After “Halloween” proved to be a critical and commercial hit, a sequel may have been inevitable, but it’s doubtful anyone ever expected it to be such a quality outing. While not in the same league as the original classic, the second entry in the “Halloween” series is still a well-made film that will inspire many to go lock their doors.
“Halloween II” picks up right where the first film left off, with Michael Myers pumped full of bullets courtesy of Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence). But while he may be down, he’s anything but out, and has followed Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital where she’s receiving treatment for her injuries. Haunting the hospital’s deserted hallways, Myers makes use of medical equipment on whomever he finds in ways that the AMA certainly wouldn’t approve. While Laurie tries to evade her would be killer, Dr. Loomis obsessively hunts Myers, leading to a fiery conclusion.
Taking over for director John Carpenter, Rick Rosenthal (who would return to the franchise more than 20 years later with “Halloween: Resurrection”) lacks the style that made the original “Halloween” so memorable. Nevertheless there are some scary and gruesome incidents as Michael dispatches of the hospital staff in his search for Laurie. In fact, the sequel is a bit gorier than its predecessor, adding more to the shock value quotient. Rosenthal also uses POV shots as effectively as Carpenter did, adding to the illusion that we’re seeing events through Myers’ eyes. Rosenthal also knows how to use shadows and darkness, making things seem scarier than they are.
The script by John Carpenter and Debra Hill essentially gives us more of the same. The setting is changed to a hospital, and it’s revealed that Laurie is Michael’s sister, but little else is added to the night Myers came home. As for the concept that Michael Myers is possessed by the Celtic Lord of the Dead — that innovative concept is mentioned, but never really explored. Had the script been more imaginative and developed the ideas better, “Halloween II” would have been an amazing sequel. Unfortunately it seems as if the writers were content to shortchange the audience with a half-hearted effort, and the film suffers for it.
Still, at least plenty of care was put into the character of Michael Myers. He’s shown to be not just an insane killer, as he avoids killing an elderly couple and walks the streets of Haddonfield trying to look innocuous. Myers is shown to be quite intelligent, coming across as a man with a mission. This added trait makes him stand out from the pack of lunatic imitators, and sets him up as an iconic horror character.
Jaime Lee Curtis is fair as Laurie Strode, but she shows none of the spirit she had in the original, and mainly looks like she’s having some sort of out of body experience. Lance Guest does a good job as her would-be boyfriend, projecting sensitivity and compassion that makes him a likeable character. Too bad he dies by slipping on a pool of blood and hitting his head; it was bound to happen sooner or later in these films.
But it’s Donald Pleasence, as Dr. Loomis, who steals the film. Pleasence has the right blend of desperation, single-mindedness and fear that makes him the centerpiece player in the franchise. You can even feel his commanding presence even when Loomis is off screen. Another character to watch for is young Tommy Doyle, who gets a brief introduction in the film. He may be young now, but he’ll grow up to have a major part in the “Halloween” mythos.
The second “Halloween” film, while not as good as the first, is still an entertaining entry. More importantly, it sets up ideas that come into play in future sequels. Overall, “Halloween 2” is a scary and effective treat.
Rick Rosenthal (director) / John Carpenter, Debra Hill (screenplay)
CAST: Jamie Lee Curtis …. Laurie Strode
Donald Pleasence …. Dr. Samuel ‘Sam’ Loomis
Charles Cyphers …. Sheriff Leigh Brackett