Putting together a unique triple feature is hard work. It’s easy to throw films within the same franchise together, but the real challenge lies in taking a trio of films that most people wouldn’t put together yet share something in common, whether it is a plot device, an aesthetic, or even just an overall theme. Finding the right combo can be a work of creative art. This article revolves around three films that I’ve wanted to test out as a triple feature for quite some time. So, what better time than now?
Feature 1 - HALLOWEEN II (1981)
John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN is to many the holy grail of horror films. (To this writer included) The tone, the execution, and the film’s villain, Michael Myers… all examples of great writing and storytelling. Myers, or The Shape as we’ve come to call him, is the epitome of an unstoppable force of nature. Like the shark in JAWS, The Shape latched onto poor Laurie Strode, who made the unfortunate mistake of dropping a key off at the wrong house, nothing else. She wasn’t Myers’ sister in the first film, and because of that, the creepy sequences involving Michael stalking Laurie and her friends is made even scarier than it could have been had the sister angle been a part of the first film. When the first film ends with the body of Myers missing, gone from falling over the balcony after being shot by Dr. Loomis, Carpenter and Co. saw a good opportunity to continue the story at that exact moment when HALLOWEEN II came to be.
Directed by Rick Rosenthal, HALLOWEEN II is both very similar and very different than the first film. The majority of the film is set in Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, where Laurie has been taken to recover from the attack and wounds she suffered when Myers decided to finally strike. It’s a cat and mouse kind of film, one that features The Shape finding out where Laurie has been taken (via a random kid walking down the street with a boombox) and heading there to finish what he started, a theme that bleeds into the other two films in this triple feature article.
There’s an almost robotic nature to Myers in HALLOWEEN II, with elements of the trick or treat playfulness that the character had in the first film. When he’s not setting the hospital staff up to be victims in some unfortunate circumstances (letting Pamela Shoop’s character hold his hand and even lick it before shoving her face into a boiling hot tub or playing a “where is he?” game with the Hospital’s security guard), he acts even more like a force of nature than he did in the first film. We find out that Laurie is Michael’s sister, there’s some Sam Hain element involved with Michael and aside from that, the film is 85% all about Myers trying to get to Laurie and kill her. It’s not as good as the first film, and the sister thing has always rendered it a bit troubling to me, but as a cat and mouse, thrill-filled horror film, it works wonderfully.
Feature 2 - 10 TO MIDNIGHT (1983)
I’ve always considered the Charles Bronson-led 10 TO MIDNIGHT a slasher film. Like HALLOWEEN II, the cat and mouse stalking element is front and center in this J. Lee Thompson directed gem, culminating into what is in my opinion, one of the best endings of all time.
Bronson plays Leo Kessler, a detective on the trails of the handsome and intelligently insane serial killer, Warren Stacy, played by one of the best character actors around, Gene Davis (CRUISING). Stacy is very similar to charismatic serial killers of the past, with hints of Ted Bundy and Richard Speck thrown in there for good measure. Stacy specifically targets women who reject his advances and when he gets ready to kill them, he always strips down naked, being very meticulous about not leaving a trace behind.
10 TO MIDNIGHT plays well within the cop trying to find the bad guy/man looking for revenge fare that Bronson filled Cannon Films’ filmography with, but there’s very much a horror film tone to it, especially in the murder scenes. With each murder, Bronson’s Kessler gets closer to Stacy and when his target is finally on Warren, Kessler decides that he’ll do anything in his power to get the killer off the streets, even if it means planting evidence and bending the law.
Where the film really kicks into the genre vibe is when Kessler’s unconventional methods are found out, leading to Stacy being released from jail and setting the killer loose. Warren’s anger towards Kessler planting evidence causes him to decide to go after Kessler’s daughter and her nurse friends/roommates in one of the creepiest and most terrifying finales around. It’s very similar to HALLOWEEN II’s Michael Myers in the sense of Warren becoming an unstoppable monster in a sequence of murdering nurses and trying to get to Leo’s daughter as well. The last scene of Kessler’s daughter running and screaming as she tries to get away, while Warren is naked and running in the middle of the street after her is so off-kilter and eerie that it fits right alongside The Shape making his way through Haddonfield Memorial, looking for Laurie.
Feature 3 - VICE SQUAD (1982)
The last film in the triple feature is Gary Sherman’s cat and mouse thriller VICE SQUAD. Another film having to do with one hell of an antagonist, only this time, instead of the mask wearing Shape or the naked and running Warren Stacy, we’re given a character that is basically the devil in the form of a cowboy pimp: Wings Hauser’s Ramrod.
Telling the story of Princess (Season Hubley), a prostitute who does her best to save up and make enough money to give her daughter a better life, VICE SQUAD is a pretty intense film filled with more than a few interesting characters and a performance by Wings Hauser that rivals Michael Myers or Warren Stacy in the creep factor. Scared of Hauser’s Ramrod character, prostitutes do their best to avoid the pimp, whose name is taken from what he does to his girls who don’t give him their money or try to escape him. He fashions a rod clothes hanger and shoves it…yeah, you can use your imagination for that, but let’s just say the women will definitely be permanently affected by Ramrod’s violent preferences.
When Ramrod injures and eventually kills a fellow prostitute friend of Princess’, she reluctantly agrees to set the pimp up, with the help of Tom Walsh (Gary Swanson), a cop who is intent on bringing Ramrod to justice once and for all. The setup goes as planned, right up until the pimp escapes and sets his sights on exacting revenge on Princess and Walsh.
Ramrod is a force of nature that will stop at nothing to kill Princess, and when he escapes custody, it’s hunting season in his mind, making Princess scared for her life, and giving genre lovers an extremely anxiety filled second half of the film, with Princess getting smacked around, and Ramrod getting closer and closer to her. He’s like THE TERMINATOR, an unstoppable monster, who will only stop if he’s killed, something that isn’t as easy as one would assume. The guy takes out cops, kills prostitutes, beats the hell out of the film’s leads and is SO scary. When the film was released, Hauser received a letter from a parent of a real life runaway, saying that his performance in VICE SQUAD scared the runaway so much, that she instantly came home, terrified that she would encounter someone as scary as Ramrod.
Whether it’s Michael Myers stalking Haddonfield Memorial, Warren Stacy running down the street naked or Ramrod raping and murdering prostitutes and killing cops, these three films go together so well, all having similar aesthetics to them and making their viewers terrified and entertained at the same time. If you’ve got a free night and want to make a triple feature of cat and mouse greatness, pop in HALLOWEEN II, 10 TO MIDNIGHT and VICE SQUAD and enjoy!