This article is about the second film. For other meanings, see Halloween II.
|Directed by||Rick Rosenthal|
John Carpenter (Additional scenes)
|Produced by||Debra Hill|
|Music by||Alan Howarth|
|Editing by||Mark Goldblatt|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Release||October 30, 1981 (US)|
|Running time||92 minutes|
|Preceded by||Halloween (1978, both 4-6 and H20 Timelines)|
|Followed by||Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)|
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988, 4-6 Timeline)
Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998, H20 Timeline)
Halloween II is a 1981 horror film and the second installment in the Halloween series. Directed by Rick Rosenthal and written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, it is a direct sequel to the first film; set on the same night of October 31, 1978 in the fictional American Midwest town of Haddonfield. The seemingly indestructible Michael Myers follows his intended victim Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) to a nearby hospital while Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasence) is still in pursuit of his patient.
Stylistically, Halloween II reproduces certain key elements that made the original Halloween a success such as first-person camera perspectives and unexceptional settings. However, it departs significantly from its predecessor by incorporating more graphic violence and gore, making it imitate more closely other films in the emerging slasher film sub-genre. Still, the sequel was a box office success, grossing over $25.5 million in the United States.
Halloween II was originally intended to be the last chapter of the Halloween series to revolve around Michael Myers and Haddonfield, but after the lackluster reaction to the third installment, Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), Michael Myers returned seven years later in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988).
- "You don't know what death is."
- ―Samuel Loomis
Laurie Strode instructs Tommy Doyle and Lindsey Wallace to seek shelter with Joe Mackenzie. After they leave, Michael Myers rises and moves towards Laurie. Doctor Sam Loomis, as he watches Tommy and Lindsay screaming and running out of the house, bursts in and shoots Michael in the chest six times. Myers falls backwards towards the outside and balcony and tumbles to the ground. Loomis goes to inspect the body, but Michael has disappeared. A neighbor comes out to see what all the noise is about. Loomis tells him to call the police.
Michael, meanwhile, continues to stalk the neighborhood. He walks into the home of Mr. and Mrs. Elrod, but neither of them seem to notice him. Stealthily, he takes a butcher knife from the kitchen counter. Drops of blood from his injuries splatter onto the counter. Mrs. Elrod returns to the kitchen, sees the blood and screams. Her neighbor, Alice, hears the screams and calls out, but nobody responds. Alice goes back into her house to resume a telephone conversation she is having with a friend named Sally. Sally tells Alice to turn on the radio. When she does so, she hears the news report about three teenagers found dead in the Northwest section of Haddonfield. While talking with Sally, Alice hears a strange noise. She goes into the living room and sees that the front door is open. Suddenly, Michael Myers appears from behind her and stabs her in the chest with the knife.
Back at the Doyle house, police and medics converge on the scene. Two EMTs strap Laurie Strode to a stretcher and bring her out to the ambulance. She keeps mumbling that she does not want to be put to sleep. They bring her to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital. The nurses call in Doctor Frederick Mixter (whom they suspect has been drinking at the country club) and he administers a shot to Laurie. She continues to protest, but goes unheard. Jimmy and his colleague Budd watch on.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Leigh Brackett and Doctor Loomis drive across town searching for Michael Myers. Loomis repeatedly mentions how he had shot him six times. While Loomis reloads his gun, Brackett scans the streets. He blames Sam for letting Michael out to begin with. Suddenly, they hear screams coming from some trick-or-treaters. They pull over and Loomis sees someone who looks like Michael Myers approaching some children. He runs out of the car and begins pointing his gun at him. Brackett restrains him and Myers walks across the street. From out of nowhere, a police cruiser slams into Myers, ramming him into another vehicle which promptly explodes. Brackett asks Loomis if this was Myers, but Loomis isn't sure. Just then, another police cruiser pulls up. Deputy Gary Hunt exits the vehicle and tells Brackett about the bodies they recovered from the Wallace house. One of them is the sheriff's daughter, Annie.
At the hospital, ambulance driver Jimmy has taken an interest in Laurie Strode. He goes to her room to visit her and give her comfort. Nurse Virginia Alves comes into the room and tells Laurie that Doctor Mixter is going to wait until tomorrow before applying a cast to her injured ankle. Stating that Laurie needs some rest, she tells Jimmy to leave the room. Jimmy's partner Bud comes in and tells him that they need to leave. A call just came in.
