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Halloween II

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As of the most recent Halloween film, there appears to be very few survivors of Michael's rampage in the first film. Nurse Marion got it from Mikey in "Halloween: H20", and Michael finally got Laurie Strode in the opening minutes of the most recent film, "Halloween: Resurrection", which was directed by Rick Rosenthal. Pleasence's character died off-camera when the actor passed away (while finishing filming "Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers", which was released in 1995). Sheriff in Haddonfield is a pretty good job, however, as both the Sheriff in one and two survive.



More Trivia from Halloween II
Remember when they actually released Halloween films at Halloween even if Halloween wasn't necessarily a big "box-office" weekend?

Ah, the 80's. When little baby capitalists were first discovering words like "franchise" as it related to films.

Several years earlier, 1978, to be exact, John Carpenter released a sleepy little film with a teeny tiny budget about a psychotic little boy who grew up to be a psychotic big boy and decided it was time to return home just in time for Halloween and just in time to put teenage blood on the menu. The simple premise of the "boogeyman" who hunts and kills babysitters, which paid homage to "Psycho" in its casting of Janet Leigh's daughter, built a slow momentum but in short order became a phenomenon much like the film that it paid tribute and homage to. (Adding to that irony is generation 3 of the homage fest: The 90's SCREAM series).

When 1978's "Halloween" become the cult smash it grew into, a sequel seemed like a natural idea. Sequels were just becoming part and parcel of the American pop culture landscape in 1981. "The Empire Strikes Back" had just been released the year before, "Superman II" earlier in the year, so, on October 30, 1981, Universal released "Halloween II" to the American public.

The film is set in the past -- the same night in 1978 that Mikey did his handiwork in suburban Haddonfield in the first film. Interestingly, the concept for the sequel grew out of the closing moments of the first film's "creep-factor" ending and not out of a planned intent to create a film franchise.

We all know the name of our creepy bad guy -- Michael Myers, who went on to do those "oogy" Austin Powers movies...

Wait, that isn't right.

Michael Myers, the creepy killer adorned in the William Shatner-altered mask, is shot by his psychiatrist (shoT therapy?), Dr. Loomis, played with over-dramatic B-movie flair by the legendary Donald Pleasence. Myers flies off the balcony of the house in which he has cornered our heroine, the Scream Queen, Ms. Jamie Lee, as Laurie Strode. Loomis looks down to see that Myers, full of bullet holes, is gone from where he fell. The first film ends with Michael's trademarked heavy breathing schtick as the camera pans from Michael's POV to all of the locations where he performed his best work in the film.

Part 2 opens with the same scene and that makes sense as the natural starting point, even if it does take away somewhat from the "I knew he wouldn't be there" look on Loomis' face at the end of Part 1 when suddenly he's off and running, spouting his typical "demon is loose", "the world is ending" rhetoric.

Meanwhile, Laurie is taken to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital for treatment for her physical (and apparently emotional) injuries.

The Sheriff meets up with Loomis. You'll recall that the Sheriff's daughter, Annie, was one of Michael's victims from #1 (she's strangled in her car because Michael can't stand her singing voice). That's when the Sheriff gets the bad news -- Annie was one of the victims. Sheriff cameo over, which permits the introduction of the police presence in #2, a blonde officer just to make sure that we the audience don't confuse him with the brunette Sheriff mourning his daughter off-camera. (Actually a nice casting decision and one that today's films don't pay as much attention to in sequels. People in movies all look too much alike nowadays as if the casting director has one idea and one idea only for every character in a film).

Unfortunately, the casting director of "Halloween II" couldn't cast fodder for Michael to kill in #2 that we could both love to see killed and hate to see killed like Mr. Carpenter had succeeded in doing with the creation of Laurie's friends in the first movie. These were full-fledged characters who became meat for Michael because we got to see their flaws, but they got to be flawed in real ways as people, not gross stereotypes. In "Halloween II", we're stuck with the wise-ass, over-sexed EMT; the inept hospital security guard; the buxom but nice-to-Laurie blonde-bimbo nurse; and the over-the-top dictator head-nurse. There's very little to care about in these characters and one is forced to consider whether Myers is doing the world a favor in offing such horribly cliched people.

As Loomis and the Sheriff are cruising around Haddonfield looking for Myers ("SIX TIMES! I SHOT HIM SIX TIMES!" - Shut up already), Myers heads toward the hospital. Just what is it with him and Laurie Strode anyway? Is Myers just a sore loser? Or is there more going on here?

Loomis is causing lunacy in Haddonfield. A teenage boy, Ben Tramer, is out wearing his very own Michael Myers mask, when Loomis chases after him, causing the boy's death and creating the specter of doubt among the police as to whether Myers is really still out there or dead and burning on the Haddonfield streets.

