So once again we have survived.

Halloween II

tn_halloweeniiHALLOWEEN II is… not HALLOWEEN. But I guess that’s why they added the “II” on it. I should’ve caught that.

Continuing immediately from the end of John Carpenter’s genre-defining much-imitated timeless unkillable masterpiece classic, and using most of the same crew (including cinematographer Dean Cundey), it’s able to imitate the style enough to recapture the feel sometimes. Other times it just emphasizes how outstanding and impossible to duplicate Carpenter’s touch was.

To be fair, this was written and produced by Carpenter and Debra Hill, scored by Carpenter, who also chose the director, Rick Rosenthal (who later ended the series in disgrace with HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION) on the basis of a short he directed. Then, when it was filmed and Carpenter didn’t think it was scary enough he went and shot gorier death scenes. So he has a hand in it, for good or bad.

This is one of the rare sequels that just continues exactly from the ending of the last one. So it starts by replaying the ending of the original, where Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) shows up to rescue Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) by shooting Michael “The Shape” Myers (in the new footage played by stunt coordinator Dick Warlock, the only major cast change), who then disappears. I always wonder if the end of HALLOWEEN, a series of shots of empty locations, was meant to imply that Michael could be anywhere, or that he IS everywhere. But part II goes with the first choice. He snuck off.

The sequel proper begins with an excellent steadicam P.O.V. sequence. Carpenter has his scene from the point-of-view of young clown-costumed Michael spying on and then murdering his sister on Halloween night. Rosenthal has adult Michael walking around dark Haddonfield unseen by unsuspecting suburbanites. We hear his breath, the dogs barking and nearby cars driving by as he walks through an alley and looks into people’s homes. Some of the innocents he comes across are doomed, most will not know how close they came, or that they walked right past him without noticing his presence.

He also watches from a distance as Loomis meets up with Sheriff Brackett (Charles Cyphers) again and tells him that he shot Michael six times in the heart but didn’t kill him. We know it’s true, but he really sounds like a nut.

As Loomis keeps searching, Laurie is taken in an ambulance to Haddonfield Memorial. There she’s looked after by sympathetic young paramedic Jimmy (Lance Guest, THE LAST STARFIGHTER, JAWS: THE REVENGE, MACH 2) and a less attentive night staff of nurses.

mp_halloweeniiThis is the movie’s big slip-up. Since it takes place in something close to real time, Laurie spends most of the movie groggy and recuperating in a hospital bed. Michael’s deadly encounters with incidental characters are fine, but the time spent on the hospital staff just to treat them as generic victims who could’ve been in a lesser slasher movie set at a summer camp or fraternity party makes for a slog of a middle section. Would it be so bad to have them doing their job, or something more unusual than trying to get laid?

At least we can get a laugh I guess from the ridiculous scene where two of them sneak into a sauna and Michael turns it up so high it boils them to death. Safety tip for hospital sauna installation: just get one that doesn’t heat up high enough to kill people. Putting up a sign and marking part of the dial “scalding” doesn’t seem to do the trick. It’s like having a button that says “do not push.” Of course some motherfucker is gonna push it. So don’t make the button.

II is notable for being more graphically violent than the original. Some might assume this is the work of cynical newcomers second0-guessing Carpenter’s approach, but in fact Rosenthal did not want it to be this gorey. It was Carpenter who felt the death scenes had to be amplified, so we end up with a memorably horrible scene where Michael stabs a hypodermic needle into somebody’s eye. Carpenter apparently felt he had to keep up with the competition, meaning the copycats that came in the next few years after his original. I think he made the right decision, though. This more gruesome approach distances the sequel a little bit from the original and without it would be an even paler comparison.

There’s also one really good horror moment where Jimmy finds a nurse dead in a dimly lit room, then realizes that the whole floor is covered in her blood, tries to walk out, slips backward on the blood and bangs his head. Creepy.

