‘More of the night HE came home!’ screamed the posters for the second entry in the Halloween series, dropping en masse on UK Netflix in time to entrap the unwary. I genuinely fear for anyone who attempts to follow Netflix down this particular rabbit hole, since few films franchises have such shonky continuity and mind-bending revisions. With a third film attempting to re-fashion the franchise as an anthology series, the franchise tails off into oblivion before being rebooted with a further two sequels, then rebooted with a horrid remake and sequel by Rob Zombie, then re-sequelised ignoring everything but the first film under the original title by David Gordon Green in 2019, with two more sequels to that sequel due out this year and next. Confused? You will be; there’s just no way of sorting out an eleven film guddle like this…
1978’s Halloween is a simple enough film; a maniac named Michael Myers with supernatural strength escapes from the local mental institution and heads for Haddonfield where he murders various people before being stopped by game gal Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and his captor Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasence). Carpenter’s musical score and the gliding POV camera made this memorable, but the magic never quite returned. Rick Rosenthal’s sequel at least has an innovative concept; rather than reset the stakes, Halloween II literally just continues from the moment the first film stops, and continues towards the next morning following Michael Meyers on his rampage, Dr Loomis in his investigation, and Laurie as she recuperates in hospital.
The paths of the three characters cross in an explosive hospital finale, but Halloween II makes a dull job of keeping iconic characters apart, wasting our time with dull new characters like horny doctors and nurses, red herrings like Loomis thinking he’s killed Myers only to find out hours later via an autopsy that he hasn’t, and some nasty if unexciting kills. Even though it was a big hit, there’s a reason that Halloween II has been ret-conned out of the current time-line; it’s just not very good. What is interesting is Loomis’ discussion on Myers origins, and the Gaelic festival of Samhaim, but there’s only a couple of minutes of that, while much more time is taken up with an Empire Strikes Back revelation that Michael is Laurie’s brother, which really doesn’t make any sense at all.
My interest in the original Halloween films is minimal; the first needs no introduction, the third is an amusingly goofy off-shoot, and I’ve never had the time or inclination to consider the rest. The holy grail is understood to be a scene in one of the later films in which Donald Pleasence and Paul Rudd appear together in one of cinema’s most unlikely pairings, but I might just skip forward to whichever this one is. The recent entries have toned down the seam of violence towards women featured in the original Halloween films, but with little else to distract us, the endless exploitation of female vulnerability makes them distasteful and tiresome to watch. We wouldn’t revive the worst racist or sexist comedy from forty years ago, but for some reason, such brutality towards women can still be promoted heavily on streaming as fashionable classics for thrillseekers to savour.