A Statistical Review of Halloween II

Halloween II is responsible for introducing the horror genre to me. The original is a better movie but I’ll always look fondly at those darkened, poorly staffed hallways of Haddonfield Memorial Hospital. It was there that my love of Michael Myers began.  As I  But hospitals these days…they need statisticians! So I’m here to provide my support. Here is my statistical review of Halloween II.

Halloween II Breakdown By Type of Scene

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Figure 1 – Ratings and Impact Percentage By Type of Scene.  Rating indicates quality.  Impact Percentage indicates the feel (so a 50% tense movie feels like its basically intense half the time).

This is a worthy follow-up to Halloween.  85.78 is a strong score, particularly for a slasher sequel. There was no way it was going to reach the levels of the original but this is a strong imitation. But what makes it tick?

Plot accounts for a Score and Impact Percentage of 40.26 and 46.9% which is higher than the original.  We start fairly bare-boned though, as seen in Figure 2.  Michael Myers is still on the loose and the plot of the first sixty minutes consists almost completely of Laurie being taken to a hospital and Michael chilling until he listens to the radio and decides to take a stroll to the very same hospital.  There are a ton of flat sections early in the graph; since this is a direct follow-up to the original, the movie eschews bogging down the early portions with plot.  As Figure 3 shows, the Plot Impact Percentage stays around 25% for the first hour or so.  Its at this point that worlds begin to collide and minds are blown as Laurie, Doctor Loomis, and the viewers all begin to realize that Michael Myers is Laurie’s brother. With this revelation and the push to the climax, the Plot Impact Percentage jumps from 25% to its final 46.9% in about 28 minutes. After a slow start, Halloween II became much more plot-focused but its all due to the twists and revelations at the end.  No wasted time on superfluous side stories…

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…like Laurie’s search for her actual hair.

Dramatic scenes are another area where Halloween II is more focused than its predecessor.   Figure 2 shows that the early on, the drama is bit subdued.  When Michael learns Laurie is at the hospital (around thirty minutes in) is when the drama commences its steady ascent for the rest of the movie.  Everyone is now aware of Michael Myers and his murderous hijinx since its been all over the news.  We alternate between scenes of Dr. Loomis ranting and raving (and causing the death of innocent drunk teenagers and moving on like it was no big deal), Laurie moping about the lack of quality time she’s had with her brother in the past fifteen years, and (most importantly), side characters not acting like f****** buffoons!   Once Michael begins misusing medical equipment, these characters (being more genre-savvy than their peers in other slasher movies) actually are concerned and scared which helps the drama. This is the primary reason why the drama is pretty effective in Halloween II.  It’s not stupid character conflict; instead its characters realizing that shit is hitting the fan.  If the drama was weaker, the midsection of the movie would have struggled mightily since it is around then that the Drama Impact Percentage rises to 50-55% (Figure 3).  While the midsection is slower, its by no means bad.

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Figure 2 – Score over time of different types of scenes.  Steep is better.  Shallow is worse.  Flat is bad or not present.

Halloween II maintains many of the same stylistic choices of the first one which means its still got plenty of scary sequences.  Rick Rosenthal incorporates those lingering shots that Carpenter used so well in the original to build up the tension.  Michael can be spotted in the background more often in this movie than in the original and without music to boot (in Halloween, his presence was usually marked by a stinger).  The sequences where he is standing behind Mrs. Elrod or when he’s perring at Karen and Mrs. Alves from the nursery are incredible images (and major reasons why this movie sold me on the slasher genre).halloween-2-1981 Additionally, the quantity of kill scenes is much higher here as Halloween II was doing battle with movies like Friday the 13th.  You can see this is Figure 2 where there are these minor spikes in the Tense Score graph.  While these kills are in general very effective (the image of Karen’s face peeling apart is embedded in my brain), the overall scares are not quite as effective or elaborate as before (Score of 56.15 and Impact of 65.5%).  The first twelve minutes are nothing but strong tension but the ensuing 45 minutes are light on suspense (as seen by the flat sections of the Tense Score in Figure 2)  There are bursts of violence such as Alice’s death scene (a scene I think that should have been cut out) or Janet’s death (a genuinely chilling but very short scene).  But the long, drawn-out stalking scenes are mostly gone (see Annie in the original).  Karen’s death scene is drawn out nicely and has a similar vibe to Linda’s death in the original.  But the one attempt at generating a similar vibe to the original falls flat.  Mr. Garret stumbling around outside goes on far too long and is riddled with cliches and is just tedious.  They could have had some fleeting glimpses of Michael or something but instead, it was literally nothing.   However, the scene is redeemed by his death by hammer being fantastic (LOVE that “thunk” sound effect).

