killer in their midst and are only starting to hear the news that there has been an escape at Smith’s Grove and murders committed locally. The original Myers murder of his sister Judith, fifteen years earlier, is almost an urban legend at this point, especially to the town’s younger generations. A lot of the action takes place in the local hospital where Laurie has been admitted.

Same goes for Halloween (2018)‘s Haddonfield which has almost forgotten about the murders of forty years ago, save for the reminder of the eccentric woman who lives secluded in the woods. The new generation of teens know very little about Myers and that night and are too busy partying and trick or treating to realize a killer is on his way home again. Much like Halloween II, the Myers story is treated as an urban legend by everyone but for Laurie and a save few, including her daughter and granddaughter. The action takes place first at Smith’s Grove and then moves to Haddonfield with a last act at Laurie’s fortress home.

 

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THE OPENING SCENES

Rick Rosenthal’s 1981 sequel opens at Halloween‘s climax with Michael vanished and Loomis pursuing him into the street, much to the chagrin of a next-door neighbor. The opening sets the tone of the movie by quickly recounting the closing moments of the first film and then establishing that the danger is still out there. After a very effective opening credits scene where a pumpkin splits open to reveal a skull, we get Michael’s theft of a knife and first kill to make sure the dread is re-established.

Halloween (2018)  Opens with a pair of British podcasters visiting Michael at the Smith Grove Asylum. Journalist Aaron Korey (Jefferson Hall) uses some connections to borrow Michael’s mask and brazenly shows it to him to no effect. The other inmates react and it is their reaction that gives the opening an unsettling creepiness. After a very effective title sequence with a rotten pumpkin slowly reforming, we then follow Korey and his partner Dana (Rhian Rees) as they visit the reclusive Laurie, thus re-introducing us to her after all these years.

Both openings serve their respective stories well. Though in terms of sheer effectiveness, Halloween II is definitely the more potent opening, when going from Loomis’ classic “You don’t know what death is!” line to the pumpkin/skull credits, in getting us in the mood to be scared. Halloween (2018) only really gets going at a gas station scene which amusingly homages Halloween 4.

 

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THE ENDINGS

Both films end in fiery conflagrations with Michael at the receiving end.

In Halloween II, Michael bursts in as Loomis and Laurie are hiding in an operating room. Blinded by some well placed gunshots, Michael is lured into the center of the room as Laurie escapes. A wounded Loomis ignites the oxygen tanks causing a massive explosion. Myers walks out of the fire engulfed in flames before collapsing. Carpenter intended this to be the end of Michael Myers, though he would return for five more sequels before being “re-imagined” by Rob Zombie.

Halloween (2018) has Michael and Laurie engaged in a final(?) showdown at Laurie’s remote fortress house in the woods. She traps Michael in the cellar and then ignites the house which was always fitted to be a trap for the serial killer. Michael stares up at her as the room becomes engulfed in flames around him. Next we see the room, it is completely in flames, yet we see no sign of Michael. As we do hear his trademarked heavy breathing during the end credits, we are led to believe David Gordon Green is not done with the saga of Michael and Laurie quite yet.

 

 

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MISC

Halloween II is directed by Rick Rosenthal from a script by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, while Halloween (2018) is directed by David Gordon Green from a script by he, Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley. Both films are scored by Carpenter himself, with collaborations from Alan Howarth on the 1981 film and son Cody and Daniel Davies on the 2018 film. Both films look great with Dean Cundey doing the cinematography on Halloween II and Michael Simmonds on Halloween (2018). Both films feature graphic violence which is well represented by their respective make-up effects departments. As the recipient of such, both flicks have characters that are obviously there just to be Michael fodder. Each film does make good use of spooky Halloween imagery and were both box office hits with Halloween (2018) coming in just under the original film when tickets are adjusted for inflation.*

*as per Box Office Mojo

 

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IN CONCLUSION

Both films have their flaws and both have their merits. Both films effectively continue the story, but from completely different points in the timeline. One movie beginning where the first left off and the other continuing the story four decades later. As in all cases such as this, it’s up to the individual to choose a favorite. On a personal level, I’ll go with Halloween II as it’s an 80s slasher after all…my favorite kind…and flaws aside, it’s still the last Michael Myers film to really feel like a Halloween movie with Carpenter scoring and Dean Cundey doing cinematography…and let’s not forget the sadly missed presence of Donald Pleasence as Loomis. Halloween (2018), certainly got a number of things right, and does include a great performance from the queen herself. It also stumbled too, especially with it’s Loomis wannabe Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) and a failed subplot involving him. The 2018 film does have a strong police presence in Will Patton’s Deputy Hawkins who makes a nice replacement for the original part I and II’s Sheriff Brackett (Charles Cyphers) and Deputy Gary Hunt (Hunter von Leer). Addressing issues such as the long term effects on an attack victim, Green’s film has more substance, though Rosenthal’s sequel is simply more fun. Either way, Michael Myers fans win, as we probably haven’t seen the last of him. 🎃

-MonsterZero NJ

Check out more editions of A Comparison In Horror here!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: HALLOWEEN II and HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH

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The Halloween season may be over, but I couldn’t let it pass without giving this fun double feature a mention…

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HALLOWEEN II (1981)

With John Carpenter’s Halloween a big hit, it was inevitable that there would be a sequel. And while he had no intention of directing it, Carpenter along with Debra Hill wrote Halloween II which takes place on the same night of the original, basically picking up right where the first film leaves off. The flick continues the story with an injured Laurie Strode (Jaime Lee Curtis) being taken to a hospital in Haddonfield while Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) and the police scour the neighborhood for the still at large Michael Myers (stuntman Dick Warlock). But unbeknownst to them, Michael has discovered Laurie’s whereabouts and heads to the hospital to find her, leaving a trail of bodies along the way and once there he begins to decimate the hospital staff in search of his prey. It is in this film we find Laurie is actually Michael’s other sister and he has come home to finish the job he started 15 years ago.

