Sometimes life just isn't fair.
Judged all by itself, today's movie makes for an enjoyable 90 minutes of slasher movie fun and could be considered one of the more successful examples of the genre, but unfortunately for everyone involved, it's impossible to judge the movie on its own merits because it's the sequel to one of the greatest horror movies ever made.
And by that standard, it totally blows.
Even though 1981's Halloween II features many of the same elements that made the first film so effective--Dean Cundy's amazing cinematography, John Carpenter's haunting musical theme, Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode (nee Myers) and that creepy-ass mask--it is hampered by two weaknesses that limit it to mere adequacy rather than the brilliance of its originator. The first is the lackluster work of director Rick Rosenthal, a filmmaker whose portfolio suggests the instincts of a journeyman rather than an artist (which is a very polite way to call him a hack) and the second is the script written by Carpenter and the late Debra Hill, which makes the critical mistake of setting the film immediately after the events of the original (a creative error both of them eventually copped to years later).
While it could have been possible to create an exciting plot that was set just seconds after the first film's final shot, Carpenter and Hill made the mistake of taking their story in the most logical direction--sending their shellshocked protagonist to a hospital, rather than contriving to keep her an active and vital member of the plot. For the majority of the movie, the film's heroine is kept incapicitated, which forces the script to spend far too much time with characters we are not invested in and who are never developed enough to earn the level of empathy we feel Laurie.
But the problems with the script go far deeper than inexplicably choosing to keep its main character sidelined to its periphery. At once the screenplay seems to be both inexcusably lazy and overly ambitious. Rather than work as an organic totality, many of its scenes reek of necessary contrivance and the late appearance of a character with important expository information is so narratively clumsy it's hard not to feel embarassed for everyone involved. It doesn't help that the information in question seems on the surface like an interesting twist in the story, but remains largely undeveloped and unconvincing. Also, this film sets the trend that would be followed by the later sequels (not counting the unrelated Halloween III - Season Of The Witch) of attempting to explain Michael Myers behaviour beyond the first film's notion that he is simply the embodiment of pure evil. Though this first sequel only briefly touches upon this theme, it still feels unnecessary.
And now that I've satisfied the critical demands of my inner nitpicker, let's talk about why--despite all of its flaws--I really liked and enjoyed this movie. Though it is unimaginatively directed (especially when compared to the terse poetic imagry of the first film), it is very well made, especially in comparison to other films in the slasher genre. One need look no further than last week's Girls Nite Out (or even the fourth, fifth and sixth films in the Halloween franchise) to appreciate what a professional production this sequel truly was.
And it has to be said that the film does manage to hold the viewer's interest in spite of its narrative weaknesses and poorly developed secondary characters (only one of whom, thankfully, is drawn up as the typical slasher movie asshole). Though it never takes possession of you in the same way the first film did, it is never boring and, unlike many slasher movies, never tempts you to hit the fast-forward button in search of the sex and violence you're hoping to find.
And speaking of sex, did I mention the movie contains a seriously righteous pair of yabbos? Make no mistake, that definitely helps.
Because of its pedigree it's impossible not to consider Halloween II a serious disappointment, but if you allow youself to think of it not as a sequel to a much-loved horror masterpiece, but rather as a fun flick about a maniac killing hot (sometimes naked) nurses in a strangely patientless hospital, it's a lot more fun than you would expect. Whether or not you choose to make that mental distinction is entirely up to you.
Body Count: 9 (4 women/5 men) with 1 unconfirmed and not counting the sequel resurrected Dr. Loomis and Michael Myers or the killed-in-the-first-film body of Annie
Shower Scenes: 1 (It's actually a hot tub scene, but since it contains nakedity and violence, it definitely counts)
Instances of Nakedity: 1 (Courtesy of the very lovely Pamela Susan Shoop)
Obligatory Has Beens: I hate to pick on Donald Pleasance, but....
Instruments of Death: Butcher Knife, Police Car, Hammer, Unidentified Strangling Device (Rope?), Scalding Water, Hypodermic Needle, Scalpel, Plastic Tubing and Possibly Blood (if one clumsy character is actually dead and just unconscious)
Creepy (and therefore suspicious ) Old Guys: I hate to pick on Donald Pleasance, but....
References to Pot: o
Amount of Time Required to Correctly Identify Killer: Aum....That's not really an issue here is it?
Cheesy References to Other Horror Movies: At least 2 (Dr. Loomis is still named after John Gavin's character in Psycho and the reveal of one murder victim is clearly based on the reveal of Mrs. Bates from the same movie) with a couple that could probably be written off as coincidences rather than direct homages.
Utterly Pointless Trivia: Co-star Lance Guest would later star in The Last Starfighter, which was directed by Nick Castle, who played the role of The Shape (aka Michael Myers) in the first Halloween.
Final Girl Rating: 6 out of 10