Countdown to Halloween: The Legacy of Michael Myers Part 2

In anticipation of the upcoming sequelboot of the Halloween franchise, in which every entry but the first are to be eliminated from canon, I decided to give one last look at the whole series before it is banished into the Soul Stone for good. As it currently stands, the Halloween series has a pretty crazy continuity, complete with alternate endings, ridiculous retcons, and an unrelated anthology entry about magic masks that fill kids’ heads with bugs. There’s a reboot and a sequel to the reboot, both of which have multiple conflicting endings of their own as well. It’s a glorious mess, so there’s really no reason to treat any future story developments as anything out of the ordinary. No, Michael Myers has never made it to outer space, nor has he dueled with another horror heavy (although Halloween vs Hellraiser did almost happen) but he’s certainly been around the block enough times to merit an investigation into just what has kept this killer alive for so long, and just why we are now throwing most of his work in the canonical trash. I will be watching the entire series in order of release, starting with John Carpenter’s seminal 1978 classic which, for my money, remains one of the finest fright films ever made. Read the whole series here.

Halloween 2 (1981)

“From The People Who Brought You Halloween… More Of The Night He Came Home.”

Director: Rick Rosenthal

Writer: John Carpenter, Debra Hill

Stars: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Charles Cyphers, Jeffrey Kramer, Lance Guest, Pamela Susan Shoop, Ana Alicia 

Michael Myers played by: Dick Warlock. Sweet, tiny, little Dick Warlock.

Plot: Having just survived Michael Myers’ brutal Halloween night murder spree, Laurie Strode finds herself heavily medicated and recovering in the hospital. Meanwhile, Dr. Loomis sets about trying to find the seemingly invincible killer, whose reign of terror is far from over.

Review: This is a really weird movie. Until this particular viewing I had only seen it once, and I’m pretty sure I watched it on network TV. A few of the images looked familiar, but for the most part, this might as well have been my first true rodeo. I really don’t remember this movie being so weird. In my previous entry I mentioned that I wanted to see how the DNA of the franchise potentially shifts as it enters new decades and new eras of taste. I sincerely do not remember the aesthetic of the 1980s being so thoroughly injected into Halloween 2. Certainly, I was a young buck when I first saw it so many years ago, and as such, my tastes were not so informed as they are now. So back then, it felt like more of the same (in a good way). It is not more of the same at all. While it hasn’t departed entirely from the tone of the original film, it has shifted pretty heavily into Jason territory. Being 1981, this makes sense, and despite having a richer plot than any Friday the 13th film, none of it is compelling enough to distract form the fact that we are now here to watch some carnage enacted upon sexy ladies. This is fine, but it’s polar opposite to what makes the original film so legendary. Taken as part two of a complete story, it’s a colorful-yet-soggy second half. Taken as just a small percentage of the entire franchise, it’s probably the best of the sequels (this could change as I work through the series). Taken as a simple slasher, it’s fantastic.

The first thing that struck me about this movie is how very different Michael Myers looks. This is supposed to take place immediately after the first film ends (in fact, there opening minutes ARE the end of the first film – albeit with a few slight changes), but this just isn’t the same Michael Myers. He’s considerably shorter. Laughably so, even. When I think of Michael Myers I think of a large, imposing evil force. This guy feels dweeby by comparison. I’m afraid of this killer because the movie tells me I should be, but really, I’m not afraid at all. 

Where this succeeds is in its pacing. Since this picks up where it does, the carnage begins almost immediately. Our killer is almost immediately more creative too. Chokes and stabs were his weapons of choice earlier in the evening, but now he’s getting pretty imaginative. He boils a woman’s face, he slashes people up with scalpels, he even uses an I.V. kit to drain a woman of her blood. This is all a ton of fun, just so long as you’re willing to accept that this new Michael Myers is pretty much Jason Voorhees. In a way, his ability to use so many hospital instruments as murder weapons does make sense – he’s spent his whole life in a clinical setting. It’s not a perfect explanation, but it works for me. Being a sequel, this film is trying to be bigger in every way (except Myers’ size), so I appreciate the well staged kills. Many are shot with more overtly artistic panache than in Carpenter’s film, which took a more minimalist approach. Nobody emerges from the shadows quite like Michael Myers, and he does so here in a handful of spooky, well-framed ways. From the nurse being lifted off the ground via scalpel as Laurie, tripping on sleep meds, sees Myers for the first time, to the deeply unsettling shot of the killer’s soulless eyes making a rare appearance before spurting blood, a lot of this is straight metal. Hell, Michael Myers walks calmly through a plate glass window. It’s insane. 

