The black curtain opens up on an autumn breeze knocking DEAN CUNDEY’s camera out of a tree. “The Chordettes” facetiously beg Mr. Sandman to deliver Ben Tramer but that high school dream is doomed to be crushed between a parked van and a speeding police car, only his perfect teeth survive the explosion. We have been promised “More of the Night He Came Home” and “The Nightmare Isn’t Over!” but this direct continuation begins by putting its workman boots on the wrong feet. Shot seven (?) times, “The Shape” falls into the Doyle front yard rather than the back. It takes three years for a town to change in one moment. This is bizarre-o Haddonfield where razors hide in apples and your sister wears a wig. Everything is familiar but not exactly right.
We may have strayed off the path but who doesn’t want to be here? Long monolithic shadows lay all over the place, crappy paper decorations abound and suburban backstreets transform into mazes lit only by the occasional orange glow of an expertly carved jack-o-lantern. Costumed tykes gallop the streets at whatever odd hour it may be and every radio and TV set is tuned to a horror station. Is there an impromptu carnival forming or is that an angry mob? There’s no need for murderer at large Michael Myers to loom in the background. Inspired by the evening’s showing of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, he walks deliberately center stage, a floating white death skull with albatross commitment. Slippery blood is about to poor. It’s later than we think.
Oh Haddonfield, earlier this evening, three years ago, you where the epitome of good wholesome small town values, my how you have fallen. Sheriff Hackett, your daughter is dead and you are the last to know. You’ll be no help tonight. Just go home. Mr. and Mrs. Strode, I once had faith in you. Why can you not be reached by phone? You must have heard what’s going on; don’t you wonder where Laurie is? “I told you I’m not your mother!” Why the harsh angry tone? What’s the point of having a secret adoption when you’re going to drag your young daughter to the sanitarium to visit her unknown sibling anyway? Are these literal flashbacks or symbolic dreams? Oh Haddonfield, why have you washed your hands of your children? Why do you trust your infants to be watched by nurses who exit their posts in order to have sex in therapeutic hot tubs with undesirable pot smoking ambulance drivers? The Doctor is in…toxicated! Get it together town!
At the end of the day (or night), HALLOWEEN II is too stuffed with jolly holiday paraphernalia not to sink into and enjoy, though critics who take it to task for its shallow shuffle have a point. Yep, more bloodshed abounds than in the prudent original but its reputation for gore mongering is relative and exaggerated. The film’s strong suite is its Achilles’ heel and that would be its Tiger-Beat infatuation with killer Michael. Myers will never cut quite such an impressive form as he does here, but there’s no room in the spotlight for anyone else. The cards are stacked in his favor to such a degree that every other character seems chained to an invisible radiator. The cops are not allowed to act as cops would, the hospital staff is not allowed to function as humans might and heroine Laurie Strode is drugged and denied not only her right to fight but also her personality as well; her soul replaced by random snapshot images of her connection to her attacker, her voice crushed down to a whine. We should give her a break though, she must be exhausted.
Maybe it’s best that Laurie sat this one out. HALLOWEEN II may not be the clean pure classic that the original is but as resume material for Michael’s future work as a horror icon, it’s certainly persuasive. Parts of it feel no deeper than an adolescent power fantasy, an oversized action figure crashing through shoeboxes to crush smaller dolls but where it may fail on a storytelling front, it still captures the rowdy spirit of the night securely.
Once upon a time I thought that the original HALLOWEENs 1& II were intertwined, two perfect bookends thicker than thieves. Now each year the two movies siblings grow further apart. The elder child (I) is still my pride and joy while the younger (2) is a delinquent I’m prone to make excuses for. One is thoughtful and sharp and the other is willfully crass but direct. For me it’s easy to pick a favorite but so what? Who needs a world of perfect movies? The important thing is both share the same esteem for the 31st of October and Halloween is just as much a time for callow tricks as it is for tasty treats.