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Movie Review: Halloween II

Halloween II (Universal, 1981)
Directed by Rick Rosenthal
Written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill

The Doc decided to go back and view some of the sequels to the best horror film ever put to celluloid for the upcoming season. They’re named after it, so how could I not include them in my horror movie month? And considering my namesake (I’ve got some messed up parents), I will try and be as biased as possible. Or is it unbiased, I can never remember. Semantics, people, semantics!

Halloween II is almost as interesting a case study as its predecessor. If Halloween led the way to gorier and for the most part, less interesting, slasher films, then Halloween II got the opportunity to be a part of the competition while trying to maintain the original’s legacy. Did it succeed for the Doc? Read on, my loyal followers, read on.

The sequel starts literally minutes after the first film ended with Laurie Strode (Jaime Lee Curtis) being rushed to the hospital, and my namesake and company searching the neighborhood for Mikey. If you remember the end of the first one, then you know that the slimy bastard got away after being shot five or six times. Once Michael steals a knife and kills a babysitter for the sole reason of giving us a kill right off the bat, he hitches a ride to the hospital to continue his stalking and hopefully killing of Laurie.

The hospital offers us all sorts of horny young nurses and docs to off for awhile before the final showdown with Laurie, the Doc (Donald Pleasance), and other officers are busy scurrying around town for an hour before they realize that Myers made his way to Laurie’s bedside.

If you don’t believe me when I say that Friday the 13th was more of an inspiration for the early 80’s slasher films than the original Halloween was, then look no further than Halloween II. This follows the guidelines of Friday’s lack of interest in characters and more focus put on the kills. The original film’s murder sequences come off pretty tame when compared to Friday’s slaughters, and Halloween II tries to up the creative kill quota. We get a woman being drowned in a hot tub with burning flesh dripping off her face and a very disturbing close-up of a needle going into an eyeball.

But while the killings in Halloween might seem a little subpar when compared to the copycats, the film makes up for it in the fact that it actually creates a aura of real suspense and can still to this day, almost thirty years later, scare the ever living shit out of you. Halloween II might have a higher body count and more gore, but it’s not scary for one second. Call me crazy, but being scared is an important part of a horror film; it should be the most important part. Thankfully Neil Marshall (The Descent) realizes this along with a few other modern directors.

The other aspect of Halloween II that will always piss me off is the brother/sister angle. If you didn’t know this already, then read no further, but you find out in this film that Michael and Laurie are in fact related. Some of the uninformed readers will challenge me on this and say it was introduced in the first film. If you’re referring to the scene from the original where Dr. Loomis goes into Michael’s room at the sanitarium and sees “Sister” painted on the wall, then you’re still wrong. That scene was actually filmed during the making of the sequel to pad out the running time for Halloween to run on network television. Rob Zombie also decided to include this ridiculous plot twist in his horrible, and I mean horrible, remake from earlier this year. Which I found strange because I kept reading over and over how Zombie hated the sequels, and that is why he decided to do a retelling instead of a follow-up.

What worked so well in the original film was that Michael was just evil, plain and simple. There was no motive or deep hearted reason for his killings; he was just a crazy motherfucker who liked to taunt and kill teenagers. Adding the relationship angle takes a lot of the suspense away from what was already a great scary story. I understand we’re dealing with Hollywood here and not a reasonable sound mind and body, but I still have to ask: Why fuck up a good thing?

Halloween II does have its moments. Rick Rosenthal took over the directing reigns from John Carpenter, and while he’s no Johnny, he proves competent in recreating the atmosphere that was so expertly crafted in the original. One of my all-time favorite sequences from any of the films is in this one when Michael Myers walks through a glass door at the hospital. It’s unfortunate that Rosenthal didn’t prove nearly as competent when he returned to the series a few years ago with the worst sequel, Halloween: Resurrection.

The acting is also a lot better than one usually sees in these early slasher films. Curtis is mostly confined to her bed until the last twenty minutes or so, but she plays the freaked out slasher survivor better than anyone. Donald Pleasance, the heart and soul of this series, is also top notch. And while the victims are little more than cardboard cutouts, they still manage to come off better than all of the characters from the Friday the 13th films and the like.

This is usually noted by Halloween fans as being the best sequel, and it’s not hard to see why. I personally would choose Halloween III because it had nothing to do with the rest of the series, and could therefore not taint anyone’s love for the original. I’ve also always kind of had a fondness for certain sequences in Halloween IV, but this is probably overall a better film.

Watching this film made me think back to that scene in Scream 2, which is actually a damn good sequel, where Randy (Jaime Kennedy) says, “Sequels killed the horror genre.” I’m not sure if a mediocre film like Halloween II can be convicted of killing the horror genre, but it sure didn’t help matters. It would have been nice if Halloween II had come along and shown all of the Happy Birthday to Me’s, My Bloody Valentine’s, etc. how good a slasher film could actually be, but alas, it instead decided to compete with the new wave of gore infested, dead teenager flicks. It’s a damn shame.

Follows: Halloween (review by the Projectionist)

Next: Halloween III: Season of the Witch


Sam Loomis

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