Review – Halloween II (1981) & Liga Privada T52 Corona Viva

The Doctor and his lifelong partner in partying, TNCC head honcho Matthew Cade, once again immerse themselves in all things Halloween!

What happens when a movie surprisingly becomes an international smash? A sequel gets made.

THE FILM – HALLOWEEN II (1981)

The Doctor differs from his peers who dabble in critical reviews in at least one major way, and I am not referring to my complete lack of prestige. No, what I refer to is that I do not sit in utter disdain of sequels. Of course, there will always exist cheap, nonsensical pieces of garbage that serve no purpose other than to line the pockets of those already living high on the hog, but such is the way of things. One of the reasons I do not hate sequels for their mere existence would be the dearth of horror film sequels produced in the unmatched glory of the 1980s. These movies are legion, and while there are more than a handful that absolutely suck sow teat, there are far more that are extremely enjoyable films. The tip of that iceberg would be none other than the 1981 sequel Halloween 2.

“I shot him six times!”

Rather than jump ahead in time – this would happen with subsequent films in the franchise – Halloween 2 literally picks up at the exact moment where its predecessor ended. Dr. Loomis has emptied the chambers of his revolver into Michael Myers’s chest only to have him disappear. This proves to be an unquestionably pivotal moment in the life and times of Sam Loomis, one from which there will be no turning back. He knew that young Michael was evil personified, but up until that moment Loomis had no idea that bullets would prove entirely ineffectual. This causes Loomis to crack, if ever so slightly. Shit, it’s hard to blame him, right? He remains an unhesitant man of action and purpose, bent on achieving his goal of either killing Michael or returning him to incarceration, but he has lost a little of the cool that was on display in the original film. Loomis has now taken to shouting things like “He’s not human!” and barking orders at the Haddonfield cops. In the hands of the wonderful Donald Pleasance, all of this adds up to pure deliciousness. Charles Cyphers returns as Sheriff Brackett to chew scenery alongside Pleasance and combined with the performance of Hunter Von Leer as Deputy Hunt you have the makings of a movie on its own. Seriously, I would have watched a two-hour film of those three driving around town and solving various crimes that had nothing to do with Michael Myers. Film snobs may have a problem with Halloween 2 and sequels in general, but nobody can have any problem with these actors and what they deliver.

Back for more and God bless them. Donald Pleasance as Dr. Loomis and Charles Cyphers as Sheriff Brackett

John Carpenter turned the directing duties over to Rick Rosenthal for Halloween 2 but he still penned the script with Debra Hill. As the story apparently goes, Carpenter himself had never intended to make a sequel and therefore had no interest in a part 2 even when it became apparent that the ivory tower executives decreed that it would be so. I think he may have been offered a check that was too big to refuse, but so be it. The Doctor is a lifelong Carpenter fan, and TNCC chairman Matthew Cade might possibly be his number one fan. Neither one of us has a problem with profiting from capitalism. Carpenter wanted to make other movies and delivering a script for a Halloween sequel most likely kept him the good graces of others. Dean Cundey returned as the director of photography, so even though Carpenter wasn’t steering the director’s helm the movie has his look and feel all over it, from the POV shots to his now synthesizer-enhanced score.

The cops and the news jackals are all over the leaf strewn streets of Haddonfield, so it becomes necessary to change the primary setting for Myers and his mayhem. Laurie Strode, again portrayed by Jamie Lee Curtis, has been taken to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital to receive treatment for her wounds. It is only a matter of time before Myers makes his way to this little, out of the way medical center. Some have opined that this setting change is what dooms Halloween 2 to mediocrity, but those people are shitheads. Er, I mean, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. As it is shot by Cundey, Haddonfield Memorial Hospital is a truly unsettling environment. Remember, Haddonfield is not supposed to be a very large community. The hospital is virtually deserted during the graveyard hours, with long empty hallways and shadows lurking around every corner. The atmosphere, the performances, the what-in-hell-would-I-do-in-this-situation tension are all still there for The Doctor. In fact, all of the supporting performances are spot on: Lance Guest – who would go on to star in both The Last Starfighter and Jaws 4 – as Jimmy, a young paramedic who is sweet on Laurie Strode; the lovely Pamela Susan Shoop as Karen, a nurse who is one of the earliest examples of a hot babe getting topless in a horror film; and, of course, the unforgettable Leo Rossi as Bud, a lascivious paramedic who shows his own naked ass.

Lance Guest and Leo Rossi as Haddonfield Memorial Hospital finest paramedics “Jimmy & Bud”. Two more reasons that Halloween 2 is a winner.

