Stuff I Watch in October: Halloween II (1981)

Halloween II

Happy October and welcome! All 31 days this month, I will be reviewing all the films I watch in the month of October. They’re mostly a selection of horror or suspense films in my own library or films and shows that have been recommended to me.

Please enjoy and leave a comment!

And if you missed any of our past reflections, take a look:

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Psycho (1960)
The Haunting (1963)
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
The Other (1972)
The Legend of Hell House (1973)
Young Frankenstein (1974)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Halloween (1978)
Alien (1979)
The Shining (1980)

Our next film is…

WATCHING: Halloween II (1981)

Halloween II

DIRECTED BY: Rick Rosenthal, who was more successful directing episodes of various television shows than he was at making movies. Dude even came back to this franchise about two decades later to give us the steaming pile of shit that is “Halloween: Resurrection” — but I’m getting ahead of myself. We’ll visit that one later.

WHAT IS IT?: The sequel nobody from the first film wanted to be a part of:

“No one was all that excited [for a sequel]”. — Tommy Lee Wallace, crew member on “Halloween”

“I had made that film once and I really didn’t want to do it again…[Writing the script for Halloween II involved] a lot of beer, sitting in front of a typewriter saying ‘What the fuck am I doing? I don’t know.'” — John Carpenter, director of “Halloween”

Holy shit.

You KNOW you’re in for it when you hear stuff like this from the people involved with the classic original film, right?

It took three years to get “Halloween II” to theaters. This time, it was ready for the ball. Universal Studios threw their weight behind it as did famed producer, Dino De Laurentiis. The opening credits slapped Jamie Lee Curtis’s name right next to Donald Pleasence’s name right before the big title…this sucker was meant to be BIG.

Except John Carpenter wasn’t really all that enchanted with the the prospect of a sequel and was working on “The Fog”. Rick Rosenthal stepped in to fill his shoes and was going for a “thriller” akin to the original. What he ended up creating “was about as scary as an episode of Quincy”, said John Carpenter, before he began editing the film to his liking.

Carpenter ended up adding more gore to the film, much to the distaste of many critics, mainly because 80’s audiences were now used to tasteless, bloody slasher flicks, so John Carpenter thought, “Why the hell not?”

This pissed off director Rosenthal who said that his pacing was completely ruined, something Carpenter scoffed at since, in his eyes, “Halloween II” was merely “below par” and his attempts to “bring it up to the level of the competition” included fixing a massive plot hole: Myers just makes his way to Haddonfield Medical Hospital (and that’s such redundant name for a hospital; don’t all hospitals deal with medical care?) because he simply suspects Laurie is there. Carpenter had to add in Myers hearing a news report about that.

THE PLOT: “Halloween II” takes place literal seconds after the end of the first film, which is a nice change of pace. Laurie Strode has been wheeled to Haddonfield Hospital for medical attention and Michael Myers is still alive and roaming the streets, looking for the one that got away.

Loomis is still around, doing the same thing Myers is doing, only for good rather than evil. Most of the action takes place at the hospital and we learn something about Myers and Strode which explains his hostility for her.

WHAT DID CRITICS THINK?: Not surprisingly, they hated the film and who could blame them? Many critics expressed frustration with the uptick in violence and gore. A few critics pointed out an ironic truth: the film was attempting to outdo the films which had tried to imitate it. SPOILER HERE: Several people were unhappy with the main twist: that Myers and Strode were siblings, something (I shit you not) John Carpenter came up with because he was (checks notes) “drunk and looking for more material to include in the NBC television cut of the film.”

WHAT DID I THINK?: It’s…what it is. It feels less like a movie and more like the mediocre second episode of a series about a serial slasher. Jamie Lee Curtis is almost nowhere to be seen for at least half the film until Myers arrives to go nuts and make it a party. There’s no real meditation on things anymore. The supporting cast of nurses are complete oversexed idiots who care more about having sex inside the hospital in which they work than taking care of their patients.

While I’ve seen bloodier films, adding more blood “just cuz” is a terrible move. There’s a scene which I almost always laugh at where Jimmy, the only EMT who doesn’t have a boner 24/7, finds a dead nurse Myers has killed. And then he slips and nearly cracks his head open hitting the floor (a kill by proxy?). What did he slip in? A giant pool of all of the nurse’s blood. See, after Myers did her in, he used an IV to drain all her blood to the floor. Myers is trying to find Strode and he has time to not only kill his victim but drain their blood like he’s Vlad the Impaler. Who does that? Who has the damn time?

Meanwhile, Loomis is ordering police around like he’s a Federal Marshall and Donald Pleasence recites his lines like an angry Obi-Wan Kenobi and, by now, I’m just shaking my head.

It’s clear that the plan for this film is “kill, rinse, repeat” and nothing more.

This, by the way, was supposed to be the end of the series — or, at least, the Myers/Strode Saga — for all intents and purposes…but, as you’re gonna find out, it wasn’t…in fact, just like Myers, the franchise just will not die.

Overall, this wasn’t that bad…just wasn’t good. And it’s a damn sight better than the next entry in the series…sheesh.


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