Merry Christmas, everyone. If you’re like me, the holidays are a great time for a nice, bloody slasher film, and who better than Michael Myers to personify the spirit of the season.
To say I was “fascinated” by “Halloween II” (1981) seems like an overstatement, but I was surprised, and, as sequels go, it is unconventional.
The film opens with the climax of “Halloween” (1978). No prologue, no narration to explain what’s happening, just Jamie Lee Curtis trying not to get stabbed by Michael Myers. I assumed this was just meant to remind the audience of where the story left off. This was, after all, before the age of home media, and it was safe to assume that nobody had seen “Halloween” since its theatrical run.
I awaited a fade to black and a jump forward in time because, naturally, I expected the action to take place three years after the events of the original, since three years separated the original and the sequel. But then, seamlessly, the story just proceeds from the original’s ending, in which Michael’s body disappeared after he was shot out of a window. The next most logical events happen: Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) goes off in pursuit of Michael and Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) is taken to the hospital, unaware that Michael is following her there.
The whole of “Part II” feels like the third act of a more modern horror movie; the violence gets a little sillier, and there’s a revelation about Michael’s motivation when Loomis discovers that Michael and Laurie are siblings. It also provides a proper ending to the story, in which Loomis sacrifices himself to save Laurie and finally kill Michael.
The films have a total runtime of 180 minutes, and it wouldn’t be impossible to cut 60 minutes and splice them together to make one complete story. This may sound like heresy, but honestly, not that much happens in the original. I think it’s memorable because of John Carpenter’s score and because of that creepy feeling you get when Michael is stalking Laurie and staring at her behind that vacant-looking mask. Plot-wise, it’s pretty thin.
This got me thinking: Did the 2007 “Halloween” remake do just that? Did Rob Zombie tack the plot of “Part II” onto the end of his movie? Research tells me that he did not, the story being half-prequel and half-remake of the original. (I didn’t actually want to watch the movie, as I’m prejudiced against modern remakes.) Zombie’s film includes a fully fleshed-out backstory for Michael and, interestingly, the detail about Laurie being Michael’s sister. It seems Zombie agreed that Michael’s pursuit of her needed an explanation.
Splicing “Halloween” and “Halloween Part II” together would be a good idea if you cared about telling a complete story with these characters, but maybe that’s not the point. I guess Michael’s disappearance at the end of “Halloween” was meant to make that creepy feeling stick with you after you left the theater: He’s still out there. He could be lurking behind any hedge in your town. He could be behind the wheel of any passing station wagon. The movie was unconcerned with logic and backstory; it was about making you feel a certain kinda way.
But it’s nice to have the sequel to wrap things up, and to finally immolate Michael to a satisfyingly crispy cinder.