While Halloween II is far from the masterpiece that Halloween is, it is a classic in it’s own right and in retrospect is definitely among one of the better slasher flicks of the 80s. Carpenter chose unknown Rick Rosenthal to direct and it’s hard to tell just how much of the film’s effectiveness is his, as it is said that producer Carpenter was unhappy with the film and did some re-editing and reshooting himself upping the gore and nudity quotas…which, in turn, made Rosenthal unhappy with the film. Photographed by Dean Cundey, the look of the film certainly matches the first and with Carpenter again handling the music, the atmosphere is there. The two flicks fit together quite nicely, but it’s hard to tell just how well Rosenthal did as director when Carpenter basically took over post production and added new material and rearranged sequences. The result is a solid slasher with some decent kills and gore and some nice suspense sequences as Myers stalks Laurie and the hospital staff in the dark hallways of the nearly abandoned hospital night shift. It has it’s intense moments and it certainly is a bit more brutal than the first with a much larger body count. Though, obviously it doesn’t have the first film’s finesse.

The cast all perform well with Curtis once again strong as Laurie and Donald Pleasence seamlessly reprising his role as Loomis. Dick Warlock gives Michael a powerful presence and newcomers Jeff East, Leo Rossi, Ana Alicia and Pamela Susan Shoop are all suitable as hospital staff and potential victims.

Who actually deserves more credit for making this sequel a solid slasher and a decent follow-up to Carpenter’s classic is not clear, but what is clear is that despite the large shoes it had to fill, Halloween II is an entertaining and effective slasher sequel that over time has come to stand on it’s own and has earned it’s own reputation as a classic.

3 and 1/2 skull pumpkins!

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HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (1982) 

Basically having concluded…or so he thought…Michael Myers’ story in Halloween II, producer John Carpenter intended to turn the Halloween series into an anthology, with each year a new Halloween themed film being released under the Halloween banner, but each one a separate and unrelated story.

The first of this proposed series is a bizarre, twisted and in my opinion, very underrated little horror thriller that mixes the supernatural with a bit of hi-tech (for the time). The film opens with an atmospheric and spooky sequence of a lone frantic man (Al Berry) clutching a Halloween mask while being pursued by ominous suited figures and finding his way to a gas station where he proclaims that someone is going to ‘kill us’ before collapsing. He’s brought to a hospital and put under the care of alcoholic Dr. Dan Challis (Tom Atkins), but later that night one of the suited figures arrives and gruesomely murders the man and then sets fire to himself. Challis soon learns the man was Harry Grimbridge, a local shop owner who was recently reported missing by his daughter Ellie (a smoking hot Stacy Nelkin). Now Ellie and Dan team up to find out what happened to Harry and why someone would want him dead. The only clues being the Silver Shamrock mask he was holding and that picking up a shipment of those masks from the factory in the remote little town of Santa Mira, was the last thing he was known to have been doing. But when the two get to Santa Mira they find something very sinister is afoot and that factory owner Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy) may have a horrible plan in store for the innocents wearing his masks on Halloween using modern technology to resurrect an ancient evil.

A lot of fans of the Halloween series were very disappointed with this entry for abandoning Michael Myers and his storyline, but I really liked the idea of an anthology series and I have a lot of fun with this gruesome little horror thriller with a twisted sense of humor. Carpenter pal Tommy Lee Wallace directs…and wrote the script from a story by Nigel Kneale…and he does a good job of replicating the master’s style and having Dean Cundey doing the cinematography and Carpenter and Alan Howarth on musical chores, the film fits right in with the Halloween series despite sharing none of the story elements. There are also some nice gore effects and other make-up to portray the various effects of Cochran’s Druid black magic and the after-effects of his suited thugs’ handiwork. The film has some nice atmosphere from the score…one of Carpenter’s best, actually…and the fact that Wallace has learned a lot about setting up shots from his director friend.

We get a flawed hero in the alcoholic divorcee Challis, who is brought to life with a really good performance by Tom Atkins. Dan is a very down to earth and real guy who comes up against a horrifying plan to murder thousands of children and faces the challenge with nobility and guts. Nelkin is a pretty and spunky heroine as Ellie and while it may be a stretch that she would fall so quickly for a borderline wreck like Challis, they do work well together as both characters and actors. And it would be remiss to not give Dan O’Herlihy a nod for a strong and creepy villain who has the charm of an angel, but the soul of a devil. The movie has it’s share of flaws. It can be silly at times, though sometimes it works in it’s favor, such as a last act that turns into a sort of supernaturally themed James Bond movie complete with a hidden lair, evil world effecting plot and arrogant boastful villain. And some characters are obviously just there for exposition and to be victims. But I think overall, you can forgive some of it’s flaws because it is such a well intentioned and fun horror thriller that has it’s heart in the right place and, in retrospect, is actually one of the more original horrors to come out of the franchise heavy 80s despite it’s farfetched story.

A very underrated horror thriller and a spooky, fun and twisted Halloween flick that gets watched every year during the spooky season at MonsterZero NJ’s lair. A favorite that I find is finally getting the respect it deserves. Listen for vocal cameo’s by none other then Jaime Lee Curtis during the scenes in Santa Mira.

Michael Myers returned to the series in Halloween 4 a few years later and the anthology series idea faded with Halloween III‘s weak box office returns. Too bad, I would have liked to have seen what Carpenter and co. would have come up with for future installments.

3 sinister Silver Shamrock masks!

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