Has it really been since July since I’ve had a blog entry? Gosh, I wish more was going on in the world today so I’d have something to irreverently comment about. I should be more responsible. This is why I could never adopt a highway. The state would see how little I would emotionally and financially support my highway and then they’d take it away in a nasty custody battle that would certainly make the news given how slow the news cycles are nowadays. I shall press on, thankful that I can freely throw trash out of my car windows, telling myself, “Well, who cares? It isn’t my highway!”
Again, thanks to those of you out there in the Interwebnets who have read my earthshattering whimsy before, despite horribly late to the point of nonexistent updates! And since it has been a while, here’s a hastily typed and haphazardly constructed sequel article! Enjoy!
Oh and spoilers are throughout. Yep. Deal with that.
The Sequel: Halloween II (1981)
Original Movie: Halloween (1978)
Key Cast/Production Staff Returning from First Installment:
|Donald Pleasance||as Dr. Samuel Loomis|
|Jamie Lee Curtis||as Laurie Strode|
|Charles Cyphers||as Sheriff Leigh Brackett|
|Nancy Stephens||as Marion Chambers|
To Start With:
“We’re all afraid of the dark inside ourselves.”
Tis the season, right? And there’s always a reason for the season, so let’s take a look at that reason why sequels truly exist: horror movie franchises! From the classic Universal monsters to the success of Hammer Studios to the modern day equivalents with The Conjurings and Saws and Paranormal Activity installments, horror series have been a firm foundation in the world of cinema for decades.
Since the first Halloween was a hit, there was thought about making a sequel right away. So when Friday the 13th, the mega horror hit of 1980 was going to have a sequel, the producers of Halloween, the mega horror hit of 1978, saw a chance to cash in as well. After all, Friday the 13th was made as a lucrative cash grab after the remarkable success of Halloween, why shouldn’t Halloween return the favor?
However, John Carpenter, the director/co-writer of Halloween, really didn’t want anything to do with a sequel to that film. He was against repeating himself, always intending that Halloween was a one-and-done film with a deliberately open ending that didn’t warrant a sequel. However due to the machinations of lawsuits and producers, Carpenter was obliged to reluctantly be a part of it along with producing partner/screenwriter Debra Hill.
So after admitting that alcohol was needed to get through it, Carpenter and Hill finished their script for Halloween II. Hill was back as producer, Carpenter was back for music and did some reshooting, and every cast member who survived from the first movie for the most part returned. Even Nancy Loomis returned for a cameo as the still dead Annie from Halloween.
Halloween II would pick up about 14 seconds after the first movie ended as a continuation of the night HE came home… The body count would be upped, a long-lasting and forcibly wedged plot twist would rear its head (more on that later), and overall the result of bringing Michael Myers back into the world 3 years after the first movie was…not bad. Not bad at all really. It actually bookends the first movie rather well.
I think that most horror fans, myself included, rank it fairly high on the enjoyable watch list. We can’t say that about many other horror sequels. Hell, we can’t even say that about most of the other Halloween entries in the series. But for what it was, it came out better than expected. It hits more than misses. Plus the last damn Starfighter is in the cast! You gotta love that! No, really. You must love that.
But that doesn’t mean it is a perfect film. Frankly I think that at times Halloween II gets more love than it otherwise would have earned because many of the subsequent Halloween sequels/reboots just aren’t that great. So it is possible that the filter of rose-colored glasses glosses over the rough spots. This follow-up should be judged on its own merits and flaws accordingly. So I guess it is time to dive a little deeper into the horror that Haddonfield’s favorite son, li’l Mikey Myers, brought this time around…
Anything Done Better than the Original?
“I shot him six times! I shot him in the heart, but…he’s not human!”
Thank heavens for Donald Pleasence. His Dr. Loomis is a godsend to this series. The presence of Pleasence (always wanted to write that!) brings much-needed gravitas to the proceedings. And while he was great in Halloween, here he shines. Granted, I don’t think I’d want him as my psychiatrist. However, when the poo hits the fan, I know he’s coming packing heat to dish out a different kind of therapy.
