(Still) The Night He Came Home (Halloween II,1981)

halloween_2Halloween 2 is guilty of kicking off a lot of horror sequel trends. You remember that kid Randy from the Scream movies? The one who explained all the rules of the slasher genre? Halloween 2 pretty much nailed every one of the rules of a sequel that Randy talks about in Scream 2.

Halloween 2 does not suck. On the other hand, it is not quite as good as the first film. Carpenter and Hill are producers and helped with the script, but the film was directed by first time film director Rick Rosenthal (who has gone on to direct a lot of television, especially in the horror/fantasy genre such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Smallville) who returned to the last film before Rob Zombie’s reboot. So, as with many sequels, this was someone cutting their teeth.

Spoilers are cutting up next.  Ouch. Sorry about the pun.

The part of this film that works is we have our main cast returning and it continues on the same night as the original film.  This one picks up as Dr. Loomis believes he shot Michael dead, only, of course to look over the edge and see Michael is gone.

The story continues Michael’s unrelenting attack, though it becomes more refined.  People often forget,  it was Halloween 2 that introduced the idea that Michael and Laurie were siblings (It was also the second film that first used the song Mr. Sandman to creepy effect).  Nearly the entire second film takes place in a hospital, with the majority of film’s victims being hospital employees.

As the film starts, Laurie Strode is taken to the local hospital, which is pretty sparcely populated at the time, we see no patients (other than some newborns in the nursery at one point), only a skeletal staff of nurses and ambulance drivers.  Of the two drivers, we have the kind hearted Jimmy Lloyd (played by Last Starfighter Lance Guest) and the sex obsessed, crass Graham (played by Jeffrey Kramer).  Graham is constantly trying to get some alone time with his girlfriend, Nurse Bailey (Pamela Susan Shoop).  Jimmy on the other hand keeps trying to sneak in to talk to Laurie, though head nurse Mrs. Alves (Gloria Gifford) keeps interfering, insisting Jimmy let Laurie rest.

Dr. Loomis is still working with police to try and catch Michael, but that relationship becomes increasingly strained as the sheriff discovers that one of the dead teens is his own daughter.  It is when Marion Chambers (who we saw in the first film) comes to tell Loomis he must leave with her under state orders that they discover a truth that was hidden from even Loomis.  Michael had another sister, little Laurie Strode.  Loomis, being the determined guy he is, will not go down without a fight and demands to be taken to the hospital.

Of course, in the meantime, hospital staff have dropped like flies.  Laurie has been sedated, but she refuses to give up and stumbles through the hospital trying to escape the ever present Michael Myers.  If it sounds familiar, this is because many films have duplicated this cat and mouse since in the slasher and horror genre.  But Halloween 2 pulls it off well, it is one of the film’s strong points.

Loomis arrives at the hospital for a final showdown with Michael.  In one of the less plausible moments, Laurie manages to shoot both Michael’s eyes out with a gun…which only blinds him.   Holding a scalpel, he swings wildly as Laurie and Dr. Loomis turn on the various gas tanks in the room.  Loomis sends Laurie out of the room and then flicks a Bic lighter (okay, maybe it was some generic brand of lighter) blowing himself and Michael up.

This film ups the killings, using various implements found in the hospital (such as needles).  The kills are more gruesome and elaborate, the characters less dimensional (hardly a shock as there are more characters introduced).  It carries through pretty seamlessly from the first.  But it lacks something without Carpenter’s skilled eye for the use of shadows and light to obscure Michael.  So it has a different feel.

They do try and advance the story, rather than re-hash it (which is where we get the family connection exploited both well and poorly in later films).  It is notable that they killed Michael off believing that they were done with stories about Myers.  I mean, where else could they go?  The idea was that now they could make other movies with the Halloween title, but all new stories and characters.  And then they made Halloween 3.

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