Horror Sequel Marathon: Halloween II (1981)

Picking up one minute after the original left off, “Halloween II” follows protagonist Laurie who is rushed off to a mostly vacant hospital, sedated, and later hunted by the masked psychopathic killer, Michael Myers.

While paling in comparison to the Hitchcockian titillation of the original, “Halloween II” is a worthy follow-up. There’s a lot that Rosenthal gets right and even a few ideas that improve on the original. For one, The backstory is deeper– but doesn’t give away too much of the mystery that makes Michael so compelling.

The series of locations is another important asset that sometimes gets overlooked. Laurie is in the hospital, where she waits for Michael to find her. Dr. Loomis continues his hallow pursuit of Michael, whose trail of violent murders is particially Loomis’ fault. And we’re introduced to new characters who we get to know long enough to watch Michael execute them much more cleverly and bloodier than before.

Like the original, “Halloween II” has aged remarkably well. Besides 1998’s “Halloween H20: 20 Years Later,” “Halloween II” is the most critically acclaimed sequel in the series– which mostly became more mindlessly redundant as it progressed. And of the Halloween films I’ve watched, “Halloween II” contains my very favorite final act.

Michael’s sophomore outing is much more graphic than the original– which featured very little blood despite a six-person body count. Carpenter did not play a role in directing, but he did work in post-production to bring the fear (and gore) factor up to match many of Halloween’s slasher peers. The enormously successful “Friday the Thirteenth” had just come out a year prior, suggesting a growing interest among horror fans for more grotesque fatalities.

This was problematic to many reviewers who noted that the much of the profound thrill present in the original was hindered in the sequel by overuse of blood (note Michael’s eyes bleeding in the featured photo above). By today’s standards, the gore is rather mild.

Ultimately, “Halloween II” wasn’t as thrilling or resonant as the original. But I don’t think that was or should have been the goal Rosenthal had in mind when he directed it. The intrigue that made the original so great might have grown tedious were it emulated an addition hour and a half.

The Halloween: The Complete Collection box set includes all ten feature films is available on blu ray right here.
The Halloween: The Complete Collection box set includes all ten feature films is available on blu ray here.

Originally, “Halloween II” was intended to be the last chapter of the Halloween series to revolve around Michael Myers and the town of Haddonfield, although Michael Myers was brought back six years later in “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers.” And for this reason, “Halloween II” ends somewhat conclusively. The folks behind the Halloween series was ready to move on to another story.

Upon its release in 1978, “Halloween” became the highest-grossing independent film of all time. The resourceful use of actors, locations, sets and props forced Carpenter into making a highly-visceral and extremely focused horror pic. But the sequel’s $2.5 million budget allowed for much more effective (if less sophisticated) scares.

With the help of Alan Howarth, John Carpenter composed the score of the sequel, which is just a more amped up version of the original. Rosenthal proves he knew exactly what he wanted the sequel to be and that he had to know-how to emulate the thrills of the original. In every respect, “Halloween II” is a natural and chilling follow-up to a horror movie masterpiece.

***

The Halloween: The Complete Collection box set is available on DVD, blu ray and digital download here on Amazon. And be sure to check out the other entries in the Horror Sequel Marathon right here on My Vinyl Muse!