Monday, October 25, 2010

10 Favorite 2's

Coming of age as a horror fan in the '80s meant that I saw all the horror sequels I could handle (while wishing there had been a few more - come on, why was there never a My Bloody Valentine 2?). A lot of fans lament the preponderance of sequels but I think they're fun and it's easy enough for me to ignore the bad ones. With Paranormal Activity 2 in theaters now, reminding fans that not all sequels are a plague on the genre, I thought I'd give a shout-out to ten of my favorite follow-ups.

In no particular order:

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

The last hurrah for unrated horror in the '80s, with Tom Savini serving up the splatter on one of his last big FX gigs. The movie feels incredibly haphazard - due to the rushed production schedule imposed on Tobe Hooper by Cannon Films - but it's that frantic atmosphere that helps TCM 2 rank as one of the most genuinely unhinged horror films of the '80s. It's been said of the original TCM that when it came to the Sawyer clan, the performances were so convincing it was as though Hooper had found real-life psychos to be in the movie and I think that Bill Moseley achieves that same quality in TCM 2 with his performance as Chop-Top. You can almost feel the madness radiating off of him.

Amityville II: The Possession (1982)

Now this is some real paranormal activity! In telling the bleak tale of the family that preceded the Lutz Family at 112 Ocean Avenue, Long Island, Amityville II: The Possession ramps up the scares considerably from the tepid original. The special effects are nastier (in true early '80s fashion, bladder FX are given a major workout) and the whole tone is seedier. Amityville II's script was penned by Tommy Lee Wallace, who would shortly go on to direct Halloween III: Season of the Witch, and I think it's about time that Wallace that was given more credit as a horror hero in his own right. He's always in John Carpenter's shadow because he worked as a production designer and editor on Halloween and The Fog but, hey, he wrote this movie, wrote and directed Season of the Witch (a movie that gets more fans behind it every year), and directed the ABC miniseries IT. Amityville, Silver Shamrock and Pennywise - I call that a damn strong resume!

Creepshow 2 (1987)

I'll admit - I didn't like Creepshow 2 at first. In fact, I wanted to walk out when I saw it in the theaters. From the start, it was clear that issue #2 of Creepshow was a pretty low rent affair in comparison to the stylishness of Romero's original. Everything about it looked a little half-assed (although Ol' Chief Wooden Head is an impressive creation). But yet, over the years it's crept into my affections. How that happened, I don't know. The movie hasn't gotten any better, that's for sure. But yet that last segment, "The Hitchhiker," kind of makes it all worthwhile. Thanks for the ride, Creepshow 2!

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

I'm not quite willing to call this a better film than the original Hellraiser but I do dig it just a little more. When horror was going soft in the late '80s, the first two Hellraisers were as bloody and extreme as the MPAA would allow. It felt like these were made exclusively for the hardcore fans - there was nothing about them that catered to the mainstream crowd. There were horror movies, red, raw and dripping. What I really love about Hellbound, looking back on it today, is that it's so filled to the brim with old-school FX. This utilizes all the pre-CGI tricks - prosthetic make-up, stop-motion animation, optical FX, matte paintings. You look at this movie and it screams "late '80s" but in a great way. It makes me nostalgic for the way movies used to be made.

Phantasm II (1988)

In 1988, this was the movie of the summer for me. Unfortunately, not many other people felt the same excitement and Phantasm II's weak box office performance made sure that this was the last of the Tall Man on the big screen. Writer/director Don Coscarelli did an outstanding job here, though, putting his bigger budget to good use. The stunts, the action, the FX - it all looked incredible. And while some fans missed Michael Baldwin as Mike, I really liked his replacement, James LeGros. I thought he and Reggie Bannister had a winning comic chemistry that was missing when Baldwin returned as Mike for Phantasms III and IV.

Aliens (1986)

It's popular to give James Cameron shit nowadays because he keeps on making the biggest movies of all time but I continue to love his stuff. And even if I didn't, I would still give him a pass for life just based on this movie. The experience of watching Aliens in the theaters back in the summer of '86 was about as thrilling as they come. Composer James Horner's rousing score has become one of the most familiar in film - thanks to being utilized in countless movie trailers in the years since - but to hear it for the first time here, in tandem with Cameron's taut direction, was an unforgettable adrenaline rush. It's default thing to have women be bad-asses in movies and TV shows these days - it's become a tired cliche of its own - but few actresses carry it off as well as Sigourney Weaver did.

