Halloween II
Released 1981
De Laurentiis
Universal Pictures
Directed by: Rick Rosenthal Running Time: 92min 2.35:1 R
Cast : Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Lance Guest, Hunter von Leer, Dick Warlock.
The hospital in Halloween II provides the best long dark corridors in slasher history, although I can’t say I’ve ever been in a hospital that turned off its hallway lights at night.
What’s the best way to go bigger? Explosions, of course! Halloween goes Hollywood, baby!

Review by Jay Wilson

Halloween II is one of the best and most unique slasher sequels ever made (not that it has much competition) which is also interesting because it’s among the first slasher sequels as well. John Carpenter and Debra Hill return to pen part two. Dean Cundey returns as director of photography. John Carpenter teams up with Alan Howath to write the music. And actors Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance, Charles Cyphers, and Nancy Stephens come back to reprise their roles. As a result, Halloween II comes the closest to re-capturing the spirit of its predecessor, and in terms of continuity it is unmatched.

Halloween II is also unique in that it picks up immediately after the events of the first film, even using footage of its predecessor to set up the new movie. Loomis has shot Michael Myers, sent him off a balcony, and when the good doctor makes it down to the ground level the evil has vanished into the night. The police pursue Michael, paramedics arrive to take Laurie Strode to the hospital, and it’s only a matter of time before Michael finds her again.

It’s so much easier sympathizing with characters we’ve been with for an entire movie, and the new characters come into play in such a logical and organic way that they don’t feel like the typical marked for death cardboard cutouts this genre is infamous for. Laurie gets hurt in the first movie fleeing from Michael Myers, where else is she going to go? The new setting alone provides a host of characters to populate this new film in ambulance paramedics, nurses, and doctors. Sheriff Brackett’s departure makes sense as his daughter was murdered in the previous film. “I have to go home and tell my wife before somebody else does,” he says, and from there his deputy steps in to take command. With very few missteps, Halloween II’s continuation of Halloween 1 is relatively seamless considering it came a full three years later.

When you think about it, it’s strange that this genre is so infamous for rampant sequelitis considering nobody is around to come back for the next film ...
... but you have to admit, setting the action in a hospital minutes after the first film is the most genius method of re-populating the film.

However, there are a few missteps. For one, not returning is Nick Castle who is credited as “the shape” in the first Halloween (“the shape” being the phrase the script uses to refer to the masked Michael Myers.) Dick Warlock steps into the role, and the attentive viewer will notice a more mechanical somewhat robotic body language in the way Myers moves. Warlock keyed off the moment in Halloween when the Shape sits up in a very mechanical and robotic fashion; however, that was one moment of Nick Castle’s performance and not the entirety of it. It doesn’t ruin the image of Michael Myers nor does it bring down Halloween II by any stretch (and it works in its own right), but at the same time it feels like an unnecessary degradation. The mask also looks different, but that’s getting nitpicky (it’s actually the same mask, but three years isn’t always kind to movie props). Besides, this interpretation (and look) of the Shape is still one of the best in the series.

More glaring: Halloween was a self-contained little story of an escaped mental patient attacking a babysitter more or less by sheer chance. He escaped, he fled to his old house (now abandoned.) Laurie Strode was instructed by her father, a realtor, to place the key to the old Myers house under the mat so some folks could come by and look at it later. Why does Michael stalk Laurie in Halloween? Simple: he saw her out the window, she wasn’t hard to follow, and he’s insane. When that story ended Michael has absolutely no reason to pursue Laurie Strode. To amend this, Carpenter admits the only thing he could come up with was that Laurie was secretly Michael’s sister (which has always felt like a cheap tack-on to me.) But, again, it’s a mild degradation that’s not enough to bring down the entire movie (although the degradation would continue to snowball across the sequels until it really did bring down Halloween 6.)

Irrelevent to the plot but a nice touch anyway: the reference to razorblades in the halloween candy that our parents warned us about growing up.
Yes, we know Dr. Mixter here is dead and, yes, Janet probably won’t survive this scene, but it looks cool, who cares if it’s predictable?

