Halloween II (1981) Review

Way back in Fangoria #7 a teaser paragraph in the Monster Invasion section announced the return of the boogeyman. Irwin Yablans revealed a new Halloween was in the works with Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence returning as Laurie Strode and Dr. Loomis. Laurie and Loomis would once again battle the Shape on Halloween night but from the safety of a high-security apartment complex. There were no other details given but the small paragraph gave slasher fans a reason to rejoice. It had been three years since He made Halloween the most terrifying night of the year but Michael Myers was coming back.

John Carpenter and Debra Hill wrote the script for Halloween II and wanted Tommy Lee Wallace to director, a job Wallace rejected because he thought the script had excessive violence and gore. Carpenter and Hill then picked Rick Rosenthal because he promised to use the “suspense=terror” formula that made the first Halloween so successful. The brilliant Dean Cundey returned as director of photography insuring Halloween II would be just as visually appealing as the original. Veteran stuntman Dick Warlock had already been selected as stunt coordinator and received the role of the Shape when, on a whim, he asked Debra Hill if he could play the killer.

It’s October 31, 1978 in Haddonfield and Michael Myers has escaped after being shot six times by Dr. Loomis. While Loomis and the Haddonfield police department search for Myers, the Shape makes his way to the local hospital in search of the recovering Laurie. Michael methodically eliminates the night staff one by one before turning his sights on the battered and broken Laurie Strode. It isn’t long before Loomis and Strode find themselves trapped in an operating room with a very angry Michael Myers knocking at the door.

After initial filming was completed John Carpenter shot some additional scenes to give Halloween II a little more of the old red stuff. The first girl murdered, Mr. Garrett’s death by hammer to the skull, and the Marshal’s death by slit throat with a scalpel are just a few scenes added to jazz up the action. Even though the television versions of Halloween II have been butchered far worse than any of Michael’s victims, they do contain alternate scenes not found in the theatrical version. Lance Guest appears to be injured during the climactic explosion and reappears in the ambulance with Laurie at the end. The Marshal’s original death scene, the Shape gets behind him and breaks his neck or back, used to appear in tv prints during the late 80’s and early 90’s. For some strange reason all references to Mrs. Alves murder have been removed from the tv prints which gives the viewer the impression that the old girl could still be working in an empty hospital somewhere in Haddonfield.

The film’s only negative is Jamie Lee Curtis spends two-thirds of the film coked to the gills on tranquillizers and painkillers. Laurie Strode is the heart and soul of the first film and placing her in a semi-coma leaves the viewer searching for someone to cheer for while Michael is making his ghastly rounds at the hospital. Donald Pleasence is still great as Dr. Loomis, just a little more unhinged this time around. The strong supporting cast (Leo Rossi, Lance Guest, Pamela Susan Shoop, Hunter Von Leer) carry the movie while Curtis and Pleasance are off the screen. Dick Warlock’s Shape may be the shortest in the series but Warlock is still able to make Michael Myers menacing and frightening during the kill scenes. Nancy (Annie in Halloween) Loomis, Dana Carvey, and Jeffrey (Jaws) Kramer have brief cameos as Dead Annie, a news gofer, and a dentist, respectively.

Halloween II still holds up as a scary and effective chiller despite its age. Sadly, Halloween II has not received the deluxe dvd treatment like other films in the series. The dvd from Universal is better that the Good Times release but offers only a trailer and production notes as extras. It would be nice to have a dvd with a director and cast commentary, deleted scenes, and making of documentary. For now Halloween fans craving more behind the scenes info on Halloween II can check out the excellent Halloween: 25 Years of Terror. Zebra Books published a tie-in written by Jack Martin that can still be found on shelves in used book stores and flea markets. The novelization features a scene that reveals the fate of the Producer, Dana Carvey’s boss in the film that vanishes after giving Carvey instructions.

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