Dr. Loomis is in full blown “Kill the EVIL!” mode in Halloween II. Oh, he’s not necessarily wrong, mind you, but here we see what lengths he’ll go to get Michael Myers. He’s emptying his .357 at Myers (twice!), he’s asking his nurse to lie for him, he’s indirectly responsible for Ben Tramer’s accidental death, he’s blowing out a squad car window, he’s holding a marshal hostage, he’s blowing up an O.R. Loomis is obsessed and I love every single moment of his ominous foreboding and his gun-slinging remedies.
Beyond the wonderful bedside manner of Dr. Samuel Loomis, what is better the second time around on this infamous night in Haddonfield, IL? Hmmm…I like this title sequence better than Halloween’s where the candle inside the pumpkin just went out. Here the punkin opens up to reveal none other than a menacing, barely lit skull amongst the pulpy sinews within! (Could this be what awaits Linus each Halloween as he sits in that pumpkin patch for the Great one? Is he aware of the powerful evil inside that gourd?)
Hm. That might just do it. I could argue that the poster art for the sequel is better but I’m not really going to die on that hill. It depends on my mood. So there.
Anything as Good as the Original?
“Why won’t he die?”
Dean Cundey was Halloween’s cinematographer par excellence. Bringing him back to have continuity between the two films was a great decision. The lighting, the camera placement, the camera movements: all done very well. There is a reason why he became an elite cinematographer after spending years in the trenches of fun exploitation films. He learned his craft and learned it well. Working with John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg, and Robert Zemeckis certainly didn’t hurt. Not to mention he lensed the great Greydon Clark’s Angels Revenge and a little picture called…Road…House… Need I say more?
I enjoy it when his camera becomes the eyes of Michael Myers. Yes, it has been done before in other films, but Cundey not only manages to make the audience become Myers as he’s lurking about in the dark, but also does it seemingly effortlessly. Of course taking place during the same night as the first movie meant for more moments for Cundey to also use the absence of light and shadows for effect. Even his lens flares look good and not forced.
Having John Carpenter come back to do the music was a good move as well. I heartily enjoy the score that Carpenter and Alan Howarth made for the film. In fact, I think I listen more to Halloween II’s soundtrack than its predecessor. The score brings a forbidding presence with more atmosphere and a fuller sound. Given the budget limits of the first film, Carpenter was the cheapest composer he could find, so the score for Halloween is spare and minimal. A slightly larger budget for the sequel resulted in more scoring and arranging. The sequel soundtrack builds from the original and certainly establishes itself.
Anything Not-So-Good as the Original?
“That little kid who killed his sister? But he’s in a hospital somewhere!”
The influence of Friday the 13th is present here. Now, I love Friday the 13th, but it should stay its own thing. Introducing a body count doesn’t make a Halloween film more effective. Halloween is about the nuance and creepy atmosphere. The idea that evil is always watching you, waiting to strike, but taking its time. Friday the 13th is about unobservant people getting creatively killed. Not better, just different.
That being said, Halloween II isn’t a flat out gore fest. Not by a long shot, especially when compared to other slasher movie fare. But Halloween was the influencer of others and then the sequel became influenced by others. There are too many characters that are introduced, not developed, and killed because they’re there. Halloween had a body count of five, plus a dog. Halloween II had a body count of ten, plus Ben Tramer. (Poor, drunk Ben Tramer… And this is the doorknob that Annie wanted to set Laurie up with? On top of everything else, wait for her to find out that date isn’t happening. Sad, sad, sad…)
Speaking of Laurie, Jamie Lee Curtis is for the most part a lump in this installment. Either confined to a hospital bed or crawling around screaming, she just isn’t the resourceful character she was in the earlier film. Yes, she was scared in the first film, but she fought back. Here she just hides and runs more often than not. She does shoot Myers, but only after Loomis pushes a gun on her. Seeing a resourceful Laurie in H20 and the 2018 Halloween just makes this role an anomaly. Curtis is stronger than this so she just seems off for the most part.
