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Halloween II
Tonight's Feature Presentation

HALLOWEEN II (1981)

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Dick Warlock, Pamela Susan Shoop, Charles Cyphers, Lance Guest

Written By: John Carpenter, Debra Hill Directed By: Rick Rosenthal

The Short Version

This one picks up exactly where the original left off.

Halloween II makes a great double feature with the original.

Dick Warlock plays the meanest Michael Myers of the series.

Jamie Lee Curtis is still the best “Final Girl” ever.

The best of the Big Three Slashers’ “Part Two” films; Halloween II is well worth seeing.


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

MONTEREY JACK.

It’s not cheddar, but it’s still quite tasty.


Pairs Well With...

JACK & COKE.

There is no liquor in this movie; just Coke.  With that said, Coke goes better with Jack Daniels’ to calm the nerves after a long night of surviving serial murder, don’t you think?

“He was my patient for fifteen years.  He became an obsession with me until I realized that there was neither reason nor conscience nor 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!”


When John Carpenter made Halloween in 1978, all the rules changed.  There had been a few “almosts” when it came to the ultimate arrival of the slasher as a subgenre, but Halloween had sealed the deal.  Three years later, it was time to continue the story.

There are unavoidable spoilers about the first movie ahead, folks.  If you don’t want to know, go back and watch that flick first, and do this one right after as a double feature.  Okay; you’ve been warned.

Halloween II is an immediate sequel to the first film, picking up exactly where Halloween left off.  In a replay of the final few minutes of action from the original, we see Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence, Escape From New York) unload his gun into Michael Myers, sending the killer over the balcony rail and onto the front lawn, presumably dead.  When understandably shaken massacre survivor Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis, True Lies) declares that it was the boogeyman, Loomis can’t help but agree with her… especially when he looks back outside and sees that Michael has gotten up from the lawn and escaped!

As the new action begins to unfold, Laurie is taken to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, and Dr. Loomis resumes his search for Michael out on the streets.  Meanwhile, Michael (now played by Dick Warlock; check out our interview) resumes his own search; specifically, his search for Laurie Strode…

Out of all of the “Big Three” slashers – Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Krueger – Michael definitely lucked out with the best sequel to his introductory film.  Part of this comes from the fact that it’s a direct sequel, which allows good will from the first film to carry over that much more easily, especially now in the age of home video when people may be more inclined to watch them as a double feature.  It also helps that the first movie’s two major stars – Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence – have came back for Round Two, and that, also like the original, it’s penned by John Carpenter and Debra Hill.  John Carpenter isn’t at the helm this time (for the most part), but he’s far from absent, so right from the beginning, all of the tools for success are there.  Halloween II may not be as great as its predecessor, but as far as slasher sequels go, it’s still damn good.

Indeed, the sequel even gets an upgrade over the original in one very major department: Dick Warlock dons the mask as Michael Myers.  Though smaller in stature than your standard slasher (Warlock actually wore lifts to look taller, and you may notice that the mask, which is literally the same one used in the first film, wears a little thinner on his face), Dick Warlock more than makes up for it with menacing attitude.  This Michael Myers is mean; when he thrusts a knife, plunges a needle, or shoves a poor topless girl under water, he does it with force.  It’s not just a matter of simple motion; here, despite being deprived of a person’s greatest tool of personal expression (a face), he delivers these blows with emotion.  Warlock’s Myers is very obviously killing because he wants to, and he’s having cold and mirthless fun doing it.  There’s a reason that this incarnation of Michael Myers tends to stand as the overall fan favorite from the original Halloween series, and that reason is, quite simply, that he’s the best.

Similarly, Jamie Lee Curtis proves once again that she’s the best “Final Girl” of any slasher movie.  She picks up her character exactly where audiences saw her last; if you do the double feature thing, you’ll be amazed that three years of real time came in between her original performance and this one.  Now that, my friends, is real acting.  Laurie Strode is quite understandably tired and scared in this movie, not to mention injured (and reacting badly to a sedative), and Curtis plays that weariness wonderfully, while still also putting in a very convincing burst of will to live.  Combining that kind of survival energy with having to act completely worn down is a remarkable feat, but again, there’s a reason that Curtis is the best.

