My Take by Jim Carl - November 22, 2011
MY TAKE is a blog about my funny life experiences that happened to involve movies, and how I found myself in charge of programming films for a living. I’ll discuss how certain movies came to be responsible for my bad attitude, memories, associations, personal beliefs, and plain stupidity. Yes, I fully intend to trash films considered sacred in certain circles, and will probably offer a poor explanation for doing so. I also intend to squander praise on movies considered awful by most everyone, even if it makes me sound ridiculous, because I have a funny memory to share about them. Again, I’m not writing reviews. All I mean to do here is tell some good stories, and perhaps a clever lie or two. No one has ever accused me of suffering a shortage of ways to make a fool of myself, and because blogging is one I haven’t tried, at least this is one most of my friends haven’t yet seen.
HALLOWEEN II (1981)
Growing up as a pre-teen in the late 70s and early 80s was a grand time because I loved horror movies. Those years also coincided with what has become known in certain circles as the "Rise of the Slasher Film." Dig deeper and you’ll find they were also the height of the horror sequel. Sure, Regan MacNeil and Damien Thorn had returned to the screen in the late 70s in Exorcist II: The Heretic and Damien: Omen II, but I don't recall seeing those films in theatres, only on cable TV. It's hard to imagine now, what with every genre film seemingly becoming a franchise and every DVD seemingly released as a Director's Cut, but back in the early 80s, sequels were a big deal, particularly to teenage boys whose bedroom walls were not surrounded by black-and-white images of Frankenstein, Dracula or the Creature from the Black Lagoon, but instead decorated with gory photos from movies by John Carpenter, George Romero, and Tom Savini. Hint: If you just read those three names and didn't lean forward in your chair, then you were probably non-existent in 1981, unless you were inclined to see artsy movies like Chariots of Fire or The French Lieutenant’s Woman, in which case you were also non-existent, if you know what I mean. Those men were icons, all of them.
Anyways, I had barely turned thirteen years old in October, 1981; no longer a boy, now officially a teenager. The thought of seeing Halloween II filled me with dreadful delight while, at the same time, reminded me that now being a teenager in no way guaranteed I'd freak-out any less than when I was a kid, and that just would not do. I had no intention of seeing Halloween II unprepared. How fortuitous it was that the Waldenbooks in the Mall of Abilene carried the film’s paperback novelization and spared an embarrassing blow to my narcissism by selling me a copy, a mere hour before I saw the movie. Your estimation of my character will not be enhanced if I admit that, yes, I cheated by reading the ending of the book before purchasing my movie ticket. I was worried I'd make a fool of myself otherwise, apologizing to the older teenagers seated ahead of me every time Michael Myers jumped into frame and I blew my Cherry-flavored Slurpee in their direction.
Halloween II was the first horror sequel I remember seeing in a movie theatre. Even better, it opened at the exact moment that 1978's Halloween ended, with Dr. Loomis blasting Michael Myers off the balcony, Laurie Strode cowering in the corner and John Carpenter's theme music spooking the devil out of me. Having seen so few sequels, I naively believed that all movies with Roman numerals in their titles began this way, right at the moment where the first film had stopped; a practice that should be observed more often by modern filmmakers, if you ask me.
Was Halloween II a great film? Probably not, but for a sequel, it was a good ride, what with all those creepy hospital hallways and explosions and stunt work, and if something had to give, well, a high-minded script was the first thing this sequel could do without, and that was fine with me. In 1981, I didn't go to horror movies to see madmen recite Wordsworth. At some dumb, fundamental level, I simply liked watching clueless people getting jumped from behind, even if it did cause me to blow my Slurpee. Thirty years later, the idols may have changed, but the idea remains the same: I double-dare horror movies to scare me.
JIM CARL is Senior Director of the Carolina Theatre. He has been in charge of its film program since 1995. Some of his favorite contemporary movies include The Empire Strikes Back, Jaws, Dangerous Liaisons, The Punisher (2004), Postcards from the Edge, Aliens, The Fog (1980), Private Benjamin, Deep Blue Sea and almost anything involving Great White Sharks, Jamie Lee Curtis, Thomas Jane, Kurt Russell, or is set underwater. His favorite movie of all time is Ordinary People. Some of his least-favorite contemporary movies include Alien 3, Crank 2: High Voltage, Brazil, The Usual Suspects, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Scarface (1983) and almost anything involving Will Ferrell (except Elf), Jason Statham, mobsters, British gangsters and drug dealers, or a toy that transforms into a loudmouthed robot. His least-favorite movie of all time is Pulp Fiction. He is a film believer in the presentation and preservation of 35mm film and will book any movie he suspects will make money, even if he hates it.