Meanwhile, news crews and police cruisers surround the Wallace residence. Sheriff Brackett stops to identify the body of his daughter Annie. Again, he blames Loomis for letting Myers out. He leaves to go tell his wife. Loomis speaks with Deputy Hunt and asks him to confirm whether the body that was struck by the police vehicle was actually Michael Myers.
Terror at Haddonfield Memorial
After learning Laurie's location from a news report, Michael makes his way to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital. He enters through the back door and resumes his search for Laurie. In her room, Laurie listens to Jimmy who tells her that the man who attacked her was Michael Myers. Nurse Alves enters the room and tells Laurie that she will try to contact her parents. She can't get a call out and it appears as if the lines are down. She sends a nurse named Janet to find Mister Garrett the security guard to see if he can fix the problem. Janet finds him and Garrett hands her a walkie-talkie to keep in contact with him. He then goes down to a supply room to check the fuses. While searching through the dark room, he hears a noise coming from a closet. He opens it up and a pile of materials falls down upon him. Michael Myers appears behind him and brings the claw end of a hammer down upon Garrett's head, killing him.
At the medical examiner's office, Doctor Loomis, Deputy Hunt and the M.E. go over the charred remains of whom they believe to be Michael Myers. The M.E. estimates that the body belongs to someone who is only sixteen or seventeen years of age. Loomis asserts that Michael Myers is twenty-one.
Leaving the office, they learn about a fracas taking place at the old Myers house. Arriving on the scene, they find a group of townspeople angrily throwing rocks at the windows and shouting. Two boys approach the men. They are looking for their friend Ben Tramer. He was supposed to meet them after a party, but never arrived. After hearing Tramer's description, Loomis and Hunt deduce that the body in the morgue actually belongs to Tramer. Just then, Hunt receives a call about a break-in at the elementary school near Old Reservoir Road.
Back at the hospital, Laurie has a dream. In the dream, she sees herself as a young girl arguing with her mother. The woman breaks the shocking news to her, pointedly stating "I am not your mother". In the next part of the dream, Laurie sees herself as a young girl again, this time at a hospital. A boy, a few years older than she, sits quietly in a chair, staring blankly out the window. He turns around when Laurie enters the room.
In another part of the hospital, Budd the ambulance driver hits on his girlfriend, a nurse named Karen. After cajoling her at length, he convinces Karen to meet him in private down in the therapy room. The two go down there and get into the therapy pool. While they share an intimate moment with one another, Michael Myers walks into the adjacent room and turns up the temperature gauge on the pool. Karen complains that the water is too hot and asks Budd to adjust the temperature. He gets out and goes into the other room. Michael leaps at him from behind and strangles him with a garrote wire. He then enters the therapy room and stands behind the unsuspecting Karen. Karen senses Michael behind her, but thinks that it is Budd. She takes his hand and begins kissing it. When she finally turns around, she sees that it is not her boyfriend at all. Michael grabs Karen's face and presses it into the scalding hot tub water. He dunks her several times until the skin on her face blisters and boils. He then grabs both her breasts and rips her towel off her body and hauls her naked body out of the pool and out of the room.
The Samhain connection
Loomis, Hunt, and several officers drive down to Haddonfield Elementary. They find the classroom that had been broken in to and consult with the officer who first called in the disturbance. There are traces of blood across several desks and a butcher knife sticking through a crayon drawing of Judith Myers on a table top. Loomis looks at the drawing and says, "Sister." The officer then draws their attention to the blackboard where the word "Samhain" is written in blood. Loomis explains how Samhain was the name which referred to the Celtic lord of the dead. As the men talk, Marion Chambers of Smith's Grove Sanitarium arrives. She tells Loomis that the hospital staff is up in arms over the patient break-out and they want Loomis to return to the hospital right away. She says that even the governor has become involved in the Michael Myers fiasco and how it relates to Smith's Grove. Their administrator, Doctor Rogers, wants all of this swept under the rug as quickly as possible. Loomis refuses to leave, stating that he cannot return until he knows that Michael Myers is either captured or killed. Marion tells him that they sent a federal marshal to ensure his return to Smith's Grove. While Loomis is in the car being driven by the federal marshal he learns for the first time from Marion that Laurie Strode is the biological sister of Michael and Judith Myers. Marion explains to him that Laurie was adopted by the Strode family after her biological parents died in the year 1965 and that the court had ordered her records sealed for her safety.