Evil Dead II (1987)

Even though I was a devout reader of Fangoria and Cinefantastique back in the day, when I saw Evil Dead II on the day it came out, I was totally blind-sided by the fact that it was a comedy. Nowhere in any of the on-set interviews that Raimi and co. gave, did they ever mention that they had decided to go completely bat shit with their follow-up. But that's what they did - in a very skilled way, of course. This wasn't some sloppy farce, it was some of the most meticulous movie making that had ever graced a low budget horror movie.

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

When fans and critics talk about the greatest sequels in horror, Bride of Frankenstein is usually cited as the best of the best and I've got no problem with that. Personally, though, I've got to give it up for Dawn of the Dead. What a total leap this movie was for Romero and for the genre. Going from the black and white, claustrophobic Night of the Living Dead to the gaudy, satirical splatter-fest of Dawn was a colossal feat on Romero's part. No one could've seen this one coming. Hell, "splatter" wasn't even in the horror vocabulary before Romero himself coined it to describe this film. For years, this had the reputation as the ultimate horror film and, to me, it's still right up at the top.

Psycho II (1983)
As a two decade's later sequel to one of the greatest horror movies of all time, Psycho II had "fail" written all over it. But yet, in the hands of director Richard Franklin and writer Tom Holland - and with Anthony Perkins reprising his most famous role - Psycho II was a success on every level. It pulled in all the iconography of the original film, celebrating Hitchcock's masterpiece, while creating some iconic moments of its own.

Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

Bag head Jason forever! When I think of my favorite Part II's, this the first one that always comes to mind. Steve Miner's follow-up to the smash success of Sean Cunningham's original single-handedly forged the future of the Friday franchise. For good or bad, we're still talking about Friday the 13th today because of the choices Miner made here. Had he not decided to stick with the slasher formula of the first film (Cunningham's notion was to make the Friday the 13th name an umbrella title for telling different horror stories - much like was later attempted with the Halloween series) and had he not decided to make Jason the killer (a move not logically supported by the events of the first film, and a creative choice that led Tom Savini to do the FX for The Burning instead of Part 2), Friday the 13th might've been a one-off success rather than becoming one of horror's biggest brand names.


FilmFather said...

You make a great case for all of these "deuces," and I agree with nearly all of them. I will say that, when I saw it in the theater, I was a little disappointed how TCM2 delved into camp (after that awesome opening sequence on the bridge) and wasn't as terrifying as the original. However, it did supply my friends and I with some new catchphrases such as "E-X-I-T. EXIT!!" "Incoming maillll!" and of course, "Lick my plate, you dog d--k!"

I think we tried to make Creepshow 2's, "Thanks for the ride, lady" work as a catchphrase as well, but with limited success. LOL

Jeff Allard said...

I have to say that "Thanks for the ride, lady!" is probably what wore me down on Creepshow 2. Over the years, I've quoted it so often and heard it quoted that I realized I had to stop hating on the movie that ushered that line into the world!

As for TCM2, the camp humor is really jarring and it put me off at first, too. But rewatching it over the years, the movie's nuttiness began to work for me. I love Caroline Williams' performance as Stretch - I think she's one of the unsung horror heroines of the '80s. And Moseley is just brilliant. As Chop-Top, he gives every other cinematic psycho a run for their money.

Unknown said...

Love TCM 2 as well. Good call on that one. Unhinged gonzo horror at its finest.

Also, nice to see some love for PHANTASM II which is my fave of the series if only for the kickass shotgun that is assembled and then used for pretty cool effect.

Jeff Allard said...

Yeah, that shotgun that Reggie puts together is the best dwarf-killer ever assembled! Phantasm II just plain rules, as far as I'm concerned. And I'm glad you're a TCM 2 fan, too. It's not even close to being the classic that the original is but it still has plenty of inspired moments. And it shows just how drab all the other entries are - sequels, remakes and prequels alike - without Hooper's sensibilities.

Franco Macabro said...

Amazing, your list is flawlessly good! All those movies are great part II's. Cant pick a favorite cause they are all great. Phantasm II is one of my favorites of the whole series. Better effects, production values, action...everything.

Jeff Allard said...

Thanks, FC! I'm glad to see I've got plenty of company in my love for Phantasm II!

Amanda By Night said...

Love, love, LOVE Friday 2, I also love Jaws 2. In fact, I love a lot of sequels more than the original. Well, maybe not love, but sometimes the sequel is just more watchable. You know, upping the sex and violence and stuff!

Jeff Allard said...

I think sequels are sometimes more watchable because everything is already in place. They tend to hit the ground running. Plus, for me, it's a looser viewing experience to just pop in a sequel. If it's the original of a series, it's usually a classic and I always feel like I have to really give it my full attention no matter how many times I've already seen it. A sequel - even a really great one - not so much.