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September 13, 2010

Random Horror Throwdown! - Halloween II (1981) vs. Bad Moon

Fear not, Midnight Warriors, the Random Horror Throwdown is here!  Lately I felt like I was out of steam regarding this column, but fate - in the most random way - stepped in and reminded me of the cardinal rule for blogging.  You might think that rule is "Don't talk about women negatively!" or "If you lead with a nudie pic, don't expect people to read your text!" or "For god's sake nerd, GO OUTSIDE!".  Alas, those are not that rule.  The cardinal rule of blogging is, of course: "When in doubt, go with what you know."

Well...if there are two things The Mike knows, those things are Michael Myers and werewolves.  In the case of both things, there are some extreme highs (The Wolf Man, John Carpenter's Halloween) and lows (Halloween 5, Cursed).  Wanna see where these two fit in?  That's why we play the game!


 The Movies:
Halloween II (1981, Dir. by Rick Rosenthal.)
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Charles Cyphers, Lance Guest.
IMDB Synopsis: Laurie Strode is rushed to the hospital, while Sheriff Brackett and Dr. Loomis hunt the streets for Michael Myers, who has found Laurie at the Haddonfield Hospital. (Note from The Mike: Does anyone else feel like this reads like the film is a time travel picture?  It's like Halloween meets Triangle!)

Bad Moon (1996, Dir. by Eric Red.)
Starring: Michael Pare, Mariel Hemingway, Mason Gamble, Primo the Dog.
IMDB Synopsis: One man's struggle to contain the curse he hides within... and his last-ditch attempt to free himself with the love of family... (Note from The Mike: I don't have a comment on this dramatic synopsis - except that it's dramatic - I just need to get this out of the way so I can go on for the rest of the post.  So here it goes. "DON'T GO AROUND TONIGHT!")

(Here endeth the Creedence jokes.)

(Speaking of, when did "That's just in the movies!" become the go-to excuse for any plot change involving classic monsters?  Before or after An American Werewolf in London?)

The Plot:
Bad Moon survives as one of the more obscure werewolf films of recent memory, and it's not hard to see why.  The plot focuses on a young boy, his mother, their dog, and their uncle, who happens to have caught a bite from a beast that killed his girlfriend as the film opens.  It's based on a novel, Thor, which tells the story from the dog's perspective - but the film takes a slightly less Benji/Lassie approach to the tale while keeping the German Shepherd as a key part of the story.  This is definitely a "dog-eat-dog" story - pun intended - but it never seems to do much to distinguish itself from the werewolf pack.  (OK, someone seriously needs to PUN-ish me for that one.)

Halloween II directly follows the events of Halloween (if you ignore the fact that Dr. Loomis' gun fires seven bullets and throws Michael on to the Doyle's front yard in the sequel, as opposed to the normal six shots and back yard in the original), but adds in the weird overuse of Mr. Sandman, the obligatory high body count, and the now infamous (at least in my mind) sister subplot - which John Carpenter admits he added while he was sleep deprived and drunk.

Are either of these plots really blowing up my skirt?  Nope.  Let's put this point on hold for now. (0-0.)

The Casts: 
Bad Moon has Streets of Fire star Michael Pare as Uncle Ted the Werewolf, and Mariel Hemingway, whom I've always thought was kinda cute and who hosted one of the first episodes of SNL with Will Ferrell and crew right around this time.  Oh, and it featured cinema's Dennis the Menace, Mason Gamble - who would go on to costar in one of my favorite movies, Rushmore.

But Halloween II has the returning trio of Curtis, Pleasence, and Cyphers, plus The Last Starfighter star Lance Guest, the fantastically breasted Pamela Susan Shoop, and "Future Garth Algar" Dana Carvey as an extra!  That's gotta be a point for Halloween II. (1-0, Halloween II leads.)

The Directors:
Rick Rosenthal took the helm from Carpenter for Halloween II, and did a decent job - though the upped body count and the more inventive kills make it clear that he had to adapt to the slashers that followed Carpenter's film. Rosenthal's other most popular films?  Halloween Resurrection (which featured Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks taking Michael online), Bad Boys (not the Michael Bay one, obviously), and The Birds II: Land's End.  (Can anyone else claim to have made a sequel to films by my two favorite directors?  I think not.)

On the Bad Moon side of things is Eric Red, who had huge success as a screenwriter in the '80s with The Hitcher, Near Dark, and Blue Steel (the latter two with Oscar Winner Kathryn Bigelow).  Unfortunately, his other directorial efforts include the Jeff Fahey thriller Body Parts and the recent DTV horror 100 Feet with Famke Janssen.  Is that enough?  Well, one guy wrote The Hitcher, one made Halloween Resurrection.  I'm gonna vote '80s, and give Red and Bad Moon this point. (1-1.)

My History With The Films:
Here's where I'm gonna ramble for a bit.

Summer 1996 - Spring 1997 was most definitely the year of my young life.  Among all the great things that happened that year - including my family moving to a new home and my beloved Packers winning the Super Bowl - I most remember it as the year in which I fell head over heels in love with movies.  I remember almost every movie that came out that year, because I was obsessively trying to teach myself about what movies were out there, and trying to figure out everything I could about where movies come from and who makes them.  One might say it was the year in which I passed my cinematic puberty.

