HALLOWEEN II – John Carpenter (in association with Alan Howarth)

Original Review by Alan Rogers (First uploaded at maintitles.net)

Three years after the success of Halloween, John Carpenter returns to Haddonfield in the sequel, Halloween II. This time under the direction of Rick Rosenthal (Carpenter would co-write the story), this second film continues on immediately after the events of the first film seeing Michael Myers pursuing Laurie Strode to a nearby hospital. After a successful collaboration with sound effects designer and composer Alan Howarth on Carpenter’s Escape From New York, Carpenter renewed their partnership to work on the score for the second film in the Halloween series. Carpenter’s original themes are revisited and reworked using the latest synthesisers available at the time and new themes/motifs are added to the mix. This gives Halloween II a score that is both familiar but also different. Unfortunately, it all makes for a less than satisfying listen that can be put down to something more than just the diluted impact associated with any sequel of a ground-breaking original. In addition, creative choices made for this expanded re-release from 2009 only compound the negative feelings towards this score.

The album starts off well with adaptations of the original themes from Halloween. Both “Halloween II Theme” and “Laurie’s Theme” features the most familiar themes but the piano is dropped in favour of electronic synthesisers. Although the themes are the same I find this change to a less organic sound (i.e., the removal of the piano) removes a significant portion of what made the original themes so effective. The aural quality of the synthesisers used (they tend to be very sharp, brash and abrasive in nature) seem at odds with the feel of the themes as heard in the first film. Perhaps Carpenter and Howarth wanted to have a cleaner, more sterile sound to reflect the setting of the film (in a hospital). Or maybe they just wanted to play with their new synth toys? The original 1981 album tracks (remastered and reproduced here in the first half of this expanded album) are more or less in chronological order and the newer ideas specifically composed for this second film tend to appear in the latter half of the score. This newer material, heard in tracks such as “The Shape Enters Laurie’s Room”, “Flats In The Parking Lot” and “Operation Room” (originally titled “In The Operating Room” in the original release), are much more experimental – and therefore much more difficult to listen to – and feature a lot of ear-splitting electronic screeches and whines that seems focus on heightening the sense of isolation in the hospital’s wards and corridors during the final scenes of the film. This makes for a disappointing second half listening experience to the score. “The Shape Stalks Again” does harken back to Halloween and uses piano for a reprise the relentless 3-note motif for Michael but even this is soon drowned out by a mounting cacophony of synths as the film reaches its climax.

The expanded score for Halloween II released on Alan Howarth’s own label (AHI Records) ends with a suite of cues (labelled A-F) that are supposedly a collection of all the original tracks used in the film. As well as there being some discussion as to whether these suites do contain all the music, more importantly, creative decisions during the assembly of the suites have made the tracks very difficult to enjoy. Howarth has taken individual cues and layered them on top of one another, overlapping the end of one track and the beginning of the next. Sometimes this overlapping sounds quite shoddily done, with little apparent regard to lining up the music for pleasing transitions. The inclusion of what I assume to be the breathing of Michael Myers into some of the cues is another bad decision and further compromises these suites as enjoyable listening experiences. This is unfortunate as the music contained in these suites appears to be the original music tracks used in the film rather than the album tracks that seem to have been “beefed up” with additional synths for the original album release.

This limited re-issue of Halloween II is therefore a mixed bag. Admittedly, the original out-of-print Varese CD can now be heard again and remastering of the tracks means that it sounds better than ever (though it does seem to have been remastered to a sound level that is very loud indeed). This is a positive. Hearing Carpenter’s themes in a new setting is interesting but this release does emphasise the failings of the new, more experimental music of the film’s second half. The score suites just don’t work at all and is a big negative. Therefore, it is difficult to recommend this album.

Rating: *½

  1. Halloween II Theme (4:29)
  2. Laurie’s Theme (2:54)
  3. He Knows Where She Is (1:10)
  4. Laurie and Jimmy (3:04)
  5. Still He Kills (4:32)
  6. The Shape Enters Laurie’s Room (1:35)
  7. Mrs. Alves (1:45)
  8. Flats In The Parking Lot (1:27)
  9. Michael’s Sister? (3:05)
  10. The Shape Stalks Again (3:05)
  11. Operation Room (1:51)
  12. Mr. Sandman (sung by The Chordettes) (2:26)
  13. Halloween II Suite A (10:05)
  14. Halloween II Suite B (5:04)
  15. Halloween II Suite C (6:35)
  16. Halloween II Suite D (3:50)
  17. Halloween II Suite E (8:09)
  18. Halloween II Suite F (5:09)

Running Time: 70:22


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