American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
It's a little sad to witness a fall from greatness, and that's what we get in “Halloween II.” John Carpenter's original 1978 “Halloween” was one of the most effective horror films ever made, a scarifying fable of a mad-dog killer's progress through a small Illinois town on Halloween. That movie inspired countless imitations, each one worse than the last, until the sight of a woman's throat being slashed became ten times more common in the movies than the sight of a kiss.
Mad Slasher Movies, they were called, and they became a genre of their own, even inspiring a book of pseudoscholarship, Splatter Movies, by John McCarty. His definition of a Splatter Film is concise and disheartening, and bears quoting: "[They] aim not to scare their audiences, necessarily, nor to drive them to the edge of their seats in suspense, but to mortify them with scenes of explicit gore. In splatter movies, mutilation is indeed the message, many times the only one."
“Halloween II” fits this description precisely. It is not a horror film but a geek show. It is technically a sequel, but it doesn't even attempt to do justice to the original. Instead, it tries to outdo all the other violent “Halloween” rip-offs of the last several years. The movie does not have the artistry or the imagination of the original, but it does have new technology: For those like McCarty who keep records of such things, this movie has the first close-up I can remember of a hypodermic needle being inserted into an eyeball. We see that twice. It mortifies the viewer nicely, just as scenes in Splatter Movies are supposed to do. There are a few other moments of passable originality, as when the killer disfigures the face of a beautiful woman by plunging her repeatedly into the scalding water of a whirlpool bath. But for the most part, “Halloween II” is a retread of “Halloween” without that movie's craft, exquisite timing, and thorough understanding of horror.
The movie begins just where the last one left off, with some of the same footage, indeed. The mysterious, invincible killer (who escaped from an institution earlier that Halloween day) has just tried to kill Jamie Lee Curtis. But Donald Pleasence, a psychiatrist who has decided the killer is literally inhuman, fires six bullets at close range. The killer is down, but not out. As the first movie ended, his body had disappeared. As this one opens, he's on the prowl again, still shuffling after screaming women at the same maddening slow pace.
At the ripe age of 89, Oscar can still be a notoriously picky fellow when it comes to what constitutes a contender fo...
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...