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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10 PERFORMANCES THAT PROVE WOMEN RULED HORROR IN 2018!

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10 PERFORMANCES THAT PROVE WOMEN RULED HORROR IN 2018!

Horror was one of the first genres to provide strong roles for women. From Gloria Holden as Dracula’s Daughter to Jamie Lee Curtis as quintessential final girl Laurie Strode, women have always played a very important part. 2018 was no different, as there were a number of strong performances from the ladies in a variety of leading roles. Thusly, here are ten equally awesome performances by women in horror that proved that the ladies ruled the genre in 2018!…

(Just click on the highlighted titles to go to our reviews of these films for a more detailed description of the performances listed!)

#1 BRITTANY ALLEN as Jules in What Keeps You Alive

#2 HANNAH EMILY ANDERSON as Jackie in What Keeps You Alive

#3 NICOLE MUÑOZ as Leah in Pyewacket

#4 LAURIE HOLDEN as Mrs. Reyes in Pyewacket

#5 SCOUT TAYLOR-COMPTON as Alice in Feral

#6 TONI COLLETTE as Annie in Hereditary

#7 JAMIE LEE CURTIS as Laurie Strode in Halloween 2018

#8 TILDA SWINTON as Madame Blanc, Helena Markos and Dr. Josef Klemperer in SUSPIRIA 2018

#9 KATE SIEGEL as Theo Crain in The Haunting of Hill House

#10 DANA CHRISTINA as Allison in Extremity

HONORABLE MENTION

MADELINE BREWER as Lola/Alice in Cam

Hit the link HERE for a similar listing from 2014. Another banner year for female performances! While you’re there, find out which of these amazing ladies here also made that list in 2014!

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HALLOWEEN (2018)

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HALLOWEEN (2018)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

It’s the 40th anniversary of John Carpenter’s Halloween and so there is no surprise that there is a new Michael Myers film this year. This film hits the reset button and rejects all the other sequels and remakes and is a direct continuation of the first film, picking up the story 40 years later…

Halloween 2018 opens 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 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. But Laurie intends to protect her daughter and granddaughter (Andi Matichak) and goes on the hunt to confront Michael once and for all.

John Carpenter returns to the series to executive produce, along with Jamie Lee Curtis. He also co-wrote the score with son Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies. The film itself is directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) who co-wrote with Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley for Blumhouse and Miramax. Background in comedy aside, Green delivers what is probably the best of the post Halloween III sequels, though technically that is not saying much. It also feels much more like a Halloween film than Rob Zombie’s efforts, but those are their own thing and exist in their own universe. It’s not perfect and still can’t come close to the original, but it does provide some intense scenes, especially in the last act confrontation. There is some brutal violence and Myers hasn’t mellowed in his old age (he’s about 61 here) as he still has a fondness for babysitters, anyone home alone…and or course, the Strode women. The film’s drawbacks are mostly script problems. The character of Loomis protégée, Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) seems shoehorned into the story, just so it has another Loomis. He doesn’t provide any useful exposition and as Michael hasn’t spoken in 40 years, he can’t know anything much more about him than Loomis did. There is also a last act plot twist involving him which simply doesn’t work and serves only to set up one of the film’s many conveniences. The flick also never maintains a constant feeling of dread as did the original. It’s never really scary, though it does get intense and there are some suspenseful moments. Michael’s killings in Haddonfield seem far more random than before. In the original he stalked Laurie’s friends, here it’s just randomly picked people to add body count before the last reel showdown. It works, but still seems like filler. When that showdown comes, it is intense and delivers what we came for and Green does pay nice homage to the original and some of the sequels it chooses to ignore. It also looks great, Green has a good visual eye and Haddonfield looks the most like Haddonfield since it did in 1981’s Halloween II.

