Monday, March 14, 2011

Halloween II and Friday the 13th Part 2

Given the large amount of debate that occurred with my first Halloween post, I thought I owed it to you guys to mention that I watched the sequel. It left me with a strong urge to watch the second Friday the 13th as well. I don't know about other folks, but personally watching two slashers in a row is probably not the best idea for me. When I closed my eyes later in the evening, I couldn't help but think of the two silent killers I had watched earlier in the day and whether they were going to be sneaking up behind me with some kind of sharp object.

One thing I thought was interesting was that both of these sequels begin with scenes from the previous films. We're so spoiled with our many ways to watch movies these days that it's hard to remember a time when viewers needed a recap of a movie that had just been released a few years prior because they probably had not seen the film since it first came out.

I felt like Halloween II had much better pacing than the original. Of course it had the advantage of taking off running directly from where the last left off. No long dramatic buildup of Michael Myers slowly walking around and stalking Laurie.. just straight to the killing anyone who stood in his way of her. The influence of Friday the 13th was obvious, as the killings are far more sick and twisted here. Considering I can't even look when a character gets a normal shot in movies, you know there was one scene here that really made me squirm.

After watching this one, it was easier for me to put a finger on just what it is that I don't care for in this series compared to the other two major slasher films. In order to be afraid of Michael Myers, you have to believe everything Dr. Loomis tells you. With my apologies to Donald Pleasance, Loomis comes off much more as a ranting lunatic to me than as the guy we're all supposed to sympathize with. I think it has a lot to do with the over dramatic dialogue he's given rather than his delivery.

Similarly, the supporting victim characters are really one note and annoying. Here's the slutty nurse, here's the sleazeball EMT, here's the wimpy sensitive EMT, here's the bossy nurse, etc. While both Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th have their fair share of stereotypical characters through their series, the scenes in which we see them and the dialogue they are given at least make them seem marginally real. Nearly all the victims in Friday the 13th Part 2 were sluttier than the nurse and EMT in Halloween II, yet the scenes in which we see them interacting with each other made me care about them more.

I warmed up to Laurie a little more in this film. While I think she really lucked out that Michael Myers seems unable to walk at more than a snail's pace, her survival instincts were much stronger this time around. I just can't help but compare her to girls like Nancy, Alice, and Ginny who have a bit more initiative. My hope is that H20 will present me with a grown up Laurie Strode who will have gained the strength of her other final girl counterparts.

Both Michael Myers and Jason are silent killers, so you would think there would be a lot of similarities. That if you liked one, you would also like the other. I don't think it's fair to compare either to Freddy Krueger unless you're specifically going to talk about whether you prefer a killer who is silent or a killer who makes wisecracks. Even beyond his one liners, Freddy is all about making your nightmares real, a very different kind of killer.

Loomis assures us that Myers is evil, and of course we see him killing so many people in so many sick ways, there's no doubt about that. But Jason has a sympathy factor. I really loved the first Friday the 13th, because when we meet Ms. Voorhees, we slowly but surely realize just how insane she is. She's sick and twisted and completely off her rocker, but we can also sympathize because it was all about losing her little boy. Similarly, in the sequel, Ginny helps portray Jason in a sympathetic light - a little boy raised alone by his mother, never taught right from wrong, and then he loses her. It doesn't justify what he does, but it does at least explain his actions.

Now, I still see gaping holes in there. Ms. Voorhees tells us the counselors weren't watching Jason and that's why he drowned. So obviously he knew someone besides his mom, despite what Ginny says. If Ms. Voorhees was so concerned about her son, why wasn't she watching him? Why would he not return to her after the drowning incident? Why would she not have gone looking for him after all that time, knowing he was mentally retarded? He witnessed his mother being killed, so why didn't he go to her sometime before that?

So why am I so willing to forgive all this and yet I can't get into Halloween?

I really like the music in the Friday the 13th series. A lot of people praise John Carpenter for coming up with the theme from Halloween, but to me it's pretty obvious that he's not much of a musician. I'm not saying the theme in Friday the 13th is terribly complex, but the added hisses really build the suspense more for me. I also think Friday the 13th is shot better. When we see from Jason's perspective, the camera moves in ever so slowly on the victim, letting us know he's approaching them and something horrible is about to happen. There's also a lot of close up shots in general, leaving us in the dark to what is going on outside the frame. In short, I feel the suspense, whereas the wide panel shot of Laurie breathing heavily in Halloween II just doesn't do that to me.

As someone so late to the party, I'm curious. Do people generally prefer one over the other? Obviously I understand you could appreciate both, but I'm just wondering if there's a M.Myers vs. Jason rivalry that I've been missing out on.

Also, it's worth noting that this May will be the 30th anniversary of Friday the 13th Part 2, and there is an actual Friday the 13th in May this year. I am very upset that I can't throw a party that night, so one of you should have one and take pictures of the results so that I can live vicariously through you.


  1. What I love about Halloween 2 is that, unlike most slashers, it picks up the thread of what happens later that night when the earlier killings first go public. The parents learning about their dead children and breaking down. The public becoming paranoid at shadows behind every corner. The small town police force overstretched as they try to both suppress panic and catch the perpetrator. The innocent kid walking home half drunk from a costume party who gets killed as a result.

    Unfortunately, instead of really digging into this thread and building on it, they spend most of their time at a ridiculously empty hospital with the lead character in a near catatonic state of shock. They could have done so much more, but they really dropped the ball.

    It's been a long, long time since I've seen Friday the 13th 2, so I can't comment on it (despite being a fan of Amy Steel), but I think the comparisons between Michael and Jason becomes less pronounced as the franchises go along. Both are silent, largely unstoppable forces, but Michael is more the blank spectre lurking in the shadows whereas Jason, especially when he officially becomes a zombie, is more a force of nature. Michael is more subtle, largely sticking to his knife, whereas Jason uses whatever fun toy he can get his hands on, and usually discards it for something new by the next kill.

    I think that's why I prefer Michael. There's a quiet simplicity to his killing style. Especially in the first and seventh. Jason becomes more of an outlandish crowd pleaser. If you continue with both, you'll see some of the Halloween sequels try to follow suit before eventually reining back.

  2. You're right. That was a great angle, the way the town was reacting to the news of the murders (particularly their attempts to let out their frustrations on the old abandoned house). It is a shame it wasn't explored more heavily. It was so lightly touched on I forgot it when I sat down to write the review.

    I'm almost afraid to continue with both series as it seems like they both largely go down hill from here. But I think it's likely that I will get through all of them eventually.


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