At the hospital, Jimmy returns to Laurie's room. He tells her that he's not going to let anything happen to her. Observing her more closely, he notes that she appears to be having an adverse reaction to her medication. He tells Nurse Janet who runs off to find Doctor Mixter. Janet goes into his office and calls out to him, but the man sitting before her does not respond. She calls out again, but still no response. Stepping in closer, she spins his chair around and finds Mixter dead with a needle sticking out of his eye. Janet backs up and begins screaming, at which point, Michael Myers attacks her from behind and injects her with another needle to her temple, killing her.
When Janet fails to return, Jimmy grows impatient and goes off to look for her. Jill likewise leaves Laurie by herself. Michael Myers eventually makes his way to Laurie's room. He stabs at the bed sheets several times with a scalpel, but soon discovers that Laurie is not there. Having faked her adverse reaction to the medication to get the staff away, Laurie is out of bed and limping down the hallway. She hides inside an empty hospital room and tries to make a telephone call. The lines are still down, so Laurie slumps down to the floor and rests. Nurse Jill Franco looks around the hospital, searching for Mister Garrett. Like so many others, he too is now missing. She eventually runs into Jimmy who tells her that Laurie is missing from her room. Jimmy continues searching on his own and goes into the O.R. He finds nurse Alves strapped to an operating table with an I.V. running out of her arm. Her blood is all over the floor. Jimmy turns around to get help, but slips in the blood and falls to the floor, giving himself a concussion and knocking himself unconscious.
Jill tries to leave the hospital, but discovers that her car won't start. Additionally, all four tires have been slashed. Frightened, she runs back inside the hospital. She eventually finds Laurie, but Laurie is still in too much of a daze from the drugs to even acknowledge her. Michael comes up behind Nurse Franco and stabs her in the back with a scalpel, hefting her entire body into the air. Laurie runs screaming, and Michael methodically pursues her. She runs downstairs into a large maintenance room where she finds the body of Mister Garrett suspended from a light. Michael presses onward and Laurie manages to find a small access window into an adjacent room and wriggles through it. Michael slashes at her with the scalpel, but Laurie evades the swipes. Michael eventually gets into the other room and Laurie runs into a service elevator. He continues to follow her, but Laurie manages to make it to the ground floor and runs outside. She takes shelter inside of an empty vehicle.
- "Samhain isn't evil spirits. It isn't goblins, ghosts or witches. It's the unconscious mind. We're all afraid of the dark inside ourselves."
- ―Samuel Loomis
Meanwhile, Doctor Loomis leaves with Marion Chambers and the marshal. Marion tells him about a special file regarding Michael Myers that was sealed by the governor. However, after the events of this evening, the governor has authorized Doctor Rogers of Smith's Grove to open it. Marion tells Loomis that Laurie Strode is Michael Myers' sister. Things suddenly begin to make sense to Loomis. He knows that Michael is deliberately targeting Laurie Strode specifically. He asks the marshal to turn the car around, but the man refuses. Furious with desperation, Loomis pulls out his revolver and shoots out the car window. The marshal obeys Loomis and turns the car around.
Back at the hospital, Jimmy finds Laurie in the car. He tries to start the vehicle, but the engine won't turn over. Suddenly, Jimmy passes out. Laurie crawls out of the car just as the marshal's vehicle arrives. She tries to call out to Doctor Loomis, but her voice is too hoarse and they cannot hear her. Michael Myers appears in the parking lot and begins walking after the weakened Laurie. Laurie manages to make it inside the hospital and Loomis opens fire on him and Michael collapses. Loomis orders Marion to go back out to the marshal's car and radio for help. The marshal leans over Michael Myers, who instantly springs up, slitting the marshal's throat with a scalpel. He gets up and begins walking towards Loomis and Laurie, who promptly run for safety. They sequester themselves inside of an operating room and Loomis gives Laurie a gun. Michael breaks down the door and Loomis opens fire on him. He discovers to his horror, however, that he is out of bullets. Michael stabs him in the stomach with his scalpel. Michael steps toward Laurie, but stops and tilts his head when she says his name, before walking towards her again. Laurie shoots Michael twice, seriously injuring his eyes. Loomis, though bleeding, manages to get up and begins loosening the valve on a canister of ether. Laurie takes his cue and begins doing likewise to another set of canisters. Loomis orders Laurie out of the room and says, "It's time, Michael". He lights his lighter, blowing up the surgery room in the process and evidently immolating them both in the fire. Michael, engulfed in flames, stumbles out of the room before finally collapsing, dead.
