Halloween II (1981) review

Halloween IIDirector: Rick Rosenthal

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance, Charles Cyphers, Dick Warlock

“He was my patient for fifteen years. He became an obsession with me until I realised there was neither reason nor conscience or anything about him that was even remotely human. An hour ago I stood up and fired six shots into him and he just got up and walked away. I am talking about the real possibility that he is still out there.” (Dr Loomis, Halloween II)

Everyone (including me) always goes on about how incredible the first Halloween was, and with good reason. It was a landmark in horror history and one of the first true pioneers of the slasher genre. It’s understandable then that its sequel doesn’t get quite as much recognition but it’s a shame because while it isn’t quite as innovative or genre-defining as its predecessor it’s still a strong slasher and a decent conclusion to what John Carpenter had only ever intended to be a two-film story.

Halloween II
“Sorry? In my beard? Oh, it’s a bit of bread. I was eating soup earlier”

Carpenter only wrote Halloween II, this time passing the directing duties to newcomer Rick Rosenthal. The film’s first five minutes are a recap of the last five minutes of its predecessor, reminding us of the final confrontation between Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Michael Myers, and the eventual saving of the day courtesy of Dr Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance). After the original film’s ending, with Loomis firing six shots into Myers (though some dodgy editing means this time he actually shoots him seven times) and “the Shape” legging it, the rest of the film then takes place from that immediate point on and shows what happens over the rest of the night.

As Laurie is taken to the nearby hospital to be treated for her injuries from her scrap with Myers, Dr Loomis and the Haddonfield rozzers continue their search for him. While in theory this shouldn’t be too hard – after all, they just have to look for the guy with six or seven gunshot wounds – it turns out they’re wasting their time, because Myers is actually at the hospital, trying to find Laurie and kill her.

Halloween II
“Hope you’re feeling better! Here, I brought you an invisible balloon”

Halloween II does lack a little of the atmosphere of the first film – while it still has a modest budget it’s significantly higher than that of Halloween ($2.5 million versus $320,000) and as such it lacks some of its predecessor’s gritty realism. While Halloween‘s unspectacular production values and normal-looking actors gave it an impressive authenticity at times, Halloween II feels more like a standard slasher movie with a more attractive supporting  cast (including the inevitable good-looking actress who gets her baps out for slightly longer than necessary).

This is also highlighted in the film’s various kills which are a little more over-the-top than in the first film. Simple stabbings and strangulations take a back seat to exploding cars, needles in the eye and an infamous scalding in a hospital therapy bath. Entertaining, but lacking in subtlety.

Halloween II
Susan hated the way Dustin Hoffman trimmed his fingernails

Had John Carpenter ultimately had his wish, and had Halloween II been the concluding chapter of the series, it would have been a decent ending. The Michael Myers backstory is expanded a little (it’s revealed Laurie is his sister) but not too much that it gets ridiculous as it does in later films, and the ending is satisfactory enough, providing an adequate end to the story for Laurie, Myers and Loomis (though these days, with the knowledge that six films followed it, it seems a little silly).

While it lacks the importance and atmosphere of the first film, Halloween II is still a competent slasher and a reminder that Halloween did have a couple of decent sequels until the fourth and fifth films turned it all to shit. If you’ve never seen either of the first two Halloween films, they work together as a brilliant double-bill.

Halloween II is available as a standard DVD, which you can get for around a fiver. If you want to get all highly-defined you’ll need to import from the US, but be careful – only the 30th Anniversary Edition is region-free.

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