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Posts Tagged ‘Rick Rosenthal’

We are now at a point where there are three films called Halloween, so it follows as logically as anything else that there are also multiple Halloween IIs – although I feel obliged to make it clear that the sequel to the most recent Halloween is, of course, not one of them (like I say, logical).

The first Halloween II was probably inevitable from a financial point of view, given the immense returns of the original film ($70 million on a £325,000 budget), and I suppose this is one of those cases of the sequel being the film which really laid the groundwork for an ongoing franchise – the original film is brilliant, but one of the reasons why it’s brilliant is because it’s such a perfectly self-contained narrative. It’s also a very slight outlier when it comes to the slasher movie genre, and the sequel is more conventional in this respect too.

The problem with a calendar-date horror movie like Halloween is that you’re a bit limited when it comes to staging the sequel – you can’t just move on to the day after or the title will become a bit spurious, while jumping ahead a whole year also brings its problems. So Halloween II is one of the most direct continuations in movie history, very slightly tweaking the end of the original film but pretty much just carrying straight on.

So: Shatner-masked embodiment of pure homicidal evil Michael Myers is still on the rampage in his home town of Haddonfield, despite having been repeatedly shot and stabbed by feisty babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and obsessed shrink Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasence). However, Haddonfield being the kind of folksy place where people leave their doors open at all hours, he is quite soon able to shrug off multiple bullet wounds, resupply with a big knife, and do in someone just down the street from the scene of his earlier crimes, just to keep his hand in.

Laurie, meanwhile, is whizzed off to hospital by nice young ambulanceman Jimmy (the film debut of Lance Guest, perhaps best remembered for quintessential 80s nonsense The Last Starfighter and Jaws: The Revenge), while Dr Loomis keeps up with his increasingly frantic attempts to hunt Michael down. But having heard where Laurie has been taken, Michael also heads to the gloomy and seemingly almost-deserted hospital, seemingly intent on finishing the job he started before the clock ticks twelve and they have to call the movie All Saints’ Day (though Day of the Dead would also be very appropriate and was still available back in 1981)…

John Carpenter really didn’t want to do a Halloween sequel, as he couldn’t see a place to take the story; he eventually limited himself to co-writing and producing, with Rick Rosenthal actually in charge of direction. Carpenter has said the creative process involved a lot of beer and him sitting in front of the typewriter saying ‘What am I doing? I don’t know.’

Then again, a classic slasher movie generally has two elements to it, the overarching storyline, and all the individual set-piece kills which punctuate the film. I suspect you can get away with making quite a congruent and popular slasher movie with very little actual plot and just a lot of good murders. Sending Michael to the hospital certainly presents the opportunity for a number of inventive slayings as he thins out the supporting cast (as ever, anyone foolish enough to have recreational sex in a Halloween movie is signing their own death warrant) – there’s death by scalpel, death by claw hammer, death by syringe, death by exsanguination, death by hydrotherapy pool, and what may be an attempt at death by slippery floor – though this may just be an accident. As you may perhaps be able to tell, the body count in Halloween II comfortably exceeds that of the first film, and where the original had a long period of Carpenter relentlessly cranking up the suspense before the killing begins in earnest towards the end of the story, in this one there’s a murder every few minutes, just to keep everyone paying attention I suppose. As I say, this is much more of a conventional slasher film than the first one.

It’s when Carpenter moves on to wider elements of the plot that the script begins to wobble somewhat – initially, it’s a spot-on continuation of the original film, with even some of the original cast returning just to play the corpses of their characters. Then Michael starts scrawling ‘SAMHAIN’ on the wall in blood and Donald Pleasence is issued with some cobblers about the history of Halloween and suddenly we’re on rather shaky ground.

The notorious plot device which the film introduces, simply because Carpenter felt it essential, is the revelation that Laurie and Michael are siblings, hence his monomaniacal pursuit of her. It feels like the film has suddenly gone a bit soap-opera at this point, and to be honest I don’t think the story really needed it – the really scary thing about Michael in the first film, after all, is that he doesn’t actually have a recognisable or intelligible motivation.

Most of the film is passably entertaining, anyway; Rosenthal manages a decent mimicry of Carpenter’s style, although the film is never as tense or scary as the original. However, the ending does feel weak – after Laurie is comatose for most of the first hour (I’m guessing there were issues with how available for filming Jamie Lee Curtis was), she ends up being chased round the hospital while Loomis – who’s just been conveniently informed of dynastic revelations – is racing to her aid.

This was, apparently, intended to finish off the story of Laurie and Michael in the most definitive way possible – let’s just take a moment, nine further films later, to reflect on just how successful that was – and I suppose it does just about hang together. (Just how do you kill off the bogeyman, though?) That’s about the best you can say about Halloween II – virtually every film in this series has basically the same plot, which is dressed up and tweaked in a new way every few years or so, and one of the jobs of the sequels is to disguise this fact as well as possible. Halloween II does a serviceable job of it; it is a sufficient sequel, but hardly a necessary one.

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