Green also gets good work out of most of his cast. Jamie Lee Curtis is great as the emotionally troubled survivalist that Laurie Strode has become. If her character evokes the transformation of Sarah Conner from The Terminator to it’s sequel, T2: Judgement Day, it’s probably intentional…and it works. She’s still the queen of final girls. Greer is very good as her somewhat estranged daughter and it’s a shame this talented actress constantly gets these second banana supporting roles. Andi Matichak was solid as Strode’s granddaughter Ally. She seems to take more after her grandmother than her mother, though due to the story trajectory, she takes a backseat to Curtis in terms of final girl duty. Will Patton was solid as the local sheriff, Haluk Bilginer is no Donald Pleasence as Sartain, and Rees and Hall were suitable in their brief roles as the British journalists who rattle the wrong cage. Last, but certainly not least, Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney combine to make an imposing Myers, who is more threatening than he was in any of the post Halloween III, pre-Zombie sequels.

Overall, Halloween 2018 was a suitable enough sequel, though not without it’s flaws and it’s no classic. Director Green gave us some intense scenes and some brutally violent moments, as well as, a strong last act confrontation. His script let’s us down a bit, with some really contrived conveniences and a Loomis replacement that wasn’t necessary and who suffered one of the worst plot twists of the film. The continual sense of dread Carpenter established was missing and Michael’s kills seemed especially random and there to “kill” time as we awaited his reunion with Laurie. Curtis is still queen of the final girls forty years later and Dr. Sartain aside, most of the cast and characters worked, even if some were obvious Michael fodder.

Halloween 1978 is a masterpiece and a horror classic, so one can’t expect the same from any of the sequels. Most of them sucked, anyway, making it easy for this film to be able to at least hold it’s ground against the original three…and flaws aside, it does. Stay through the credits.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 three carving knives. Happy Halloween 🎃!

 

 

 

 

 

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY JAMIE LEE CURTIS!

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY JAMIE LEE CURTIS!

MonsterZero NJ’s Movie Madhouse wishes  a very happy and healthy birthday to the greatest Scream Queen of them all, Jamie Lee Curtis!

-MonsterZero NJ

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY JAMIE LEE CURTIS!

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MonsterZero NJ’s Movie Madhouse wishes a very happy and healthy 58th birthday to the greatest Scream Queen of them all, Jamie Lee Curtis!

-MonsterZero NJ

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HALLOWEEN and IT FOLLOWS: A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

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HALLOWEEN and IT FOLLOWS: 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 John Carpenter’s Halloween or David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows, there are MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW for each film. You have been warned!

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When sitting in my seat at New York’s Angelika Film Center and David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows was about to begin, I was wondering, based on all the hype, if I might be witnessing today’s generation find their “Halloween“. Once the film was over and now after repeat viewings, I feel that these films are a lot alike in many ways. Whether Mitchell’s flick will someday be considered a true classic, like Carpenter’s masterpiece, only time will tell. The two films, though have a lot in common and whether they are revered on equal levels at some point, it is worth looking at those similarities now…

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

THE STORY

John Carpenter’s classic Halloween has a young boy murdering his own sister on Halloween night. Fifteen years later Michael Myers breaks out of Smith Grove Sanitarium and returns to his home town of Haddonfield, Illinois with his psychiatrist (Donald Pleasence) in hot pursuit. Michael randomly picks high school student Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis)…remember, it wan’t until Halloween II that we found out she was Michael’s baby sister…and begins to relentlessly stalk her and her friends. Michael leaves a trail of bodies in his wake as he tracks down young Laurie while she babysits on Halloween night.

It Follows has some sort of vengeful entity passed on to pretty college student Jay (Maika Monroe) through sexual intercourse. This demonic entity relentlessly stalks Jay, taking the form of anyone it wishes and only she and the one who passed it on to her can see it. It will stop at nothing to kill Jay…unless she passes it on to another through sex…as she and her friends seek to somehow evade or destroy it.

There are stark differences in plot details, but basically both flicks have a young woman targeted and stalked by a relentless, malevolent force.