The whole film tries to be bigger in every way, as most sequels do. According to Hollywood legend, after Rosenthal assembled his film, Carpenter was brought in to spice it up a bit, which is what really pushed things into 1980s territory. Carpenter, who typically treats none of his properties as sacred so long as there is money to be made, figured that in order to please horrorhounds of 1981, he’d have to change with the times. He also claimed that a six-pack of Bud a day is what got the script completed, and it shows. This is a movie that’s trying to rip rather than creep. It sounds like I’m talking smack, but I am not. I’m super into it. The music even has an added synth quality to it, which despite feeling gaudily over-produced, is sort of fun in a meta sense. Nobody escaped the 80s without a little synth.

In perhaps the most 80s moment, a very breast-centric shot is used to depict a woman who, upon being approached from behind by the killer, begins kissing his hand in a case of mistaken identity. After the film works to sexify this moment as much as possible, she is gruesomely dispatched in a way that keeps her chest jiggling. Very weird. 

Another thing that feels very strange in this movie is the odd things upon which the camera lingers. In one sequence Laurie goes from comatose in her hospital bed to up and about without any detail as to when and how she woke up. From the subsequent moments we can intuit that she’s dipping in and out of consciousness due to sleep meds (a really cool touch), but in the moment it’s jarring. Another time, a car pulls up to pick up Dr. Loomis, and a good 15 seconds is paid to him silently getting into the car and pulling away, with another 5 devoted to a police officer watching it happen. Empty shots like this keep happening. I would assume that since multiple cuts of the film exist (the tv cut features extra scenes to compensate for excised gore, and also rearranges a few other scenes – one which leaves Jimmy’s fate less ambiguous) perhaps these long shots of nothing are what grants wiggle room in the edit. Just a guess. 

I’m not a huge fan of the reveal that Laurie is actually a Myers (and I hate the stupid flashbacks that she has indicating such), but as I understand it, it’s his lineage to his victims which fuels the franchise, so I’ll take it. Worse retcons have occurred in order to keep a franchise going, and this one isn’t bad except in the scenes where we need to do the expository legwork. Loomis creeping around the school and finding Michael’s old drawings is the point where the movie slams on the brakes, albeit only for a minute or two. But by the end Michael Myers is fully on fire, making him the second fully on fire stuntman of the movie, and that rules.

Best Kill: Michael Myers isn’t even responsible for this one, but I think it counts. When Dr. Loomis sees a Myers lookalike out trick or treating, he chases him into the street with a gun, where the costumed stranger is struck by a police car and pinned against a van, where he promptly catches fire and burns to death. We find out later that this charred corpse belonged to Ben Tramer, the boy who Laurie mentions she has a crush on in the first movie. It’s so very cruel and I love it. 

Added note, Halloween 2 is very obviously sponsored by Coca-Cola. 

Best Line: “You don’t know what death is!” – Dr. Loomis scolding a cop for indicating that he has been trick-or-treated to death. This could also be a candidate for worst line. 

Worst Line: Early in the film, Myers sneaks into a house and gives an elderly couple a scare. He doesn’t kill them, but it’s enough to make the lady scream. Her neighbor hears her screaming, and after doing a half-assed wellness check, returns to a phone call. She tells her friend on the line that she heard her neighbor scream and says, rather resignedly, “His wife’s always picking on him. He probably got angry and decided to start beating her… oh, big deal!”

Ooooooooof. 

Mask: As I understand it, the mask from the original film didn’t quite hold up, due in part to the The Shape keeping it mashed in his back pocket between takes, and in part to it being stored under Debra Hill’s bed between movies. Allegedly, her heavy smoking habit left it yellowed. Personally, I think they should have kept it. This new one, coupled with Myers’ unfortunately small stature, looks like cosplay.

Dr. Loomis’ Health: Dude is positively out of his mind in this one. So much so that his occupational superiors have gotten local government to mandate his apprehension. HE DIRECTLY CAUSES THE DEATH OF BEN TRAMER. Physical health-wise, I’d say he looks about the same as before. Now roughly 62 years old, just 13 years prior to his death, it’s no surprise Pleasence didn’t see his 80s. His blood pressure looks to be about a billion (I do not know blood pressure measurement units). Loomis’ sacrificial death couldn’t have come at a better time. 

Lore: Laurie is now Michael Myers’ sister. Loomis is reunited with Marion Chambers, his colleague from the first film. Michael Myers bleeds, acts distinctly more human, and feels just a touch more destructible as a result. There are invocations of Samhain, and general satanic craft, but no clarity as to how it applies beyond Loomis being an increasingly unhinged man. He’s straight up dangerous in this movie. He killed Ben Tramer and apparently feels nothing. As it stands, this appears to be the end of the Myers tale. Loomis has sacrificed himself to kill Myers, Laurie is still alive, and the town of Haddonfield is safe. I wonder how they’re gonna milk this for 8 more entries…

Author: Dan Scully

Dan Scully is a film buff and humorist living in a tiny apartment in Philadelphia. He hosts the podcast I Like to Movie Movie and is the proud father to twin cactuses named Riggs & Murtaugh. Also, he doesn’t really mind when Batman kills people. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.

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