Meanwhile, at the hospital...

Lance Guest as the nice EMT tries to make Laurie's hospital stay pleasant. The other, obnoxious EMT does the nasty in the hospital's therapy tub with the buxom blonde nurse, out of which Michael makes some people soup. The drunk doctor who had been out celebrating Halloween when called in for the Strode emergency winds up dead. The dictatorial head nurse winds up dead. And the fat, underpaid hospital security guard winds up dead. So who cares?

Believe it or not, the whole Michael is Laurie's brother thing was not contemplated at all when the first film was made. But, then again, given how contrived it all seems that they are brother and sister, it really isn't that surprising. A nice touch is the return of Nurse Marion from the first film, who arrives with a Marshall to retrieve Loomis and tells him about the "missing file" that identifies Myers' sister. (Nurse Marion returns in Halloween: H20 in 1998 as Michael's first victim in that film -- he needs to kill her to get to her files revealing where Laurie's gone off to).

Curtis has very little to do in the second film other than remain sedated, make goo goo eyes at Lance Guest (who really should NOT be hitting on a chick who just lost every one of her friends to a mass murderer) and act scared and cornered when Myers ultimately locates her in the film's climax.

Finally, Laurie and Dr. Loomis are reunited in the hospital and they join Michael for a private soiree in the oxygen tank room. By this point, Myers' has been temporarily blinded and the sound of leaking oxygen tanks is throwing him off balance as he lashes out with his Crocodile-Dundee sized scalpel.

Loomis takes advantage of the chaos to order Laurie out of the room and, as she leaves, Loomis lights up. Literally. He flicks a lighter in the oxygen room and Ka-Boom, up goes Michael and Dr. Loomis. (At least until Halloween 4 - they both take a breather for the oddly-themed Halloween 3: Season of the Witch.) Michael gets to creep out Laurie and the audience one more time as his flame engulfed body emerges from the explosion, takes a few steps, and collapses. Michael's fried. Laurie's saved again. And, depending on which version of the film you've just seen, the Lance Guest character has either been killed by Myers, knocked unconscious from slipping on blood and not seen again, or wound up with Laurie in the ambulance alive at the end of the movie...

Verdict?

After that synopsis, you'd think I'd have given the film a lower rating.

It's not a good movie and it pales in comparison to the first Halloween. But, in the same way that the three "Star Wars" films become better as a whole than separately, in the same way that "Superman" and "Superman II" can be looked at as one epic, this is a sequel that really is a sequel.

It answers questions that we the audience had at the end of part one. And, while Myers took a break till #4 in the series, it was the first film in the series to introduce motive into Michael's actions. This simultaneously adds character to Michael and detracts from the randomness of the fear that permeates the first film where his actions seemingly have no motive.

The film plays it safe, following Michael through the remainder of Halloween 1978. Though, one wonders if a more interesting film would have resulted from a Laurie Strode who'd managed to put herself back together in the three years since the first Halloween, when Michael returns to her life. (A concept that, in form, finds its way in some regard into Halloween: H2O and Halloween: Resurrection.)

Curtis' character is depressing -- seeing who she is as a person right after she's been removed from the events of the first film isn't all that interesting because she has no time to be anything but scared and overwhelmed. And, as a result, there is little character growth or development in the film for Strode's character. This would have been forgivable if the new characters had even an ounce of the depth that Annie and Lynda "Totally" (Ms. P.J. Soles, one of the coolest actress names ever, who showed up as Bill Murray's girlfriend in Stripes) had in movie #1. But without a Laurie that we the audience can invest in emotionally and absent any other characters to really care about, there's little at risk for the audience in this film. And, ultimately, it can be said that these stereotypes of unsavory characters ultimately un-did the horror movie phenomenon of the 1980's as more and more of these films became about rooting FOR the killer.

Ironically, these horror movie stereotypes ultimately became the source of inspiration to Kevin Williamson, the screenwriter of Scream and Scream 2.

With its strong ties to the first film, this is a sequel that, with the benefit of 20+ years of hindsight, becomes necessary viewing to anyone who enjoyed and was terrifed by the first film.

Notice any mistakes? Review

Strengths: All the returning characters from the first movie act consistent with their characters even amidst the revelation of the bro/sis connection; Carpenter's music is creepy as ever; and Jamie Lee cements her place in history as the "Scream Queen"

Weaknesses? Rosenthal's direction is haphazard. The story itself doesn't take enough risks. The secondary characters are so unlikeable we want Michael to kill them.

Our rating: 8.4 out of 10


Review Written by Barry Freiman:  Contact  |  More Reviews by Barry Freiman
Halloween II