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THE ANTAGONISTS

One of the things that makes Halloween so effective is the randomness of it’s killer. Evoking the feeling it could happen anytime, any place, to anyone. Michael Myers is an average little boy who on one Halloween night, takes up a knife and slaughters his sister. He is immediately incarcerated and over the years, remains a silent vessel of some kind of growing, intense evil that is never explained. For no outward reason, he chooses to escape and return home the night before Halloween, 15 years later. He picks Laurie Strode at random and just starts to follow her relentlessly, then murdering her friends before finally coming after her. He can be slowed down and injured, but apparently not stopped. Whatever Laurie and Dr. Loomis throw at him, he keeps getting back up. He wears an ominous Halloween mask and never speaks, nor seems to take any outward pleasure out of his violent acts. He is just an malevolent juggernaut that won’t stop until he gets what he wants. His motives and what drives him are a mystery.

The unnamed entity of It Follows is similar in many respects. Jay is seemingly picked at random by Hugh (Jake Weary) to have the entity passed onto. Once it has been, it pursues Jay relentlessly. Unlike Myers, it can assume any guise as it does. Sometimes it is in the form of an old woman, sometimes a tall man and even appears as Greg (Daniel Zovatto) and his mother, when Jay passes it on to him and it comes to kill him. It’s true form may be more demonic as the wound it gives Paul (Keir Gilchrist) appears to be claw marks. While the entity seems far more supernatural than Myers, and can only be seen by it’s victim, it also seems like it can be physically wounded and slowed down, though not stopped. It is methodical and patient much like Haddonfield’s infamous killer and also never speaks or seems to truly revel in it’s acts. A big difference, though is the entity will only kill it’s target. It only harms someone else, as with Paul, if they directly get in it’s way. In this, Halloween‘s Myers leaves a far larger body count.

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THE FINAL GIRLS/HEROINES

Here is a point where there are some vast differences, probably more due to a sign of the changing times, but Jay and Laurie are very different young women, despite their mutual resilience. Laurie Strode is the quintessential girl-next-door. She’s dedicated to her school work, very pretty, but dresses conservatively and she is still quite the virgin. She is also very shy around boys. Jay Height, on the other hand, is a few years older and is not only a sexy young woman who is very comfortable around boys, but very sexually active as well. The whole plot of It Follows is started with a sexual encounter she has in the back seat of a boy’s car…on only their second date. Again, it’s almost four decades after Halloween, so the portrayal of women and youths in movies has changed and the society they grew up in, is a lot different than it was in 1978. For example, from the brief meeting with Laurie’s dad, we can see she comes from a good, loving home with caring parents. She’s courteous and polite. Jay, in contrast, comes from a broken home with an alcoholic mother. She curses and is promiscuous and rebellious. With her mother almost always in a stupor, she has only her friends to turn to. Unlike Laurie, there is no Dr. Loomis waiting in the wings to save the day, either.

Both films carry the time-honored horror film themes about the dangers of casual sex, that their respective heroines’ peril represents. In contrast, the virginal Laurie survives, while her horny friends die, while not only does promiscuous Jay’s fate remain uncertain, it is casual sex that got her in trouble in the first place.

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THE SETTINGS

Here there are equal parts similarities and differences. Both film’s have a suburban setting, but very different suburbs. Haddonfield is more of a Norman Rockwell all-American neighborhood with white picket fences, well manicured lawns and trees everywhere. Jay lives in rundown, suburban Detroit where paint is cracking, there are old beat-up cars in the driveways and not every house looks lived in. Where Carpenter used the Halloween time of year to establish a mood, with leaves blowing and cloudy fall days giving way to nights filled with pumpkins and trick-or-treaters, Mitchell uses the desolate look of a dying community to give his chiller it’s feeling of desolation and isolation. Jay’s neighborhood is disturbingly void of activity both day and night while Haddonefield is filled with playing children. It gives us the feeling that Jay and friend’s are all alone…we rarely see an adult…while Halloween gives us an almost idyllic family community unaware and unprepared for the evil that has entered it’s peaceful streets. Two separate methods of using settings to establishing fear and dread, which both films have in abundance.

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THE OPENING SCENES

Both movies have great opening scenes that really establish the mood and tone. Halloween opens on October 31st, 1963. We see pretty Judith Myers being watched as she makes out with, then makes love to, her boyfriend. After he leaves, the observer takes up a kitchen knife and we find it is Judith’s little brother Michael, who then brutally slaughters his nearly naked sister for no apparent reason. His horrified parents arrive home in time to see their little boy standing outside the house holding a bloody knife and staring blankly into space.

