Halloween II (1981)

Halloween II (1981)

More of the night he came home

After her ordeal with Michael Myers, Laurie Strode is taken to the local hospital whilst Dr Loomis and the police look for the escaped killer around Haddonfield. However, Michael also makes his way to the hospital to continue his murderous rampage and attempts to kill her. During this time, Dr Loomis also finds out some startling new information which sheds light on the entire situation.

 

When you make the then-most successful independent film of all time, you’re obviously going to go ahead with a sequel, aren’t you? Well yes and no. John Carpenter had become a household name thanks to the original and, now that he was able to secure financing for other projects, he was off doing his own thing. Realising that this sequel was going to be more-or-less the same film, Carpenter wrote the script and served as producer, allowing Rick Rosenthal the chance to step into the hot seat (although Carpenter was the man who helmed the re-shoots). But how can you make a sequel to one of the scariest films of all time? Instead of trying to outdo the original or come up with something different, Halloween II is one of the rare examples of a sequel which deliberately sets out to imitate its predecessor at every possible chance.

Most critics, even fans, write off this sequel. But it’s a superb continuation of the story, almost like a second act. Halloween II picks up directly where the first one ended and let’s face it, there was story left to tell. Myers had survived. Laurie had survived. He wasn’t just going to give up on her after putting her through the grinder. Without skipping a beat, this one continues the story from the ending of the original. It was a smart move which makes it somewhat unique amongst sequels – how many of them can you name which pick up directly after the original (that weren’t filmed at the same time like The Lord of the Rings trilogy)? You don’t have to wait for characters to be introduced as the three vital components to the film (Michael, Laurie and Dr Loomis) are already known to us. Supporting characters are introduced but the core of the story has already been established so there’s no waiting around.

Credit must be given to everyone involved here because the style, the atmosphere and the look is like-for-like with the original. I had to double check that Rick Rosenthal wasn’t actually an alias of Carpenter because the two films look almost identical, it’s just the substance inside which is a little different. The sequel does head off towards more familiar slasher territory but there are some great set pieces: some rehashed from the original including a token sequence in which Myers stalks Laurie towards the finale. The atmosphere and tone is spot on, enhanced by the fact that we know what has happened earlier in the evening in Haddonfield whereas the staff in the hospital are unprepared for their impending fate.

The original cut was also deemed not gory enough by the early 80s – it was the golden period of the slasher film after all. So some re-shoots were completed and extra gore was added. It’s a shame this happens and just because every other horror film at the time was piling on the blood didn’t mean that this series had to follow suit. It’s probably one of the reasons why this sequel gets a lot of hate because the violence is dramatically upped. Characters are stabbed in the eye with hypodermic needles, hammers are rammed into heads and one unlucky nurse is scalded to death in a boiling hot tub.

Michael Myers is given more of a back story in this one. I guess they couldn’t have two films with this masked killer in and not tell us anything about the guy. The infamous plot twist makes a lot of sense although the restored DVD version of the original does contain some extra scenes in which this twist is also revealed. Whether the twist ruins the character or just clears things up is entirely your call. I’m still undecided. Not only do they include this twist but the way in which Rosenthal presents Michael Myers on the screen is noticeably different. All of the camera trickery of keeping him shrouded in darkness or confided to the background has been replaced by more traditional approach. There are still some nifty shots including one from a security camera as he walks down a corridor and he still has a knack of popping into the frame unexpectedly from time-to-time. He gets more screen time which, I guess by the rule of sequels, is just about right.

Someone who doesn’t get as much screen time is Jamie Lee Curtis. She doesn’t do much in this one and spends a good majority of it cowering out of the way in her hospital room and mumbling incoherently. The way here character is presented is a far cry from how she was in the original and her transformation into a quivering wreck here isn’t how she was set out to be portrayed previously. Donald Pleasance gets his best outing as Dr Loomis in this one, slightly barmy and eccentric but determined not to let Myers strike again. He hadn’t turned into the crazy old man character of the later sequels. The presence of the two actors, as well as Charles Cyphers as the sheriff and Nancy Loomis as Annie (credit for re-appearing as a corpse!) gives much needed continuity to the film.

 

My advice is to watch the original and then watch this straight away as if you were watching a very long film. You won’t regret it. Obviously inferior to the original, Halloween II still one of the most underrated sequels of all time. Taken on its own merit, it’s one of the best slasher films of the 80s and taken as a sequel, it could have been a thousand times worse.

 

 ★★★★★★★★☆☆ 

 

 

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