Loomis, meanwhile, starts to slip into self-parody as he continues to make poetic statements of doom while circling around town repeatedly not finding Michael. At one point an old man who is not aware of the killings says he’s been “trick or treated to death” and Loomis yells “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT DEATH IS!” Come on Doc, be nice. I bet that old guy got a laugh out of that for years, though. It probly became an in-joke with him and his friends. “Remember when that weirdo yelled at you on Halloween? What did he say? ‘You don’t know what death IS!’ Ha ha ha!”

Loomis does have one great moment when poor Sheriff Brackett learns that his daughter Annie (Nancy Loomis, returning for a dead body cameo!) was killed by Michael (in part 1). Before going home to tell his wife, the Sheriff curses out Loomis because “You let him out!” Loomis tries to say it wasn’t his fault, that he did what he could, but he says it in a defeated sort of way. Either he knows it’s falling on deaf/grieving ears, or that he should just let it go, or he’s not even convinced himself. It’s almost worth Pleasance doing the role just for this one bit of great acting.

There’s also a part I always got a kick out of where Loomis spots who he thinks might be Michael, but turns out to be a drunk kid in a similar mask. They don’t even get to the point of shooting the wrong guy, though – he gets accidentally run over by a cop car that rams him into another car and catches him on fire. I always thought it was a funny mask, but now that I see it more clearly on blu-ray I realize it’s a better likeness of the original Michael Myers mask than they made for most of the sequels.

still_halloweenii

I was wondering if anybody ever dressed up as this character for Halloween, and “Caruso Stalker” on Twitter tipped me off that an official Ben Tramer mask will be available soon. Also, I never picked up on this before, but a guy named C. Funderburg informed me that Ben Tramer is the guy Laurie said she had a crush on in HALLOWEEN. Poor drunk bastard. But I don’t think Laurie would have a good time being around a guy like that anyway.

Does the mask the real Michael is wearing look a little different too? Maybe it’s my imagination. But I think Warlock does his own interpretation, he doesn’t move exactly the same as Nick Castle did. They never quite got that same character again. (On the extras Warlock says that Debra Hill said the same thing in an interview, and it bummed him out because she was on set the whole time and never said anything.)

[UPDATE: According to an extra on HALLLOWEEN H20, part II did use the same mask as part 1, but because Warlock’s face is rounder it looks different on him.]

Eventually the doctor’s old colleague Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) finds him and tells him that the governor (!) has ordered him to return to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. I don’t really get it. Now Laurie and Loomis are both being sidelined. I guess Michael is actually the main character.

By now I’m sure you know the big twist: Chambers shows Loomis papers that prove that Laurie is actually Michael’s sister, deliberately hidden from him like a Skywalker baby. This is a little sketchy since it’s obviously not what Carpenter intended when he made HALLOWEEN, but it’s become so canonized that Rob Zombie used it as a non-twist in part 1 of his remake series.

Anyway, regardless of whether or not you need to consider this new information when watching HALLOWEEN, it makes for a good climax in II. Now Loomis realizes that Laurie is Michael’s true target and he (unprofessionally, in my opinion) holds a gun to the head of the officer who’s driving him, forcing him to drive to the hospital.

mp_halloweeniibIf we could just cut out most of the middle of the movie this would actually be a great sequel, because it gets good again once Laurie stumbles out of bed and has to make a run for it. Her reunion with brother Michael is an image more surreal than anything in Carpenter’s film: she sees him down the hallway stabbing a nurse in the back and lifting her all the way off the ground, just holding her by the knife. She hangs there, and her heavy white nurse shoes fall off. It’s like something out of a nightmare.

Then Rosenthal sort of re-creates the feeling of the chase through the house in HALLOWEEN, but moved to the setting of an empty hospital and parking lot, and with the extra obstacle of Laurie being injured, tired and medicated. There’s a scary part where she hides in a car, which turns out to be Jimmy’s, and he gets in and tries to drive away but he’s so fucked up from banging his head that he passes out face first on the car horn. Of all the luck!

