Charles CyphersHalloweenJamie Lee CurtisJeffrey Kramer
Halloween II (1981)
Medium: film
Year: 1981
Director: Rick Rosenthal
Writer: John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Keywords: horror, slasher
Country: USA
Actor: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Charles Cyphers, Jeffrey Kramer, Ana Alicia, Nancy Stephens, Gloria Gifford
Format: 92 minutes
Series: << Halloween >>
Website category: Horror 1970/80s
Review date: 28 March 2008
Like the original Halloween, this film is pretty much review-proof. There's not much to say about it. Stories hardly get more simplistic. The bogeyman kills a bunch of people. That's about it, really. It's under-plotted even by slasher movie standards, but that doesn't matter. It's scary. That makes it a good horror movie.
The interesting thing is to wonder why. We can't award much credit to the script. Admittedly it was co-written by the original's John Carpenter and Debra Hill, but even so we're hardly talking about Shakespeare here. The world is full of terrible, terrible movies following exactly the same formula. "See a teen, kill a teen." You can't even pretend that there's anything special about this film's cast, with Donald Pleasence's Dr Loomis being under-used and Jamie Lee Curtis's Laurie Strode spending much of the running time zonked on drugs. Literally. She's under sedation. No one else even deserves mention. No, the secret isn't in what you say, but in how you say it.
This film has style... but you can't give too much credit to John Carpenter. He turned down the offer to direct this sequel as well, so was merely writer and producer. The direction was down to Rick Rosenthal, although Carpenter apparently thought his version of the film a bit tame and shot a few additional gory scenes. They went in, despite Rosenthal's objections. It's tempting to conclude from the finished product that Rosenthal must have had talent, but in fact most of his filmography is strictly TV-only. We're talking about the perpetrator of Halloween: Resurrection here, for crying out loud. This is not an unjustly overlooked genius. He made a few films back in the 1980s thanks to the reputation he got from Halloween II, but it seems that the industry eventually got wise to him.
No, this film works because of two men. Michael Myers and Dean Cundey.
The latter is the cinematographer, who'd go on to be nominated for an Oscar and shoot five Carpenter films... this one, The Fog, Escape from New York, The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China. He was a key innovator with what we now know as Steadicam, in particular making ground-breaking use of it in horror. Here he's in complete control of the material, basically giving us another fat slice of what he served up first time around for John Carpenter. (He's also credited on Halloween III: Season of the Witch, but nobody's perfect.) It's playful, it's nasty, it has Carpenter's awesome theme music [1] and it's so dark that a man in a white mask can be standing almost on top of you and you'll never know until he drifts up and fades into view.
[1] - a phrase I've written so often that it's practically one word.
Then there's Michael Myers, who I think deserves more credit than he gets. I mean, it's hard work. You put in the hours, you rack up the corpses and do they thank you? What got to me in particular was how much time he spends wandering around in the open. Damn, that was creepy. He'll be going down the street and members of the public will brush right past without a second thought. Didn't you see the first film, people? Gyahh, run away! Everyone loves a good monster and here Michael's stock is at its highest. We've already seen him in the original film (which ends scant minutes after this one starts, incidentally) and we know what he can do, but it's still early enough in the series that the quality control hasn't yet gone over a cliff. We don't see as much of his psychology as we did last time, but we do learn that he'll simply freeze if someone pulls up his mask. He'll neither go berserk nor run away. He'll just stop.
However at the end of the day he's a knife and a Halloween mask. Get those right and you don't need anything else. The man can be damn scary and it's rarely a good sign for a movie to keep its star out of the limelight. He's not in much of Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, for instance.
The only problem with him here is that his indestructibility is downright ridiculous. Even to the other characters it becomes obvious that bullets don't work on him. Needless to say we're given no reason for this, except that presumably he's Just That Hard. Hilariously after being shot about a dozen times by Loomis and twice more by Laurie, the only inconvenience he suffers is to be blinded by blood in his eyes. Have no truck with the strange people who think that Laurie shot his eyes out. I'm happy to believe that that may have been the intention, but if you watch what's on screen you'll see that those eyes are intact, although mysteriously so is the white mask. One might have expected to notice bullet holes, since he's clearly been shot in the head somewhere. Ah well. That was funny, at least.
Oh, and Michael can also walk through plate-glass doors. I think you'll find that to shatter that glass, even an automobile would have needed to be going a bit faster than an afternoon stroll. What's up with Michael never ever accelerating, by the way? One wonders if one couldn't play games with him. Get some naked teens on a racetrack and get them to jog just in front of him. Hours of fun. (The bare breasts are at the 49-minute mark, incidentally, not to mention nurse's uniforms for all you pervs out there.)
Goodness, I never expected to find this much to say. Later films in the series will commit ever-worsening crimes against cinema and are thus much easier to review. There's nothing particularly interesting or original about Halloween 2, but it's an efficient scare ride and a not unworthy sequel to a classic. Obviously inferior, yes, but at least it's singing from the same hymn sheet. Some of the films to come would barely even be in the same universe.