THEN: There are certain sequels that I feel deserve more respect than they are given. While JAWS is a masterpiece, JAWS 2 is one of the coolest “dead teenager” movies that happens to feature a giant shark. And then there is HALLOWEEN 2 from 1981. Coming directly off the success of the original John Carpenter classic, the continued adventures of Michael Myers is a slasher classic in its own right. First time feature filmmaker, Rick Rosenthal, was given the impossible task of recreating the magic of the first. And while Carpenter did come in to add some extra gore and nudity to please audiences, you still have to give the director credit for being able to keep Myers scary. With yet another heavy synth score from Alan Howarth and John Carpenter, and the return of Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence, this still holds up as a favorite of mine.
After HALLOWEEN 2 became a hit, Rosenthal took terror to the small screen. He directed four episodes of an anthology series called Darkroom (1981-1982). After that he took a huge break from horror and went on to such diverse features as BAD BOYS (1983) starring Sean Penn and AMERICAN DREAMER (1984) with JoBeth Williams. But it was television that Rosenthal seemed to adapt to the most. One of his biggest contributions was his involvement in the hit series Life Goes On. The heartfelt series revolved around “Corky,” a young man with Down syndrome. Played by Chris Burke, the series certainly charmed audiences and gave us one of the most memorable TV theme songs ever made. Even if you’ve never heard of the series, you’re more than likely aware of ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.’ Now it’s stuck in your head!
While Rosenthal wasn’t tackling horror on the big screen, he had a couple of projects that tried to scare audiences in the comfort of their homes. In 1992, he gave us the small screen unsold pilot of “The Witches of Eastwick” and in 1994 he gave us “The Birds II: Land’s End.” After that, he found himself directing episodes of Dellaventura, Roar and The Practice in 1997. Yet his next big screen turn was the romantic comedy JUST A LITTLE HARMLESS SEX with Alison Eastwood, Rachel Hunter and Lauren Hutton in 1998. It is fascinating to look back at a man who started right in the heart of the glory days of slasher movies moving as far away from the genre as possible.
Next up for Rosenthal continued work in TV. Some of the many television shows he directed episodes of included Fantasy Island in 1998, Wasteland in 1999, L.A. Doctors also in 1999, Strong Medicine in 2000, and a couple of episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in 1999 - 2000. Rick even took directing duties for one of my personal favorites shows with two episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This included “Normal Again” and “Help,” both from 2002. Yet his next feature was a return to a franchise that gave him his start. Now I will say that HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION did have a solid opening ten minutes, yet this is one of my least favorite HALLOWEEN flicks. Possibly at the very bottom of the franchise. Although, I’d still be curious what kind of Halloween flick Rosenthal could do if he ever returned to Haddonfield.
After having Michael Myers battle Busta Rhymes - one of the worst scenes in HALLOWEEN history - Rosenthal once again found a ton of work back on the small screen. There was Crossing Jordan in 2002, six episodes of The District in 2001 - 2003 and She Spies in 2003. Once again turning to a comedic romance, the director took on NEARING GRACE in 2005. Between indie features and television like Tru Calling in 2004 - 2005, Veronica Mars in 2006, and seven episodes of Smallville from 2003 - 2008, the filmmaker remained busy. In fact, this guy worked very steadily in a wide variety of genres ever since his career began.
NOW: It’s always nice to see filmmakers who start in horror continue to grow and find success. And it certainly seems that Mr. Rosenthal has had quite a bit of it. As a producer he was involved with one of my favorite movies so far this year, BAND OF ROBBERS. He is also producing something called DESTINED and the upcoming AND PUNCHING THE CLOWN. He was an executive producer on a feature called FIRST GIRL I LOVED. Back in 2013 he directed a low budget thriller called DRONES as well as an episode of the series Beauty and the Beast in 2013. Hell, this guy even made an acting appearance in a horror flick called LOST AFTER DARK in 2015.
While he hasn’t stepped behind the camera as a director for a couple of years, it certainly seems that he is keeping busy. And while I wasn’t a fan of HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION, his first foray into the franchise holds a very special place for me. Rick Rosenthal is a director that I’d love to see return to horror. Yet for now, it’s great to see that he has had the success he has. For those of you unaware, he is currently a consulting producer for the hit series Transparent. Good on him for that one! Yet, as a huge fan of HALLOWEEN, I will always fondly remember the director's first film, and probably my favorite Michael Myers sequel.