Hallowen II (1981)

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.

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Pinchy
Pinchy
9 years ago

As a young and impressionable tyke, I somehow managed to see Halloween 2 before seeing the first film. Still don’t know how that happened, but for that very reason it still holds a special place in my heart.
I’ll also add that I’m very fond of the opening credit sequence, and, as a synthesizer aficionado, I actually prefer the score to the second film. Alan Howarth did an excellent job tightening up John Carpenter’s largely improvisational score while still keeping the spirit of the original.

FijiMermaid
FijiMermaid
9 years ago

Pinchy: That’s why “Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo” is my favorite in the breakin series… breakin series.. what in the hell?!?! I think sometimes sequels are seen first, but keep a special spot in your heart.

Unkle: I really only recognize Halloween, Halloween II and Halloween III. I prefer part III over this one. I like part 2 from the stand point of getting to see how the story continues moments after Myers is shot in the first film, but it never felt necessary. I liked the mystery of his body being gone at the end of the first flick. Although the tone of this film hones pretty close to the original and for that it’s pretty enjoyable and of course it has Carpenter’s trademark score/soundtrack work. And so to toot my own horn a but I have the original release of this soundtrack available at my blog for fans of this flick. It even includes the “Mr. Sandman” track you mentioned at the top. http://sideshowcinema.blogspot.com/2008/09/halloween-ii-full-scoresoundtrack.html

cmcmcmcm
cmcmcmcm
9 years ago

I guess you’ve reached maturity before me. I still love them both pretty equally. Sometimes I even love II more. There are some scenes that I sooo look forward to and am on the edge of my seat – even though I’ve seen them countless times – like the woman making the sandwich, the kissing the gross Michael hand part and when Laurie goes through the teeny window in the basement and narrowly escapes the scary foot grab – to name a few!

Rockwater
Rockwater
9 years ago

Sometimes I curse the advent of home video, DVD, and the like because it means that films aren’t allowed to linger in the memory as much as they once did. Before you could call up a movie, you had to replay it in your brain and let it morph into something all its own. That’s what the Halloween films have been for me. While I’m a huge Carpenter fan, I purposely don’t own these films because I like to revisit them only at this time of year when they show on TV.

Yes, I know they’re pan and scan (I’ve seen the correct aspect ratio) and look like crap, but that’s how I remember them and choose to revisit them.

For me II will always have a close place in my heart. I prefer it to the original which I regard as just an exercise in style for a director who’d already made a better and more ambitious film with Assault on Precint 13.

Sequels should never be watched back to back with the orignals. There should be a passage of time, a fading of memory, a little mental catch up so that the film works like a true re-introduction.

Well, that’s my two cents. Happy Halloween

Amanda By Night
9 years ago

Halloween 2 is my favorite of the film series, I adore it. I am mostly familar with the TV version where Lance Guest lives, and that’s the one I love…. I watch it more than the original, but like Jaws, where I watch and love Jaws 2 more, I know the sequels aren’t better, they are just more watchable to me, probably because of the amped up killings and sex… I’m a deviant!

And where are the awesome pics of Lance Guest, Unk? I loves me some Lance! 🙂

Great review. The sequel is really an afterthought to cash in on the original, so I can see where someone might not like some of the direction the film takes… it’s all good, baby.

Caffeinated Joe
9 years ago

Great review! If you love Halloween, it is a good film to watch just because. And if you love it on its own merits, then cool. I like it, even if Laurie is too whacked out for my taste.

And I freaking LOVE your line “Who needs a world of perfect movies?” This should be emblazoned on movie blogs everywhere. Not every film has to be perfect to be good. Some are good for reasons known only to a very few. 🙂

Terry Thome
9 years ago

When I saw HALLOWEEN II theatrically (I was 12), I loved it but I never really liked it very much since then. I now know that the reason I liked it so much when it was first released was the atmosphere. It was in big, beautiful Scope on a tremendously large screen (I saw it in an old movie palace) with Dolby Stereo pumped to maximum volume and plenty of girls screaming and screeching at the scary parts. It was a preteen buzz. On television and video, the ‘zipper-on-the-monster-suit’ was more than evident. It was illogical, needlessly bloody and very mean spirited. I avoided it for years until I got the Blu-ray disc earlier this month. I only bought the disc for TERROR IN THE AISLES and I had no interest in HALLOWEEN II at all. I eventually did give it a spin to see if I had softened on it any. Nope. If anything, it’s even worse the older I get. At least it looks great.

Jergy
Jergy
9 years ago

What a perfect analogy Unk. I love ’em both but we know which one is the favorite child.

I understand Carpenters hesitance to even supply a story much less sit in the director’s chair. But I just wonder what we would have gotten if he had been persuaded to do both.

Even though it does feel out of wack, I like the portion of the night it takes place in. It’s deeper into the night. People are still in the streets but you can feel it comin to an end. I remember that feeling as a kid of almost surviving the night. The trick or treaters are few and far between, so when you get that one last straggler knocking on you door it makes you jump.

I gave H20 a spin last night and felt this kinda of has the same problem as 2, but a bit worse. It’s heart is in the right place and has some great ideas but the execution just fails overall. 2 does much better but you’re still hoping for a bit more.

2 does have my fav Loomis line: “You don’t know what death is!”

mickster
mickster
9 years ago

Yay! I love Halloween II! I will be watching it after I watch Halloween this weekend. It is a tradition for me to watch both movies together every year. I will always remember this one because of my special Halloween working at the hospital. https://www.kindertrauma.com/?p=2238

mickster
mickster
9 years ago

Man, that’s a good idea, but I am going to Jem this year. I plan to be truly outrageous!
I love local TV spots!