Halloween II (1981) – Rick Rosenthal

Have you ever bought a gallon of ice cream that melts a little in the car on the way home and then you refreeze it but it’s just never the same? That’s what most horror sequels are like. Just with more blood, and fewer chocolate chips. They usually add some plot elements that make it more complicated and less scary. In the sequels, they generally ramp up the murdering and you tend to get a nice big juicy body count. You’ll also probably get to see some new and creative deaths. If you’re lucky, the director, writer, and main cast will remain intact, but don’t hold your breath.

Now, even though Rick Rosenthal’s 1981 Halloween II (John Carpenter co-wrote this one, but he only directed the first one) falls into most of these traps, it still stands up as a solid slasher, and a solid horror movie in general. It’s a little unfair to hold it up against the original, because that is one of the best horror movies ever made. Unfortunately, that’s what I’m going to do for most of this review, so suck it. It’s basically like comparing the store brand “Honey O’s” or whatever to real “Honey Nut Cheerio’s.” Close, but no cigar. Thanks for playing. But all comparison aside, this movie is awesome. It’s bloody, nasty, and suspenseful. Rosenthal holds on to a lot of what we loved about Carpenter’s directing and cinematography. And they’ve added some interesting elements to the story. It’s debatable as to whether these things make the story/better or worse, but they set the stage for the rest of the franchise.

The story picks up right where the first film left off. Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) is being brought to the hospital, and Michael Myers, who was just shot a half dozen times and fell out of an upstairs window, has somehow survived and is on the loose again. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) and the cops are searching the town for the killer after the bodies of the kids from the first movie are found all strung up and hidden around the house. Michael overhears a radio broadcast saying that the survivor of the massacre is being brought to the hospital and he heads there to finish the job. On his way he chops up a few more people for no reason. Just to be a dick, I guess.

So Loomis and the cops finally figure out that Michael is hunting Laurie and they head for the hospital to save her. But it’s too late for most of the staff. Michael has sliced, diced, boiled, gutted, and injected a large syringe of air into nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers, and security guards. If you thought he head count was too low in the original, don’t worry because it more than doubles in this one. They don’t even have time to show everyone getting killed. Sometimes we just show up and find bodies lying around. Anyway, Loomis and the cops show up and shoot Michael a bunch of times. Thinking he’s dead, the cop stupidly stands over him and Michael pops up and turns the cop into a giant Pez dispenser. There’s a big standoff at the end with Laurie and Loomis and Michael. There’s also a big twist which I’m not going to spoil.

In terms of scares, this one doesn’t quite hit the mark like the original. It’s still got a good creepy atmosphere but something’s missing. Part of what made the first movie so scary was that everything was super dark, shadowy, and hard to see. The times that we did see Michael Myers, he was halfway behind something. There’s something about that being hard to see that made him even creepier. Now, this movie was pretty dark too, but it wasn’t quite the same. I don’t think it packed the same punch visually as the original.

Halloween had a sort of charm to it that this sequel didn’t have. The first had a low budget but they made it work. The whole thing took place in just a couple of scenes. This movie was bigger, flashier, and more expensive. I guess you could say that the first one was untested, unproven and breaking new ground. While the sequel was a little self-aware. You can almost sense that the filmmakers had a certain confidence about things that wasn’t there in the original. This one felt more like a “movie” instead of a “story.” I don’t know if that makes any sense. You can even see (hear) this in the music. The second movie tried to make the music better, more electronic, and fancy, but for that extra level of production, they’ve sacrificed some of the basics.

Listen to the two songs and you’ll see what I mean. I think this sums up the two movies pretty well actually.

The point is that the movie is good, but not as good. The moral of the story is fancier doesn’t always mean better. And I’m pretty sure you can say that if John Carpenter had been behind the camera, this might have been even better.

  1. Is it scary: 6- It’s still pretty dark, scary, and, suspenseful. Though it doesn’t haunt you in the way the first one did.
  2. Originality: 5- It’s still pretty groundbreaking. It’s basically like the Ramones second album. It still did a lot for punk rock, but not as much as the first.
  3. Blood: 6- Probably the only category that will get this one more points than the original. Michael made up for lost time in this one. He racked up a nice little body count here. After the modest showing in the first one, he had his work cut out for him.
  4. Believability: 5–More characters, more plotlines to follow, more scenery to keep up with. This was still decent, but it was more complicated than it needed to be.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 6- Rosenthal did a pretty good job here. A dark empty hospital overnight is not a bad setting. He maintained a lot of the cinematography, lighting effects that we loved from the original.

Final Score: 28/50

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