SEQUELISED: Halloween II (1981)

John revisits Haddonfield for more of the night he came home…

Who made it?: Rick Rosenthal (Director), John Carpenter, Debra Hill (Producers/Writers), Dino De Laurentiis Company/Universal Pictures. 

Who’s in it?: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Charles Cyphers, Jeffrey Kramer, Lance Guest, Pamela Susan Shoop, Dick Warlock.

Tagline: “More Of The Night He Came Home.”

IMDb rating: 6.5/10.

Halloween II has to be one of my favourite sequels of all time, and I find myself enjoying it more than the original. Even though it probably isn’t as good as John Carpenter’s classic, it certainly is a sequel that works well as a companion piece. You could easily cut both films together and have yourself a compelling three hour-long slasher. Where it fails in tension and suspense, it more than makes up for it in action and gore.

On October 31, 1978, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is admitted to Haddonfield Hospital after the chilling events that had occurred that same fateful night. Isolated and vulnerable within the confines of the hospital, Laurie soon realises the nightmare is far from over when Michael Myers returns to stalk his prey. With only Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) believing “The Shape” is still alive, he finds himself in a race against time to put a stop to his former patient’s killing spree.

Produced on a budget of $2.5 million, Halloween II was directed by Rick Rosenthal, a relatively unknown filmmaker whose main body of work was in television. But it was a short film he made called Toyer that gained the attention of Carpenter and led to Rosenthal being hired. Carpenter had refused the opportunity to direct the sequel as he felt he would just be repeating himself, but pressure from the producers led to him still being involved with the project.

Along with Debra Hill, Carpenter wrote the screenplay for the sequel. They had originally planned for it to be set a few years after Halloween, with Myers tracking down Laurie to a high-rise apartment building where she now lived. But, after several script meetings, it was decided that the story would be mainly set in Haddonfield Hospital instead. Shooting the film in  3D was also considered by the filmmakers. Hill said, “We investigated a number of  3D processes… but they were far too expensive for this particular project. Also, most of the projects we do involve a lot of night shooting – evil lurks at night. It’s hard to do that in 3D.”

Carpenter also composed and performed the score with Alan Howarth, who would collaborate with Carpenter on Escape from New York (1981), Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), Christine (1983), and Prince of Darkness (1987), as well as uncredited themes for The Thing where the film’s score is credited solely to Ennio Morricone. The music was mainly a rehash of themes from the original, displaying a more dark and brooding feel to the sound. The film also features the song “Mr. Sandman” by The Chordettes, which was also used in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later.

A lot of the original cast of Halloween reprised their roles for the sequel. The only key member missing was Nick Castle who had portrayed The Shape with great menace. Castle had gone onto carve out a career as a writer and director with films such as The Last Starfighter (1984) and The Boy Who Could Fly (1986). Stunt performer Dick Warlock, whose credits include The Green Berets (1968) and Jaws (1975), replaced Castle as Myers. Warlock studied Castle’s performance as The Shape in the first film so he could bring a sense of continuity to character. Warlock said,”I watched the scenes where Laurie is huddled in the closet. Michael breaks through. She grabs a hanger and thrusts it up and into his eyes. Michael falls down and Laurie walks to the bedroom doorway and sits down. In the background, we see Michael sit up and turn towards her to the beat of the music… Anyway, that and the head tilt were the things I carried with me into Halloween II. I didn’t really see that much more to hang my hat on in the first film.”

Curtis as Laurie Strode and Pleasence as Dr. Sam Loomis are once again the central characters of the piece. In this sequel, their performances are turned up a notch, adding great intensity to such a simple plot. Nancy Stephens, who played nurse Marion Chambers, also returns. But this time around, she gets much more screen time and plays a pivotal role in the film as she reveals to Dr. Loomis that Laurie is actually Myers’ sister. An unnecessary plot twist at the end of the day, but it certainly adds more depth to the story.

Halloween II works as an effective sequel on so many levels. It is unique in that it is a direct follow on from the original and set during the same Halloween night. Stylistically, it resembles what Carpenter had achieved so brilliantly with its purposeful use of first-person perspective to display the killer’s voyeuristic behavior. The film also manages to create a tense atmosphere with use of its environment; in this case, a hospital. A lot of the build-up of suspense was replaced by gratuitous violence and female nudity, which was mainly due to the competition from other blood-soaked slashers invading the market that same year. According to the director, the gore and nudity was not his idea but Carpenter’s. Apparently, Carpenter wasn’t happy with Rosenthal’s rough cut, believing it not to be scary enough, so Carpenter, much to Rosenthal’s dismay, took it upon himself to make changes to the film in an attempt to improve its gore factor. And there are plenty of memorable moments throughout the film, including a hatchet to a security guard’s skull, a nurse being scolded in a jacuzzi, and a doctor having a hypodermic needle inserted into his eyeball.

Halloween II was released on October 30, 1981, and grossed $7,446,508 on its opening weekend, eventually grossing $25.5 million in total in the United States. Even though the film wasn’t as successful as the original, the sequel managed to earn more at the box office than rival horrors Friday the 13th: Part 2, Omen III: The Final Conflict and The Howling.

The film also stirred up some controversy in parts of Europe due to its graphic violence and nudity, which is pretty tame in comparison to other slashers of the time. As a result, the film ended up being banned in West Germany and Iceland. In the UK, despite being passed uncut with an “X” certificate, seventeen seconds of cuts were made to the film by the BBFC. Thankfully, these edits were waived for the DVD release in 2002.

It’s clear that Carpenter’s heart was not in Halloween II and he did what he had to in order to please the producers. The original was clearly a labour of love, whereas the sequel was a blatant cash-in. But nevertheless, Halloween II is a highly entertaining sequel which continues the story of the original and brings it to a satisfying conclusion.

Best Scene

Michael Myers finally meets his maker? Well, he’s certainly in the right place to receive intensive care.

Useless Trivia

(Via IMDb)
  • The mask Michael wears is the exact same mask (a repainted and modified Captain Kirk mask) worn in the original film. It looks different in the sequel because the paint had faded due to a few reasons, first because Nick Castle, the original Michael, kept it in his back pocket during shoots. Also, Debra Hill kept the mask under her bed for several years until the filming of Halloween II, causing it to collect dust and yellow because Hill was a heavy smoker. Also, the mask appears wider because Dick Warlock is shorter and stockier than Nick Castle, so the mask fit his head differently. As the producers thought it would be the final sequel in the series, they let Warlock keep the mask, scalpel, boots, jumpsuit, and knife used in filming. When they decided to revive Michael in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, the producers realised they had made a mistake and never again gave props out to the cast and crew, therefore subsequent sequels used different masks that looked rather different.
  • Dana Carvey (Wayne’s World) made his movie debut in this movie playing an assistant. He can be seen receiving instructions from a blonde reporter in front of the Wallace house. Carvey can be seen again at the end of the movie when the film crew follows Laurie to the waiting ambulance.
  • Rosenthal would go on to direct the final film in the original series, Halloween: Resurrection (2002).

John Cowdell

I have been writing and producing short films for over ten years and are now branching out into film reviews.

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