SPOILER WARNING: This is a review of the theatrical cut of Halloween II, and will contain spoilers for the original Halloween (1978).
I tell ya, if I was Laurie Strode, I don’t think I’d ever leave my house again, because between Halloween and Halloween II, she has definitely had a worse night than any three other people combined. Halloween II introduces the sibling aspect to this franchise that is now one of the series’ most well-known elements. That is a nod to John Carpenter and Debra Hill (the writers of both the original and this sequel) because even though Carpenter claims he was struggling to find a plot twist for this one, and the sibling element was the result, it’s almost impossible to look back on the original without this knowledge. See, the best ideas come when we’re backed up against a wall!
There’s no doubt that Halloween II is an inferior film when placed next to its prequel, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad film. Halloween II is actually a solid slasher flick, it just lacks that “something special” that it desperately needs to stand out amongst other ’80s slasher films.
Halloween II picks up exactly where the original ends: Dr. Loomis has shot Michael six times, Michael’s fallen over the railing, and Loomis comes out to see that his body is no longer there. Cue: sequel. Much like I said about The Descent: Part Two, Halloween II feels more like a “part two” as opposed to a whole new film. That isn’t a complaint, mind, just an observation.
What was so special about Carpenter’s Halloween was how much he was able to do with so little. It only takes about ten minutes for the audience to see that this film is working on a whole other level, as we see a kid dressed in Michael Myer’s mask explode into flames after being involved in a car accident. Minutes after this, we see more blood effects in one shot than we did in the entire first film. Again, this isn’t necessarily bad, it just separates this sequel from the original, and unfortunately the separation moves it closer to the other hundreds of ’80s slasher films that were being released at the time.
It’s a double-edged sword, really: because Halloween was so popular, it sparked hundreds of copycats (like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, for the biggest cases) that did their films on bigger scales; then, when Halloween II is released, the world is used to seeing these larger-budgeted slasher films, so it feels like the more of the same. Double edged sword. Of course, I am looking at this in retrospect, so take that for what it’s worth.
*The next paragraph contains spoilers for Halloween II.*
As a slasher, this does a lot right. The special effects and scares are effective, the killer is strong, and the story does enough to keep things together. Jamie Lee Curtis is still great, but the other characters surrounding her are much lesser. I find that I don’t care about any one of them, which is a slasher trope that will continue well into the 1980s. Pleasence is still incredible as Dr. Loomis, and manages to be my favorite character through both of these films. I honestly don’t remember how his character is brought back in the fourth film, so it’ll be interesting to see how they bring him back after the ending of this one.
*End Halloween II spoilers.*
Halloween II is a good slasher film, but it is on a whole other playing field when compared to the original. I can understand why Carpenter has decided to part entirely with the series after this: it just feels finished. Of course, there was still money to be had, and that’s why we’re still following Halloween news to this day. As much as I can’t remember about Halloween 4 and Halloween 5, I do know that I love Danielle Harris in them, and can’t wait to revisit where the series goes.
I ended up double dipping on the Halloween II Blu-ray this year. I own the original one released last year, and now own the Shout Factory Blu-ray that contains a load of new special features, as well as the television cut. From what I’ve seen, the Shout Factory Blu is absolutely recommended.