The setting moves back and forth between the hospital and the streets of Haddonfield where Loomis and the cops are continuing to search in vain for any sign of Michael. The fact that Laurie is Michael’s biological sister is introduced, because at this point we need to have a reason for why Myers is trying to kill her. If my film history serves me correctly, Carpenter initially balked at this idea – it was never a part of the original film – but eventually wrote it as is. I imagine it would have been clear to Carpenter that a franchise was at hand, and there was a need have an underlying motive for the actions of Myers. All of which makes sense, if you think about it, and it doesn’t bother me at all. Nothing about Halloween 2 bothers me, even the part where it is implied that Michael likes to break into elementary schools and write “Samhain” in blood on the chalkboard. However, Michael Myers is nothing if not calculating, and creating a harmless diversion to get Loomis and the fuzz further away from his intended destination is straight out of the official Myers Playbook.

Or maybe The Shape was just a big Glenn Danzig fan, anything is plausible I suppose…

Eventually Loomis catches wind of what is going on and makes for the hospital, pointing a gun at a U.S. Marshall and shouting “You’re orders have just been changed” before blasting out a car window. Fuck the Kraken and Medusa; Loomis versus Myers is the real clash of the titans! Loomis may have a bald cranium and be approaching retirement, but dammit, the TNCC Doctor wants Doctor Loomis on my side when the shit hits the fan. Even when he starts to slowly lose a firm grip on his marbles – and there will be much more of this to come in the later Halloween installments – Donald Pleasance’s Dr. Sam Loomis has a movie ballsack that rivals any action hero.

The thrilling finale in the narrow hallways and claustrophobic rooms of the hospital is nothing short of brilliant. Cundey’s cinematography is breathtaking, adding an almost mythical dimension of artistry to the climactic scenes as Halloween gives way to the early morning hours of November 1st. Myers walking straight through a glass door as if it were merely thin air? Or blindly whip-slashing a scalpel back and forth like a farmer’s scythe as Loomis and Laurie release the ether? If such sequences fail to set your heart to racing, then seek out a cardiologist. In my professional opinion, Halloween 2 shared the same fate as Jaws 2* in the minds of many moviegoers and film historians; they didn’t like it because it wasn’t as great as the original. Well, no shit, Socrates. A fair judgement of Halloween 2 will place it where it rightly belongs, which is on the shelf with other kick-ass horror movies, sequel or not. Happy trick or treating.

THE CIGAR – LIGA PRIVADA T52 CORONA VIVA

When I first had the idea of reviewing all of the Halloween film entries leading up to the most recent release this October, I planned on pairing each movie The Doctor reviews with a premium cigar that for whatever reason struck a chord with me as far as connecting to each individual movie. It could be a faint tie-in at best, but it would be personal and the pairing would make sense TO ME as a lifelong devotee of the Halloween series. That’s all that mattered as far as my thought process. As we began this jump into the mythological world of Haddonfield, I soon realized that this would be a perfect time to discuss and review some Drew Estate cigars that we had acquired throughout 2018 on our many adventures working for DE on the road doing various video and editing work for the company. So I will be reviewing a Drew Estate cigar within each of these initial posts (I imagine that I’ll be mixing in some non-DE offerings down the line but we shall see… there are no rules) AND I will be breaking TNCC tradition by rating each cigar as I go along. Why? Because it’s Halloween, my favorite time of year, and I’m the boss so I can do what I want. I hope you enjoy these posts as much as we are going to enjoy sharing them with you.

It’s hard to believe that Halloween 2 was the first Halloween movie that I laid eyes on. Yes, you read that correctly, I saw the sequel before John Carpenter’s original masterpiece (which The Doctor and I examined here). I was at a sleepover at a friend of a friend’s house (the “friend of a friend” actually didn’t care for yours truly very much but somehow I got an invite**) and he had rented a handful of horror VHS tapes for the night’s festivities. While those two preteens lit their farts over in the corner, I was somehow able to disregard their laughter ~ and the foul odor ~ and give the monolithic console television my undivided attention. I was terrified by every frame of Halloween 2, the music gave me chills up and down my spine, I was literally frozen in fear by it all. There was a small hospital up on a hill not far from my house and I could picture quite vividly all the action of the movie taking place there. Every time my family drove past that hospital at night moving forward I would stare at it, wondering if a pale masked monster was lurking through its hallways. Obviously I was a fan of this film then and I remain a huge fan of Halloween 2 to this day. You can really see director of photography Dean Cundey taking his skill set up to another level from the original (a larger budget does a cinematographer good!) and he’d soon go on to show us why he’s the BEST OF THE BEST with “The Fog” and “Halloween 3”.

DP extraordinaire Dean Cundey behind the camera on the set of Halloween 2

Everything about Halloween 2 obviously worked for young Cade. The same cannot be said about my first experience with the Liga Privada T52 a few decades later. As you may have read in our last review, my first time smoking the Liga Privada 9 was truly majestic (to this day it’s one of my favorite cigars) but when I followed it up down the road with the Liga 9’s “sequel”, the T52, I was underwhelmed. It just didn’t hit the right notes for my palate at the time. It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t great, it was just okay. But like my buddy The Doctor, I’m generally a fan of sequels and I’m also a fan of second chances when they’re deserved so going in to tonight’s review I was excited to sample the T52 in one of its newest sizes – the Corona Viva!

