Duration: 92 minutes
Film Quality: 3/5
Entertainment Value: 2.5/5
Gore Content: 3/5
Following the incredible success of John Carpenter’s original ‘Halloween’, a sequel seemed inevitable, especially considering the cliffhanger ending! Shelving notions of using the ‘Halloween’ franchise for a series of unconnected, standalone movies, Carpenter and Hill agreed to bring Myers back for a second outing, ultimately deciding on a hospital as the setting for a film that, largely, takes place in the early hours of November 1st!
In a Nutshell
You can’t kill the bogeyman! With Myers shot several times and plummeting out of a top floor window we know from the end of the first movie that he’s still at large. Picking up at the precise moment the first film left off, we are reunited with the survivors struggling to come to terms with the tragic events of Halloween night. Laurie is one of those and is taken to hospital suffering from shock and her physical wounds but, unfortunately for her, Myers knows where she is and, to paraphrase an 80s action classic, he absolutely will not stop…until she is dead.
So, what’s good about it?
I’ll freely admit that I have a few problems with ‘Halloween 2’. It was the last one of the first four movies that I saw so I was well versed in the formula and how the film was likely to play out. ‘Halloween’ is a belting classic and part 4 is a very well made follow up but there’s something about part 2 that doesn’t work for me. I’ll leave that for the next section and focus on what does work for the moment.
There is a clear commitment to trying something new and I’m glad that they didn’t go down the line of setting the film several years after the first one. By setting up an open ending from the first film there seemed to be an obligation to service that. I can’t think of another slasher movie that does this, which gives it the opportunity to focus on the survivors and the aftermath which provides the film with a bit of melodrama missing from most films of its type. You can see the anger directed at Loomis and the Haddonfield community looking for someone to blame. There’s emergency services trying to come to terms with what’s happened, including the Sherriff who is forced off duty to deal with the trauma of finding out that his daughter is one of the victims. By approaching the film in this way it gives it a fairly unique, even emotional feel, a darker edge that leaves you to think in more real terms about the consequences of the deaths you watched in the first film.
It allows the film to start with little or no exposition, we get straight into the action thanks to the heavy lifting of Carpenter’s original. It is reasonably well shot and director Rick Rosenthal (only his second feature and would go on to direct ‘Halloween: Resurrection’) went on record to say he had studied the original and tried to emulate its style, going so far as to avoid onscreen gore. This element was added in later, mainly at Carpenter’s request (apparently he re-edited an original submission because it wasn’t tense or gruesome enough) due to the trend amongst contemporary slashers of trying to outdo the last one. To that end it does deliver with some fairly violent scenes, including a burning/drowning lifted from Argento’s ‘Deep Red’, a couple of throat slashings and a tough to watch syringe in the eyeball scene.
It’s also good to see Jamie Leigh Curtis back although she’s not given as much to do in this film, spending much of it in a hospital bed in a catatonic state.
And what about the bad?
It just doesn’t seem right and, for me, has some serious pacing issues! So many slasher films rely on a slow build to increase the tension so perhaps this film suffers a little by dropping us straight into the action, not really leaving it with anywhere else to go. There are a couple of slayings that take place in houses before Myers gets to the hospital but this almost feels like ‘seen it before’ filler as the film slows down to a snail’s pace in order to reset itself at the hospital. Myers is already in the picture, he’s already there killing people from the very first minute. Carpenter said himself that he struggled with the script because he was forced to tell a story that had pretty much already been told. By doing something different it does deviate from the tried and tested formula whichis where those pacing issues come from – it’s a victim of its own bold intentions. As a consequence it’s very difficult to watch in isolation, it is very much attached to the original.
Whilst praising the setting, it provides major limitations. We’re subjected to laboured shots of empty corridors with Myers hiding in the various utility rooms and maintenance offices with relatively predictable results. Bizarrely, Myers seems less omnipotent within these corridors because of its confined nature. The murders seem so pointless with security guards and medical staff who get in his way rather than the slow stalking of babysitters that provided so much of the tension and prial scares of the original. No frightened children in this one, just doctors and nurses failing in their duty of care to patients!
And then there’s the music which, though utilising the same basic score of the original, the piano is replaced by a slightly underwhelming synthesiser. In many ways the score sums up the entire film. There’s nothing specifically wrong with it and it has many of the elements of the original, it just doesn’t satisfy in the same way and comes across as trying too hard to emulate something it can’t possibly match.
There’s an attempt to add some reason to why Michael Myers is stalking Laurie and it’s one that Carpenter acutely disliked but ended up shaping the entire series, in fact it still does with the latest ‘Halloween’ sequels. It’s the family connection that drives Myers to kill, wanting to finish off what he started in Haddonfield all those years ago as a child. It also introduces, albeit very fleetingly, the festival of Samhain that has very strong links to Halloween and the custom of dressing up in frightening and uncanny costumes. The festival also has strong links to family and sacrifice which gives the chasing of Laurie, and subsequent pursuit of Jamie in part 4 some meaning.
Some stories of the Samhain ritual included the burning of pumpkins that contained human fat, possibly a foreshadowing of Myers’ eventual death, along with the burning of witches. It’s interesting to note that you cannot kill a witch by burning and Myers comes back in further sequels despite succumbing to an inferno at the end of this film. It would be very easy to say that the introduction of the supernatural to replace the preternatural aspects of the original was a gimmick to continue the series but the intention appeared to be, certainly according to Carpenter, to end it all here.
Carpenter insisted on the film having more blood to compete with the shock value of other slasher movies and these additional scenes did get it into trouble with UK censors. Though initially released uncut for the 1981 Thorn EMI VHS, a total of seventeen seconds were relieved of their sequel duties for the Castle re-release. It all came from the boiled dunking which presumably created problems with the BBFC due to the violent nature (five dunkings were reduced to just two) and the potentially sexual element of the bare breasted body sinking to the ground which was also edited. Subsequent versions have come through unscathed and by today’s standards it is quite tame. As was very common with studio pictures at the time, a TV version was edited that removed all of the violence and extra shots of dialogue whilst omnipresent camerawork was inserted to pad out the running time.
It had quite an impact in the series by providing that family link that runs all the way down the middle of pretty much every sequel and reboot. It may not have been popular with Carpenter but it is what gave the franchise some legs and a relatable element, even a sense of purpose for Myers’ future endeavours. Whilst the original did supremely well without it, it is hard to imagine the sequels without that link to Laurie, perhaps why Carpenter so disliked it given his intentions for the series. The link to the supernatural also provided a plot point for the lamentable 6th instalment which managed the dubious achievement of being worse than 5!
A strong entry in the slasher genre provided some unique moments in terms of setting but it suffers by comparison to it predecessor. I can’t reconcile this aspect of the film, it’s like listening to a cover version of your favourite song, it may well be very good for people hearing it for the first time but to ears that have already heard the original, it just doesn’t sound the same.
Loomis: “He became an obsession with me until I realised that there was nothing within him, neither conscious nor reason that was even remotely human.”
You’ll like this if you enjoyed…
‘Halloween’, ‘Halloween 4’, ‘Black Christmas’, ‘Friday the 13th
Halloween – Click here for full review
Halloween 3: Season of the Witch – Click here for full review
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers – Click here for full review
Black Christmas – Click here for full review
The Burning– Click here for article
Friday 13th – Click here for full review