Halloween Marathon: 1981

I’m doing this because I haven’t seen them all and have a lot of work to do and need something to watch. It’s been about 20 odd years since I watched this original, so let’s delve back in…

Previously – 1978

Movie: Halloween II

Released: 1981

Director: Rob Rosenthal

Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Dick Warlock, Charles Cyphers, Lance Guest, Pamela Susan Shoop, Hunter von Leer, Tawny Moyer

Plot: Michael Myers’ attack on Haddonfield continues as Laurie is taken to the hospital. Her attacker follows her trail while Dr. Loomis follows him.

Review: If there’s one thing this movie is successful at, it’s continuing the style and story of the original. They pick up immediately after the events of the first movie, where Myers (Warlock) had slipped away into the night. Now that the townspeople are aware of the killer in their midst, there’s a feeling of tension throughout the film. People are aware of the menace through the media, and police are patrolling the streets. There’s even a mob looking to trash the Myers house, which ultimately distracts the authorities from where the real danger is. Laurie (Curtis) remains Myers’ main target, and she’s vulnerable at the hospital where the staff are being picked off one by one.

Unfortunately Laurie is unconscious, catatonic or napping through-out much of the film. After seeing her rise to the occasion in the previous film it’s a real bummer to have Laurie stripped of her agency. It’s good that she hasn’t morphed into a superhero survivor, and is left in bad shape, but she really doesn’t do much aside from crawl around this time. We also get the twist that Michael is Laurie’s brother, giving him a motivation for focusing on her. This may have been an integral aspect of the franchise moving forward, but explaining Michael’s behaviour doesn’t make him more interesting or scary. She could simply have been the one who got away.

Laurie taking a back seat might have been more palatable if we had some kind of interesting character’s to fill the space, but what we’re left with is a clutch of forgettable redshirts. None of them have much motivation beyond turning up for work, whilst those with strong emotional arcs from the first film are sidelined. The real connective tissue is Dr. Loomis (Pleasence), freewheeling around the suburbs yelling at people. Whenever Michael strikes it feels more like working down a checklist than driven by some evil purpose. The kills are more imaginative, but the victims might as well be extras.

Although this sequel wears the skin of the original, it’s not the same heart beating underneath. It appears to be a well documented fact that Carpenter and Hill were not interested in revisiting the story of Michael Myers and this is reflected in the dumb behaviour of the characters. Substituting the growing dread for increased gore doesn’t make the movie much more interesting. It’s curious to wonder how much the Michael Myers lore and legacy would have changed if this cash-grab hadn’t been pushed through production.

Rating: FIVE out of TEN