Then there’s a controversial moment where she’s crawling on the cement and sees Loomis, Chambers and the officer arriving from across the lot, but when she tries to scream she can barely make a sound. Some people, including Curtis, think it’s far-fetched and wimpy. I kinda like it because I lose my voice in dreams all the time. It might not be real but it’s a real human fear.

Loomis’s final showdown with Michael (until part 4) is great. When blood drips out of the eyeholes on Michael’s mask, like red tears, it’s beautifully iconic, and makes for a more even fight with old Loomis since he can’t see very well and has to stumble around blindly not knowing what the hell is going on. (I wish the whooshing sound every time he swings his knife was not so ridiculously exaggerated, but I can live with it. I am a forgiving man.)

Since we’ve lived for many years in a world where both Michael and Loomis survived in subsequent sequels the ending feels a little inconclusive. It’s not though. They got blown the fuck up. Loomis did what he had to do to erase his mistake. Good for him. Top of the world, ma. I like that Laurie seems genuinely pretty out of it as she’s wheeled to the ambulance, and still scared enough that she wants to sit in the front with the driver. I like that the sky is turning light and it’s foggy. They really got the feel of early morning down so that we would feel like yes, after two movies of Halloween night we have finally achieved the safety of breakfast time, November 1st.

There’s an alternate ending on the blu-ray where she’s frightened by movement under a sheet and it turns out to be Jimmy, his head all bandaged up. He seems really out of it like you don’t know if he’s all there or what. I can take or leave him in the ending – maybe he wasn’t enough of a character to earn ending it with her – but I like that in that version Laurie keeps saying “We made it! We made it!” It’s nice to see her celebrate the achievement of survival.

HALLOWEEN II is part of a really good movie and part of a pretty bad one. I consider myself a fan, but it’s kind of sad to consider that it’s easily one of the best or the best HALLOWEEN sequel they made. I’ll go ahead and make a controversial statement: I like Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN II better than this. I mean it’s got that problem of the traumatized Laurie being too hateful and obnoxious (moreso in the director’s cut, one reason I prefer the theatrical), but at least she’s the main character, she’s not sleeping in a hospital bed for most of the movie. It’s a more consistently involving story and definitely takes bigger risks, creating dreamy imagery and doing things with the character and mythology not done in any of the many previous HALLOWEEN followups.

But you know what, the opening and closing of this are great, and I’m sure I’ll continue to think that every several years when I’ve watched the first one too much and feel the need to haul this one out as a substitute. In those cases it will have to do.

* * *

PROGRAMMING NOTE: This officially marks the end of my part 2 marathon (for now) and the beginning of VERN’S HALLOWEEN HORROR MOVIE REVIEW QUESTIVAL 2015 (working title).

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 at 11:50 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

27 Responses to “Halloween II”

  1. For the TV version of the original Halloween Carpenter went back and shot additional footage which includes the whole sister angle. I believe this was done just prior to the release of Halloween 2 in theaters, so that might also be part of why so many people incorrectly assume that Laurie being Michael’s sister has been part of Halloween cannon since the beginning. It’s probably because a lot of them saw the first one on TV since the original Halloween pre-dates home video.

  2. I think amping up the crazed desperation with Loomis was the right thing to do. The middle of this movie is fine by me but I do sometimes mix it up with the beginning of Friday the 13th IV. They are better stock characters than some slashers provide, to be sure. The scene where the guy is smoking a joint in the break room while they watch the news is pretty great

  3. I’ve always loved Halloween 2. One of the best, if not THE best slasher sequel. Just feels like a perfect continuation of the first film…

  4. “Ended the series in disgrace?” I’ll not have you besmirch Busta Rhymes kickboxing Michael Myers.

    Sorry, it’s… it’s… All I have.