Size: 6 x 46
Wrapper: Connecticut River Valley Stalk Cut & Cured Sun Grown Habano
Binder: Plantation Grown Brazilian Mata Fina
Filler: Honduras & Nicaragua
Price: $12.08

PRE

   

There’s a very strong aroma of earth off the milk chocolate colored wrapper and just a slight hint of sweetness when sniffing the foot of the cigar. The T52 is packed solid and is very firm to the squeeze, there’s minimal veins present on the oily wrapper. The cap clips off perfectly with scissors and there is a vegetal note on the cold draw.

FIRST HALF

   

There’s nice but not at all overpowering pepper on the retrohale upon toasting the foot. On the draw I immediately sense coffee and to a lesser extent a faint mineral note. At around the one inch mark a creaminess joins the fray. Throughout the first half of the smoking experience the mineral component grows more and more prominent while the coffee and cream take a step back. The strength on display is Medium while the body is Full (kind of the opposite of yours truly, I’ve been working out).

   

The T52 Corona Viva exhibits that classic Liga Privada smoke profile as in there’s a ton of white smoke pouring off this motherscratcher and it’s beautiful. I’m convinced that the ash would’ve held on throughout the entire duration of the smoke but I eventually tapped it off around the end of the first third as a precautionary measure. The cigar is drawing like a dream and the burn line is straight as Michael Myer’s blade. Now that I think about it, if I was taking this series seriously, I probably should’ve sliced the cap off with a butcher knife. I’ve failed you all, I’m sorry…

SECOND HALF

   

Remember that sweetness I picked up when smelling the foot before lighting it on fire? Well, being a world renown cigar pairing expert, I decided to introduce a bottle of reasonably priced (i.e. cheap as shit) red wine to the party to see if maybe it would help lure some of that sweetness out of the T52. Sadly, it did not. But the bottle was now open so it’d be irresponsible not to go ahead and drink it.

   

The second half of the smoking experience does see a slight increase in strength and the coffee note steps back up to stand toe-to-toe with the mineral (the cream has mostly faded away). I have to admit that the T52 has always seemed like an outsider to me in the Liga Privada family but not an outright imposter (such as Jamie Lee Curtis’s wig in Halloween 2). It’s just inherently different and that’s ok. It’s a Liga because of the skill involved in growing the tobaccos used (especially the unique stalk cut wrapper) and the blending process that gave it life.

TNCC FINAL SCORE: 90

THE NUB

Much like Halloween 2 and many other horror sequels, the Liga Privada T52 isn’t for everybody. Years ago it wasn’t for me. But upon revisiting it in the Corona Viva vitola, I certainly appreciated it more. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that unique balance of mineral and coffee before in a cigar and while they might seem like odd dancing partners on paper, it worked for me. And that jump up in strength in the second half was necessary and I’m glad it delivered the goods at just the right time. Seems like tonight both sequels worked for your friends in the Corner Of No Hope. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to polish off this bottle of wine and let Mister Sandman sing me a dream…

*It’s worth mentioning, since The Doctor referenced the highly entertaining Jaws 2 above, that I never realized that the dentist in Halloween 2 is played by the same actor (JeffreyKramer) who portrayed Sheriff Brody’s bumbling underling Deputy Hendricks on the first two Jaws movies. I’ve seen both films at least fifty times and never made the connection. High definition Blu-ray transfers can be real eye openers…

**It’s probably not worth mentioning, but I’m going to mention it anyway, that the same “friend of a friend” who lit his farts while I fell in love with Michael Myers also begrudgingly let me accompany him and some of my other friends to an Aerosmith concert a few months later. But where as they got invited with no strings attached, I had to hand the dude over three of my favorite CDs to catch a ride with his parents to the big show. Well, Skid Row ruled the stage that night and over twenty years later I’m still bitter about having to pay my penance for not being one of the cool kids. And I still think Aerosmith sucks. Treat others as you would like to be treated, boys and girls, and if you’re mistreated, well… fart your ass off in the crowded Chevy Suburban the entire car ride home and play dumb. Small victories.

Halloween II (Collector’s Edition) [Blu-ray / DVD] (Blu-ray)


List Price: $29.93 USD
New From: $14.96 USD In Stock
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Beyond The Pod

Brother of the Leaf, Filmmaker, Prophet, former Mr. South Dakota 1996. I was a bouncer on the child beauty pageant circuit until one too many juice boxes went missing and somebody had to take the fall. I was set up. Ok, I was thirsty. All that hairspray in the air dries out your throat like a motherfu... I apologize to no man. Now I host the Tuesday Night Cigar Club podcast.

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