In the fall of '96, I was on a school field trip in Kansas City, and we went to the theater on a night we had free.  It was a small theater, and there were three choices - the Mel Gibson thriller Ransom, Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet, and - you guessed it - Bad Moon.  Now, I've admitted that I was a cinematic rookie at the time, and I'm sad to say that Bad Moon had somehow evaded me entirely before that moment.  I badly wanted to see it immediately based on the poster, which screamed "Half Man. Half Wolf. Total Terror."  But I was outvoted and ended up seeing Ransom - which I still dig a lot, just because it's fun to scream "GIMME BACK MY SON!"  (Not so fun in public, I admit.)  But I recall that the excitement I had about a werewolf movie called Bad Moon was unbearable - and I think it was as clear as ever that I was born ready for this stuff.

Oh, as for actually seeing Bad Moon?  Never got to it until last year.  Completely forgot the movie existed.  Then one day, I saw it mentioned somewhere - and all the excitement I had about it that night rushed back at me anew.  I bought it on Amazon about 6.7 seconds later.

Then there's Halloween II.  Halloween had quickly became my favorite horror movie ever when I first saw it, and I - like a silly teen Iowan - immediately wanted to know what happened next.  That led me to Halloween II, with my expectations lowered by the "Video Guides" I owned that gave it negative reviews.  When I did see it, I was quite disappointed that it was an entirely over-the-top film and I was completely put-off by the sister thing...but I still was entirely stoked about it, and have revisited it a bunch - even if it does contain THE ABSOLUTE WORST PIECE OF NEEDLE TRAUMA EVER PUT ON FILM THAT MAKES ME SCREAM LIKE A BABY EVERY FREAKING TIME.  (I really dislike needles.)

(By the way: Remember Miss Shoop, who's fantastic breastedness I mentioned in the cast segment?  TOTALLY the first pair of boobs I ever zoomed in on with my first DVD player.  God bless technology.)

What's the point of all this rambling about these two films and my teenage years?  Well, it's that both movies make me entirely happy - even though I kinda know they're crap.  That takes talent, and I think both deserve a point for it. (2-2.)
This Choice is Like:
Speaking of the Mid '90s, I doubt many of us who were around then have forgotten the infamous O.J. Simpson murder trial.  Yes, the trial in which all the condemning evidence against the big-time celebrity pointed toward a conviction, but he got acquitted.  I'm not entirely proud of this - but I was one of about three people in my school who continued to insist that OJ was completely innocent throughout the whole thing.  Yes, I know better - but it was darn fun to throw a contrarian opinion out there regardless, because I loved football and the Naked Guns movies and just felt like defending the fellow.  (It's the same contrarian mindset that led me to believe that movies didn't have to be dramas that starred Tom Hanks to be good and that led me to realize that parties in cornfields with beer weren't the most exciting thing that could happen, so I've made peace with it as one of my few contrarian mistakes.)

Where was I?  Ah yes, Halloween II and Bad Moon both remind me of O.J.  I know they're not good, and I even agree that they may have committed some serious cinematic crimes.  But I want to love them, and thus I'm going to keep doing so until I'm wise enough to see my folly.  (Don't wait up, it might be a while.)

The Verdict:
I've totally got a held up point that I can distribute here, I've just got to figure out why I want to give it to one film over the other.  Halloween II is definitely in the upper tier of the awful Halloween sequels - and is approximately one billion times better than Rob Zombie's H2.  I'm not quite sure where I'd put Bad Moon in the werewolf continuum, but there's definitely many films I'd list above it.

And I think that's where my decision lies:  Halloween II is more valuable to the Halloween series than Bad Moon is to werewolf films.  Is it fair to make the comparison of one series of 10 films versus an entire monster subgenre? Maybe the analogy doesn't fit, but I'm not going to acquit.  (3-2, Halloween II wins!)

(Note from the Mike: Sorry for the rambling!  If you made it this far, please take a moment to pat yourself on the back.  Or, fling poo at me in the comments.  Your choice.

And sorry about rooting for O.J.)


Emily said...

I would definitely have gone with Halloween II also, although I think it would have been a much easier choice for me :) While it obviously doesn't reach the level of Halloween at all, I still enjoy it immensely. I love the abandoned hospital setting, and the over-the-top deaths. I only saw Bad Moon within the last couple of years or so, and I honestly was kind of bored by it, but I've only seen it that one time, and you've inspired me to give it a second shot :)

Fred [The Wolf] said...

Halloween II is awesome. To this day, I still consider it the best sequel. It's just a fun film that should have ended the Michael Myers thing. I agree about the sibling thing. It was stupid to give The Shape a reason for his madness, but I'm sure Carpenter believed it was the last Michael Myers film. In that sense, it wasn't a bad sub-plot. Once he returned, however, the movies just got really complicated.

Haven't seen Bad Moon in a while and don't remember much about it. I guess Halloween II does win the battle.

Enbrethiliel said...


I think that judging a movie by its contribution to its genre is totally fair! There's also a sense in which all monster movies are part of one long, continuous series--or if you prefer, set in one cohesive universe--so something which messes with the rules or the canon too much can be considered a bad story.