It helps, too, that she’s got consistent writing to work with.  The main reason that Halloween II flows so easily from Halloween is not just the fact that it’s a direct sequel, but rather that it’s a direct sequel written by the same people who know how to continue the story with the same artistic voice as the previous work.  When Dr. Loomis talks here, he sounds just like the Dr. Loomis we remember from before not just because it’s the same talented actor reading the lines, but because the lines came from the same brain.  Had anything been “off” in terms on consistency, the whole story would have fallen apart, at which point it would have been better to go on to something entirely new, but here, it’s all done right, and everything works.  1981 still feels like 1978.  Brilliant.

We also John Carpenter’s iconic theme music again, which is, of course, some of the best horror stuff ever written, but… oh, dear.  The crisp piano mixed with synth has gone over to being all synth.  Yeah, it’s the same great piece of music, but it sounds… cheaper…

That brings us to the direction.

It’s fairly obvious from the very start that John Carpenter isn’t flying this plane anymore.  (Rick Rosenthal is.)  Halloween II is nowhere near as tightly directed as its predecessor, and even when the same techniques are employed (killer POV cam, for example), the overall feel is very, very different.  That’s not to say that it’s bad; it’s just different.  However, the movie can get away with this, because the opening act of the film follows the pure chaos that is the aftermath of a multiple murder in suburbia.  Cops are everywhere, citizens who live in the neighborhood are in a panic, and Dr. Loomis is still trying to get help from anyone who will listen because he knows that Michael is still out there.  Meanwhile, Michael is still out there, and in other parts of town, life goes on for people who haven’t heard the news yet but who will be important to our story later.  It’s chaos, but it’s decently contained chaos, and even though it’s not drum tight, we really don’t expect things to be in the middle of a circus.

Once Michael figures out where Laurie is (and in this movie you definitively figure out why he’s so desperate to find her), Halloween II takes on an entirely different atmosphere.  The chaos of the police-ridden neighborhood is gone, and now we’re back to stalking quiet corridors and taking people out one by one.  What’s odd here is that while tension builds, it builds to varying degrees, sometimes taking sharp turns even in the middle of a scene.  As it turns out, there’s a reason for that.

Welcome to the wonderful world of “creative differences.”

I found it funny when I looked at the production notes included with my copy of Halloween II and saw that one of the main things it chose to highlight was how well John Carpenter and Rick Rosenthal saw eye-to-eye, particularly when it came to taking a low key approach to gore.  This would initially seem to make sense, since the original Halloween is indeed much lighter on blood than most people seem to remember, but in fact, when Carpenter saw Rosenthal’s approach, he declared it to be too tame, and did several reshoots over Rosenthal’s objections, tacking on extra gore in some spots and making a few other tweaks.  (This is particularly noteworthy during the fan favorite “hot tub” kill.  In Rosenthal’s version, Michael shoves the nurse played by Pamela Shoop under just once and that’s it; in Carpenter’s version, he dunks her several times, and her skin peels from the heat as she is not only drowned, but severely burned.  Other deaths are also much tamer in Rosenthal's version; if all you’ve got is a copy marked “Rick Rosenthal Cut” or “Producer’s Cut,” get a different one.  If you do have a different one and wondered why scenes suddenly ramp up on occasion, now you know why.)  Even with Carpenter’s spicing, Halloween II is still gore-light by most slasher standards; indeed, many kills happen completely off screen.  With that said, if you really want blood, there is one scene that will definitely appeal to you; I won’t let slip which one, however.

Even with all of this in mind, Rosenthal really doesn’t do a bad job here, though you will be glad that Carpenter stepped in for the fixes he made.  Completely living up to what came before was always going to be impossible, but Halloween II certainly comes out better than anyone could have expected any slasher to be.

Bottom line, Halloween II is a worthwhile sequel to the original film, and as it’s a literal “very next minute” continuation of that story, well worth owning to play as a double feature with Halloween.  It’s not quite as tight, but it no slouch flick, either, and it provides the added bonus of the meanest Michael Myers of the original series.  When people say that slasher sequels are terrible, this is definitely not the movie they’re talking about.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, October, 2011


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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