Reviewing a Cult Franchise – Halloween II (1981)

A running trend throughout film industry is that if any given film is successful and makes enough money, the tendency is to do a sequel. So was the case with ‘Halloween’. But also being a running trend, especially if the original film was of considerable quality, the sequel tends to be less good.

3 years after the release of ‘Halloween’, ‘Halloween II’ was released on October 30th 1981 and already there are some noticeable signs of decline. But lets start, as we always do with a brief rundown of the plot.

‘Halloween II’ takes place just after the first film ended. Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasence) has shot Michael Myers (Nick Castle in H1, Dick Warlock in HII) off the balcony and saved Laurie’s life. Dr Loomis is shocked to discover that Michael Myers has disappeared from the site where he landed. As the town of Haddonfield is informed of the night of horror that has taken place in their small town, an injured Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is taken to the local hospital to be treated. A still alive Michael Myers discovers Laurie’s whereabouts and heads to the hospital to find her. He then proceeds to murder as many of the staff as he can so he can get to his target. As ever, Dr Loomis is there to save the day.

For ‘Halloween II’, John Carpenter returned to write the film but the role of director went to Rick Rosenthal.

Three years is a long time in the film industry, especially after the impact of a successful film. On thing that a successful film brings with it, is imitators. Not long after ‘Halloween’ came a number of films that were similar. On particular ‘Halloween’ protege did quite well, ‘Friday the 13th‘. Friday the 13th did pretty much the same thing as ‘Halloween’ with one very big, noticeable difference. Unlike ‘Halloween’, ‘Friday the 13th‘ leaned heavily on gore rather than suspense. There was a little suspense but the suspense was overthrown by the ‘gross’ factor in the kills.

I’m not knocking it. It’s still a very effective method of scaring the audience, it’s just successful in a different way.

However, the gore factor proved to be effective and popular with the audience an prospective horror movie goers started demanding more from the horror genre. Suspense was out and gore was in so the aesthetics of ‘Halloween II’ were changed to appeal to that market.

Even though Laurie Strode was the main protagonist throughout the first movie, she’s hardly bloody in this one. She’s on a stretcher at the beginning; she arrives at the hospital, there a few scenes between herself and the nice boy paramedic, Jimmy (Lance Guest) and she’s there for the final chase scene and confrontation with Dr Loomis. The rest of the film is Michael picking off the unsuspecting staff at the hospital.

The body count in this film was much bigger than the previous which is worrying. That’s a slippery slope. It means that most of the screen time is taken up with the kills and not developing the characters and building up tension which is what we saw last time. Instead, what we have here is a load of cannon fodder who wear their character traits on their sleeves. It’s obvious who they are and what they’re about. All anyone cares about is how they are going to get killed.

There are also some changes in Michael Myers’ demeanor. It has now been established that Michael Myers is something more than human but he hasn’t yet gained any of his superhuman abilities. He has the ‘fast healing’ thing and that’s about it. As for the rest of his physical capabilities, they’re pretty much the same.

Whatever scenes are not spent with Laurie at the hospital, the rest are spent with Dr Loomis as he traces Michael’s steps after the balcony. The plot seems to dance around a little with a red herring that involves a kid in what looks like Michael’s mask being hit by a police car and killed. Sheriff Brackett (Charles Cyphers) learns of the death of his daughter (Nancy Loomis). The plot then moves to the Myers house where an angry mob is chucking rocks through the windows. Then it moves to a school where they think Michael Myers has been as he has left his knife in child’s drawing and scribbled the word ‘SAMHAIN’ in blood on the chalkboard. Now is where the plot gets a bit mythical as ‘SAMHAIN’ is a festival that takes place on October 31st. Then Nurse Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) from the first film appears to tell Dr Loomis that he has been ordered back to Smithsgrove.

As Dr Loomis and Nurse Chambers are driving back, a peculiar plot twist is revealed. Do you remember when the point of Michael Myers is that he kills babysitters? John Carpenter doesn’t. Because the revelation is that Laurie Strode is in fact Michael Myers’ biological sister. He killed one sister when he was a child and now he’s going after the other for whatever reason. The babysitter thing really didn’t last long and calls a few of the plot elements in the last film into question.

It was assumed that Michael Myers was a total nutter who was just killing at random. He killed his sister for no reason; he killed a mechanic for his overalls, he killed Annie for no reason, Bob for no reason and Lynda for no reason. If he just wanted to kill his sister, why didn’t he just go for Laurie?

The others were no threat to his task.

Anyway, the ending points to a possibility that there would not be any more sequels.

Dr Loomis goes back for Laurie and Michael has already found her. They go into the operating theatre and Laurie shoots his twice in both eyes, blinding him. They both release a load of oxygen and ether into the air and as Laurie gets away, Dr Loomis blows up himself and Michael. Laurie is taken away and the nightmare is over. Or is it? It would be another 17 years before the Halloween fans would see Laurie Strode again.

‘Halloween II’ had a bigger budget of $2.5 Million and had an initial taking of $25.5 Million at the box office. For all of it’s faults, ‘Halloween II’ made a good move of continuing the story with a character that the fans of the first film were rooting for. The return of both Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis were a breath of fresh air among the boring and disposable characters that they were in this film with.

So now there has been another film that has been a critical success. Whether that was based upon the reputation of the first film or not, is really up to the viewer. Whatever decisions were made when it came to the story of this film, the worst was yet to come.

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