After the out of nowhere success of the original Halloween it was set in stone that a sequel would be made which, in 1981, resulted in the release of Halloween 2 (not to be confused with Halloween 2. Yes, this is a running gag now).
The film takes place immediately after the events of the first film, with Loomis shooting Michael Myers, saving Laurie and then noticing Michael is gone. Although the film was now under a different director, Rick Rosenthal, John Carpenter and Debra Hill returned as writers which really shows because of how seamlessly the introduction of this movie fits onto the end of the last. Seriously, if you had cut the opening credits from this film and attached it to the end of the first you could convince someone that the first and second film are one in the same; A horror epic, of sorts. Not a thing is out of place and everything is consistent from the locations, costumes and even the style of writing.
Again with the writing. Okay, I have to say it, I absolutely love some of the dialogue in this film, particularly that of Loomis. It’s so tongue in cheek but Donald Pleasance gives such a great performance that grounds it in some level of bizarre reality. Seeing him running down the street, screaming like a mad man “I shot him six times! Six times! I shot him!” as though he’s trying to convince himself that he is sane and did in fact do what he did always gives me shivers. And having the final line of the introduction, just before we roll into the opening credits be Loomis telling a stranger that “You don’t know what death is!“, is a great set up for what the tone of this movie is going to be; One with the same atmosphere as the original, but with a lot more violence.
And to be honest that is what this film is – A natural extension of the original that adds a bit more blood into the mix. One guy gets smacked in the head with the rear end of a claw hammer, one poor woman has her face dunked in boiling water and another poor innocent bystander is ran over by a police car, crushed against a news van and (for no reason but to flaunt the improved budget, I suppose) explodes so that we can watch him burn to death. This moment, that is to say the explosion, can seem like a red flag. It’s a part of the movie that does border on schlock because of how weird it is, but thankfully the film never quite goes down that road again and keeps itself relatively restrained until the finale.
A lot of suspense is built by making Michael a little more unpredictable. Early in the film we get another POV shot of Michael navigating the town to find a murder weapon. He sneaks into a vulnerable old lady’s house and, although she is ripe for the killing, simply takes her knife and leaves her be without her ever knowing he was there. Moments later he murders her neighbour. I mentioned it in my last review, but I think it is worth reiterating that seeing these murders from Michael’s point of view so that there is a level of dramatic irony between us and his victims works favourably over constant instances of a victim hiding and waiting for the killer to pop out via a jump scare.
As the film progresses we learn that Michael and Laurie are siblings who were separated after Michael was sent to a mental institution. And this twist is… It’s okay. On one hand it does take away from the horror that Michael is just some guy who kills because he can. In the previous film it was his efficiency combined with his lack of motive that made him more than just a killer, but in fact the “boogie man”, as that movie calls it. Giving him a motive to kill his last remaining sister detracts from that. But on the other hand it is inherently frightening to know how long Michael patiently waited and the lengths to which he went in order to murder his own sister which, I guess, gives him some form of satisfaction. It is through learning this information that Loomis is able to track Michael down simply by rushing to Laurie’s aid.
Shortly before the finale we see Michael get shot six times again by Loomis. Once again he falls over. An officer assisting Loomis goes to check the body and Loomis franticly screams for him not to because it’s obvious that Michael is still breathing. The officer steps away and then our characters converse. Moments later the officer approaches the body again stating that Michael has stopped breathing, as which point he is killed because Michael was simply holding his breath. It’s moments like this that make me enjoy this sequel; Michael showing he is an efficient killer through creative means.
Eventually Loomis and Laurie are cornered in a room full of gas but Laurie is able to shoot Michael in the eyes in order to blind him which is, again, a very creative bit of action to use against an immortal person. After activating all the gas in the room, Loomis tells Laurie to run and then blows himself up with Michael. The film ends with both characters being dead and Laurie, once again, in the back of an ambulance.
Overall this is a very solid sequel. It’ not quite as eerie as the original because of the fact it takes place moments after that film’s peak of tension, and thus more action in placed throughout this film to keep the tension high, and the momentum moving. But it’s still suspenseful and capitalises on why people liked about the original. With the exception of the brother-sister twist at the end I think the film is also brilliantly written, in terms of dialogue, and gets some good performances out of all the actors involved. If there is a way to do a sequel right, then Halloween 2 is an example of that because, even though I wasn’t a fan of the twist, I do appreciate them trying to re-contextualise the night a little. At the very least it makes for interesting viewing. And besides, in these first two Halloween movies the story really isn’t the focus. You could poke holes throughout both of them but that wouldn’t change how great or influential they are – And that’s not to say criticism of these films is invalid, but that the specifics of the narrative are hardly the reason people got so drawn to this franchise and thus I doubt criticism of these film’s narratives would influence anyone’s opinion of them particularly well. It’s the creative action, the varying perspectives and ability to merge corny subject matter and dialogue into a grounded and real environment so seamlessly and immersively that makes people like these two films. It’s the idea that, fictitious at the events of these films are, they could actually happen: Someone, anyone, could go on a killing spree for no other reason that because they can. And most of all because we are all afraid of something: The boogie man. And though our personal real life boogie man might not be a knife wielding killer – he’s more likely to take the form of our boss laying into us for being a grand total of thirty seconds late for work – he is out there.
So yes, although it isn’t quite as good as the first, I would absolutely recommend Halloween 2.
At the end of every Halloween review I will rank the movies I have reviewed so far from best to worst. Find the updated list below.
- Halloween (1978)
- Halloween 2 (1981)