What happens when you make a movie like Halloween that turns into one of the most successful theatrical runs in indie film history? You keep making Halloween movies, of course. Halloween 2 was released 3 years after the original and though John Carpenter wasn’t in the directorial chair for this one (it was Rick Rosenthal this time), he still has the writing credit. How does this one live up to the incredibly classic original? Read on to get our take but remember there are spoilers down there for this almost 40 year old film. More into listening to your reviews? Then click that podcast button.
Reviewed by: Jake
Halloween 2 picks up right where the original Halloween left off. In fact, it does a small amount of backtracking to remind you about how much of a creepy fucking monster Michael Myers is via a select bit of stalking of Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) from the first film. Dr. Loomis shows up and shoots his ass off a balcony, only to look over and discover he slinked away into the Halloween night. This is where #2 picks up. Laurie is injured (obviously), so they load her up into an ambulance and take her to the hospital while Loomis joins up with the cops to try to track Myers down. To say they struggle is an understatement.
Myers hulks around for a bit, killing a few more people around the neighborhood while the noise begins to build about the murders that occurred in the first film. At one point, they think they find him among some trick-or-treaters but it turns out that some dude just randomly decided that a jumpsuit and a painted white Shatner mask would be his costume that year. Weird choice kid. It plays out for him poorly too, because the bumbling cops ram a car going waaaay too fast right into him and drive him straight into the side of another vehicle, pinning his body and engulfing him in fire. Kid died a horrible death.
Meanwhile, back at the hospital, Laurie is sedated and given some treatment. It’s pretty quiet aside from a kid who bit through a razor blade in his candy that they didn’t bother saying anything more about. Seriously, there’s a full on sadistic fuck giving kids razor blades in candy and this movie asterisks it into an oddly disturbing scene that I found more unpleasant than anything else in the film. Honestly, not a lot happens at the hospital with the exception of some comedic relief from Budd (Leo Rossi) until Michael eventually finds his way there and wreaks havoc. He kills so many people, and he leaves his knife behind for a lot of it, instead opting for scalding hot tub scaldings, needles into eyeballs and brains, scalpels through the back etc…
Eventually Loomis tracks Michael to the hospital and he and Laurie try desperately to dispatch of him. The thing that finally seems to off Michael is an explosion that also takes out Loomis. Laurie then gets transferred to another hospital. Hopefully it is good at helping with PTSD.
What the Movie Does Right
I like the approach to pick up literally where the original film left off. It’s somewhat rare that a sequel follows the original so closely, and this one’s timeline is continuous. Everything in the movie happens on the same Halloween night, with Michael just running amok and terrorizing increasingly large parts of the town of Haddonfield. This makes for an inherently different feel than the first film. Whereas in the first movie, Michael was “the shadow” and you had a lengthy and subtle build before any bloodshed, this movie could not take that approach. Instead, the tension here comes from the word-of-mouth between the townspeople as they start to hear of the murders and that the killer is still on the loose. It works well for the most part.
Additionally, I like how you get a better sense of place in this movie with the expansion to the neighborhood and town in general. One of the digs on the original film is that aside from the name, it really doesn’t feel much like Halloween. There are about two pumpkins and a flashback scene, and aside from that, it largely feels like it could have taken place on any night. In Halloween 2, there is trick-or-treat, parties, and a generally more autumnal feel (though not much - but we’re building from a base of 0).
What the Movie Does Wrong
Remember how I mentioned the original’s subtlety above? Yeah, that doesn’t exist here. The biggest gripe I have with Halloween 2 is that it feels like it mistook what made the individual pieces of the original great. What you get here is extended sequences of Michael walking around unbeknownst to anyone while the Halloween theme absolutely rages. It’s too much. And it’s only the beginning.
There are larger personalities among the characters in this one, especially with Budd’s comedic relief, but it feels off. And then you’ve got Loomis. Poor, poor Loomis. Pleasance had to do way too much in this film and it took his Ahab character and made him an absolute fucking joke. Some of his lines (and there are way too many) are hilariously cringe-inducing. Loomis was always going to play a larger role in this movie because they introduced his connection to Michael and had to draw a conclusion to their story, but holy shit the way they handled the character was the narrative equivalent of aforementioned going ham on the musical theme.
It boils down to this - it’s pretty obvious when watching this movie that there is a studio involved and that the movie is grasping to recreate the things that made the original great without remembering that a) it’s hard to capture the same magic twice, and b) to capture the same magic, it needs to be the same magic… It’s rare that I mention a sequel to a movie I am reviewing, but Halloween had a great idea to spin itself into an anthology with Season of the Witch. The Michael story was done. It was probably done before this one. I wish the anthology concept would have continued and we never would have been subjected to Michael getting his ass kicked by Busta Rhymes but that’s for a different review.
Story: 4.5 - This is the continuation of the Michael Myers story but all that really happens is they chase him down and ostensibly kill him. Loomis bites the dust, too. The story was really contained in the first film. It’s not bad that it’s simple, but it doesn’t add much.
World-Building/Immersion: 5.5 - I like that this film feels more like Halloween than the original and I also enjoy that you get to jump in and get a better sense for the town. Outside of that, there’s plenty to pull you out with from the extended scenes of Mike walking to the Budd inclusion (which I hate/loved).
Scare Factor: 4 - Slasher fare. This is definitely darker and more gory than the original, but the modern viewer probably won’t balk at anything here. I do enjoy the tension that comes from starting from a place where word-of-mouth of the murders is building from the street, to the neighborhood, to the town. The single scariest scene was the kid with the razor blade stuck in his mouth. Fuck that.
Effects (or Judicious Lack Thereof): 6.5 - Visually, things looks mostly ok in this movie. The sound is also iconic, but it shows zero restraint which really hurts everything.
Overall: 5 - This is not essential viewing. The movie before this and movie after this in the series are both much better candidates when it comes to picking something to put on to get in the Halloween spirit. I’m not much for the continuation of the Michael Myers storyline through multiple movies. I love the character and understand how these things work, but personally, I’d take the anthology approach that failed.