    Still, no love for H20?

  5. I always wondered if there was some outside force that kept Jamie Lee Curtis on the sidelines. It seemed to me like something happened, like they only got her for a limited time in between projects and couldn’t shoot the whole movie with her, or she didn’t want to come back and make the sequel, but was contractually obligated to be in so many scenes, or some kind of nonsense. It’s too bad, because she really is the best part of the movie.

    Regarding the scene where she can’t scream, I always just gave her a break. She’d been through hell. I’d like to see if some of those complainers would handle it as well. And you’re right on, Vern, about it tapping straight in to the nightmare of not being able to cry out.

    I actually thought of this when we were just discussing SCREAM 2 and comparing the openings of it with the original and how it wasn’t as good. You mentioned how universal the fears were in the original about being in the dark and lonely house. Maybe in part 2, once it gets to the Jada Pinkett part, it’s kind of like that fear of not being able to cry out for help. You’re surrounded by people and no one sees you or helps you. That’s pretty visceral, too.

  6. Have I been spelling gory wrong this whole time or is gorey a typo?

  7. Something that I THINK I noticed last time that I watched this – maybe someone can confirm or deny this – is that, while the sheriff reveals to Loomis (and the audience) that Michael is Laurie’s brother, no one ever actually reveals to Laurie that Michael is her brother.

    Which is the right way to go, right? I mean, at least during the events of the movie, there’s not really ever a good time to tell her that. Because to tell her while she’s groggy and injured and on the run for her life would just be additional, unnecessary strain on her. But then, when do you tell her? That’s one of the things that I like about the Rob Zombie version, that, while it was a non-twist for the audience in Part I, it was massive twist for the character in Part II.

  8. I like the ad that proclaims “All New”. It should have read “All New… Except Some for Stuff in the Beginning.”

  9. Congratulations on the Part 2 Marathon, Vern, and thank you for all of the fantastic reviews. They were insightful, hilarious, heartfelt and thorough – pretty much everything we’ve come to expect from your amazing body of work. Cannot wait for VERN’S HALLOWEEN HORROR MOVIE REVIEW QUESTIVAL 2015 (working title). It is the thing I am looking forward to most of all this month with ASH vs EVIL DEAD a close second and my birthday a distant, distant third.

  10. This is my second favourite HALLOWEEN 2. Just saying.

  11. Shoot just reminded me that I need to see that other HALLOWEEN II.

    As a big fan of the franchise who actually didn’t mind Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN for the most part (that scene set to Love Hurts is still one of the most unintentionally hilarious things I’ve ever seen though) would you recommend the theatrical cut or the Rob Zombie cut?

  12. The Original... Paul

    October 7th, 2015 at 9:15 am

    I can’t remember a thing about this other than that Laurie barely seemed to be in it. I remember it being a big disappointment (and I say that as someone who has reservations about the original HALLOWEEN, specifically with the performances of the “teenagers” in it).

    My favorite HALLOWEEN properties would be, in order:

    1) HALLOWEEN. (D’uh.)
    2) HALLOWEEN H:20.
    3) The bits of Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN where it’s not actually trying to be a HALLOWEEN movie. ‘Cause the minute it stops being about a disturbed kid and starts being about Michael Myers stalking unlikeable teenagers, that movie goes downhill, fast.
    4) The ending of HALLOWEEN 4/5 (can’t remember which one) where baby Danielle Harris becomes mini-Michael.

    I actually have some love for HALLOWEEN 3: SEASON OF THE WITCH. But it’s a HALLOWEEN movie in name alone.

    Maggie:

    “Maybe in part 2, once it gets to the Jada Pinkett part, it’s kind of like that fear of not being able to cry out for help. You’re surrounded by people and no one sees you or helps you. That’s pretty visceral, too.”

    I made that point in the SCREAM 2 thread. I can’t say I recall the equivalent scene in HALLOWEEN 2 though.

