3 Years later, but still the same day: Halloween 2
After the stunning success of Halloween, John Carpenter then carried on with his creative hot streak. However, in the interim a plethora of Halloween clones appeared on the big screen and made a vast amount of cash. Thus, it was inevitable that they would return to the seminal original to try to milk the cash cow’s teats. Therefore, it was absolutely no surprise to anyone that Halloween 2 would limp out of the blocks to wow absolutely nobody. What was more of a surprise, however, is that they would continue the story on the same night- no unexplained break here, we’re simply watching part 2 of Halloween.
In a way, I kind of admire the idea here. It’s a solid concept and avoids the shenanigans that the likes of Prom Night had to go through to get the sequels with undead Prom Queens and so forth. However, it’s worth pointing out that Jamie Lee Curtis was now 3 years older, and thus it was a bit incongruous to simply pick the story up the same night. Anyhow, Halloween 2 follows straight on from the original, with the return of Michael Myers and his increasingly odd attempts to kill Laurie Strode. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) is still trying to catch Michael, and there’s the disastrous decision made to expand on the back story. Eventually, it all culminates in a showdown, and Myers gets definitively killed this time. Definitively. He’s dead. Got that. No more sequels.
Despite that, I’m sorry to say that Halloween 2 isn’t actually a good film. All the pieces are present, including the iconic score, but it basically manages to hit all the pitfalls that the first one ably avoided, and as such is a painfully humdrum affair. Director Rick Rosenthal had his heart in the right place, and works hard to recreate the same magic that Carpenter nailed, but he falls sadly short. This is no longer a suspense thriller, rather what we have here is a pure slasher and quite a nasty one at that.
The blame for this, incidentally, goes to Carpenter. In the interim period, he’d clearly seen far too many of the imitators, and as such he had his doubts that a 1981 audience would buy into the 1978 atmosphere of Halloween. Therefore, he looked at the bloodless film Rosenthal turned in, which was far closer to the original (and I would be curious to see), and decided that no 1981 slasher sequel could be so comparatively tame. Thus, he reshot many of the murder sequences himself and turned the gore and violence up as far as he dared. The effect of this is to dissipate the tension as the audience begins to expect a gruesome slaughter and “The Shape” is greatly diminished. Less, as noted in the last review, is definitely more.
Nevertheless, to be absolutely fair, Rosenthal does a competent job, and that’s probably the best description of this film in general: competent. However, there are a number of serious problems that would have terrible ramifications for the rest of the series that surface here for the first time, and almost all of them are at script level. Firstly, the plot relies heavily on every character basically being terminally stupid, but, hell, it’s a slasher so I can deal with that to some extent. Nevertheless, the real problem is that they decide to expand on the mythology, to explain why Myers is so intent on hunting down Laurie.
As such, they introduce a load of absolute guff- and guff that Myers simply could not have known about. His seemingly indestructible nature is due to his tie to paganism, and in particular “Samhain”, something that also compels him to hunt down and sacrifice his sisters. This is palpable bollocks, and had a terrible effect on the rest of the series, but I’ll come to that when relevant. What’s particularly aggravating is that Michael helpfully writes all this stuff on the walls, so Loomis can transform into “Dr Wikipedia” and helpfully exposit everything that we “need” to know. Except we don’t need to know this. It’s irrelevant, and worse than that it actually makes Myers as an antagonist less scary. By giving him a motive, they’ve added an unnecessary level of plausibility to the character. He’s no longer the boogeyman, instead, he’s a boring and single-minded serial killer on a mission from nobody of interest.
Not only does this neuter The Shape as a threat, but when combined with the excessive death scenes, it also eliminates the phobias that the first film traded on. Yes, a hospital is an intrinsically scary setting, but nobody is scared of dying by having air injected into their temple. The film simply can’t capture the same magic, because above all else, there is no fear of the unknown here- we know what Myers is after- and as such the script handicaps it to a ludicrous extent, no matter how hard Rosenthal or DP Dean Cundy attempt to mimic Carpenter’ s first film.
Overall, this isn’t a great sequel. It’s an OK slasher, but it never gets remotely close to the original, and therein, I think, lies it’s biggest problem. The original casts such a long shadow over the bastard offspring that it simply cannot step out into the light, and this is in no small part because it simply imitates its parent; tries to copy the aspects that made the original a classic. At the end of the day, the first film is an all time classic of the genre, and the sequel is a pale imitation that aspires to watchable on a few occasions. I’m giving it 2 Jack O’Lanterns out of a possible 4, and that’s in part because I’m keenly aware of what’s coming.
Next time it’s the sequel that breaks all the rules of sequels: Halloween 3: Season of the Witch. Understandably as this film definitively ties up the Michael Myers Story.