Films / Horror

Halloween II

John Carpenter’s Halloween defined a genre and lead to a boom of imitators. Most of these – Friday the 13th, Prom Night – were bloodier retreads, with non of Halloween’s restraint, scares or sense of style. But as the 80s began, slashers proved to be big business – profitable franchises which could be churned out yearly to a guaranteed audience – and it was decided in 1981 to bring back Michael Myers. This idea was flawed from the outset – the first Halloween thrives on its ambiguous and unsettling ending, and a follow-up would take away from some or the original’s power. But there were some apparent pluses – Carpenter and Debra Hill, writers of the first movie, expressed an interest in continuing the story, and many of the cast were willing to return too. This wouldn’t be a sequel with no relation to the original, and potentially, there was a lot to work with. Carpenter dropped out of directing however, only to be replaced by Rick Rosenthal who took up the mantle and brought Myers back to Haddonfield – for ‘more of the night he came home’ (which stands as one of the chunkiest taglines of all time). Having recently reviewed Halloween and discussed its skill, power and influence, it seemed fitting to look at its closest sequel, to try and understand just why it fails so badly. Halloween was a brilliant and atmospheric horror movie. Halloween II however, is just a terrible movie, but it provides an interesting insight into why sequels generally don’t work.Halloween 2 review The film picks up minutes after the first movie ended. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is whisked off to hospital, leaving Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) to try and explain the situation to a confused policeforce. Michael Myers vanishes into the night, and more people get murdered. The movie, in its defence, does a good job with its setting; Halloween II does feel like an extension of the first movie’s climax, and a despite the real-life three year gap, many familiar faces briefly return (such Charles Cypers, Nancy Kyes) which does help with consistency and continuity. It’s difficult to get most of your cast back for a horror sequel and the film does a decent job of this. However, this also works against the movie, as it feels like a television extension more than a movie, and can’t really stand on its own terms. Carpenter originally wanted to set the sequel years after the first movie, with an older Laurie Strode fending Michael Myers off in a high-rise apartment complex, which at least would have given the project some identity of its own.halloween 2In terms of style, Rosenthal tries to imitate Carpenter’s look and controlled style, but fails miserably. He’s a poor director and cannot control the frame in the way Carpenter can, and seems to completely misjudge certain elements. An overuse of POV shots makes them tedious, and strangely, Rosenthal keeps Myers in the light, having the monster casually strut around which takes away from what makes him work. The film has no atmosphere and despite the larger budget, feels much cheaper than the original, with a grainy, television-quality look to it. Carpenter’s iconic score returns, beefed up and synthesised, which does lend an 80s gothic charm to the film. The score doesn’t sound as good as in the original but still works, though all of the musical stings here are oddly muted and flat, almost as though Michael’s attacks are an afterthought. The kills throughout are dull, though the gore is much greater here than in the original. Halloween was a surprisingly restrained movie, with little to no blood – here there’s a lot, and some gruesome deaths – there’s a common trend (as discussed in Scream 2) that slasher sequels are bloodier with more elaborate kills, which fits here. It can be argued that Halloween II took influence Halloween’s imitators, and not Halloween itself, and it’s hard to judge who is to blame, with reports that Carpenter himself added the violence in post-production to try and make Rosenthal’s movie scarier. It doesn’t help however, and Halloween II’s main issue is that it’s boring. It barely even works as an unintentional comedy because it’s so dull to watch.laurie strodeThe setting, for the most part, is Haddonfield Memorial Hospital – a medical establishment in desperate need of some investment. It’s severely understaffed – there are maybe three nurses and one doctor on duty, and all evidence points to some serious budget cuts, which is the only way to explain why the hospital is so dark all the time. The inexplicable lack of staff isn’t too much of a problem as the hospital seems to cater to just one patient anyway, which allows one of the nurses to sneak off for some illicit hot-tub sex with her colleague and boyfriend. In seriousness, the hospital setting feels cheap and undeveloped, and it’s hard to understand why the movie spends so much time there. It is not an engaging or frightening location. It’s hard to judge the intelligence of characters in slasher movies, but everyone who works at this hospital is a moron and makes some terrible decisions – one of them, comically, dies from slipping on blood and banging his head. The returning characters also seem to get dumber – Laurie Strode, who showed some real resilience at the end of Halloween, is reduced to a simpering idiot here, and Jamie Lee Curtis is given so little to do you have to wonder why they even bothered bringing her back. Donald Pleasance goes into full on scenery chewing mode here, which lends his scenes a ridiculous camp quality – his ‘I shot him six times!’ cry particularly amusing. But at least Pleasance gives it his all, with a go-hard-or-go-home mentality which makes his scenes at least fun to watch. Everyone else in the cast is a non-entity.michael myersThe film’s biggest crimes, however, come from Carpenter himself, with some of the worst cinematic retcons in film history. Halloween 5 is often blamed for the nonsensical Druid plot, but it actually appears here, with a heavy suggestion that Michael Myers is involved in some evil pagan cult. Just no. He’s not. The second issue is with the sister retcon, an idea that actively hurts the first movie’s plot. The first film was scary because Myers was a random force – it could be argued that he only goes after Laurie Strode because she drops the key off at the Myers house when he’s there – Michael Myers is The Shape, and lacks motivation. Here, he’s rendered as just mental patient with family issues and an inexplicable immortality. It complete dilutes the character. For these reasons, it’s better to skip Halloween II completely, as the movie seems to go out of its way to undo what worked so well in the original, and there is nothing worse than a sequel which adds in ‘plot’ elements which clearly did not exist during the original’s production. Michael Myers is not Laurie Strode’s brother. Ignore it.jamie lee curtisThe difference here is that whilst the first movie was a labour of love, made by genuinely excited young filmmakers who just wanted to scare people, Halloween II was little more than a cash-grab in. It’s a tired, pedestrian and boring film, and confirms there’s little worse than a slasher movie sequel. Sequels in general are often inferior products, because they rarely have any creative reason to exist. Sequels exist to make money, and as such, lack purpose, passion, and are often a huge-step down in general quality. Halloween II is one of the worst offenders, the only slight silver lining is that it’s a better movie than the rest of the Halloween sequels, which actually manage to sink lower than this one. Halloween 4, 5 and 6 are increasingly dreadful, worthy for their unintentional laughs, and whilst H20 isn’t dreadful, it’s a far cry from the original movie and makes all the mistakes Halloween II does.  Strangely, the series saves its worst for last – Halloween: Resurrection – is one of the most offensively bad horror movies of all time. As such, it’s best to pretend Halloween ended with Halloween. The sequels don’t exist. A genuinely awful movie and a huge fall from grace.

1/5

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2 thoughts on “Halloween II

  1. Pingback: Halloween | Some Films and Stuff

  2. John Carpenter is my favorite director and Halloween is the reason why I love the horror gener. Halloween 2 had it problems but if the franchise had stopped right there it would be great, the ending is good and leaves no opening for a sequel however thats not what happened.

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