Halloween II (1981)

Director: Rick Rosenthal

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance, Charles Cyphers, Jeffrey Kramer, Lance Guest, Pamela Susan Shoop

Written by: (based on the characters created) John Carpenter and Debra Hill

Running Time: 92 mins

Original UK Cert: X

Original US Release: 30th October 1981

It was always going to be a hard act to follow. A sequel to a film that has now become not only a classic of the horror genre, but literally wrote the rule books. Even with original director John Carpenter on board as writer and producer and deciding to continue the story directly after the events of his 1978 masterpiece, the film doesn’t quite reach its original’s mighty standing. Compared to the hundreds of wannabe copycats, it isn’t as bad as some.

Michael Myers has disappeared after being filled with bullets by Doctor Loomis. Victim Laurie Strode is taken to Memorial Hospital where she is heavily sedated. As Loomis continues to search the streets of Haddonfield, he doesn’t realise that Michael is heading straight for the hospital to take some new victims and to find Laurie, who has more than a passing relationship to the psychotic killer.

It’s hard not to compare this with its more famous big daddy, especially as it does continue the story. What it needed was Carpenter to have taken the reins as director, instead of handing it over to then first timer Rick Rosenthal. What he lacks as a film maker is the understanding of tension. Halloween worked because it was brimming with tension. From the moment it started with the explanation of who Myers is, Carpenter is taking you on a roller coaster ride of shocks, scares and general jumps. That’s not saying there aren’t any here and it helps to have Carpenter’s legendary musical score playing throughout, it’s just that the film takes a long time to really get going.

A plus is moving the action away from the streets and empty houses to a hospital. Originally set in a high-rise apartment block, the hospital has much more in the form of horrific possibilities. What is curious is why the place is so deserted? A handful of nurses and medics roam the corridors but very little else. It does edge up the suspense slightly but it also is bothersome. I know it’s a small town but how on earth can they keep it open?

This is also a much gorier affair. What makes the first film so iconic is that there is very little blood-letting. We, the audience, are left with plenty for our imagination to run riot. Halloween II leaves very little to the imagination. Rosenthal shows us everything. So we have close-ups of throats being cut, a face in a very hot sauna and a syringe in the side of the head. Not forgetting a floor covered in blood. As more and more horror films were showing their audience the gory and the guts, the producers obviously decided to copy. This doesn’t help with the scare factor. As we all know, the imagination is more powerful than anything else, so they should have stuck with what they did in Halloween.

What’s also interesting is how very little screen time the leads actually get. Halloween made a star out of Jamie Lee Curtis, yet here she is given less than a quarter of the running time. Wearing a very dubious wig, she spends most of the time sedated and lying in a bed. Its only in the final quarter that she comes into action and while you can understand why she was dubbed “the Queen of Scream”, that is all she is really told to do.

Donald Pleasance, reprising his role of Loomis, also gets he same treatment. He pops up every so often as he continues to search for his patient but he, too, is given far too little screen time. So it is left to a new batch of victims and that’s all they really are, victims. There is no real character development, no one to really care about and so when Myers bumps them off, you almost forget who they were seconds later.

Played as a companion piece to the original, it at least completes the story. If you forget the countless other sequels that followed (as well as Rob Zombie’s pointless remakes), this is how the story should have ended. Hence when Halloween III: The Season Of The Witch was created, it was to start a brand new story (which failed to ignite). If you love the original, as I do, this will disappoint but if you forget its failings, it’s perfectly acceptable and far more accomplished than anything that came after.

3/5

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