80s Film Rewind-Halloween II (1981)
Carl takes a look back at the original sequel to John Carpenter’s sublime movie and discovers it is still as good forty years on!
“It’s Halloween. Everybody is entitled to one good scare!” Sheriff Bracket-‘Halloween’ (1978)
1981. For me, it was the year of Michael Myers. I know Indiana Jones made his all-action debut in ‘Raiders Of The Lost Ark’. Yes, James Bond continued to fill theatres with ‘For Your Eyes Only.‘ And of course, Superman took to the skies again in ‘Superman II’. But, in a small village in Wales, in a cottage in a valley, late one Wednesday evening, I had my first encounter with John Carpenter’s Boogeyman.
My father wasn’t happy that I was sitting down with him and my mother to watch a horror film about a serial killer. His idea was that I wouldn’t be allowed to join them to watch the original ‘Halloween’. No sir, not his eldest son. I made no apologies and wouldn’t leave the sitting room unless I was allowed to see what all the fuss back in 1978 was all about.
THE BOY BECOMES A MAN!
Now, I admit this was the first time I had watched a horror movie. And I was scared witless from start to finish. Never before had I seen a film that involved a masked man brutally murdering young teenagers. ‘Psycho’ and ‘Black Christmas’ did it way before then but I had yet to experience those films. This was my introduction to adult-themed entertainment, films that were forbidden for me to go and see at the movies. And although the film frightened me, I was hooked.
This simple first viewing started my love of the horror genre. More to the point, although he scared the life out of me, I fell in love (metaphorically) with Michael Myers. A love that still extends to this day. I do love Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger but Michael Myers remains the main man for me. I watched the film as a young boy. When it ended, I felt like I was a grown man. And some forbidden secret had been unveiled to me.
Later in 1981, I became aware that a second film ‘Halloween II’ was going to be released at the theatre. I was overjoyed. I was still underage to go and see it but knowing that Michael Myers would be returning was fantastic news. I couldn’t wait. And then came the kicker. The United States got the film on October 30th, 1981. We in the United Kingdom had to wait until February 25th, 1982 before it opened. Talk about locking the door after the horse had bolted! A film set on Halloween night opening just before the spring? What were they thinking?
I resigned myself to having to wait until the inevitable VHS release happened. But fate (and my sheer tenacity) would prove otherwise. I immersed myself in finding out what I could about the film and its storyline. What would a second helping bring to the table? Who would be in it? Would Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis be returning? Where would it be set? All this I was left to ponder while I waited for the film to hit video cassette.
A SMALL SECRET!
I didn’t wait for the VHS release of the film. I actually snuck into a screening and saw the film on its initial release! How? I just paid to see another film on a different screen and when no one was looking, dodged into see ‘Halloween II’. Simple but effective. That doesn’t excuse the fact that I crapped my pants in the dark due to being completely petrified! But it was great fun.
THE FILM ITSELF
The film starts at the exact point the original ended. Dr. Loomis (Pleasence) shoots Michael who falls off a bedroom balcony. (Note: Listen to the gunshots fired. Loomis claims to have shot him six times, which he did in the original. But in the opening to the sequel, you hear SEVEN gunshots!). Loomis rushes outside to view Michael’s dead body only to find he’s gone. The shape is alive. A neighbor comes out to question Loomis, who promptly tells him to call the police as Michael is still on the loose. The neighbor asks if it is a joke, and quotes ‘I’ve been trick or treated to death tonight’. Loomis simply replies ‘You don’t know what death is.’
Cue the ‘Halloween’ theme, this time by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth. It is a more technical variation of the theme, compared to Carpenter’s piano-based original version. But it works. Now we know we are in a ‘Halloween’ movie. And the music conjures up a sense of foreboding, one we should listen to.
After the main credits, we see everything from Michael’s viewpoint for around ninety seconds. This culminates in a similar kind of shot we saw in the first film, a hand reaching down to grasp hold of a kitchen knife. Now we follow the action for the most part focussed on the characters instead of through anyone’s eyes. Michael steals the knife from a couple of elderly people before a scream brings out the next-door neighbors teenage girl.
Michael enters the home of the teenager, Alice, and brutally murders her. Laurie Strode (Curtis), the sole survivor of her friends is rushed to hospital suffering from the knife wound Michael inflicted on her as well as leg injuries she received falling over a balcony and down some stairs trying to escape.
