[Editor’s Note: Halloween: The Ultimate Collection is now available and contains EVERY Halloween movie made! Check it out!-TMW]
Halloween II -1981- Directed by Rick Rosenthal
Starring Donald Pleasence; Jamie Lee Curtis
“You don’t know what death is!” — Dr. Samuel Loomis
By 1981, the runaway success of Halloween had lit a fire under the burgeoning slasher genre, with 1980’s sleeper hit Friday the 13th picking up the ball started by Carpenter ‘s film and rolling with it. Suddenly cinemas were saturated with masked maniacs—often with a theme tying to a holiday- stalking attractive teenagers and dispatching them in increasingly inventive and violent ways.
So it was that Halloween executive producer Moustapha Akkad joined forces with Universal Studios and Dino De Laurentiis to continue the saga of unstoppable killer Michael Myers in the 1981 sequel Halloween II.
Picking up immediately where the original film left off, part II continues the story as Michael relentlessly hunts Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), the survivor of the previous film, who has since been moved to the local hospital. Meanwhile, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence, again delivering a fine performance) is still hunting the killer, albeit with a lot more help from the local police as the murders from the first film have been discovered.
Halloween II is something of a mixed bag. It definitely nails some terrific scares—cinematographer Dean Cundy (who shot the original and would later go on to film dinosaurs for Steven Spielberg in Jurassic Park) returned to film this one as well, so it looks and feels a lot like it’s predecessor—but John Carpenter returned only for writing duties with his long time partner Debra Hill, allowing Rick Rosenthal to take over at the helm.
Rosenthal actually does an admirable job considering whose footsteps he has to follow, but the film relies heavily on the standard slasher cliches, with obvious set ups for creative kills replacing the layered suspense of the previous movie. Also, Jamie Lee Curtis has zero character development. Forget the smart, strong woman from the original. Here Laurie spends the majority of the running time in a drug induced haze.
Still, there’s an undeniable sense of danger and urgency as Michael relentlessly pursues his victims and, once again, his perpetual silence and ability to shrug off physical trauma are employed to maximum effect. The kills are fairly spectacular as well, with a scene involving an overheated sauna a particularly horrifying standout. Plus, Halloween II earns points for having an actual ongoing storyline rather than being a mindless retread, which gives the events unfolding onscreen a little more weight than one normally sees in this type of film.
It’s not quite the equal of the previous film, but if you accept that it’s a bloodier, more traditional slasher flick instead of the suspense masterpiece the original was, Halloween II is hell of a lot of fun.
**** out of ***** stars. A worthy, if somewhat inferior, follow up to the classic.
Check out the Halloween 2 trailer: