Reviewed By Ross Hughes
So, its a few years on, Laurie still played by Jamie Lee Curtis has finally recovered from the nightmare of the night he came home, and is living quite well in a large tall skyscraper. Of course being a sequel, the Bogyman returns and now he targets the residents of the building, while Laurie tries to survive each floor of the high tall building!
Sounds a bit like P2, but this idea was quickly thrown out by John Carpenter who struggled at first to find anything new to add to a story that he considered was already told and finished. Michael Myers falling from the top floor of the house after being shot a few times by his Doctor, Sam Loomis was meant to be the end of his return home. Even when Loomis looked down and saw Myers had gone was not meant for a planned sequel. Carpenter’s idea was that fans would forever know that he is out there, somewhere, ready to strike again. Its a creepy thought, and you can see why Carpenter was so against any sequel being made. The trouble was, that money talks, well £60 million to be precise and rumblings began to surface that the studio were thinking of a follow up. Any doubts if this was a bad idea were quickly put to bed due to the success of the Slash genre that was making serious money at the box office. If Halloween was the granddaddy of all things Slash, many others quickly took over and became a franchise, most notably a little film called Friday the 13th which ignored the template of Halloween and upped the gore with added sex. With Friday it was simple, no need for an hour build up, give the audience want they want and that was young teens getting butchered! Not only was it cheaply made and took the money, a sequel was quickly put to film and with Prom Night and My Bloody Valentine all benefiting from the success of Michael Myers, Producers Irwin Yablans and Moustapha Akkad wanted more, and they weren’t going to take no for an answer!
Carpenter though took a lot of convincing and along with returning Producer Debra Hill, gathered around and quickly came up with a storyline that became Halloween II. In the Nineties, Carpenter himself in an interview said that writing the storyline for this movie came about from drinking loads of beer and having a few pizza’s, and while the result is not that too bad from an all night drinking session, Halloween II suffers from lack of thought and a concept that rids The Shape of all its mystique. Yes its here Michael Myers, the man with no motive, had a motive, and the character and franchise would never be the same again. Carpenter having agreed to write it, had no intention of returning to the director’s seat, a policy that would see him do the same twenty years later and instead offered it to Tommy Lee Wallace who was an art director on the original. Wallace refused though, and on watching a short film called Toyer and being blown away by the suspense it generated, Carpenter offered it to the young director Rick Rosenthal, who could not believe his fortune!
Halloween II started filming with the added bonus that everyone who appeared in the original returned. Jamie Lee Curtis reprised her role as Laurie, Donald Pleasence returned in what would eventually be a recurring role as Dr Sam Loomis, even minor characters like Sheriff Brackett (Charles Cyphers) and Annie (Nancy Kyes) (glimpsed in a body bag) all agreed to be seen in fleeting roles. Only Nick Castle failed to come back, with the role going to the wonderfully named Dick Warlock, a stuntman from the land of telly. One of the reasons why Halloween II is considered a good sequel by many of the fans is because the concept has it carrying on from the end of the original film, even though it took fours years on to make. Over the years its impossible to watch the original without not wanting to see this, even though Carpenter was very hesitant in making the sequel when he put pen to paper he was determined that it had to be the conclusion of the story, if Halloween had to be the beginning, then Halloween II had to be the end, and if watched back to back, you can see that Carpenter achieved that aim!
The sequel begins with the tune of “Mr Sandman!” and the showing of the now infamous moment when Myers gets up from behind Laurie. From the off and with no disrespect to Rosenthal, you can feel a difference. The music itself changing the mood, from the creepy piano sound being replaced by a synth tone that while it still the music that you associate the film with, it somehow loses that freaky vibe. We watch the moment again when Myers falls from the top floor only this time from a different point of view, and instead of the good doctor looking down from above, we seem him leave from the front door and exam the ground in which the body should lay. A neighbour shouts and asks what is going on, the Doc replies by asking to phone the police and mumbling “I shot him,” the neighbour at first does not believe “I have been trick or treated to death tonight!” in which Loomis replies, “you do not know what death is!”…and the film starts, the credit sequence mirroring the original with the burning lantern. It does manage to set the mood perfectly, a thrill seeing this characters back in front of you, it actually feels like an Halloween, sadly though this feeling lasts about the same time as the lantern fades from the screen, and from the next sequence you realise that Halloween II has been heavily influenced by the slasher films that came out between the original and the making of this, which makes you weep, as the film that started the genre, should have no need to copy those that could only wish to reach the standard it originally set!