  13. Paul that would be part 4 which is still my favorite sequel out of all of them. Too bad part 5 ends up really letting it down because that ending definitely showed a lot of potential.

  14. I’m not sure what Shoot will say, but it’s a complicated answer, Broddie. I know many experts including Brian Collins of A Horror Movie a Day prefer the director’s cut of RZ’s HII. There’s a scene in there that Majestyk and others believe is the highlight of the movie, and it is a good scene. But I absolutely prefer the theatrical because 1) it has a great ending that I can’t believe they didn’t use in the other one 2) the director’s cut is, by Zombie’s own admission, designed to make you hate Laurie. Most of what’s cut is her whining and crying and swearing at her friends. She’s kinda grating in the theatrical but completely obnoxious in the director’s cut.

    But if you want to see it on blu-ray the theatrical cut is only available on a Canadian import.

  15. Paul, it’s that scene Vern discussed: “Then there’s a controversial moment where she’s crawling on the cement and sees Loomis, Chambers and the officer arriving from across the lot, but when she tries to scream she can barely make a sound. Some people, including Curtis, think it’s far-fetched and wimpy. I kinda like it because I lose my voice in dreams all the time. It might not be real but it’s a real human fear.”

  16. The Original... Paul

    October 7th, 2015 at 9:59 am

    Maggie – I gathered that. I just meant that I personally couldn’t recall it from the movie. It’s been many years since I saw it so there’s honestly not too much I do recall about it.

  17. Broddie: I’ve never actually seen the theatrical cut, but the director’s cut is my favorite Zombie movie by a considerable margin. It’s not a happy funtime slasherama by any means, but it’s also not really a rub-your-nose-in-shit-to-teach-you-a-lesson-about-enjoying-the-kind-of-movies-I-get-paid-to-make wallow in cruelty, either. It’s the only slasher movie I’ve seen that plays out like an actual tragedy. It’s a legitimate exploration of PTSD: Post-Traumatic Slasher Disorder. It’s interested in victims, not killers. Would you ever truly be able to get on with your life if it erupted so suddenly and meaninglessly into the most brutal and random violence? Even if you did, what if it happened again? How would you handle it? COULD you handle it? These are questions that a slasher sequel is uniquely poised to pose. Zombie had been accused–with good reason–for making the violence in his films “realistic” for purely fetishistic reasons, without actually having anything to say about real violence, but in this one, I believe the banal viciousness of the violence has a purpose. Violence isn’t just ugly and dehumanizing in the moment; it sticks around and taints everything that comes afterward, too. That’s why the scene Vern mentioned, featuring the absolutely finest acting of my man Brad Dourif’s illustrious career, hits me so hard. There’s no coming back from it. There’s nothing that can make it better. To us, what we’ve just witnessed was just a scene, a few moments of audiovisual stimuli. To him, it’s the end of life as he knows it. It’s a beautiful, heart-wrenching scene, the centerpiece of the film. I can’t imagine what the movie would be like without it, and I kind of don’t want to know. But I must admit that I’m curious about the original ending. Perhaps that’s worth exploring.

  18. Vern and Majestyk – Thanks for the insight fellas. Now I’m actually really curious because it sounds like there’s no real middle ground you either prefer one version or the other. Usually director’s cuts end up being a mere curiosity but this sounds like a completely different experience altogether since it’s something were the tone and overall outlook of the picture seems to end up completely warped. Sort of like the different cuts of BLADE RUNNER. Sounds like I should give the DVD versions of both a chance since the theatrical isn’t available in domestic blu-ray then. I’ll try to do that before Halloween actually gets here this year.

  19. Does the director’s cut of Halloween explain why Michael Myers bypasses Annie’s house to go to a party he has no idea Laurie is even at to kill a friend of hers he doesn’t even know is a friend of hers and then double back to Annie’s house to kill her?

