I’ve not watched Halloween II (1981) for a while. It’s set on the same night as the first film and is a continuation of the story, but there are a few things that give away the fact that it was now the ’80s when it was made. You can’t hide the ’80s!
The film opens with the Chordettes’ Mr Sandman playing over the top. I’m currently catching up with Doctor Who Magazine in preparation for the new series, and so I recently reread an interview with Mark Gatiss from last year in which he was discussing his episode Sleep No More, in which Mr Sandman was also used. Apparently it was Russell T Davies who pointed out to him how creepy the song was – but being a horror fan, Gatiss should have known that the Halloween series did it first!
The opening sequence is a reprise of the end of the first film, mostly with original footage that has been recut slightly, but with the final reveal on the balcony having been reshot, which is a bit jarring. The reshot sequence results in a continuity error – throughout Halloween II, Loomis is constantly insisting that he shot Michael Myers six times. In the original film, that was indeed the case, but in the reshot sequence, there are actually seven gunshots! The sequence is also overdubbed with new music – it is, of course, ’80s synth music, which is the first giveaway that this is indeed an ’80s movie.
We get the cool spooky pumpkin opening again, this time with an added bit where the pumpkin cracks open to reveal a skull. Showing off the shiny new ’80s special effects! I have to say I prefer the simplicity of the lantern flickering out in the first film.
The series continues with the nods to classic horror through the old films that are playing on TV. This time it’s Night of the Living Dead, with the infamously badly acted ‘They’re coming to get you, Barbara!’ scene.
Michael Myers’ MO seems to have shifted slightly as soon as he gets back to killing. He ignores a barking dog (in contrast to the first film, where he killed nearly as many dogs as he did humans) and the nice old couple in the nearby house – he just steals their carving knife instead. As soon as he spots a teenage girl in the house next door, though, he just nips in and offs her for no reason!
Laurie Strode has been taken to a local hospital, and there’s a couple of fairly pointless characters who get two scenes here – a mother with a child whose mouth is bleeding profusely. It’s not 100% clear, but it looks like he’s got a razorblade stuck in his lip, which would be a nice (if grisly) nod to the ubiquitous American Hallowe’en myth about razorblades being hidden in apples to hurt kids out trick-or-treating.
The doctor who treats Laurie is clearly a bit tipsy. I assumed this was just for comedic value, but there’s a brief line later about him having been at the same party as Laurie’s parents, whom the hospital can’t track down.
I quite like the gang of nurses and paramedics who comprise this film’s gang of young, disposable, doomed, horny idiots. Jimmy, the paramedic with the crush on Laurie, makes for a cute sideplot too.
There’s a great bit where some journalists are in front of the Wallace house desperately trying to get the whole story, and then Dr Loomis is just shouting the whole truth about Michael Myers right in front of them, but this is never followed up!
In comes the security guard cliche! This became a real trope of slasher horror, the poor incompetent overweight security guard who’s too distracted by reading a magazine or something to notice the killer wandering across the security monitors.
Speaking of tropes, we’ve got the good old ‘phone lines are cut’ going on here as well. In more recent films, in addition to the landlines being cut, they always have to throw in a line about there being no reception for mobiles (how convenient!). Oh, for simpler times.
Laurie has a creepy dream/flashback to when she was a young child circa 1970. In contrast to the non-attempt at 1963 from the first film, the costume/makeup department here actually does quite a good job of period 1970 hair and clothes.
The thing about Laurie being Michael Myers’ secret baby sister who was later adopted by the Strodes is introduced here. This continued to be the official story in the two different continuities of Halloween 4/5/6 and Halloween H20/Resurrection, as well as (I believe – I’ve not watched them yet) the Rob Zombie remakes, but apparently they’re not going with that in the new one, which should be interesting.
There’s an unintentionally hilarious bit when Jimmy discovers Mrs Alves’ body, realises he’s standing in a pool of blood, and decides it would be a good idea to start running. Obviously, he immediately slips in the pool of blood and knocks himself out like a prat. Who didn’t see that coming? Jimmy, apparently.
One nurse nearly escapes! She knows there’s danger and that she has to call the police, makes it out to the car park, realises the tyres on all the cars have been let down…then goes back into the hospital building. Why?
The ending sequence is really well done – there’s a bit with Laurie waiting for a lift to arrive that’s nearly as tense as the first film.
However, just like the nurse, Laurie doesn’t leave the scene when she makes it out to the car park, instead hiding inside a car. Why will no one leave the hospital grounds? Surely the best thing would be to run away from the building to try and find a phone box (or booth as I think they might be called across the pond) or flag down the nearest driver for help?
I love the bit with Laurie and Dr Loomis teaming up at the end, but I find it odd that Laurie’s such a good shot given that she’s clearly never held a gun! Also, it’s interesting, having not watched it in a while, that neither Loomis nor Jimmy are confirmed alive at the end. Indeed, Loomis is clearly meant to be dead, having done the whole heroic sacrificial blowing-up-the-room-while-still-inside. (Spoiler alert: he shows up in later films, which is why I never think of him as having died in this one.) I can’t remember why I had the impression that Jimmy survived, but maybe something in the next few films will remind me.
Something different tomorrow, for a bit of a break from the Halloween marathon!