It Follows opens with a pan across the Detroit neighborhood as the sun sets when pretty Annie (Bailey Spry) in lingerie and heels bursts out of her house. She looks terrified despite assuring her inquiring neighbor she’s fine. The girl runs back into the house and emerges with her keys, blowing past her concerned father and getting in her car and leaving. We then see her alone on a beach, lit only with her car’s headlights, tearfully telling her father on the phone that she loves him. As she looks in the distance in terror, at the tree line lit by her car’s red break lights, we get an intense feeling of dread even before we cut to the following morning with Annie’s body lying in the sand in a horrifyingly brutalized condition.

Both openings are perfect for setting us up for what is to come, starting us off with an atmosphere of fear and foreboding.

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THE ENDINGS

Here’s where Halloween really comes out on top. Carpenter’s classic and Mitchell’s films both have ambiguous endings, but only Halloween really pulls it off. After a very intense battle with Michael Myers, Dr. Loomis comes and shoots the masked killer repeatedly till he falls off a balcony and hits the ground…presumedly dead. As Loomis tries to comfort Laurie she asks if it was the ‘Boogie Man’…Loomis replies with an ominous “As a matter of fact it was.” We then see that Michael’s body is gone. It’s very effective and leaves us chilled long after the credits roll. He’s still out there…somewhere. A perfectly spooky open ending with a classic line that still resonates.

It Follows drops the ball a bit by not quite knowing when to stop. Jay and friends have an intense battle with “It” as they lure it into the high school pool where Paul finally shoots it while it’s underwater and trying to drown Jay. Jay looks over the edge of the pool to see it ominously filling with an expanding cloud of blood. Is it dead? We’re not sure. Then the film goes on, having Jay return home and finally sleeping with Paul, who has crushed on her for years. They ask each other if they feel ‘different’ and decide they don’t. After Paul’s declining to pass it on to a pair of hookers…if it’s even still following them…the film cuts to Paul and Jay walking down the street holding hands while there is another person in the distance behind them…and then just ends. It’s supposed to leave us feeling unsure if the entity was defeated or not, but just seems abrupt. The added sex scene with Paul is motivationally unclear, especially after Jay was so guilty over what happened to Greg. It gives us the impression that the story is going to continue, but then just ends. It’s more abrupt than ominous and personally, left me unsatisfied. In my humble opinion…and while I respect the filmmaker’s vision…I would have ended it as Jay looked into the blood-filled pool. The sex scene with Paul doesn’t really add anything and doesn’t further the story. It also gives the intense pool scene a feeling of not having gone anywhere and deflates it’s impact as the film continues on with a new plot point that doesn’t resolve anything either.

Carpenter knew to end Halloween at the right point, while we’re still catching our breath. Mitchell let’s us wind down and then continues the story a bit before his ambiguous ending and thus it gives the appearance of just ending suddenly…and un-satisfyingly. Basically the only real stumble he makes with this film.

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MISC.

There are other similarities. Both films have excellent cinematography and shot framing. John Carpenter’s shot framing has always been impeccable and the moody yet vibrant cinematography of Dean Cundey really makes it effective. Cundey uses shadow brilliantly and Halloween truly looks like the holiday it represents. David Robert Mitchell sights Carpenter as an influence and it shows. Much like Bereavement‘s Stevan Mena, Mitchell has learned well from the master and he frames his shots exceptionally. He is backed up by some sumptuous digital cinematography by Mike Gioulakis, who like Cundey, knows how to use light and shadow to his advantage and he gives the rundown streets of Detroit a sense of hopelessness that fits along with the film’s mood.

Also adding atmosphere for both film’s are their electronic scores. Carpenter’s score for Halloween is legendary and it brilliantly highlights what’s going on in the film, setting the mood for every frame. The same can be said for Disaterpeace’s electronic score for It Follows. A bit more complex than Carpenter’s perfectly minimalist score, it also adds a lot of mood and atmosphere even adding ominous touches when the film is in quieter moments, as Carpenter did with his keyboards.

