October 31, 2014 This Week in Horror History – Halloween II (1981)
This week in horror movie history: Halloween II was released in theaters across North America on October 30th, 1981. The follow up to John Carpenter’s passionate Independent 1978 slasher, Halloween II was directed by then unknown Rick Rosenthal, while John Carpenter and Debra Hill both stayed on as producers and writers for this second installment. Many of the same actors returned for this go round to reprise their roles, including Jamie Lee Curtis (Prom Night 1980), Donald Pleasence (The Great Escape 1963), Nancy Stephens (Halloween: H20 1998), and Charles Cyphers (The Fog 1980). Newcomers to the cast included Lance Guest (Jaws: The Revenge 1987), Leo Rossi (Analyze This 1999), Pamela Susan Shoop (Empire of the Ants 1977), and stuntman Dick Warlock (Pumpkinhead 1988) as Michael Meyers himself. Alan Howarth’s score was based on Carpenter’s themes from the first movie, although the piano had been traded in for a fresher sounding synthesizer. Filmed in the spring of 1981 and released the same year, Halloween II opened to mixed reviews from critics. Despite the blended reports, fans of the original Halloween lined up around the block to find out what the bulletproof Michael Myers was up to next, and the movie grossed $7.6 million in its opening weekend.
Merging seamlessly with the end of the first movie, Halloween II begins with heroine Laurie Strode (Curtis) and Smith’s Grove Sanitarium’s Dr. Loomis (Pleasence) discovering the masked boogeyman Michael Myers has gotten away, despite being stabbed, shot and thrown out of a second story window. Dr. Loomis repeatedly tells police that he shot Myers six times, a fact that haunts him for the entire movie. Shot from Myers’ point of view, the killer sneaks into a neighboring kitchen and steals a knife from the sandwich making Mrs. Elrod. He walks next door to teen neighbor Alice’s (Anne Bruner) house and wastes no time in slashing her throat. On the ride to the hospital, Laurie insists to EMT Jimmy (Guest) that she not be put to sleep, a request that she makes again and again. Dr. Loomis is with Deputy Gary Hunt (Hunter von Leer) as he sees someone dressed remarkably similar to Myers and chases him into the street, where the man is slammed into a parked van by a speeding police car. Loomis is unsure if this person was the real Michael Myers.
Resting in her hospital bed, Laurie is visited by Jimmy, who seems to have developed a bit of a Florence Nightingale crush on her. He spills the beans about who the psycho is who’s trying to kill her. At the morgue, an examination by the coroner tells Dr. Loomis that the charred body in the morgue was not Myers. The Doctor and Sheriff leave to keep looking. Again from Myers’ point of view, he walks down the street and overhears a radio broadcast on a teen’s boombox that Laurie has been sent to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital. Once Myers arrives, he gets busy taking out anyone in his way, from strangling the pot smoking, horny EMT Budd (Rossi) to cooking Nurse Karen’s (Shoop) face in the boiling hydrotherapy pool to hypodermically injecting air into the brains of both ER Dr. Mixter (Ford Rainey) and Orderly Janet (Ana Alicia). The hospital phones do not work, so the survivors are unable to call the Sheriff’s office for help. Loomis and Deputy Hunt find evidence that Myers had been in a school, and they see the word Samhain written in blood. Loomis thinks the reason Michael will not die is because of magical Samhain, AKA Halloween. Nurse Marion Chambers (Stephens) from the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium shows up and tells Dr. Loomis that he needs to go with her and her accompanying Marshall (John Zenda) back to the asylum.
Back at the hospital, Jimmy finds Laurie barely conscious and calls a nurse for help. When she does not return, he figures Michael Myers must be in the building. He finds Nurse Jill (Tawny Moyer) and tells her to go for help, and then finds Nurse Alves dead on a gurney, her blood drained out onto the floor by an open IV tube. He slips in the blood and knocks himself out. Returning to Myers’ point of view, he arrives at Laurie’s room and stabs at the blankets with a scalpel, but only hits pillows. Laurie has left her bed. She is hobbling through the hallways, barely awake, looking for a working phone. Outside, Nurse Jill cannot get her car started, and as she runs back to the hospital, sees that every car in the parking lot has flat tires. She finds Laurie, but Michael gets to her first and lifts her off the ground on the end of his scalpel. A chase ensues, ending with Laurie hiding outside in a car. Back in the Marshall’s car, Nurse Chambers tells Dr. Loomis about a secret file on Myers, one that explains why the killer is so adamant about killing Laurie. Myers and Laurie are actually siblings. Laurie had been adopted by the Strodes after her parents died. Loomis panics at this information and pulls a gun on the Marshall, forcing him to drive the car to Haddonfield Memorial. As they arrive at the hospital, Laurie tries to call out, but they do not hear her. Michael chases her into the hospital, through the glass, and Loomis shoots him again. Myers kills the Marshall when the man tries to take his pulse. A chase into the boiler room gives Loomis the idea to turn on the gas. Loomis sends Laurie out, and as Michael continues slashing at the air, says, “It’s time,” and flicks his Bic. The room explodes. Laurie is far enough away keep from being burned, but out of the fire, a burning hulk walks out of the flames toward her. He collapses. Credits play to “Mr. Sandman” by The Chordettes, a wink to Laurie’s need to stay awake.
Creating the “final girl” slasher film archtype, the Halloween franchise spawned countless imitations. Haddonfield, NJ native Debra Hill and John Carpenter do an excellent job in weaving the storylines of the two movies together. Rick Rosenthal creates a seamless transition in tone, look and pace. The seemingly irrelevant story of the costumed boy patient with the razor blade in his tongue seems like foreshadowing for upcoming storyline of Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), while the masked boy named Ben Tramer killed by the runaway police car was a nod to Laurie’s crush in the first film. All in all, Halloween II continues with the flow of the first movie, while at the same time setting us up for many slashers to come.