So Halloween II never quite reaches the levels of the original in terms of the scares.  However, once Jill gets stabbed in the back and her clogs fall off, shit gets real.  The chase music kicks in and the intensity ratchets up.  This is where the movie leans more heavily on being scary rather than on drama (see the diverging red and green lines in around 60 minutes into the movie in Figure 3) and it is extremely effective.

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Jill’s entire character arc can be explained as “nurse who should have gotten better fitting shoes”

Halloween II may have its predecessor’s DNA but it also learned some bad habits from it’s slasher peers, particularly with respect to character development (Score of 25.33).  Now don’t get me wrong, I find almost all of the characters in and around the hospital to be well-acted and sympathetic.  But the actual character development is lacking.  Halloween masterfully balanced tension with character-building in its first half.  In Halloween II, we have so many characters but the slope of the Character Score (Figure 2) never really gets that steep and the Character Impact Percentage never gets much higher than 35% (Figure 3).  Most of the character work early on is focused on Jimmy and Laurie’s relationship which is fine but it would have been nice to learn more about the other minor characters.

Obviously I can’t talk about this movie’s character development without talking about the big twist of Michael being an awful older brother to Laurie.  I think it’s fairly effective for this particular movie (and the sequels) so in that way, I think it was a good development.  My only issue with it is that it somewhat neuters it’s predecessor.  Halloween feels so much scarier knowing he is stalking Laurie just because she was the first girl he spotted upon getting back to Haddonfield.  His sense of menace is diminished as soon as he’s given an actual motive.

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Figure 3 – Impact Percentage of scene type over time.  This shows how weighted towards certain types of scenes the movie felt to me over time.

 


Halloween II Breakdown By Character

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Figure 4 -Score and Impact by character. In case you’ve forgotten my simple definitions: Score is what it sounds like…higher is better. Impact is a metric that tells you the percentage of the overall score for that particular character. So a high percentage means a higher Impact.  But it says NOTHING about whether that character is good, bad, or ugly.

Despite my issues with how the plot twist somewhat diminishes his mystique, Michael Myers is still  terrifying in Halloween II.  This movie and Jason Takes Manhattan were my first forays into slasher movies and I watched them days apart.  I was mostly amazed at how much more I enjoyed Michael than I did Jason. a6ec5251aa337497ef977df8febff010 Jason always felt like a cartoon character whereas The Shape feels like an unstoppable and omniscient presence.  One of my favorite parts of this movie is that scene when he’s wandering through the halls of the hospital after Laurie wakes up from her daze.  I love the shots of him walking those hallways with “Laurie’s Theme” playing.  He’s got this inevitable aura to him and the melancholic music really plays to that.  I mean, in the context of these movies, he basically stalked Laurie all day, killed her friends, then brutally attacked her.  She managed to escape and was taken to the hospital….and now, some three or four hours later, he’s stalking her relentlessly again.  It really reinforces all of Loomis’ speeches about Michael and the force inside of him biding its time.

All that being said,  Michael is a little less impactful in this movie than in the original Halloween (65.6% vs 75.2%).  His kills are a bit more to the point and he’s less of a ghostly presence here.  Michael’s movements in the first one were incredible; he was methodical but he almost had this childlike exuberance in his walk as he chased Laurie which made the final scenes all the more harrowing.  Here he’s much more robotic.  I love Dick Warlock’s portrayal in this movie but there are moments where I feel like his robotic movements are a bit too much.  In particular, his lack of urgency with the elevator always annoys me.

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Figure 5 – Score over time for the main characters.  Steep is better.  Shallow is worse.  Flat is bad or not present.

Additionally, Michael only becomes that constant presence in the back half of the movie.  Early on he is less active, as seen above.  Figure 5 shows how after the first ten minutes, Michael is sidelined until 55 minutes in.  Sure in between we have a couple of Michael scenes but more time is dedicated to watching Laurie and Jimmy’s burgeoning relationship. Michael meanders about until Bud and Karen abscond to the hot tub at which point, Michael must have looked at his watch and said “oh crap look at the time!”  From there on, he stakes his rightful claim on the movie.

Laurie is still a good protagonist (Score and Impact of 40.34 and 47.0%) but that’s based on the goodwill built up from the original.   She is relegated to a sideline roll early on here and if I hadn’t seen the first movie, I’d just think that Laurie was a mediocre character.  Jamie Lee Curtis is fine but she doesn’t really do anything in this movie early on other than lie sedated in bed and flirt with Jimmy which basically accounts for her 25% Impact Percentage for the first hour as seen in Figure 6.  Her impact on this movie is a far cry from the original Halloween.  And as sweet and well written as their flirting is, shouldn’t Jimmy be offering her some space rather than a Coke?  She just found three of her friends dead, was stabbed in the shoulder, fell down the stairs, cracked a bone, stabbed an entity of pure evil three separate times, and found herself suddenly wearing a hideous wig.  Jimmy is just pretty clumsy when dealing with women.

