Movies We Like
It’s pretty interesting to look back now in retrospect at Halloween II knowing what we do about other successful horror franchises and realizing that at the time of its release there had never really been any previous attempt in horror history to continue a story involving a modern day bogeyman. Back when John Carpenter unleashed the original Halloween into theaters in 1978 to an unsuspecting audience, it became not only the most successful independent feature of all time (and held that record up until The Blair Witch Project came out in 1999), but also became easily the single most influential film of the entire '80s “slasher” craze that would follow. (Even if Carpenter did lift quite a few bits from Bob Clark’s Black Christmas, the predecessor to Halloween). No one, including the filmmakers, the producers or investors could’ve ever predicted just how vast the success of Halloween would be, and so, they never, ever intended on doing a sequel.
But just as the '80s came, suddenly sequels didn’t seem like such a bad idea. Hell, Jaws had a sequel just a few years shy of the start of '80s and that did really well, so with the new crop of baddies showing up in such films as Friday The 13th, The Burning and My Bloody Valentine, why wouldn’t the studio want to bring back Michael Myers? And so, much to the reluctance of John Carpenter and Debra Hill who instead wanted to turn the Halloween franchise into a series of unrelated horror stories that took place around the famed holiday (and which they would attempt to do with Halloween III: Season Of The Witch), instead Halloween II became a direct sequel to their original, picking up literally on the next frame and giving us “more of the night he came home.”
Adopting this non-stop continuity, something done in the old school movie serials, makes it nearly impossible to resist putting on Halloween II directly after watching the original. At the conclusion of Halloween (and now here in the opening of Halloween II), Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) just barely survives an attack at the hands of Michael Myers as his Doctor Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) fires six rounds of bullets into him and sends him tumbling out the second store balcony to his (supposed) death. But instead when he looks over the railing, Michael is gone. He simply got up and walked away. Whereas the first film featured Michael as more of a spectator; a creepy voyeur spending the majority of the film’s running time just following and watching his would-be victims until the final moments of Halloween, in Halloween II, the beast is unleashed and his killing spree has only just begun.
Laurie is taken to a nearby hospital while Michael hides in the shadows and continues his now random murder spree. When he learns of her whereabouts, he makes his way over to the hospital and stalks the grounds of the nearly empty facility. Sheriff Brackett is so distraught after learning about the death of his daughter Annie that Detective Hunt teams up with Dr. Loomis to try to track down and stop Michael. Over the course of the chaotic night, they end up chasing a young boy in a similar mask to the one Michael was wearing and he ends up getting killed in a horrific car accident.
Back at the hospital, the majority of the staff has gone home for the evening and those who remain, like Karen (Pamela Susan Shoop) and Bud (Leo Rossi), head to the hot tub for a quick make-out session. This becomes one of the film's stand out murder sequences as Michael looms in the background, pumps up the heat lever on the tub forcing Bud to get out; strangles him before continually dunking Karen’s face in the scolding hot water simultaneously burning and drowning her to death. It’s the movie’s nastiest kill, but it was lifted directly from Italian master of horror Dario Argento’s Deep Red, a movie and filmmaker (as well as peer) that I’m sure John Carpenter was paying homage to.
Slowly but surely, Michael makes his way through all of the hospital staff and tracks down Laurie for a drawn out chase through the building for the conclusion. At this point, Loomis finds out about a secret file that was sealed after Michael was institutionalized that revealed his true relationship with Laurie Strode. It turns out Laurie is in fact his sister, and since he murdered his older sister when he was 6 years old, they deduct that he’s obviously come back home to kill his other sister. (A last minute convenient device plot that Carpenter blames on a late night of binge drinking while suffering from writer’s block.)
I’ve always rather enjoyed the relationship between Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis. They are perfect arch nemesis characters and so, at the conclusion of Halloween II, when Loomis sees no other way to stop Michael, he decides to blow them both up; a fitting and satisfying close to their Ahab/Moby Dick-esque story. (Don’t worry, that’s not a tremendous spoiler as both of them come back from subsequent sequels after this event.)
Director Rick Rosenthal does a serviceable job picking up exactly where Carpenter left off on the first film and stylistically matches the look and tone of Halloween. No doubt this is also because Dean Cundey acted as director of photography on both films. While Rosenthal was established as a documentary filmmaker at this point, Halloween II marks his narrative feature length debut and more interesting is the work he did after this, in particular his intense drama Bad Boys which starred a very young Sean Penn in arguably one of his best roles. Also of note is that Rosenthal is the only director to helm two Halloween features. He encored for 2002’s Halloween: Resurrection.
Most fans (such as myself) feel the story of Michael Myers and Loomis ends here with the ending of Halloween II, but I can’t help but have a soft spot for the sequels that followed, especially around Halloween time every year. For the die-hards out there, I strongly recommend checking out the newly released Blu-ray from Scream Factory, Shout Factory’s new horror banner. Besides the wonderful special features, it has the rare TV version of Halloween II that features different scenes, different kills and even different takes of scenes from the theatrical cut. Not to mention a commentary moderated by yours truly with Michael Myers himself, Dick Warlock. If you’re going to watch Carpenter’s original Halloween, you might as well have the underrated sequel Halloween II on cue as well.