31 Days of Horror: Rick Rosenthal’s ‘Halloween II’ is Terrible and Wonderful

Rick Rosenthal’s Halloween II is a divisive film. Not in the horror community, per se, but in my own addled brain. Part of me believes Halloween II is the strongest entry in the entire franchise since the original (as of this writing, I have not seen the David Gordon Green film, so that could change). The other part of me thinks this movie is dumber than a bag of drunk hammers. Can I both be right? It’s a fine question. But rather than do the sane, rational thing and attempt to consolidate the warring factions of my mind and create a single cohesive review, I’ve decided to let each side of my brain write its own review of Halloween II.

HALLOWEEN II IS AMAZING!

As the direct follow-up to John Carpenter’s classic, Halloween II had some pretty big clodhoppers to fill. Halloween was a bona fide indie film phenomenon, pulling in over $70 million against a $300,000 budget. It didn’t take long for  all the knock-offs and slash-a-like movies to start flooding drive-ins and multiplexes. In the four years between the original release of Halloween and the theatrical premiere of Halloween II, horror had become big business and gory movies about deranged killers were driving that market. Interesting that Halloween was the one to spark that fire, because that movie featured on-screen blood fewer than five times. The new breed of slasher movies owed as much to the over-the-top bloodletting of the movies of H.G. Lewis, such as Blood Feast, as they did to Carpenter.

Even though Halloween II has double the body count of its predecessor, actual on-screen bloodshed is minimal. Director Rick Rosenthal must have studied Carpenter’s work like Victor Frankenstein studied anatomy. He’s got all the classic Carpenter beats down to a science. Here’s Michael emerging from a shadowy doorway. There’s Michael moving in the background, blurry and out of focus. A few lens flares and Halloween II would have been a perfect forgery.

Myers has lots of expensive medical equipment to play with. Syringes, claw hammers, even a therapeutic whirlpool bath, which is used in an excellent tribute to Dario Argento’s Deep Red. From long darkened hallways to grainy security monitors, Rosenthal uses the rundown hospital setting to maximum effect.

Speaking of Michael, Dick Warlock elevates the silent character by adding an extra hefty dose of ferocity. This is particularly true when he murders a teenage girl in her home within the first ten minutes. There’s hate in those black eyes of his, and it is chilling.

Most importantly, Halloween II replicates not only the look, but the feel of the original, something later directors in the series were unable to achieve. The two films flow together almost seamlessly, one picking up right where the other ends. The tagline for Halloween II was, “More of The Night He Came Home!” That’s precisely what you get. Viewed back to back, the movies tell a gripping story of one hell of a long night for the little town of Haddonfield.

HALLOWEEN II IS AWFUL!

Did they even watch this movie while they were editing it? There are continuity gaps, lapses of logic, and half-assed research all throughout this laughable dungball of a movie. This isn’t even a matter of being nitpicky. You don’t have to look hard.

It starts at the very beginning where Dr. Loomis shoots Michael. Seven gunshots are heard clearly. I’ve counted them repeatedly to make sure I’m not wrong, and there are seven shots. Yet Loomis spends the first fifteen minutes telling every single person he comes across that he shot Michael six times. Did he miss once? No, because at the end of Halloween, there are only six shots fired. Technically, then, Loomis did shoot Michael six times. And also seven times.

Haddonfield Memorial Hospital is the most understaffed medical facility I’ve ever seen. It’s Halloween night and there is only one doctor on the floor. Three nurses, one security guard, and two paramedics round out the shift for that evening. That’s ridiculously poor scheduling.

They sure drugged Laurie Strode up good, huh? All Jamie Lee Curtis does in this movie is stagger about in a hospital gown until the very end. That’s when she suddenly becomes cogent enough to shoot Michael in the face, one bullet in each eye. Nice shootin’, Tex! Unfortunately, you can still see Michael’s eyes through the holes in his mask. Unless she shot him very precisely right beneath each of his eyes, this wouldn’t be possible. He’s blind, though, because he stumbles towards Laurie, swishing a scalpel through the air like he’s trying to hit a pinãta.

There are more instances, a lot more, but I feel like I’m just picking on the movie now. The truly irritating thing is that all of these gaffes could have been avoided if someone had simply paid attention. I mean, if I noticed these things, and I’m just some little geek movie guy, shouldn’t the producers have spotted them, too?

It sucks, because it makes the whole movie feel rushed, and the sequel to Halloween should have been nurtured and cared for, not kicked out of the studio nest like a sick bird.

Also: Laurie’s his sister? Come on. What kind of hackneyed soap opera bullshit is that?

In summation, I love Halloween II. I hate Halloween II. I am conflicted, and my hemispheres battle, but I still watch the movie on a regular basis. There’s one thing both halves of my mind can agree on: Halloween II is a lot of fun, whether it meant to be or not.

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