  20. I´m not sure which version I saw, to be honest.

  21. I’ll chime in and say I think the theatrical cut of Zombie’s Halloween II is his worst movie, and the director’s cut is (maybe) his best. This may also be due to seeing the director’s cut second, and perhaps being more mentally prepared for it, but it really is a sickened, tragic slasher film.

  22. Great review, and a nice choice to bridge between you ending your fantastic run of part 2 reviews and shifting gears into your annual October Horror Questival/Slasher Search. I am looking forward to it.

  23. I was lucky enough to have just watched a screening of the original HALLOWEEN as part of Mondo Con this past Sunday, and you are right about Ben Tramer being the dude that Laurie is into in the first film but I never realized he was the guy in the knock off MM mask in this one. That actually makes me think they missed an opportunity for a mistaken identity set up where Laurie attacks who she thinks is the actually Michael and wounds poor Ben Tramer.

  24. Wouldn’t Pet Semetary II be worth looking at?

  25. I managed to dig up what I previously wrote about ROB ZOMBIE H2 on a previous thread:

    “Got around to watch ROB ZOMBIE´S HALLOWEEN 2: a.k.a DO THE MYERS FAMILY DREAM OF SHEEP. Man, what a great film. Both funny and disturbing as hell. It also feels more like a Rob Zombie film at this than the original which I did not like at all. In fact I hated it.

    This works better because Zombie reverse it. He starts of treating the original HALLOWEEN 2 in the first ten minutes and then goes “aww fuck it.. I should make my own movie instead”. It´s also funny how he uses the subconscious (and Freudian motifs) as a subtext of sorts for this one ,since slasher films has been psychoanalyzed to death within feminist frameworks.

    I am not entirely sure what he means though, if anything. It all comes down to the “the american fascination with serial killers and ignoring the actual suffering behind it” The hilariously hamfisted Dr Loomis booksigning made me laugh. The first signer was a creepy fan that he could not get rid off, and the next the polar opposite;someone whose pissed at Loomis exploiting the victims. Is this how every single booksignings of his went? That for every creepy fan, behind him was someone who hated Loomis´s guts

    Oh, and speaking of which. Dr Loomis, as played by Malcolm McDowall. What.an.epic.asshole. He has developed this narcissism ,in which he plays the celebrity card for all its worth. Milking the shit out of a sleazy sensationalistbook he wrote on Michael Myers. I thought it would have been fucking great if Loomis actually knew Myers was alive, but instead of calling the police and informing them of this public danger, kept it in the book and the only way for the cops to know about it was to buy his book.

    There were lots more that I found enjoyable. This is easily the best rob Zombie-flick I´ve seen.”

  26. Watching this again, I was also struck by how much different the mask looks in this one. Myers looks distractingly more like Bill Shatner, and it kind of ruined some of the suspense sequences for me.

  27. I watched Zombie H2 unrated and theatrical (truthfully, just skimmed theatrical, focusing on major differences, like the Dourif/Brackett scene and the ending). I thought they were both good as offbeat experimental, horror. There is a lot that does not work in either version. McDowell’s entire story arc serves virtually no purpose and amounts to a waste of running time that could be better focused on developing the Laurie character. Sadly, Margot Kidder is embarrassingly bad, and the scenes w/ her and Taylor-Compton are painful. Taylor-Compton is okay but out of her depth–Danielle Harris would have been better. All that said, it’s a fresh angle on the story, I like the way the Michael/Laurie/Family Reunion element is developed. The imagery is hypnotic. The film is genuinely scary at times. Mane and Zombie give a fresh take on Michael Myers, who displays patience and focus in stalking his prey and then controlled ferocity in mangling anyone who gets within his arm’s reach. The hospital sequence alone is worth the price of admission. I give Zombie and this film huge credit just for trying to transcend the remake/sequel shackles and do something truly original, even if the end product is only partially successful. I’ll definitely revisit this one from time to time.

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