Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Halloween II (1981)

Premiered October 30, 1981.

Doyle's Neighbor:Is this some kind of joke?  I've been trick-or-treated to death tonight!
Dr. Sam Loomis:You don't know what death is!

We pick up where we left off at the end of Halloween.

Michael Myers (Dick Warlock) is trying to kill Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis).  But he is shot six times by Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence), he falls out the window to his apparent death...but his body shows signs of life!  Myers gets up  and escapes through the alleys of Haddonfield.  He overhears police talking about him and the murders he committed.

Michael sees Mrs. Elrod (Lucille Benson) using a knife & decides to steal it.
Myers sneaks into a house and steals a kitchen knife and resumes his killing spree.  He follows a young woman named Alice (Anne Bruner) into her home and stabs her to death.

Laurie has been taken to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital.  Her mind is somewhat eased by the presence of Jimmy (Lance Guest), one of the ambulance drivers, who recognizes her.  Most of the hospital staff is lackadaisical.  The ER doctor is drunk, one of the nurses is late and takes time during her shift to mess around with her ambulance driver boyfriend.  One nurse, Mrs. Alves (Gloria Gifford), is on task and assures Laurie that she will be okay.

While she sleeps, Laurie dreams of a young girl asking her mother why she never tells her anything.  The mother replies "I'm not your mother".  We see the same girl visiting a boy who seems to be catatonic.  Is this a dream?  Or a flashback to a repressed memory?

Michael Myers pursues Laurie at the hospital.
Myers learns that Laurie has been taken to the hospital and decides it's time to finish what he started.  But before he can find Laurie, he makes his way through the staff.  Michael offs the security guard with a hammer, a nurse with an IV (draining her blood), drowns (and scalds) another nurse in a steaming hot hydrotherapy tub, and kills the attending physician with a syringe.  Others get the business end of a surgical scalpel.

An unfortunate security guard gets "hammered" by Myers.
While searching for Myers, Loomis and the police are called to investigate a break-in at an elementary school.  They find a crayon drawing of a family, the sister in the family has been stabbed with a real knife.

Then Loomis notices the word "Samhain" written on the blackboard.  Loomis explains that it means "Lord Of The Dead" and is related to the Celtic origins of Halloween.

Their investigation at the school is interrupted when Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens), a nurse from Smith Grove Sanitarium, says that Loomis has been ordered back to Smith Grove.  Loomis protests until he is told that there is a police marshal outside who will arrest him if necessary.

Laurie wakes up, somewhat disoriented and still in pain.  She watches Myers kill a nurse.  Michael chases her throughout the hospital, nearly stabbing her in an elevator.  Laurie takes refuge by hiding in a car.

A nurse gets a scalpel in the back, as Laurie watches.
While riding back to Smith Grove, Marion tells Loomis that she didn't want this to happen and that she has recently learned a shocking secret about Myers.  This revelation prompts Loomis to hijack the car and force the marshal (at gunpoint) to drive to the hospital.  Loomis (correctly) believes  Myers will be there and will stop at nothing to kill Laurie.  This will lead to a final showdown between Loomis and his former patient.

Laurie looks back at Michael as he moves in for the kill.

J.A. Morris says:

I realize my review last year didn't paint a wonderful opinion of the first Halloween film.  But Halloween II makes it look much better by comparison.  I was disappointed the first time I saw this 30+ years ago (when I was at the height of my slasher movie mania) and it hasn't improved with age.  So some of this review represents decades of pent-up rage (sorry, it's not like I had a blog when I saw this in 1982!).

Mrs. Alves assures Laurie she'll be okay (dig the Halloween decorations in the background!)
The film cold-opens with a newly-shot re-enactment of the previous film's finale.  But for some reason, they changed it.  Myers falls out of the window, into the back yard in the original.  This time it's the front yard.

A Michael Myers lookalike causes a collision

Strike one.

When the opening credits roll, we get a new recording of John Carpenter's fantastic Halloween theme music.  But it's an inferior version, to my ears it sounds like it was played on one of those 1980s Casio keyboards.  This robs a great piece of music of its power.

Strike two.

Halloween took place in a "typical 1970s suburban neighborhood".  This time most of the action takes place in a hospital.  Not nearly as interesting.  Michael Myers is a lot more menacing while stalking Laurie & friends in their own back yard.  This setting seems to have been changed so that Myers can use medical instruments to kill people.  This means that Halloween II has more in common with other 80s slasher movies, than with its predecessor.

Loomis takes a shot at Michael Myers.
Strike three.

When they see the word "Samhain" written on the blackboard, Loomis pronounces it "Sam Hayne".  Really?  Would it have been too much for Carpenter to call some friends at USC and consult with the Classical Studies department?  Or he could've just looked it up in an encyclopedia (they had those in the early 80s).  I'm not sure why Samhain was brought up in the movie.  Are we supposed to believe that Myers is Samhain, or think he's some sort of Celtic god?  The subject is not elaborated upon.

Worst of all, in the last act, we learn of a heretofore unknown connection between Michael and Laurie.  I won't spoil it for you, but I've always felt it was silly and it feels like they just pulled it out of thin air to make the film more "dramatic."  It doesn't work.

Laurie hides out in a car.
Plus, we get at least (by my count) two more scenes of Sheriff Bracket (Charles Cyphers) yelling at Loomis for releasing Michael Myers.  It was already established in the previous film that Loomis wanted him locked up for life.  I still don't know what the point of these scenes are, but they feel like padding, or lazy writing.

Michael walks through a locked glass door.
Most of the actors in Halloween II were unknowns then and now.  And none of them make much of an impression.  Lance Guest and Gloria Gifford are okay as Jimmy and Nurse Alves (respectively), believable as nice (if bland) people who are good at their jobs.  Most of the other characters who staff the hospital are loathsome beyond redemption, so when Myers kills them, we hardly care.  This is a big contrast to the teenage victims of the first film, who were "guilty" of merely being in the wrong place.

Myers gets shot in the eyes, keeps coming after Loomis & Laurie.
And Jamie Lee Curtis is mostly wasted here.  In the first film, she brought a certain natural, likeable spunk to the role.  We believed that Laurie was a smart, somewhat awkward high school student.  This time, Curtis/Laurie spends most of the movie sedated in bed, moaning hopelessly, displaying very little personality.  In the last 20 minutes, she gets to show off some of her "Scream Queen" skills, but by that point I'd lost interest.

Donald Pleasence is the only actor here who seems to know what he's doing.  We feel Loomis' desperation every time Plesence utters a line.  He deserved a better movie.

Michael emerges from a fiery explosion.
Halloween II is recommended only for Michael Myers completists.  When Myers breaks into a home early in the film, the residents are watching George Romero's classic horror movie Night Of The Living Dead.  If you need a Halloween scare, watch Romero's zombie classic instead of Halloween II.

J.A. Morris' rating:

Our first ever Rotten Pumpkin.