Thursday, September 13, 2012

Halloween II (1981)

         After Dr. Loomis fires six bullets into Michael Myers, he shockingly discovers that Michael is still very much alive and on the loose. Laurie Strode is taken to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital after being wounded in her confrontation with the Shape.  But, Michael soon finds his way to the hospital and slashes through the staff in order to find Laurie and kill her. Meanwhile,  Sheriff Brackett discovers that his own daughter Annie was one of Michael's unfortunate victims. Loomis teams up with another officer to track Michael down.  During his search, Marion shows up with a U.S. Marshall and is under orders by the Governor to bring Loomis along. During the ride, Marion tells Loomis that she discovered something about Laurie Strode that was locked away to protect the Strode family. It turns out that Laurie Strode is actually the younger sister of Michael and Judith Myers.  She was born two years before Judith was murdered and then adopted by the Strode family  two months after Michael was sent away. This explains why he specifically picked to stalk Laurie. To finish what he began back in 1963.   Dr. Loomis forces the Marshall to turn the car around so that he can stop Michael before he can harm Laurie.

            In 1978, John Carpenter made the ultimate horror classic called Halloween and changed the horror genre forever.  Other filmmakers took notice of Halloween's success and decided to copy it to gain equal success. One of these filmmakers was Sean S. Cunningham, who had produced the very controversial exploitation revenge film "The Last House On The Left"  with writer/director Wes Craven. In 1980, director Sean S. Cunningham and screenwriter Victor Miller released a little horror film called "Friday The 13th".  Friday The 13th did really well at the box office, which opened up the possibility of a second installment. In 1981, Friday The 13th Part 2 was released that was also successful.  The slasher trend took off with films such as "Prom Night", "Terror Train", "The House On Sorority Row", "My Bloody Valentine", and "The Burning".  Halloween's executive producer Moustapha Akkad took notice of how much Halloween changed the horror genre around.  There was talk of a possible sequel to Halloween going around. Many audience members assumed that Carpenter and company had set the ending open for a sequel, which co-writer/producer Debra Hill answered by saying that a sequel was the farthest thing from anyone's mind while making the original.  Someone that Akkad was in talks with proposed a deal for a sequel. After much thought and consideration, Akkad accepted and Halloween II was green lit.  The idea of a sequel didn't appeal to John Carpenter or Debra Hill, who were just happy with the great film that they had already made in 1978. Carpenter and Hill finally agreed that they would write and produce the sequel.  The original Halloween was a suspenseful and more atmospheric horror film that relied on music, characters, story, mystery, and atmosphere. Halloween II however rode on the coattails of Friday The 13th and the slasher trend by adding in bloody kills and adding a twist that made the rest of the franchise take an interesting or bad turn depending on who you ask.

              The screenplay by John Carpenter and Debra Hill is definitely inferior to what they wrote back in 1978, but it is definitely in my opinion the best Halloween sequel.   John Carpenter basically drank a six pack of beer every night as he wrote Halloween II because he just couldn't think of a thing to write since he wrote everything that he wanted to with the original. Truthfully, Carpenter didn't really want to be a part of this sequel at all. He was kinda committed to do it.  The reveal that Laurie was Michael Myers' sister was written with the help of alcohol. Plus, this was the era of unexpected relations. Look at Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back! Nothing against these character connections, but they do get old real quick. I also believe that it kinda tainted the rest of the franchise.  I can only count like maybe four or five good Halloween films out of the total of ten.   What made Michael so scary for me in the original is that he was just evil. Plain and simple. No connection to Laurie besides her being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It kinda hinted that possibly she reminded him of Judith, but it wasn't confirmed until this film that the two are siblings. Michael Myers should have just been evil. No other explanation.  It could have been fucking anyone that he stalked and tried to kill. THAT'S SCARY!  I don't fully blame Carpenter for this since he hated the idea anyway. At least he did make the best out of it and didn't allow his complaints of making a sequel interfere with his writing.

          The characters are alright. Laurie doesn't really do much in this film except lay in a hospital bed until Michael comes after her and then we get a chase.  Loomis is awesome as always with his monologues about evil and Samhain/Halloween. I love this guy!  Plus, I love how he fired the gun to get the Marshall to quickly turn the car around to get to the hospital to save Laurie from Michael.  Marion shows up briefly and is okay. Basically all she really did was explain that Laurie was Michael's biological sister.  We also have the hospital staff, who are basically used for Michael's body count. There's Karen, who's a nurse with a nice rack. Budd, who's the asshole. Jimmy, who helps take care of Laurie. Mrs. Alves, who's the head nurse.  Sheriff Brackett is briefly in the film until he finds Annie's body and has to leave. Jill, another nurse.  And of course everybody's favorite boogeyman, Michael Myers.

             The kills are decent in Halloween II. We get your standard slashing of throats. My favorite though is when he kills Karen by dipping her face in scalding water and we see parts of her skin boil off. It looks pretty real too. I also love when Michael has injected a needle right in the pupil of Dr. Mixter's eyeball and it looks like his eye cracked like glass. Michael also injects air into this woman's temple. Not bad kills by 1981's standards.

           The music by both John Carpenter and Alan Howarth is alright. It is nowhere near as chilling as Carpenter's original music from the original Halloween, but I have heard worse in the franchise.

              I forgot to mention this in the review above, but I find the opening credits sequence with the camera slowly zooming in on the lit Jack o' Lantern against the pitch black back ground to be incredibly creepy. I love in this film where the Jack o' Lantern's face splits apart, revealing a skull inside and the camera zooms in slowly into the skull's pitch black eye sockets. Really great stuff!

          I enjoyed the cinematography done again by Dean Cundey.

            The acting is pretty decent. Jamie Lee Curtis did alright with what she had as Laurie Strode. I do find her character more interesting in the original and Halloween: H20 as well.   Donald Pleasence is awesome as always as Dr. Sam Loomis. The guy is just a delight to watch.  Charles Cyphers is alright in his brief return as Sheriff Brackett.  We won't see Sheriff Brackett again in the franchise until Rob Zombie's 2007 remake, which starred Chucky in the role.  Lance Guest was good as Jimmy. Pamela Susan Shoop was good and sexy as Karen. She can be my nurse anytime! Leo Rossi was a dick as Budd. He didn't last long. Gloria Gifford was pretty good as Mrs. Alves, the head nurse.  And Dick Warlock was definitely creepy as Michael Myers. He had the walk down perfectly. He's the best Michael Myers since Nick Castle/Tony Moran.  Nancy Stephens was also pretty good, returning as Marion Chambers. She would return to the franchise briefly at the beginning of Halloween: H20 in 1998 just to get killed by Michael. Everybody else did decent with what they had. Not bad acting at all.

             The direction by Rick Rosenthal was actually pretty good. I like that he took note of Carpenter and still managed to give the film a creepy vibe. I love the shot where Michael is standing in the room with all the babies and looks like just a shadow.  Rosenthal definitely did a good job in the director's chair. Too bad that he had to direct that God awful Halloween: Resurrection in 2002.


        Overall, Halloween II is still inferior to its source material, yet still manages to be my favorite film in the franchise since the original.  It's a bit creepy and definitely fun to watch every October.


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