By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance, Lance Guest, Pamela Susan Shoop, Leo Rossi, and Charles Cyphers
Who’da thunk it? After Halloween was initially released in 1978, there was not a soul within the production or otherwise that thought it was going to be a hit. Yet lo and behold, it would go on to gross $70 million worldwide and make the inevitability of a sequel that much more obvious. You have to remember: 1978 was not a time in which the word ‘franchise’ was thrown around. It took Dino De Laurentiis to pick up the rights in order for the sequel to become possible. With the hiring of original creators John Carpenter and Debra Hill to write the script, the recipe seemed destined for success. Questions lingered even before the beginning moments of Halloween II’s opening credits. Would the absence of John Carpenter from behind the camera dampen the film’s quality? Would the tagline of ‘MORE of the night he came home’ feel like a hinderance and a burden to watch? Most importantly: would the knowing of why The Shape (now frequently referred to as Michael Myers) hinder any of the fright factor that was so expertly staged the film before?
One thing you have to remember when thinking about Halloween II is the fact that it was released three years after the first one. Now a lot can happen in three years, and it certainly happened in the triple set of twelve months between the first and second Halloweens. Most notably, much like Carpenter built on the Hitchcock modus operandi of building suspense with the first Halloween, a caboose was added to the train. In 1980, a little film called Friday the 13th built on what Carpenter created by being a slasher film built on the murdering of acrimonious to morals teens. The pressure was on this film to up the ante. And I would say that for the most part, it gets the job done. Much like the first film, director Rick Rosenthal opens Halloween II with the shot of a jack’o’lantern. But when the pumpkin opens itself up to reveal a scary skull, we know that the conquering of this pressure has begun. A tracking shot of Michael wondering neighborhoods with the soundtrack of his breathing quietly ringing in our ears makes it even more obvious that there is at least a hint of effort to recreate what made that first film so good.
Another thing they got right with this sequel was get Curtis back. Even while spending the majority of the film drugged up, laying down, and lingering about with a shattered ankle in an obvious and horrible wig, Carpenter and Hill know that Laurie was the character we identified with the most and rooted for her escape. Bringing her back in an almost auspiciously empty hospital was a wise choice in the script’s writing, and this setting helps the film recreate effective stalk sequences almost perfectly. Even if a kill involving Michael submerging and subsequently burning to a crisp a young nurse in an over heated whirlpool without even a hint of burning his own hand is built around naiveté, it was very gripping. Everything here is expertly staged, sometimes making a point to cake Laurie in a red light that outlines the danger she is in. There’s a completely ridiculous shot of Michael walking through a hospital door that if it was in a poorly staged film would completely take me out of the narrative. But we want Laurie to get out of the predicament so bad that it didn’t bother me. Perhaps worst of all, Laurie proves to be about as expert a pistol shot there is. Yet I take it in stride as this jump in logic is worth it to see Michael cry tears of blood.Not all the decisions made here were good. It seems producers of Halloween II got their fake blood from the same place 1979’s Dawn of the Dead got theirs, as it is almost looks like Crayola colored paint. Also, Carpenter’s decision to explain why Michael returned to kill Laurie is one of those plot points that explains everything and nothing at the same time. It seemed like an easy way out, and making the ‘evil on two legs’ have a drive takes away from his overall effectiveness. However even in these lapses in logic, Halloween II is a more than worthy follow-up to its 1978 predecessor. It has enough kills to satisfy any horror hound, and enough story to build on what came before. Many people feel they can watch the first of any series and be done with it. Yet Halloween II deserves to be watched back to back with Halloween and be taken in as one three-hour film. That is, if you don’t want to know what REALLY happened the night he came home. Also, you might want to take in as much of Michael as you can this time. It’ll be awhile until you see him again.