Day Eighteen: Halloween II (1981) - dir. Rick Rosenthal
Where it took only a year to make the sequel to the highly profitable Friday the 13th, it wasn’t until three years later that the cards fell into place for the sequel to Halloween, one of the most successful independently produced films ever. Carpenter, however, was afraid of being typecast as a horror director so, instead of directing, he and Debra Hill took on the writing credits for Halloween II and gave over the directing reins to Rick Rosenthal. Though I would argue that the first one is still the superior film of the two because of its excellent directing and use of tense, suspenseful moments, there is a pretty wide collection of fans that would argue for this film being the best. I can, at least, understand their position. There is much to like about this film.
For one thing, it builds off of the action of the prior film by dropping the audience right into the aftermath of the first film. Laurie Strode has been transported to the local hospital to be cared for after the attack my Michael Myers in the first film. Most of the action takes place in the hospital; giving the film a more claustrophobic feel. It does not feel like there are as many places to run to or hide (even though most hospitals are bigger than neighborhood blocks where the first film was set). However, the hospital setting works extremely well for a sequel and it is a mystery to this day why hospitals were not the settings of more slasher flicks. Another thing that could be argued is that Curtis was required to have a wider range of expressions in this film whereas the first film really had her as more of a nameless babysitter who happened to be targeted by an evil killer.
The most important argument that most would make was the complication of the Myers/Strode story line that is presented in this film. In the first film, Strode as a target for Michael Myers seemed random, at best. It was just horrible luck that she happened to be the one who got in Myers’ way. However, the beauty of this film is we find, whether it had been planned from the beginning or not, that Laurie Strode was actually adopted by the Strodes and that she was actually the youngest sister of the Michael Myers. She is blood. This knowledge adds a whole new level to the detrimental nature of the chase. It’s like Myers is not satisfied that he hadn’t gotten rid of both of his siblings. So he broke free in order to finish what he started. That was a clever twist on the slasher formula. That the prey of the psychotic killer would, in fact, be related to him.
These are good reasons to hold the first sequel, at least, as equal with the first film, if not better overall. However, I still find the iconography of the Myers’ archetype is more solidly formed in the original film and Carpenter’s ability to ramp the tension up to such a high level is a credit to him alone. But this, in no way, denigrates the quality of Rosenthal’s sequel, which has its fair share of superb qualities.
The thing I find so fascinating about these first two Halloween films is how the movies interact with each other. Watching the sequel first would absolutely destroy the effectiveness of the original film, because the viewer knows too much at that point. The viewer must enter into the beguiling nature of the first film. Because in the first film, the viewer is left clueless as to why Michael came back to Haddonfield in the first place and once he strikes upon Laurie Strode, in the initial film, it seems that he devotes all of his attention to her. If he was just a madman loose, then it would seem that he would be going for quantity of kills instead of becoming a guided missile. By halfway through the film, the observant viewer will start to wonder why he is always watching Strode. Why does he end up devoting all of his attention, by the end of the film, toward her instead of moving on? Then the viewer tosses in the sequel and things start to make sense with the knew knowledge of their relationship. And something magical happens. The viewer starts to reflect back onto the first film the knowledge that they now have and mysterious elements from the first film are given a clarity and fullness with the new knowledge that were once shrouded in shadows; they were kept hidden, though subtly suggested in the first film.
So why do I find this element of interaction so intriguing? Because what I just described through the interaction of these two films is, in fact, how we, too, should understand the interaction between the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. You see reading the Old Testament is much like watching the first Halloween in that it is a magnificent story that is shrouded in a mystery of things not fully understood nor completed. There are these characters and there is this Hebrew God and we see the interaction, which is largely negative in that the Israelites are, time and time again, failures in obeying the commands of the God that has made a covenant with them. And there are elements in the Old Testament that seem (and, ultimately, are) foreshadowing future events, but it is not, altogether, easily understood, but only subtly hinted at. Then comes the New Testament and we see the God man who is born of a virgin and is God’s own Son. He is the foreshadowed prophet, priest and king that the Israelites were waiting for (even though according to the Gospels, his own people largely rejected him). With the New Testament, the reader is brought into a more clear and more full understanding of the larger story, the story that the Israelites largely missed. The relationship of God and his people is given a fullness and completion that wasn’t present in the Old Testament, but was alluded to. This would be the same as seeing Halloween II and gaining that surprising knowledge of the relationship between Laurie Strode and Michael Myers.
Then with the the entrance of the New Testament, something truly beautiful happens, with the new revelation we have been give my God in the person of Christ, we, now, look back on the stories of the Old Testament and we begin to see how this new person of Christ was present all along in the revelation of the Old Testament. The Old Testament is pregnant with expectation of Christ’s coming and his work on the cross to complete the work that no created men could ever do; for the Law led only to condemnation and recognition of our weakness and sinful natures. But this new knowledge, literally the Word of God become flesh, allows for the reader to have a more full and completed understanding of the big picture, of who exactly their God is and what their relationship with Him really means.
I bet you have never heard the Bible explained this way, have you? You all have John Carpenter to thank for this rather insightful, albeit probably unforeseen, allegory for a proper textual reading of the Christian Scriptures.