Halloween II

Directed by Rick Rosenthal
Release Date: 1981

Written by John Carpenter & Debra Hill

Produced by Debra Hill & John Carpenter

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis
      Donald Pleasence
      Lance Guest
      Charles Cyphers
      Hunter Von Leer

***** (5 out of 5 stars)
It has caused me a lot of grief trying to sort out my feelings for this series.  Michael Myers is by far my favourite slasher in movie history, and until some brave filmmaker decides to change my mind I'm sticking to my guns.  The first Halloween movie was a step in a new direction: the unseen is where the terror lies.  Carpenter figured out that by not showing the killer's face, he could create an air of mystery that lends itself to the terror of Myers and his brutal path of destruction.  In this installment, we see everything.  Worst of it is that now Laurie Strode is stuck in an isolated hospital just on the edge of Haddonfield, and we watch as Michael tears the place limb from limb to find his sister.  The sense of isolation we feel in the hallways of the hospital are heightened by the fact that now we see Michael's face, and we watch as he creeps about the place, ready to murder in an instant.  Now the terror is right in our faces, we can't get away from it.  This contrast to the first film is what makes Halloween II one of the best films in the whole series.

As I just mentioned, isolation plays a huge part in this movie.  When you can put yourself into the shoes of the characters and really feel the desperation of being in the hospital while a madman stalks the halls, it really puts you on the edge.  The long empty hallways, the darkened rooms, the cold and sterile feel of hospitals, it all melts into one disturbing, long fight for survival.  The hospital itself provides a unique environment; in particular, I think of a scene where a couple nurses are chatting and in the shadows we see Michael as he hangs out in a room full of newborn babies.  Something about Michael in a place where people are supposed to be healed is almost ironic- after he's done with his victims, at least they don't have far to go to get stitched back up (if there's anything left to stitch).  There are plenty of empty patient rooms and O.Rs for Myers to creep among, places to hide in the darkness right before an unfortunate individual walks by.

Jamie Lee Curtis is the only Laurie Strode there is, she is perfect in this role.  She's a frightened, damaged young girl in this second film and this is where we first uncover the truth about her and Michael's relationship.  I couldn't imagine any other actress to play the role.  
Of course, Donald Pleasence is back as Dr. Samuel Loomis and this is him and at the height of greatness.  Loomis knew right from the start that Michael would do damage, and once again nobody believes him.  This is a central theme throughout the whole series: Loomis knows what's coming, but nobody heeds his warnings.  Probably because he sounds like a maniac most of the time, shooting at anything that even resembles the shape of Myers.  In the end though, he is always right.  Here we get to see the big showdown between Loomis and Michael, ending in an excellent explosion.  Pleasence brings a very down to earth feel to Loomis, who is written as a crazy, obsessed doctor; even on the rampage after Myers, Loomis is still played down to perfection.  Any of the series' installments that have Loomis in them are mostly my personal favourites.  The dynamic between Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis is incredible.

There are several really cool kills in this movie.  Before I get to them, I have to mention something that almost ruined the movie for me until they cleared it up.  At one point, someone wearing the same blank William Shatner mask is seen on the street and assumed to be Myers; a police cruiser then flies into him, pinning the man to a van, and then an explosion goes up leaving the man burning in flame.  The police then get a call, and take off with Looms- what the fuck?  They just left the man burning in flames.  Whether or not it was Myers, wouldn't they take some time to look into?  Over the course of the film, they do cover their bases and it saved their asses because I was almost ready to throw the DVD into the street because of it.
Moving on to the kills.  Specifically a brutal kill in a hot tub, which left my jaw dropped.  1981 wasn't exactly the time of stellar effects, but they pull off a lot of great kills.  Blood was never huge in this series, and that's something I enjoyed, but we do see the viciousness at the hands of Myers.  We also see the beginning of Michael's routine: isolate everyone as individually as possible, then slaughter them one by one.  He methodically picks everyone off, luring them out like a hunter with his prey.  This is the standard for most slashers now, that the killer picks off all the victims one by one, sometimes in pairs.  This is where the isolated hospital environment really comes in hand.  We also get a lot more "Michael creeps out of the darkness" in this film (i.e a young nurse finds the doctor dead in his office and Myers slowly comes out of the darkness, his gleaming white mask seeping out of the background).

Overall, this movie is worth each of the 5 stars.  I love the kills, the plot, and of course the acting.  Another thing I love is the introduction of Samhain, essentially setting up the supernatural elements which start to take place in the rest of the series.  Here we begin to see where they're going with Myers' character- instead of being just a random serial killer, now he starts to become something even scarier.  I recommend this to any fan of old school horror, and anybody who's looking for a really creepy movie especially around October 31st.

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