DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: HALLOWEEN II

Wednesday 31 October 2007


Halloween II (1981) dir. Rick Rosenthal
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance, Charles Cyphers, Lance Guest


“I shot him six times, I shot him in the heart!”

John Carpenter’s “Halloween” is a great film, but rarely is its sequel “Halloween II” ever discussed with any reverence. Perhaps because it’s not directed by Carpenter which may knock it down on the prestige level, or perhaps its lumped in with the half dozen sequels which came after it. But discussing “Halloween” without “Halloween II” is like discussing “The Godfather” without “The Godfather Part II”. “Halloween II” is a superb second half of the story, a natural extension from the first film, adding more chilling horror and revealing more of the story which make both films all the more satisfying.

The night of Oct 31, 1978 isn’t over in Haddenfield. “Halloween II” not only links up with Part I, it overlaps the last five minutes of the film. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) the quiet teenage babysitter has just fought off the Shatner-masked Michael Myers and we see Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) shoot Myers six times only to discover his body has disappeared into the night. While Dr. Loomis and the cops comb the streets of Haddenfield and Laurie is taken to the hospital for treatment, Myer regroups and continues his rampage. Myers is a different killer though, he’s not as random as we thought. When he steals a knife from a neighbour’s kitchen he curiously leaves her alive. His murderings seem motivated and by necessity. A series of discoveries by Loomis will reveal why.

Eventually Myers makes it to the hospital where the terror is ramped up to peaking levels. Rosenthal constructs a masterful sequence of terror in the clausterphobic confines of the hospital. One by one the skeleton crew staff bite the dust in even more gruesome fashion. Myers creatively kills with a syringe, a scalpel, his bare hands, and even a scolding hot water tub. When Myers finds Laurie, it becomes a one on one chase through the hospital with Myers pursuing with a calm but relentless Terminator-like assault. Loomis eventually makes the connection between Laurie and Myers, and arrives at the hospital just in time to save the day,

“Halloween II” feels like a real and necessary sequel because it expands on plot threads from the first film and provides the satisfactory closure missing in the first film. Some may say the randomness of Myers’ killing or the open-ended ending made it scarier. I disagree. Knowing Myers’ motivation and the patient 15-year wait before his premeditative attack is even more chilling than the randomness.

Rosenthal smartly mimics John Carpenter’s style to make his film fit nicely alongside the first. Carpenter wasn’t so far removed from the project either to make it completely Rosenthal’s film. Original creators Carpenter and Debra Hill co-produced and co-wrote the sequel and Carpenter composed the score again. And so, with the same actors, it’s all but Carpenter’s film. In fact, in interviews Carpenter’s said he should have directed the sequel, but his career was blossoming too fast at that point.

Rosenthal is no slouch though. The hospital sequence is as good and scary as anything in the first film and arguably the film reaches even higher levels of dramatic intensity. The creepiest shot in the film is Myers slowly walking down the steps, scalpel in hand, in time with the beat of the music.

The film is book ended with a counterpoint song, “Mister Sandman”, which reinforces the theme of Strode’s living nightmare which will continue to haunt her the rest of her life. And Loomis’s heroism at the end is the correct way to close out his character. Throughout his time in the mental hospital, Myers’ battle was with Loomis – a battle which Loomis lost, and for which he needed redemption. “Halloween II” is as much about Loomis as it is about Strode or Myers. Enjoy.

Buy it here: Halloween II


Andrew D. Wells said...

Oh, and although Carpenter has the composer credit, it reads "with Alan Howarth." Although Howarth used music composed by Carpenter for the first film, I believe the arrangement and performance is solely Howarth's. In fact, I find the sequel's score to be even better than the original in the way it utilizes much more bass in its mix. It is far more ominous than Carpenter's original score.

Marissa said...

The people in Bowling Green, KY, Carpenter's former hometown, can't talk about one with out the other either. There are at least 15 references to local places in both movies combined, certainly proving Carpenter's co-writer status on Halloween II! In fact, the majority of the Bowling Green area references are from #2.

We introduced a map this year with all the sites marked, including the actual movie quote for each reference. You can look at the brochure at www.visitbgky.com/johncarpenter.

Andrew D. Wells said...

I apologise. I just looked at my Halloween II soundtrack album and it reads Composed and performed by John Carpenter in association with Alan Howarth". I don't really know what "in association" means, maybe Howarth produced it. But there is a distinct difference in tonality between this score and the original film's. Perhaps Howarth produced it in a different manner than the first score, but this one is much more sinister, along with Halloween III: Season of the Witch however lackluster that film itself is.