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See? Clumsy….

Once Michael finds Laurie though, the focus of the movie solidifies as we get tension-filled chase sequences and Loomis learning about Michael and Laurie’s sub-optimal relationship.  This explains why Laurie’s Impact Percentage rises from 25% at minute 60 to 47% by movie end at minute 88.  And goddamn, her screaming “HELP ME” is one of my favorite acting moments in this series.

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Laurie’s cries for help as she crawls to the vending machine to get that Coke that Jimmy never got her go unanswered.
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Figure 6 – Impact Percentage of Characters Over Time.

Speaking of Sam Loomis, he is much more prevalent here than compared to Halloween.  In the original, he popped in here or there but was largely missing from the main action.  Here, he does still do that thing where he pops in and waxes poetic about how poorly his prescribed treatment worked for Michael Myers.  But as opposed to in Halloween where he just shows up at the end to fire those shots into Michael and stare miserably into the night, he is actively involved in the end here, which you can see in both Figures 5 and 6 as his Score and Impact both correlate with Michael’s and Laurie’s in the last fifteen minutes.

And Donald Pleasence is much more engaging here.  He’s teetering on the edge as all of his worst fears are realized.  Pleasence’s line readings are incredible (“you don’t know what death is”) and he’s a major reason why the Halloween movies feel a level or two above other slasher movies.  Loomis is quite the bad-ass in the climax (though he ended up getting the Marshall killed, making that two deaths that night he was responsible for).  It’s too bad all of his heroic efforts were pretty much nullified come Halloween 4.

Halloween II - Loomis
“I should have kicked back and enjoyed my Friday night.”

And now for the side characters.  As I mentioned earlier, they are all likable which is an important facet to any movie like this.  But none of them really rise above just being pleasant and several of them blend together (as seen by the incredibly unhelpful Figure 7).  The highest score (Figure 4) among those side characters is Jimmy with a score of 14.19.  He’s a nice character and he’s sympathetic but there’s nothing really there other than him being into Laurie.  (And he showed his true colors when he never got Laurie that Coke.)  Bud is amusing in his few scenes and Karen actually gets a little bit of development but she’s only in the movie from minute 25 to 50 (and two of those minutes are her making love to Michael’s hand and getting her face boiled).  Mrs. Alves also seems like she’s got some spunk but she’s out of the movie at around minute 30.  That leaves Janet and Jill.  Janet’s development is that she doesn’t like curse words and wears blue.  Jill’s development is that she’s blond and has loose fitting shoes.

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Figure 7 – Score over time for the side characters.  Steep is better.  Shallow is worse.  Flat is bad or not present.

I say all of this in jest because the side characters are surprisingly well-acted and once things begin going to shit, I actually worry for their well-being.   There’s something inherently tragic with the idea of these terrible things happening to these characters on a routine day at work.  The juxtaposition between Mrs. Alves telling Karen about future patient appointments and later seeing Mrs. Alves with her freaking blood completely drained….its pretty horrific.   And I think we can all relate to running to tell a superior about a problem at work just like Janet does here with Dr. Mixter.  Not all of us can relate to finding said superior with a needle jammed in his eye…

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…though many of us can relate to occasionally feeling like an “airhead” in front of our boss. Womp womp.

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Halloween II Viewing Experience Breakdown

Figures 8 and 9 shows how much I am enjoying the movie over the course of its run-time.  They are tough to explain but basically represent my average score for the movie up to the minute (so if a movie has an incredible start and a terrible finish, these graphs would show that).

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Figure 8 – My enjoyment of the movie over time, color coded by what character is focused on (so if the line dips right before hitting a certain character, you can interpret that as that character brought the score down slightly).

We get off to pretty fast start.  We revisit the end of the original (but the music used here is far inferior), Dr. Loomis delivers the first of many “harbinger of doom” lines, and we’re off to the opening credits!  And boy howdy, are those credits incredible.  Not only is the pumpkin opening up onto a skull a great twist on the Halloween opening but the synth version of the main theme is so awesome.  It’s epic and really drives home this feeling of terrifying inevitability which really encapsulates what Michael Myers is all about… or maybe its just a really catchy tune.