Finally, both films got gradual releases that slowly expanded from the weeks of their premieres. Staggered releases weren’t uncommon in the 70s and Halloween slowly expanded it’s release and thus it’s reputation grew and began to precede it, as it was regionally released across the country from late October through November. It Follows was supposed to have a small four theater release in mid-March…which is when I saw it in NYC…and then open on VOD a week later. It did so well in those four locations that the VOD release was postponed and the film added more and more theaters over the following few weeks till it achieved a full wide release on 3/27/15 and a solid gross for a low budget film originally slated for VOD.

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So is It Follows the Halloween of today’s generation? By way of comparison, in many ways, it is. The true test will be years from now when we see if horror fans still revere and talk about it or…if it turns out to be a ‘horror of the moment’ and fade away with the next big thing. Only time will tell. Personally, I think it falls a few steps short, but is still a solid and refreshingly offbeat horror flick that should stand the test of time well, if not quite as importantly regarded as Carpenter’s classic masterpiece.

-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: HAPPY 35th ANNIVERSARY to JOHN CARPENTER’S THE FOG (1980)

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JOHN CARPENTER’S THE FOG (1980)

John Carpenter’s The Fog was released on February 8th 1980 and my butt was there in a theater to see it! So, in honor of the 35th anniversary of one of my all-time favorite horror flicks, I am re-posting this look back at Carpenter’s classic!

One of my all time favorite horrors and one of my favorite John Carpenter flicks, in fact, since I was too young to see Halloween when it came out, this was the first Carpenter film I saw in a theater and the flick that started me on my love of his movies.

The Fog tells the story of the 100 year anniversary of the small coastal California town of Antonio Bay and as the town prepares for it’s centennial celebration, a dark secret is revealed. Legend has it a leper colony paid the founders of Antonio Bay a lot of gold to let them settle nearby but, they were betrayed and murdered, as their ship was lured onto the rocks to crash and sink on a fog laden night. All were lost but, now a horde of vengeful spirits returns from the sea, wrapped in a surreal fog, to make the descendants of those who wronged them, pay with their lives.

The Fog focuses not on a main character but, a group of central characters whose individual experiences during this supernatural crisis bring them slowly all together for it’s tense and creepy final act set in the town church. A good cast, including Jamie Lee Curtis as hitchhiker Elizabeth, Tom Atkins as local fisherman Nick, Janet Leigh as centennial chairwoman Kathy Williams and Adrienne Barbeau as single mom and radio DJ Stevie Wayne, give life to this ensemble and make them characters we like and care about so, we fear for them when they are placed in harm’s way. Add to that Hal Holbrook as the town’s alcoholic priest and a host of Carpenter regulars…with even a cameo by Carpenter himself…and you have a film wonderfully filled with a variety of characters who are all potential victims for the marauding phantoms. As for those phantoms, lets not forget to mention the ghostly Captain Blake (FX man Rob Bottin) and his vengeful crew who are portrayed with in-camera practical FX. This makes them quite spooky and gives them a heavy dose of menace and a lot of effectiveness when they are on the attack. There is loads of atmosphere and some very solid scares and suspense created by Carpenter, along with some great cinematography from frequent Carpenter collaborator Dean Cundey, which makes this a good, solid, old-fashioned ghost story and a fun Halloween season treat. Carpenter again delivers a score which adds chills and foreboding to his tale of ghostly revenge, much like he did for Halloween and he starts the film off perfectly with a chillingly fun opening sequence featuring veteran John Houseman as a crusty sailor who likes to tell kids scary stories. It sets the mood for the thrills and chills yet to come. This classic was made back when there was no phoney CGI, just solid make-up effects from master Rob Bottin (who went on to do The Thing’s FX for Carpenter) and some very basic down to earth smoke and mirrors style visuals, that are as beautiful as they are scary. A great flick the likes of which they rarely make anymore and one of MonsterZero NJ’s must-watch flicks during the Halloween season!

