Rick Rosenthal, 1981
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance
Picking up immediately where Halloween left off, Laurie Strode was stalked and nearly killed by Michael Myers, who escaped from a mental institution. Dr. Loomis, his psychiatrist, arrived in time to save Laurie and shoot Michael. Unfortunately for Loomis and Laurie, Michael’s body went missing and Loomis assumes he is still on the loose. Laurie is sent to the hospital due to shock and injuries. While there, her friend Jimmy, an EMT, begins to develop feelings for her and watches over her.
Michael tracks Laurie to the hospital and cuts the phone line. It is somewhat abandoned late at night, but he begins killing nurses, security guards, and doctors - anyone who gets in his way. Loomis is on his trail and eventually figures out that Laurie is Michael’s target and he has tracked her to the hospital. He rushes to rescue her in time.
The most fascinating thing about Halloween II is that, unlike most other sequels, it actually begins right where the first film ended. It might not be the greatest film, but it has its enjoyable moments and I grew up with fonder memories of it than I did of Halloween itself. Probably the hot tub scene. The actual reason I like Halloween II slightly more than Halloween is that it has a number of fun, inventive kills and it absolutely doesn’t take itself seriously. Someone has their skull bashed with a hammer, a nurse is drowned/scalded to death in a therapeutic hot tub, and there are a number of stabbings, including one with a syringe through the eyeball.
The Chordettes’ “Mr. Sandman” during the opening credits pretty much tells you from the beginning that this is going to be a less serious affair and the song is used to great effect. There are a couple of fun scenes through out the film. For example, there is a particularly nice moment where a hospital security guard watches Night of the Living Dead and doesn’t notice when he switches back to the security monitor and sees Michael Myers shuffling across the frame. Carpenter occasionally has characters watch horror movies in his films, including in Halloween where two characters watch The Thing (the original). Michael Myers is also goofier in Halloween II and becomes almost supernatural. He is shot and injured multiple times, but refuses to die. He also somehow magically appears behind every single character in the hospital - and elsewhere - except for Laurie.
TV director Rick Rosenthal (Law and Order: SVU, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) helmed this first sequel, though Carpenter worked closely with him. Carpenter returned here as a script writer, unofficial director of a few scenes, and producer. He also composed the score with Alan Howarth (Star Trek: The Motion Picture). They would go on to collaborate musically on Escape from New York, Prince of Darkness, and more. For his part, Rosenthal returned several years later to direct Halloween: Resurrection.
He did his best at mimicking the atmosphere of Halloween, including the slow pacing. Dean Cundey, Halloween’s cinematographer, returned for the sequel, which also helps. Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance, and Charles Cyphers resume their roles from Halloween, though Curtis is unconscious or injured for most of the film. The cast overall is decent, probably a bit better than what you would expect from an early ‘80s horror sequel. Lance Guest (Jaws: The Revenge, The Last Starfighter), TV actress Pamela Shoop, Hunter von Leer (History of the World: Part 1), and Tawny Moyer (House of the Rising Sun) costar.
The sequel was a success, which of course resulted in more sequels. A lot more. This was followed by Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989), Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995), Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998), and Halloween: Resurrection (2002), as well as Rob Zombie’s awful remake and its even worse sequel. There is also an alternate TV version of Halloween II that cut out the gore and most of the violence and offered a happier ending where Jimmy wakes up in the ambulance next to Laurie. Halloween II is now available on Blu-ray.