Still more glaring: like many sequels, Halloween II has to go bigger, louder, bloodier, with more bodies, more nudity. A car crash, an explosion, blood splatters, and while these developments occur relatively naturally, it still feels like a slight betrayal. It takes a single step away from the uniqueness of the ever patient micro-budget independent film it came from, and moves towards “Hollywood” in the most negative sense. A step towards homogenized mainstream movies. I can’t stress enough, though, these are nitpicks on my part. Single steps which do not significantly hurt Halloween II, but kill the franchise five films down the road.

Most glaring of all: a drugged Laurie makes it out of the hospital and into the parking lot where she climbs into one of the cars and hides. After awhile, she climbs out of the car and weakly starts crawling away. Right then Loomis and a state marshal pull up to the Hospital’s main entrance, they get out, and rush inside. Meanwhile, Laurie tries to scream for help but all she can manage are very quiet whimpers. Then, of course, the moment the cavalry are out of earshot, she finally manages to let the scream out, and I have never ever ever bought that moment. Even for a second.

Now, what does Halloween II do right? A lot. Most importantly, Michael behaves the same. He stalks and he waits—we often see him somewhere in the background behind his oblivious victims. Or perhaps the camera pans down to a security monitor which no one happens to be watching, and we see The Shape walking down the long quiet corridors of the Haddonfield Memorial Hospital. He toys with one of the nurses just as he did to one of the babysitters before killing them. Halloween II is still about cool reveals and Panaglide POV shots reminiscent of the original’s famous opening. Halloween is still Halloween and Michael is still Michael ... even if he does move like a robot now.

Apparently, someone telling Dr. Loomis that Laurie is Michael’s sister isn’t enough; we have to see a freakishly out of place dream/flashback that is mercifully brief. But, still ... c’mon.
The ongoing relationship between Loomis and Myers really set the series apart from other horror franchises. Only in Halloween was there a consistent face to oppose the evil until Mr. Pleasence’s death.

I love how well the storylines of Halloween II are woven together. My favorite scene is done in two shots; it starts in a parking lot and shows an ambulance (from the previous scene) race by on the nearby street. Pan over to see a kid with a boombox and a newscast going (don’t ask), and the camera follows him for a moment before focusing on two women coming from a halloween party. The camera then tracks with them back to their car, and through their dialogue we learn one is a nurse due in to work soon but has to take her friend home first. Cut to a new shot further down the parking lot as their car pulls out, and as drives out of frame the camera again focuses in on the kid with the boombox. The newscast reveals the survivor of the Haddonfield massacre was taken to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, and right then the kid runs into Michael Myers. Finally, Michael starts walking with the camera tracking him as he advances past a sign pointing the way to the Hospital and Laurie Strode. In two shots, we see the Ambulance (with its crew whom we’ve met) on its way back, we meet a new nurse who will come into play later, we see how Michael learns of Laurie’s location, and we see how he gets there. If any moment of Halloween II outshines its predecessor, that one would be it (incidentally, that was one of the scenes John Carpenter, himself, came back to re-shoot.)

Another great moment in Halloween II comes at the very end, when the seemingly unkillable Michael Myers keeps coming despite now having twelve bullets in him. Laurie Strode redeems herself for the “too late” scream by shooting Michael’s eyes out. It’s downright depressing how many of these movies come and go with no one ever thinking to aim for the eyes or chop off limbs or extremities or digits so he can’t swing a weapon anymore (Freddy vs Jason finally did this in 2003). Unkillable does not mean unstoppable.

This is what Halloween is all about: Michael Myers lurking, the audience knowing where he is, and his victims remaining oblivious to the approaching danger.

Originally, I actually preferred Halloween II over the first one I think partly because I’d seen bits and pieces of 2 growing up and never saw the original until much later. I think I also preferred the closure the sequel brought which the original lacked. But as time went on, my interest in cinema grew, and my taste in film evolved/developed, I came to appreciate what Halloween truly brought to the table. It’s in good company though. It took me a second viewing to appreciate Alien, Blade Runner, Citizen Kane, Psycho, and Vertigo as well.