Its when the film begins for good, we see the change of tone, a girl calling calling out from her backyard and being spotted by Myers. When she goes back into the house, we see Myers follow her before finally slitting her throat. We only five minutes in and already this sequel has shown more blood than in any parts of the original and in a sense we can see that this movie is moving away from its own template and wrongly following the path of Friday 13th. We also follow Myers around from that house to a new house, and while Rosenthal manages to create a wonderful image of an old woman watching telly while Myers is behind her grabbing a kitchen knife, we already have seen this force of evil more times than we did before, and for a man who loved to stay in the shadows, it seems he has outgrown the game of hide and seek and decided to come out and play. Yes, the once fearsome character has become like those who wanted to be him and its a weeping shame.
We spend too much time with Myers in the first half, Jamie Lee is wasted and Donald runs about with no real purpose, Halloween II is so thinly plotted that Carpenter must have got really drunk and bored very easily! The aim of the movie is to get Myers to Haddonfield Hospital where Laurie is recovering, and until he gets there, the film is just plot filler. We have a stupid moment when Loomis believes he spots Myers and tries to shoot him, only for this person to get knocked down by a car which results in a massive explosion and the body getting burnt. Why Loomis thinks its Myers is laughable as this man is taller with a different mask and is clearly carrying a bag which looks like full of drink, Its a scene set up so Myers can get to the hospital and quickly begin to purist Laurie. while the cops pack their cars away thinking they have got their man. It really is lazy writing and you expect better from the makers who put in so much care and attention towards the original, that you just wish for a little bit here! But then if you got people who did not want to do this movie in the first place, then you going to have problems,and Halloween II is clearly made for one thing and one thing only, money.
It may seem I am criticising this movie, well I am, but its only minor grumbles. If you compare it to the original then yes you are going to criticise, it lacks the suspense and dread and the slow build up, but like I said somehow by watching the films back to back, it works, but also if you compare Halloween II to the all the other films that came out doing the boom, then you have to say its one of the better ones! The reason for that is because of Laurie and our wish to see her survive. Our need for Loomis to stop his former patient, and of course to find out if Myers does get his wish and kill the girl who got away. The three characters are pivotal to the success of the two films, and while I may moan that the standard may have slipped here, its still a film I am very fond of.
The film picks up wonderfully by the time Myers reaches the hospital. Of course the location is nothing more than Camp Crystal Lake in which the people working there are mainly victims for Myers, but there is some fun to be had and Rosenthal does a great job in making full use of the hospital setting. An empty ward in the middle of the night brings a great eerie atmosphere which gives the film some quality while Myers goes to work with a hammer in the head, a great needle death scene and one of my favourite moments in all horrors, of a nurse getting stabbed from the back while Laurie watches, all makes the last half of the sequel a great watch, we even get Waynes World Dana Carvey has meat fodder. Of course the film’s last quarter mirrors the first in which Laurie tries to invade Myers while Loomis plays catch up, and Rosenthal brings out the thrills in massive style. Warlock though loses the essence that Castle bought to the role of Myers here he is quite still and he walks very slow as well.
The many faults of Halloween II may be the fault of Carpenter himself. Rosenthal was determined to make the film less horror and more suspenseful, and really did not want to load the film with gore. On watching the final cut Carpenter was horrified at the film and decided to add the many death scenes on show. Its a common trait to blame Rosenthal because he replaced the great man, but it would have been interesting to see his cut of the film especially as he was bitterly disappointed by the film that got released.
Carpenter also thought up the storyline that changed everything. The moment in which we the viewers were stunned to find that Myers and Laurie were actually brother and sister and having killed his one sister all those years ago, it was time to finish off the other! This new information was a shocker back then, but giving the big man a motive to kill is not the best thing and rids him of his power of fear. What was if that Billy Loomis said in Scream “did Norman Bates have a motive, did they explain why Lector liked to eat people!” By adding this storyline, it wrecked the ultimate Bogyman. I would have been quite happy to go a long with the fact that Myers was just pissed off that this girl got away from him and he had the need to finish the job! I also do not believe that Dr Sam Loomis never knew this information. This is a man who needed to know everything about his patient, why he killed his sister? so not telling him that this once young boy has another sister smacks of unprofessional, of course he is told about this development just at the right time to run and save Laurie from her brother even though it may kill him in the process.
Halloween II serves its purpose well. it will make the fans happy and while it lacks the deft touch that made the original such a classic, its a horror that for me is the best sequel of the entire franchise, the one thing that Halloween II does well and shows that Carpenter was so determined to end it once and for all, is that it gives us a conclusion. Here we see the Bogeyman stopped once and for all, there is no going back…well not for another seven years anyway…
THE FINAL REVIEW
While fans like myself cam be too critical, Halloween II gets by with the strong factor that it continues from when the original ended. Lazy writing brings a dull script, but the sole triangle act of Donald, Jamie and Myers makes it all the worthwhile and the fact remains if you love Halloween then you like Halloween II