Once the credits end, Halloween II really takes the baton from Halloween and shows that it has what it takes to be a worthy follow-up.  The entire sequence of Michael skulking around the alleys with that nightmarish breathing is so atmospheric and doesn’t skip a beat from the original.  It feels like the same movie.  And Michael just casually strutting around behind Mrs. Elrod is amazing.  At  this early point, the movie is floating around a score of 95 which is generally unsustainable for a movie.

And sadly, Halloween II proves to not be a perfect replica of the original movie as we arrive at Alice’s murder  (roughly twelve minutes in).  This is probably my least favorite scene in the movie (other than the exposition filled schoolhouse scene);  everything about this  screams out “hey we’re violent and hip like Friday the 13th!”  There is no buildup, it feels out of character for Michael, and his hiding place is literally below the camera’s sight line.  I’m pretty sure this scene was a reshoot by John Carpenter and I’m sure one reason they included it is because they knew that Michael disappears for a large portion of the movie (see minutes 15-50 in Figure 6).

Following Alice’s demise, Laurie is taken to the hospital, the crew of underdeveloped hospital staff are introduced and Dr. Loomis causes the death of Ben Tramer (with the help of a cop who should never be behind the wheel).  This stuff is all good but compared to the Michael material preceding Alice’s death, it’s a step down which is why the score drops down to 82ish.

Things start picking up when Loomis, sensing that Deputy Hunt is too nice a guy to tell him to shut up, rehashes his speech from the first movie.  Even though it’s a lot of the same material, I do adore me some Sam Loomis rantings and ravings and this one is aided by the fact that Loomis is becoming more and more unhinged.  We then are treated to Michael finding out about Laurie’s location which is coupled with some good ol atmospheric moments of The Shape stalking the streets.  And finally the reveal that Michael has arrived at the hospital at minute 30 when you see him in Karen’s mirror which puts us at a rating of 86.

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“Hmmm maybe here I will get the help I never got at Smith’s Grove.”

The next 45 minutes (everything up to the moment Michael starts chasing Laurie) are the Halloween series fully embracing early 80’s slasher tropes.  It’s fun if a bit routine.  The score is generally trending down representing the relatively slow pace (and Michael and Laurie being sidelined) but there are spikes to the graph, representing Michael offing some victims.  Of particular note is Karen and Bud’s deaths at ~55 minutes which does a great job of injecting some terror back into the movie.  Plus its the first moment where we really get a feel for the increased violence.

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Figure 9 – My enjoyment of the movie over time, color coded by the type of scene. There are bigger fluctuations early because the score is an average of the score through every scene so it begins to stabilize as we move in time.

It’s a good thing we got that scene at that moment because immediately following that is a mediocre and illogical scene at the school.  It’s not mediocre because of Loomis or anything (Donald Pleasence actually elevates this scene).  Its mediocre because it makes no damn sense!  When did Michael decide to come to the school?  Was this on his trip itinerary for things to do in Haddonfield?  My timeline has Michael getting shot by Dr. Loomis, wandering the alleyways, killing Alice, finding that he has nothing planned at the moment, bounding off to the school, searching through piles of homework to find the proper picture, stabbing the picture to drop some obscure clues, writing Samhain in his own blood on the chalkboard, realizing he’s been wasting his time, heading to the town square, and finally hearing that Laurie was taken to the hospital.  (For a guy who was super focused for fifteen years, sitting in a room, looking at a wall, looking past the wall, looking at this night in particular, he sure seems to meander here.)

Thankfully, this is the lowest the score would be for the remainder of the movie as we move to the climax.  More characters meet their demise (or in Jimmy’s case, show their clumsiness) and after shaking off his post-Halloween hangover, Michael begins searching for Laurie in earnest.  We get two really top-notch chase sequences sandwiching a major plot twist.   These chase scenes are not quite as awesome as the ones in Halloween (in no small part due to the chase music being inferior compared to that of the original) but I never tire of them.  From Jill’s awesome death (she should have checked her blind spot or — you know — used her peripheral vision)  to Michael just plowing through a glass door to the final confrontation between Michael, Laurie and Loomis, all of it hits the damn mark.  I think its such a fitting conclusion to have Loomis sacrifice himself to stop Michael and its a shame that they walked back this storyline in the sequels. halloweenII_stairs.png

So Halloween II was the start of my adoration for the horror genre and its good to see my enjoyment hasn’t diminshed in the decades since first seeing it.  Sure a lot of my feelings for this movie may be due to the nostalgia factor but viewing it with a critical eye, I actually think its a damn fine movie.  Sure there are some issues with characterization and a slow midsection but the atmosphere, Michael’s portrayal when he’s around, and the climax all work together to produce one of the best horror sequels out there.

 

 

 

 

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