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Halloween II (1981)

This right here is about as perfect as a sequel can get to a film that is considered one of the greatest horror films ever made. Wasting no time on exposition due to the story already being so well established in the first film, this sequel picks up immediately after the closing moments of the first, something that plays heavily in this films favour. As well as introducing us to the Mr Sandman song that is now closely associated with the Halloween films, it also has one of my favourite opening credits sequence of any in the franchise - the carved Halloween pumpkin slowly opening up to reveal a skull inside. In this second installment, we don’t get to see the return of Nick Castle from the original, instead it is Dick Warlock who takes on role of Micheal Myers (The Shape). I wouldn't say I didn't like his portrayal of the character but it is certainly noticeably different. Warlock is much shorter in stature and had to wear platform shoes in order to give the image of him being similar in height to the first film. He is slightly more robotic and unnatural in his walk and movements, something I'm not sure was a directional cue or an interpretation of his own. The more glaringly obvious difference though is the mask. Alrhough it is the same mask used in 1978, latex doesn't age well and with Warlock having a different shaped head to Castle this caused the mask to look more rounded and stretched than previously. It is clear that the directors chair was switched for this film, with Carpenter stepping down and Rick Rosenthal taking his place. As much as it feels very similar in cinematography and tone, it is clear Rosenthal wanted to have a much more violent and blood soaked version of Halloween from what we had seen previously. With not so much as a single drop of blood being spilt in the first, part two brings a much more creative, tactical and aggressive Myers. This is something I was very much on board for, with this installment creating some of the best kills in the franchise. Nurse Karen's ultimate demise at the hands of Myers as he holds her under water in a scolding hot bath, as well as the more iconic death of Nurse Jill - taking a scalpel to the back and being lifted into the air, we’re undoubtedly two of the most impactful. Jamie Lee Curtis returns once again as Laurie strode, only cementing her status as the the ultimate final girl in horror. Not only surviving two onslaughts from Myers on the same night but doing it this time with multiple stab wounds and a broken leg. As much as her role seems somewhat limited, this time in comparison to the first, she really does give a great performance in the last third of this film. The great Donald Pleasance is back in a much more substantial role as Dr Loomis, something I always felt was missing from the first. He gave us the iconic and most quotable lines from the franchise in this installment with "I shot him 6 times" and the more much quotable for me "you don't know what death is". For all I embrace every moment he’s on screen, I do find him much more endearing when he is being subtle in his dialogue, rather than the screaming lunatic he later becomes known for in parts four and more so five. It is here where we first start to see the cracks appearing in the narrative of these films. This film sets in motion a plot device that for one reason or another the entireity of the franchise molds itself around. As it is revealed to us that Micheal and Laurie are infact unexpectedly biological siblings, this particular storyline really does put this whole series of films in a bit of a creative predicament. I do feel as a contained narrative it works well between one and two and is genuinely interesting, it's only in later films where they are clearly backed into a corner with where to take things and the franchise becomes contrived. The biggest issue I take with this film is how under utilised the outstanding John Carpenter's score is from the first. You have the signature kill screech, but there were many times where I felt the eerie undertones of Carpenter could have played a vital part in aiding the building tension we see playing out on screen. The first time this became apparent was during the security guards search of the basement area, before he takes a hammer to the forehead. This whole scene is done in silence and it's not until much later on in the film once Laurie is back on the run that this score comes back into play. The score from the original for me is almost as defining as the film itself and to see such a wasted opportunity was very disappointing as someone who is such a big fan of the work done by Carpenter in the original. For all this films flaws, I can't help but rank it very highly on my list as one of the better films in the franchise. Working perfectly as a companion piece to the first and feeling very much like one continuous film. I find it nearly impossible to watch the first without immediately watching part two in quick succession. As Halloween fans, it's certainly not always plain sailing with the sequels and for me this is about as good as it get in terms of a true sequel to the masterpiece that John Carpenter so carefully crafted in 1978. I still strongly believe that this should have been kept as cannon in the 2018 continuity.


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