I know, I know… How many times can this one be written or read about? Well, the fact is Halloween II wasn’t my first pick to revisit this go-round.
I was torn betwixt this:
Then the unseasonably warm weather here in Louisville finally dropped enough degrees to warrant taking walks around the block, hoping to spot pale-masked men peeking at me from behind neighbors’ hedges.
Unable to muster the inspiration to type a word about any film not starring Michael Myers, I quickly realized that I had to delve into More of the Night He Came Home.
My passion for this sequel probably starts with that artwork. Born the same year this fine film was released, I certainly took in the VHS art plenty of times before taping the flick off USA ,October 31st, 1990. VHS cover art aside, I gotta confess: I will always adore any film poster that proclaims its “All New” status at an uphill slant – but this flick’s poster takes the cake. As if that grinning Skull-O-Lattern wasn’t enough to get you jazzed about Michael’s latest flesh wreckage, the brains behind the ad campaign also wanted to remind you that Halloween II is both frightening and fresh out of the oven.
There are plenty of fun things to reminisce upon in the series’ other entries, such as the beautiful opening credits in part 4:
But on the whole, I get pretty cranky at every entry after part II, and tend to avoid any reason to get upset with Michael Myers this close to the 31st. Oh sure, I can watch portions of 4 and 5 without getting too bitchy on All Hallow’s Eve – they get sort of a pass. But sit me down to watch anything from part 4 to part Zombie any other time of the year, and I start barking discontent at anyone in the room like my old man watching the Cardinals fuck up a field goal.
Now, I’m aware of Michael’s murders and the film’s tone being altered by the infamous “collaboration” between director Rick Rosenthal and John Carpenter. That business has been and can be investigated elsewhere. What I’m interested in here is what we SEE on the screen. As such, I deem two aspects of II to be the most delicious: it picks up right where the last one left off, and Michael’s attitude hasn’t changed one bit after being shot six times by loopy Dr. Loomis.
When the marvelously operatic opening credits are over (Alan Howarth’s choice of irksome synth for the score is certainly redeemed by a hefty layer of fiery church organ), the film resumes with Myers’ POV shot, once again zooming around Haddonfield’s friendly streets. This prompt continuation of the story makes me as giddy as receiving a full-sized Snickers instead of fun-sized as treatage. If I can never enjoy watching Indiana Jones recuperate in real time from his previous adventure before beginning another, I’m perpetually thankful that I was at least permitted to see Michael Myers do such.
Mike steals a butcher knife from an old couples’ home without killing them. I get that – he picks and chooses his victims. Then he decides to waste a young gal jabbering on the phone to a friend. Makes sense, no? Michael prefers to damage young skin – always has. Additionally, Mike’s sense of humor is still in tact.
There’s a moment from the first film that properly illustrates Michael’s enthusiasm for a good joke. Here are three examples of the masked one’s hijinks in the sequel:
1. Mike decides to look for Laurie at the local hospital she’s resting in. While he’s there, he leaves a trail of broken padlocks throughout the hospital’s maintenance property for a security guard to follow. Once the security guard finds Mike, Mike rewards his investigation by planting the claw of a hammer into his balding noggin. He could’ve politely smacked the guard from behind like Jason did to a similarly mustachioed and heavyset cop in Friday the 13th Part 2:
But no… Mike steps right in front of the guard to give him a good look at his last sight, which is the last thing anyone would want to see. HA! Get it?
Skip to 2:30 in for the funny:
2. Mike lets two irresponsible hospital employees get snuggly in the therapy room’s hot tub. The girl, played by the lovely Pamela Shoop gets uncomfortably toasty once Mike is turning up the heat in a separate room. Mike strangles the boyfriend when he goes to check the temperature, then dupes the girl into thinking he’s her boyfriend by gently touching her shoulder from behind. Seems Mike’s in the mood to pull the I’m-your-boyfriend gag again, which ends in him forcing Pamela to bob for death in the now boiling-hot water. Ha! The Boyfriend Bit always gets ‘em, right Mike?
3. Mike slashes the throat of bitchy yet well-meaning Nurse Alves. Then, for kicks, pops a catheter tube into her arm so she can drain blood all over an operating room’s floor. One can only hope that Michael was nearby when innocent ambulance assistant Jimmy (Lance Guest) slips hard on Nurse Alves’ blood and smacks his head on the floor. A prank pulled off that well deserves to be seen by the prankster.
Michael kills plenty of others in the flick once he enters the hospital harboring Laurie Strode, and they’re all murdered with medical supplies he finds, which is also funny to me. Why kill a drunk doctor with a knife when you can jab him in the eye with a syringe full of air? Why kill a nurse checking on the drunk doctor with a knife when you can jab her in the temple with a syringe full of air? And why kill another nurse with a knife when you can jab a tiny scalpel into her back then hold her aloft for a while?
The entire film doesn’t tickle my funny bone, though. In fact, I’ve thought quite hard on it before. There’s always been controversy about Reagan’s possible involvement in the mentally ill being deinstitutionalized, though some theories believe this practice began in the 60’s and 70’s. I’m not sure who primarily is to blame for what would eventually lead to the disturbing homeless situation we saw take place in the 80’s, but I can’t ignore the fact that hordes of unstable people roaming the streets may have affected horror’s human-vs.-human answer to cinematic terror in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Did this strange notion possibly subconsciously influence Rob Zombie’s own Halloween II?
I have no idea, but it’s interesting to consider.
Regardless of your thoughts on that odd bit of history,1981’s Halloween II remains a powerfully freakish story.
To witness a once committed inmate returning to a hospital of any kind to use tools intended for human repair as weapons strikes a chord deeper than watching any backwoods throwback use a woodshed staple to crack a skull or split a stomach. For as silly as Halloween II can be and as cozy Michael has become for us, a serious queasiness can be felt from the sequel: in this film, you’re not only unsafe in your home, but also the hospital you retreat to for care once you’ve been assaulted. Your neighbors can’t even be trusted, as evidenced in the first film by fellow suburbanites ignoring Laurie’s screams then more freakishly demonstrated in part II’s horrific razor-blade-in-the-candy scene. And the ultimate good guys – the cops? Not only do they fail at protecting the innocent, they shed innocent blood themselves.
The movie doesn’t rest until the entire community of Haddonfield is smoldering in a very real Hell. The calculated eeriness that permeated the first film gives way to angry, tragic chaos in the sequel. That’s why I can never turn off “Mr. Sandman” when it comes on the radio – its haunting cheerfulness takes me right back to Haddonfield every time, and it hurts so good.
Now. Let’s put on our devil-may-care caps and whimsically skip over the mumbo jumbo about Laurie being Mike’s sister so we can discuss the flick’s wicked bastard of a finale.
It’s down to Laurie, Loomis and Michael, who gets shot in both eyes by Laurie. POP-POP!
Then Loomis uses gas and his lighter to turn Michael into this:
Which means in part 4, he should probably look like this under those bandages and not have any eyeballs:
Which also means whoever decided to give him this much hair in part 5 is as much of a boob as whoever decided to give him back his eyeballs in part 4:
Whoops! Getting away from part II – bad news. Better wrap things up, eh? I feel a tantrum coming on, and we’ve come too far to let one of those things ruin a good time.
Here’s to the original Halloween II and here’s to your Happy Halloween, my friends. Be sure to check your candy and let me know your own thoughts on this nasty holiday horror.
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