The film is available, for the first time, on blu-ray from Scream Factory with all the extras from previous releases plus, an added new commentary track with Barbeau, Atkins and Tommy Lee Wallace and two really fun and informative interviews with Jamie Lee Curtis and Cinematographer Dean Cundey who also supervised the absolutely gorgeous new transfer!

4 spectral sailors!

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: PROM NIGHT (1980)

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PROM NIGHT (1980)

Prom Night is one of the more famous 80s slasher flicks mostly because it stars legendary scream queen/final girl Jamie Lee Curtis among it’s predominately youthful cast. It’s actually glossier and more sedate then most of the horror flicks of the time with a small body count, very moderate bloodletting and virtually no gore. It does have a lot of early 80s nostalgia though, especially with it’s very heavy disco soundtrack that fills the last act of this prom set horror.

The film opens with a group of kids playing a mean spirited variation of hide and go seek in an abandoned building. When little Robin Hammond (Tammy Bourne) goes to join her friends, they turn their attentions toward her and begin to chase and frighten her. Their really mean prank terrifies the little girl right out of a second story window and she falls to her death. Terrified at what will happen if anyone finds out what they’ve done, they all make a pact to never speak of this to anyone and flee. Though, unknown to them, someone has seen them. The police blame Robin’s death on a local pedophile and when they go to apprehend him, he runs and becomes involved in an accident which scars him for life. We then cut to six years later, the Hammonds, including siblings Kim (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Alex (Michael Tough), still mourn their loss as the anniversary of her death approaches…and it falls, unfortunately, on prom night. Complicating matters further is that the high school principal is Robin, Kim and Alex’s father (Leslie Neilsen). Also, at this time, not only has the deformed sex offender escaped, but the four really responsible for Robin’s death, Jude (Joy Thompson), Kelly (Mary Beth Rubens), Wendy (The Boogens Anne-Marie Martin) and Kim’s prom date, Nick (Casey Stevens) are getting ominous and threatening phone calls. Someone knows who the guilty parties are and it seems the anniversary of Robin’s death will be a time of reckoning and the prom will be it’s setting. Has this crazed sex offender come to exact revenge on those who are really responsible, or has a witness to their misdeed decided to stay silent no longer and give little Robin some payback?

As directed by Paul Lynch, Prom Night is a slow burn which is actually fairly common at this point for slashers like this. Pacing and body counts would increase as the 80s horror trend continued, but at this point, Halloween was still the template, which had the creepiness build slowly then cranked things up in the last act. As such, Prom Night doesn’t gives us our first kill till literally an hour in, but from then on it’s a tense last act as our mysterious masked killer hunts down the remaining three victims in the high school hallways while the prom rages on. Lynch is not an overly stylish director. He’s fairly by the numbers, but does build some tension and anticipation with the creepy voiced phone calls and obvious clues that something at school isn’t right. Once the killer is unleashed, the pace and suspense pick-up as his prey are hunted down and slaughtered, as is anyone who might be with them. Lynch does a decent job here with the chills and thrills though, he is far from a John Carpenter.

The cast are all fine with Curtis doing her virginal final girl thing and the rest of the actors looking far too old to be teenagers. Neilsen was still in serious actor mode, but as Airplane also came out this year, that would change. Overall it’s a decent slasher and more-so the film has gained some really fun nostalgia three decades later especially with it’s disco prom complete with floor that lights up and even giving Jaime Lee Curtis and co-star Casey Stevens a Saturday Night Fever-ish dance number that hilariously goes on far too long. The kills are simple but effective and it has enough of what fans look for in slasher flicks in it’s last act. It doesn’t really give us too many suspects to choose from, but the reveal works and actually evokes some sympathy for our killer.

Prom Night was a successful flick and spawned a number of sequels, none of which have anything to do with the original, a film now considered an 80s classic. It used a time honored slasher formula… someone violently avenging a wrongful death and represents this era of early 80s horror fairly well. Not a great movie, but well done enough and very representative of it’s time. There was also a forgettable remake in 2008 which hardly qualified as a remake as it actually used just the title, but had it’s own storyline.

3 glass shards… one of our Prom Night killer’s preferred weapons of choice.

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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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