Loomis and Sheriff Leigh Brackett (Charles Cyphers, soon to return in ‘Halloween Kills’) are trying to track Michael down. Loomis mistakes a young man, Ben Tramer (mentioned by name only in the original) for Myers due to wearing almost the same mask. Loomis attempts to shoot the boy before being prevented. Tramer is run over by a police car that collides with a stationary vehicle, causing it to explode and burn Tramer to death.
Brackett now learns that his daughter, Annie, is one of Michael’s victims from the first film. Blaming Loomis, Brackett leaves to go home to his wife, leaving the search in the hands of his deputy, Gary Hunt. Michael learns of Laurie’s whereabouts via a news report on the radio. He goes to the Haddonfield Memorial Hospital intending to finish what he started.
While there, Michael kills a security guard with a claw hammer, a nurse by scalding her to death. Her orderly boyfriend before her by strangulation, a doctor by stabbing him above his eye with a syringe. A young nurse by injecting an air bubble into her brain via a syringe to the temple.
The head nurse by strangulation and draining of her blood by an IV line, all while searching for Laurie. A second orderly, Jimmy, who has taken a shine to Laurie manages to slip on the head nurse’s blood and knock himself unconscious. All while Loomis and Hunt are investigating a break-in at an elementary school by Michael earlier in the evening. It is here where Loomis is discovered by nurse Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens, reprising her role from the start of the first film).
And here lies the controversial plotline that would define the series for the next thirty-seven years. Laurie is Michael’s sister. Now, for me, it wasn’t that big of a deal. It was just another tie that the two characters shared. Over the years, however, I have come to think that it was just lazy writing. Something to be thrown into the mix to bump up the suspense factor.
And I was proven right when John Carpenter revealed that he was drunk and high most of the time he was writing the screenplay. But at the time, it made some kind of weird sense. A justification for Michael to continue his night of terror and for his blood-thirsty quest to reach Laurie. Thankfully, they dispensed with the family link in the 2018 reboot/sequel.
Back at the hospital, Nurse Jill (Tawny Moyer) is hunting around looking for Laurie. Laurie has escaped her hospital room. She knows deep down that Michael is coming and tries to hide from him. Emerging from another room, Jill spots Laurie and calls out to her. Big mistake. As Laurie turns around, Michael appears behind Jill. With a quick movement of his wrist, he impales Jill on the scalpel he is carrying, lifting her clean off the floor.
The death of Jill is reminiscent of the death of Bob in the original film, in the fact as we see her toes go limp and point towards the floor. Jill is dead. Laurie then proceeds to attempt to escape from Michael, who is now stalking her once again.
She manages to escape to the parking lot where she manages to hide inside a car. Jimmy though manages to ruin her plans. By joining her in the car and managing to pass out again, he inadvertently drops his head onto the car’s horn, loudly announcing exactly where Laurie is. Loomis, Marion, and the marshal arrive at the hospital. As they enter the building, Laurie emerges from her hiding place and attempts to alert them. Michael is already outside. He too emerges from his hiding place and once again pursues Laurie as she attempts to get into the hospital and join Loomis and hoped for safety. Loomis manages to let Laurie into the building before Michael can reach her.
But that doesn’t stop Michael. He unexpectedly walks straight through the glass doors into the hospital, only to be gunned down by Loomis once more. Loomis orders Marion to leave the building and call the police. The marshal does the stupid thing in horror movies and leans down next to Michael’s body. Of course, Michael is playing dead. Quickly, he grabs the marshal, flips him over, and cuts his throat with the scalpel.
Loomis and Laurie run through the hospital before locking themselves into an operating room. Loomis hands Laurie the marshal’s gun as Michael starts to break through the door. Loomis stands ready as Michael finally makes it through the door. Loomis pulls the trigger on his gun, only to find he’s out of bullets. Turning, Michael stabs Loomis in the chest with the scalpel and proceeds to go after Laurie.
Backed into the corner, Laurie calls Michael to stop. Surprisingly, he does. He lowers the scalpel and looks at his sister, giving his now-iconic head tilt as he ponders her. It doesn’t last though. Raising the scalpel again, he continues to walk towards Laurie. Laurie raises her gun and fires twice, shooting Michael in both of his eyes, blinding him. Michael starts to swing his scalpel blindly, staggering, still trying to kill Laurie. Loomis recovers and both he and Laurie turn on every flammable gas cylinder inside the operating room. Loomis orders Laurie to run for her life, which she does.
