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Logline: The masked killer Michael Myers follows a traumatized Laurie to the Haddonfield Memorial Hospital.

Review: Rick Rosenthal’s Halloween II is a vastly underrated sequel to John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978).  Admittedly, Halloween II is not as great as its predecessor but it is still a very good sequel in its own right.  In fact, it is the best sequel in the Halloween franchise.

Halloween II picks up exactly where the first film left off and begins with that film’s final scene.  Rick Rosenthal does a great job emulating John Carpenter’s style and the films are very much alike in terms of camera work and lighting.  The most jarring difference between the two is the sequel’s use of graphic violence and gore.  Whereas the first film relied almost exclusively on suspense, the sequel is more interested in shocking the audience.  The former is much scarier.  Ironically, it was John Carpenter, writer and producer of the film along with Debra Hill, who wanted more blood and gore to match other slasher films at the time.  Carpenter believed this would make the film more profitable.

Most of the film is set in a seemingly desolate hospital which suits the story well.  Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence are back reprising their roles from the first film.  Unfortunately, Curtis does not have much to do and spends most of the film in bed.  She also dons an obvious wig in order to match her appearance from the first film.  Pleasence is the real star of this installment and he gives what I believe is his best performance as Dr. Sam Loomis.  I love Pleasence’s long monologues about ‘the Shape’ and the film includes some of the character’s best dialogue.  Halloween II is the only sequel in the franchise to get Michael’s look right.  This time, Michael is played by stuntman Dick Warlock who does a great job.  The supporting characters in the film are not too interesting but they serve their purpose.

It is interesting to note that originally, John Carpenter had no intention of making a sequel to Halloween.  Because of the first film’s massive success (it was the most successful independent film at the time), studio executives insisted that a sequel be made and Carpenter was persuaded to write and produce the film with Debra Hill.  Carpenter had no idea where to take the story next until he came up with the idea of making Michael Laurie’s brother.  I find this aspect interesting even though it does detract from some of Michael’s mystique.

Collaborating with Alan Howarth on the score, Carpenter’s music for Halloween II is great.  The classic theme from the first film is revamped and performed on a synthesizer organ rather than a piano.  While I prefer the original theme, I love this variation.  The inclusion of The Chordettes’ classic tune Mr. Sandman is brilliant.  The 1950s song is a great contrast to this dark film and would be used again in Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998).  Whenever I hear the song, I immediately think of Michael Myers.

Halloween II includes some unforgettable sequences, namely the suspenseful scene in which Michael chases Laurie through the hospital and the ending, in which Dr. Loomis, Laurie, and Michael are all reunited again.  The image of Michael’s bleeding eyes after being shot is iconic.  It seems fitting that Michael is burned alive by Dr. Loomis.  Earlier in the film, Loomis explains the Druids’ fire rituals to appease the gods during Samhain, or Halloween.  I love the film’s final shot of Michael’s mask burning.

I have a certain affection for Halloween II.  It has been unfairly judged, criticized, and underrated since its release and deserves more recognition.  Featuring excellent camerawork, it is a very good direct continuation of the first film.

Rating (out of ****): ***1/2