Thursday, 14 January 2010

Re/Made: Halloween 2

Sequels became credible in 1974 with The Godfather 2. The critical consensus [1] is that it surpassed the original. Due to the self editing process a work of fiction is approximately 50% of its original intent. Ergo a completed story – plot permitting – has enough material to be continued. There are characters to be resolved. There are themes to be examined. The trilogy – in motion pictures – is exploitative. Horror movies are exploitative by default. Sequels rarely work.

Bride of Frankenstein 1935 and The Curse of the Cat People 1944 were a long time ago.

Halloween 1978 was phenomenal success[2]. The commercial nature of the industry notwithstanding the conclusion of the original film meant there was a narrative basis for a sequel. The first hurdle for any sequel is the writer. It is his story more so than the director. It is his continuity. The next hurdle is the actors. They are visual continuity. John Carpenter and Debra Hill wrote and produced the original. They returned to write and produce Halloween 2. Jamie Lee Curtis returned. Donald Pleasance returned. Charles Cyphers returned as the sheriff. Even Nancy Kyes returned as a corpse.

Halloween 2 continues the night he came home. This premise is simple ingenuity from the writers. It means no exposition from any of the characters. It means the audience would have to watch the original to understand the sequel. It means Michael Myers continues to stalk and slash his way to Jamie Lee. Did James Cameron watch this movie before writing Aliens 1986? If Halloween is a stalker movie Halloween 2 is a full blown slasher.

Myers cuts his first kill at 12 minutes. He is relentless henceforth. However there is a moment of prudence (it would be folly to call it mercy). In a tension addled sequence Michael doesn’t kill Mrs Elrod. It mirrors the scene in the original when he didn’t kill Nurse Marion. Both women survived due to practical reasons: Myers is on a mission.

Laurie Strode: “Why me?”

The best part of this plot is the move the action to a confined space. It is also the Achilles Heel. Haddonfield has got to be the most deserted hospital until Autopsy 2009. At least the latter had a narrative reason. The lack of bodies –patients and staff – is down to low budget. It intrudes on the suspension of disbelief.

Actress Nancy Stephens reprises her Nurse Marion character. Her role is the reveal. She tells Loomis why Michael Myers is fixated on Laurie Strode. It is the raison d’ĂȘtre for both movies. It is the prelude to the end.

Within the confines of the hospital Michael has free reign to stalk and slash everyone on his way to Laurie. Each kill is different. The movie does its best to build the staff into characters thereby amplifying the effects of the kills. Though the actors don’t have much time or lines, with the exception of Tawny Moyer, they convince. The killings range from horror – Mr Garret – to inventive – Mrs Alves – to boring – Karen.

The best performances come from the stalwart Donald Pleasance and Jamie Lee. From the off Loomis is strident that Myers is “not human”. How can he be? He took six bullets and he got up and walked away. This informs the audience that a more inventive method must be used to kill the shape. Jamie Lee as Laurie Strode is wounded, drugged, exhausted. Yet she understands that Michael is coming for her. She’s too weak to run. She has to rely on instinct.

Director Rick Rosenthal mimics Carpenter’s style from the original. He infuses the 2.35:1 aspect ratio with long shots, corridors and filled backgrounds. Rosenthal also shows he is adept at set pieces: Michael’s chase of Laurie in the store room in particular. Composer Alan Howarth was brought in to sex up Carpenter’s original score. This is a theme that is equal to James Bond in movie iconography. Howarth adds orchestral texture to what tinny keyboards. Although it was unnecessary it is a job well done.

Halloween 2 is a perfect sequel. It concludes the narrative the original started with a barnstorming sequence. Laurie Strode stands to face the dragon but it is Jamie Lee Curtis who blooms as the ultimate final girl. Donald Pleasance plays Loomis as a necessary hero. John Carpenter and Debra Hill didn’t work together again for another 15 years. Michael Myers will never rest in peace.

Halloween 2 opens with an epigram. It’s something to do with horses and dreams. Oh dear. Writer, director, producer Rob Zombie returns for the sequel of his remake – which is not a remake of the sequel. Zombie manages to bring with him the vast majority of the cast from his 2007 remake. Unfortunately for him (and this film) he doesn’t lure the best performer; Daeg Faerch was the best of a bad bunch in Halloween 2007. The opening sequence shows another actor Chase Vanek as young Michael Myers. The kid fits the role. He’s as bad as the rest of them.

Why is the young Michael Myers a presence in this film? It allows for the presence of middle-aged Sheri Moon Zombie who plays his mother. As her name suggests she is married to the director. He’s the only gig in town[3]. Deborah Myers committed suicide in the remake. Her presence in this film is that of apparition. It’s contrived. It’s unnecessary. It’s a betrayal of contract between cinema and audience. Halloween 2 doesn’t exist to entertain. It exists to indulge (Rob Zombie and spouse).

Why Zombie would want to disassociate himself from Halloween 2 1981 is perplexing[4]. By virtue of his 2007 effort he is a non talented. This is evident in the reworking of the 1981 script. The first 25 minutes follow the trajectory of the ’81 sequel: Michael attacks Laurie at Haddonfield General. Then she wakes up. It was all a dream. Not since Dallas has such a device been wantonly abused. It’s a swerve on the audience and with over 90 minutes left it germinates bad will.

A note on the hospital sequence; in the ’81 sequel Mrs Alves was played by Gloria Gifford. She was the de facto boss of the hospital - respected if not like by all staff both men and women. She goes missing. Her off camera slaying was the most inventive death in the picture.

In ’09 the renamed Nurse Daniels is written as a minstrel and played so by actress Octavia Spencer. Her first scene is ‘ghetto talk’ about something or the other while her white colleague bawls her head off. They hi-five each other and the stereotype couldn’t be more crude. Here is Nurse Daniels aka Mammy. Her murder is the most brutal and pornographic in the whole film.

John Carpenter (and James Cameron) has always put black people in position of relative power in their movies. There is safety and comfort in watching their films because racism will not be a factor. That they are in the minority is an overstatement. The majority is the likes of Rob Zombie and his/their pure evil inspired fantasies on other human beings. Sickening.

Laurie wakes from her dream. Its two years later: October 29th. Enough time for Michael to walk his way back to Haddonfield. The story never explains where he’s been or what he’s been up to. Maybe he only kills on October 31st.

Zombie is good when it comes to white trash characters; the ambulance crew mirror the asylum screws from the first film. The Rabbit in Red strip joint sequence is fun - to a point. He is horrible at girl speak. All Laurie and her friends do is use swear words. Like totally rad dude.

Malcolm McDowell is back as Loomis to further the embarrassment. Margot Kidder plays a psychiatrist - that’s the only original thought in this flick. Rarely do films as obnoxious as this actually get released. There are bad films out there. A lot of bad films exist purely for a profit. Halloween 2 exists because a nasty troll got hold a camera and the studio said have at it.

This is the tenth of the Halloween films. It’s far and away the worst. Undoubtedly at some point there will be more to follow. So long as none of the future films involve Rob Zombie then none will ever be as bad as this.

Read more Thrill Fiction: ReMade: Halloween
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