Contributor: Rick McGimpsey
If the first Halloween was a well-made suspense story exploring the embodiment of evil, then Halloween II is a weak follow-up that tried too hard to cash in on a genre that was itself born as an attempt to cash in on the first Halloween. No one can miss the irony, but indeed, Halloween II follows in the footsteps of Friday of the 13th more than it does its predecessor. Friday the 13th was a cheap slasher flick that was imitative of Halloween, but lacked its subtlety and suspense going instead for more exploitative directions.
It is a sad sight to see Halloween follow in this pattern. Halloween II is a bloody slashfest that is packed full of action, screams, and sex; but devoid of suspense, fear, or contemplation.
The story is set immediately where the original film left off. Dr. Loomis leaves the house to find Michael Myers who is still evidently roaming Haddonfield wounded with the six bullets Loomis shot into him. His murderous rampage continues and it makes less sense than it did in the first film. In the 1978 film all we knew was that he was pure evil and so killing for him was a natural act. Here we discover that he, for some reason in connection with the festival of Samhain, is attempting to kill his entire family and that Laurie Strode was his little sister.
This, of course, presents a series of problems for the franchise. If his mission all along was to kill his entire family out of some cultic loyalty to a pagan holiday why the hell did he kill all those babysitters? And why is he continuing to kill other people? You can’t say he killed people that got in his way to Laurie because he was right in front of the house. If he is so active after getting shot six times why didn’t he just walk back in while she was still vulnerable? Why go several blocks away to kill people that have nothing to do with the Myers family? He is supposed to be insane and evil. But he isn’t supposed to be stupid. Giving Michael Myers motives was the worst mistake the writers made. Now nothing he does can make any sense.
Laurie is taken to a hospital and while she is being treated by the hospital staff Loomis is still outside obsessively hunting for Michael. The hospital staff deserve some special note. I have never seen such absurdity in the sheer number of nurses, paramedics, and doctors completely without competence. It’s almost surreal. The doctor is an alcoholic, the nurses when they are not stupid they are lecherous, and the paramedics when they are not unprofessional are also lecherous. We have one pointless scene in which a paramedic and a nurse decide to get intimate in a hot tub while on duty. Once the woman removes her top you realise immediately that there is more plastic in her body than Michael Myers’s mask. They are eventually killed by Michael and so is most of the staff at the hospital. But before this happens Dr. Loomis is making an ass of himself outside hunting for him. His relationship with the police is disintegrating as his obsession becomes dangerous and after it is revealed that one of the babysitters was the daughter of one of the cops. The police’s patience for the man reaches an understandable limit when Loomis harasses a trick or treater wearing a mask similar to Michael’s. Why a Captain Kirk mask painted white was popular that year is beyond me, but Loomis scares the teen enough to walk to the centre of the road where he is hit by a cop car and killed. After the body is examined it is discovered to have belonged to Ben Tramer the boy Laurie had a crush on. When it rains it pours.
Despite being forced to face his own actions Loomis’s obsession reaches maniacal levels and he eventually hijacks a police car at gunpoint and demands to be taken to the hospital where Laurie is staying. They make it just in time to find most of the staff dead, but Laurie is alive and trying to survive Michael Myers stalking her.
Loomis lures Michael in a room that he fills with ether and oxygen gas and while Laurie flees the Doctor lights up a lighter which ignites the gas causing an explosion that presumably kills him and Michael. The film ends with Laurie (who is obviously having the worst night of her life) being taken in an ambulance alive but shaken.
Since the story takes place right after the ending of the first one a meticulous fan could edit the two films by seaming them together. They would just have to remove Halloween II’s opening credits and the first film’s end credits and they would have one three-hour long story about Michael Myers’s return to Haddonfield on the Halloween night of 1978. Unfortunately, one problem persists when one does this. Halloween II’s tone is so vastly different from the original that the second half would still feel like a separate movie. In Halloween the violence was virtually bloodless and the sexual content was relevantly connected to the story. In Halloween II the violence is bloody and gruesome featuring hypodermic needles inserted into eye sockets and floors so splattered with blood that people trip over them. And the nudity takes on an exploitative eroticism with the same unrealistic look and feel of softcore pornography. All subtlety was thrown out the window to be replaced with a juvenile love of violence and sex. That may work and be appropriate for films like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, but its presence is unwelcome and insulting to Halloween. We moved from the style of Hitchcock to the style of Roger Corman in one sequel. And it’s a damn shame. A descent from greatness was observed the day this film was released.