Last year, in the run up to and over Halloween, I did a season of 6 horror movie reviews. Well, 5 horror movies and Showgirls. I was planning to do one this year but that gargantuan Bond marathon got in the way. I’m not missing Halloween night though, and in doing so I plan to begin a Film Dump tradition. Every Halloween night I intend to cover an entry in the Halloween film series. I did the first film last year so tonight is the turn of Halloween 2. Let’s see how many years I can keep this going before either running out of films or being purchased by Google for a cool billion dollar-pounds at which point I would bugger off and be a big rich slob. Maybe. Click the link yo!
Halloween 2 begin directly where the first film ended. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is a nervous wreck after barely surviving the attack of Michael Myers (This time played by stuntman Dick Warlock). Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasence) has just shot Myers 6 times, as he will remind you multiple times over the course of this film, and has just discovered that Myers body is not where he had fallen. Laurie has been carted to the worlds most understaffed hospital to have her injuries treated. Dr Loomis is on the hunt to find Myers before he kills anyone else. And Michael is doing his wandering around in the shadows thing whilst picking off any random passers by that he can.
John Carpenter returned on Halloween 2 to write the script, along with Debra Hill, and score the film. He did not, however, return to direct. In his place is Rick Rosenthal in his first feature directing role. Wisely Rosenthal had decided to mimic Carpenter’s direction style. This normally wouldn’t be wise but as the film continues directly from the end of the first it is smart to make sure they share a similar style and tone. He uses a lot of the first films visual hallmarks, the use of shadow, first person scenes, Myers appearing obscured in the background. That sort of thing. What his direction of the film lacks though is true pacing. Carpenter created a oncoming sense of danger by slowly building towards the films final scenes by having Myers appear as a looming threat. The trouble here is that we’re with Myers so much that he stops being a looming threat and he’s more of a guy we’re following who will eventually catch up to Laurie who does nothing for the film’s first hour but lie in bed. Rosenthal splits the story between Myers, Loomis and Laurie but none of them have much to do. Myers stalks and kills a few people. Laurie lies in bed and has a bad dream. Loomis runs about like a mad man leading the local police all over the place to look for Myers. The first hour ends up less like a slow burn and more like a slow smoulder with maybe a little smoke, which you probably didn’t notice was even there in the first place. What I’m saying is it’s boring.
The film relies almost entirely on everyone being an idiot, which isn’t that uncommon for slasher films. But Halloween was refreshing because Laurie wasn’t a fool. Loomis was an intelligent man that people regarded as crazy. The entire film could have been drawn to a conclusion 20 minutes in if Loomis had just asked the police to send a squad over to protect Laurie seeing as Myers is still on the loose. Myers gets to the hospital armed with a knife, cops shot him repeatedly. Yeah he’s survived multiple gun shot wounds before but a whole squad of police officers shooting at once? That should be enough… well at this stage in the franchise. No alarm is raised at the hospital when people start going missing, apparently Laurie is their only patient. Well except for a room full of babies who must be abandoned or something. Seriously, how is a huge hospital only manned by about 10 people at night. Emergencies still happen after midnight. Surely all the murders down the road would be bringing a steady stream of bodies in. There’s just a little too much nonsense going on to expect the audience to believe Myers can really wander around the town and get about the hospital without anyone raising an alarm.
What compounds the film’s character idiocy and slow pace is the lack of any actual new characters and the complete lack of any character arcs. In the first film Laurie goes from a bookish nerdy girl to being a woman forced to fight for her life and question how anything so evil could happen in her boring life. Here she sleeps, and then hides a bit. We find out she’s really Michael Myers’ sister. Why this revelation is made and what logical reason there was for Loomis not knowing is beyond me. Something about a super duper secret document. Loomis spends the entire film being a crazed madman desperate to capture Myers. Remember that he is meant to be an intelligent Doctor of psychology. I have no idea why he’s getting so crazy. The police keep doing everything he asks and he just gets more angry. And again, why didn’t anyone go protect Laurie, the logical target of the now missing Michael Myers? The way these characters interact makes me angry.
Halloween 2 manages to up the gore a little, a factor added by Carpenter himself to try to compete with the more shocking slasher films that had come since the first Halloween. The extra gore is generally pointless though and quite tame by today’s standards. It’s like they were aware of how weak the story was and so they figured splashing some claret about the place would cover up any flaws.
To it’s credit Halloween 2 is made well enough for a low budget horror film of the early 80s. There’s some shaky editing and an over reliance on dark locations, no mention made of why the hospital gets darker toward the film’s climax, but in general Rosenthal has done a decent job of keeping the tone and style of Carpenter’s original intact. Carpenter’s score is more synth heavy than the originals which tends to lead it towards being a little grating at times but the main theme still manages to be a classic of horror and can work its magic when called upon. Donald Pleasence plays a deranged version of Loomis, seemingly not sure exactly what tone he should keep, but there are moments where his mental state comes off as almost natural. Not Pleasences’ best performance but adequate enough.
Overall Halloween 2 is a disappointing continuation of the story established in the original. It relies on contrivance and idiocy to tell what little story it has. The film lacks any true focus until the finale and by that point you will have likely lost interest. Originally the plan was for the film to be set a few years later with Laurie attempting to have a normal life until Myers would have reappeared to turn her world on its head. I would have preferred to see this story because at least then we’d have characters that would have had time to grow from the events of the first film. That said this is markedly better than the Rob Zombie Halloween 2. But only just. That film is shocking. I’ll get to that film in 8 years. Can’t wait.