Anything Far Worse than the Original?
“Samhain isn’t evil spirits. It isn’t goblins, ghosts, or witches. It’s the unconscious mind.”
All right here we go: I hate when it is revealed that Laurie Strode is Michael Myers’ sister. That plot point is wedged in so late in the film and is handled so clunky, you’d think that the actors got this script note the day they shot it. The emotional impact of Vader saying that he’s Luke’s father in Empire resonated. It wasn’t lazy, it was impactful and made you go “Whaaaaat?!” In Halloween II, when the family connection is mentioned, it is unnecessary. In fact, you could entirely remove it and that wedged-in dream sequence from the film and miss nothing.
Furthermore, this plot point impacted the entire series going forward, save for Halloween III, which is its own thing, and the 2018 Halloween, which got rid of all the other movies after the first. Thereafter the other Halloween films had to have some kind of familial relation to Myers and it just wasn’t needed. It also retconned the effectiveness of the first movie. Michael Myers just killed before because he was a nebulous evil that found victims to stalk. Now he has this background to motivate him and even ancillary emotion connected with the deeds he commits. It weakens him.
So with that plot revelation, you can understand why Myers goes after Laurie. Fine, great. But why did he go after Laurie’s friends in Halloween too? He spent a lot of time toying around with Annie before killing her. He even dresses up like a ghost to mess with Lynda. Why bother? Why would he plow through the entire hospital staff in Halloween II? He wants to kill his sister, what’s with Myers’ elaborate staging to bleed a nurse dry or stabbing the drunk doctor in the pupil with a hypodermic needle? It isn’t like any of them knew him or were protecting Laurie so they deserved to get whacked. (I know, I know… I’m overanalyzing a Halloween movie. Well, when I put you putting it that way, it sounds silly.)
If you cut those two minutes of sister-plot related stuff out of Halloween II, you don’t have a family connection, Michael Myers stays inherently evil with no motivation other than existing, and you don’t hamstring the sequels with trying to connect previous plot baggage. And by the way, this was Carpenter and Hill’s fault for writing that in when they didn’t have to. Not that I’m blaming the choice of the creators, but I’m blaming the choice of the creators.
“I didn’t let him out. I gave orders for him to be restrained.”
Oh my stars and garters, yes, so buckle up. This series is a long one and at times, a tortured one. We’ve got installments of all kinds here: sequels to the original storyline, sequels in name only that have nothing to do with the original storyline, reboots, sequels to reboots, sequels that ignore certain entries…and now I’ve gone all cross-eyed…
Following Halloween II out of the gate was 1982’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch, an entry that has nothing to do with Michael Myers but is actually a tidy little sci-fi movie with sprinklings of horror thrown in for good measure. It got dumped on at the time, it shouldn’t have, it is actually pretty decent, so give it a watch. Tom Atkins is the bomb in it and Dan O’Herlihy is a wonderful menace.
So audiences, being a fickle sort, decided that they wanted Mikey back, so 1988 brought the world Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. It is rather fun, not great, but great for this series. Donald Pleasence returned and we got to see Danielle Harris be awesome, so there’s that. Points deducted for not using Roman numerals for the title though. You don’t see Friday the 13th running around doing that kind of thing! “Back in my day, sequels used Roman numerals and by cracky, that’s how we liked it!”
Since the fourth movie made moolah, Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers sprang forth rather quickly in 1989. 1989 was a massively competitive year for franchise sequels and Batman. Unfortunately, even with Donald Pleasence and Part 4’s Danielle Harris coming back, this one couldn’t be saved. Sure it has moments, as it is always fun when Michael drives a car, but the bad far outweighs the good. I think the nicest thing that one could say is at least Part 5 wasn’t Part 6.
