Thursday, October 25, 2012

Halloween II (1981)

Confession time: I'm not a fan of "Halloween III: Season of the Witch." I know, it has a very loyal following, and I admire that it tries to do something without Michael Myers but I always found it to be more goofy (the Silver Shamrock song, The Robot henchmen) than creepy. I can say that it is better than the sequels that followed, which turned Michael Myers into another generic slasher villain. They also gave us the Thorn Cult, Laurie Myers dying, and Busta Rhymes beating the shit out of Myers. Then came the remakes Rob Zombie made that turned a horror icon into yet another serial killer with family issues.

To me, "Halloween II" is the only good sequel in the series. This one has gotten something of a drubbing over time-it's not as good as the original (few sequels are), it's not scary and it shouldn't have amplified the blood quotient some say. I say fuck 'em. This is an under appreciated little film whose reputation has thankfully improved overtime (I still remember when it had a 5.1 rating on IMDB. Eh, it's not the first time they were wrong.)

This movie actually takes place immediately after the events of the first. Laurie Strode (Once again played by Jamie Lee Curtis) has been sent to a hospital after undergoing a traumatic experience with Michael Myers. As you may recall, Michael isn't dead. He's very much alive, and has one thing in mind: Laurie. That and killing others. So technically, he's got two things on his mind-Laurie and randomly killing people. At least he has his priorities in check. In the process, Dr. Loomis (Once again played by Donald Pleasence) knows Michael is still at large, and knows what he's after. What he and Laurie don't know is why Michael is after her. Of course, we all know it turns out that she's Michael's sister (Oh don't go "spoilers dude." Everyone knows that. Even those who never bothered with the sequels know that.)

It's obvious that "Halloween II" isn't excellent like the original. It lacks some of the top notch well, everything about the original. Hell, the character of Budd (Leo Rossi) is pretty annoying, and simply exists to have pussy on his mind 24/7. Apart from that, this is a solid sequel. Part of this is because this is the last time (for me at least) Michael still feels scary. He's still "The Shape" here, he still has no true emotion, and he's still an imposing figure. The fact that the shadows seem to follow him everywhere he goes probably helps matters.

The film also has some striking images. The best one of course is at the end when Michael is on fire, but the look of the hospital is one of pure despair. Even the violence doesn't hurt-a death via drowning in a scalding hot bathtub would make Dario Argento proud (and reminded me of a similar scene in his Giallo masterpiece "Deep Red.") The script (written by Carpenter and series co-creator Debra Hill) is also pretty good, and adds nice touches such as the connection the pagan holiday Samhain has to the events. It also does a fine job of capturing the connection between Michael and Laurie. Nearing the end when Laurie says Michael's name, he stops. It's like the film is saying that he's briefly reconsidering what he's doing, or that he's just shocked that someone knows who he is. Finally, the score from Carpenter is great, and perfectly fits the eerie ambiance of the film. Oh, and look for a then unknown Dana Carvey in a cameo as an assistant.

At the risk of pissing someone off, "Halloween II" is the only sequel in the series that matters. Forget "Halloween H20: 20 Years Later" or "Halloween III: Season of the Witch." This is the one that you should see. It genuinely feels like it was the last hurrah for a character who deserves his reputation of being the ultimate example of his type. Of course this was supposed to be, but we all know how that ended.

Rating: 8/10

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