Michael approaches Loomis, still swinging his scalpel in blind fury. Loomis raises his hand which contains a cigarette lighter. With a final parting shot of ‘It’s time, Michael’, Loomis flicks the lighter, igniting the gas in the room and immolating himself and Michael together in a fiery explosion. Outside, in the corridor, Laurie is safe, hiding behind a water fountain.
But out of the flames, Michael walks out, completely on fire, a vision of hell come to life. Before he can reach Laurie, Michael finally stumbles, falls to the ground, and burns to death before her eyes. The following morning, she is transferred to another hospital, alive but traumatized. We see her vacant eyes as we flashback to Michael’s burning body and the screen cuts to black as the end credits roll.
Ok, I’ll admit it now. I was seriously PISSED OFF that they killed off Michael Myers. Killing off other characters, including Loomis I could handle. But Michael Myers himself? No way. That kind of stuck in my craw for years afterward. Not even his resurrection in ‘Halloween IV: The Return Of Michael Myers’ could erase it. But thinking back to ‘Halloween II’, I still remember it fondly. In no way was it a patch on the original film. It never could be. But what it was, was an extension and continuation of that beloved 1978 movie and its plotline. As the tagline rightfully said, “More Of The Night HE Came Home!”. And it certainly was and still is.
If you were to take the original ‘Halloween’ and put it back to back with ‘Halloween II’ and ‘Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later.’, you have a pretty decent trilogy. A beginning, middle, and end. This middle section gave us the frights, suspense, and bloodshed we all came to expect. The original film was almost bloodless. But thanks to ‘Friday The 13th’, audiences wanted more blood and gore for their buck.
Michael had to up his game to compete. So, he ripped off his own rip-off. He added more blood and gore to balance up against Paramount’s slasher flick. The deaths that appear in the film are much nastier than the original movies. There are buckets of blood in this second film that wasn’t even contemplated in the first.
Many people have derided the film over the past forty years. My question is…why? The film isn’t in the same class as the original admittedly. But the heart of the story is still there. It is still a ‘Halloween’ film in all its glory. You can forget the other films in the franchise that were made between 1988 and 1995. They were similar to the later ‘Friday The 13th’ films in reality. Cheap, cheerful but lacking the heart of what makes the first two films special.
1998s ‘Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later.’ did a commendable job in adding to the franchise and should have closed the book on Laurie Strode and Michael Myers. All that hard work was undone by 2002s ‘Halloween: Resurrection.’ which ruined ‘H20’s ending and then gave us a lackluster film that wasn’t worthy to carry the ‘Halloween’ name. Thank god for 2018s ‘Halloween’ which restored the franchise to its former glory.
Casting-wise, you couldn’t have made the sequel without Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence. Having the pair return to continue and end the story started in 1978 was the film’s biggest strength. For the rest of the cast, you could see from the start that they would be dispensable. Ok, so I was sad to see Tawny Moyer and Ana Alicia get killed off but as for the rest, they almost all deserved their fate.
Gloria Gifford’s demise in the film is one where you think “Ha! That’s told you! You deserved that!”. That’s what you get for being a bitch in a horror film! Lance Guest’s fate as Jimmy is left ambiguous. We should know if he lived or died. As it is, we have to rely on the deleted ending that saw him ride in the same ambulance as Laurie.
From the halfway point of the film, you can see John Carpenter and Debra Hill’s desire to kill off their creation. Everything pointed towards the fact that both Loomis and Michael would die before the end credits rolled. Carpenter has even gone on record stating he didn’t want to make a sequel to his biggest hit. But what they wrote did make for a satisfying ending to the story, despite my annoyance that they killed off Myers.
But the film did exactly what it needed to do. It was scary, violent, nasty, and totally engrossing. When the final credits roll, you know you’ve been through the emotional wringer. Forty years later, the film still stands as a terrific night’s entertainment for all horror fans. It isn’t the best sequel of all time. But it did give us a worthy ending to ‘The Night HE Came Home.’ And that is what we can still love and remember forty years later.
The entire ‘Halloween’ series is available to buy on DVD, Blu-Ray, and Digital Download from all good stockists and download sites.
Feel the Force on Social Media.
Carl Roberts is the News Editor of The Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force frequently!