Speaking of Part 6, I had the great pleasure of seeing 1995’s Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers in the theater. It was my first Halloween on the big screen and I was psyched. I even brought a friend of mine and two German exchange students that we had befriended to this showing. By the by, they never saw a previous Halloween movie. And I was just as confused as they all were. What a mess. Not a fun mess either. Not even Paul Rudd could save this muddle involving cults and runes and child sacrifices and argh. Donald Pleasence is barely in this film, dying before it was released. Later a different cut of the film was found and released. So now there are two not-that-great Halloween 6s for the world to not enjoy. Hooray?
1998 saw Jamie Lee Curtis return for Halloween: H20, where she and son Josh Hartnett battle against Michael. This sequel was the first to ignore previous continuity and skipped over Parts 4, 5, and 6, making H20 a direct sequel to Halloween II since Halloween III has nothing to do with Michael Myers and I’ve gone cross-eyed again. Great ending though. Watching Laurie finally take Mike’s head off with that fire axe was cathartic to say the least. There was no way to screw up that ending.
So they decided to screw up that ending with 2002’s Halloween: Resurrection. Laurie apparently didn’t really kill Mike, but accidentally beheaded an innocent guy that had Mike’s mask on. Great. Oh and then Mike kills Laurie in the first 15 minutes. Great, again. And the rest of the movie is an anti-climax involving reality TV and Busta Rhymes using martial arts on Mike. Yeah, sure, great. Well, at least, it couldn’t get worse.
So in 2007, it got worse. Now, I enjoy Mr. Robert Cuthbert Higgenbottom-Zombie’s musical work as well as 2005’s The Devil’s Rejects, so I was intrigued when he was tapped to reboot Halloween. Apparently his creative idea was to have Haddonfield be populated by nothing but ugly assholes. He also showed the terrible motivations for why Michael Myers became the killer we all know and love. Despite some good acting work from Brad Dourif and Malcolm McDowell as well as having the always welcome Danielle Harris return, the film was a Rob Zombie movie and not a Halloween movie.
Then in 2009, it completely went off the rails. Halloween II (no, the other one) saw the return of Rob Zombie at the helm and if you thought the reboot was nasty, you now get to experience the miserable existence of all living creatures on earth. Despite the opening, which was an effective reimagining of the hospital motif of the original Halloween II, it turns out it was dream sequence and then all bets are off. With no protagonists, this film is at the very least Zombie’s own but it is a tough watch indeed. Again Dourif and McDowell are good and of course Danielle Harris is killed because that’s something else to piss us off.
Then in 2018, the creatively named Halloween, came out as a direct sequel to the original film. It ignored every single sequel, even tossing away the events of the original Halloween II, and Jamie Lee Curtis returned. The film was surprisingly good but I’ve already talked about it elsewhere.
Golly, after all that, I do enjoy Halloween II. It could stand for a nip and a tuck editing-wise, but overall, it is a nice horror sequel and does feel like a continuation of the first movie more often than not. Dr. Loomis carries this film on his shoulders despite not being anywhere near Michael Myers until the last 10 minutes. Still, Donald Pleasence is a treat to be sure.
I want to give some props to director Rick Rosenthal. It could not have been easy for him. The stakes were raised due to the success of Halloween, so he had more eyeballs on what he was doing than Carpenter ever had to deal with on the original film. To that end, Rosenthal usually gets dumped on as the reason for any flaws in the movie, while Carpenter gets the praise for the good stuff. That seems rather unfair to me. I can give him respect for what he was trying to do and for how he kept this humming along, despite second guessing over his shoulder and editing made without his participation.
Oh and Dick Warlock is a good Michael Myers. Getting shot, walking through a glass door, doing a full body burn, Warlock should have been the Kane Hodder of the series going forward.
Well, that’s about it and…waitaminute! So Nick Castle played Michael Myers for a lot of scenes in Halloween, right? And Lance Guest was in Halloween II and Dan O’Herlihy was in Halloween III. So that means that the director and two of the stars of The Last Starfighter were all in Halloween movies first?! That is too weird! No one else but me cares! But care I do!
Neighbor: “Is this a joke? I’ve been trick-or-treated to death tonight.”
Dr. Loomis: “You don’t know what death is!”