At daybreak, Laurie is loaded onto an ambulance, having visions of Michael's burning body as she is driven off to safety.
An alternate version of Halloween II has been airing on AMC network television beginning in the early 1980s, and was released on DVD packaged with the Scream Factory collector's edition in 2012, after fans of the franchise had long petitioned for an official release of this cut, with most of the graphic violence and gore edited out and several minor additional scenes added.
- Donald Pleasence as Samuel Loomis
- Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode
- Charles Cyphers as Leigh Brackett
- Lance Guest as Jimmy
- Pamela Susan Shoop as Karen Bailey
- Hunter von Leer as Gary Hunt
- Tawny Moyer as Jill Franco
- Ana Alicia as Janet Marshall
- Nancy Stephens as Marion Whittington
- Gloria Gifford as Virginia Alves
- Leo Rossi as Budd
- Ford Rainey as Frederick Mixter
- Anne Bruner as Alice Martin
- Jeffrey Kramer as Graham
- Dick Warlock as Michael Myers/Patrolman #3
- Cliff Emmich as Bernard Garrett
- John Zenda as Terrence Gummell
- Catherine Bergstrom as Debra Lane
- Alan Haufrect as Robert Mundy
- Lucille Benson as Mrs. Elrod
- Dana Carvey as Barry McNichol
- Billy Warlock as Craig
- Jonathan Prince as Randy
- Leigh French as Gary's Mother
- Ty Mitchell as Gary
- Nancy Kyes as Annie Brackett and Sally Winters
- Pamela McMyler as Pamela Strode
- Nichole Drucker as Young Laurie Strode
- Adam Gunn as Young Michael Myers
- Jack Verbois as Bennett Tramer
- Anne-Marie Martin as Darcy Essmont
- Alice Martin (Deceased)
- Annie Brackett (Deceased)
- Barbara Martin (mentioned)
- Barry McNichol
- Bennett Tramer (Deceased)
- Bernard Garrett (Deceased)
- Bob Simms (mentioned)
- Budd Scarlotti (Deceased)
- Darcy Essmont
- Dave Martin (mentioned)
- Debra Lane (Deceased In Novel)
- Eddie Lee (Deceased)
- Frederick Mixter (Deceased)
- Gary's Mother
- Gary Hunt
- Howard Elrod
- Janet Marshall (Deceased)
- Jill Franco (Deceased)
- Jimmy (Unconfirmed)
- Julie (mentioned)
- Joanne Brackett (mentioned)
- Joe Mackenzie (mentioned)
- Karen Bailey (Deceased)
- Laurie Strode
- Leigh Brackett
- Lindsey Wallace
- Lynda Van Der Klok (mentioned)
- Marion Chambers
- Mary Mackenzie (mentioned)
- Michael Myers (Deceased - retconned to Injured)
- Morgan Strode (mentioned)
- Norma Elrod
- Pamela Strode (mentioned)
- Roland Baker
- Ruby Martin (mentioned)
- Sally Winters (Deceased)
- Samuel Loomis (Deceased - retconned to Injured)
- Terrence Gummell (Deceased)
- Tommy Doyle
- Virginia Alves (Deceased)
Carpenter and Hill, the writers of the first Halloween, had originally considered setting the sequel a few years after the events of Halloween. They planned to have Myers track Laurie Strode to her new home in a high-rise apartment building. However, the setting was later changed to Haddonfield Hospital in script meetings.
Halloween producers Irwin Yablans and Moustapha Akkad invested heavily in the sequel, boasting a much larger budget than its predecessor: $2.5 million (compared to only $320,000 for the original) even though Carpenter refused to direct. Most of the film was shot at Morningside Hospital in Los Angeles, California, and Pasadena Community Hospital in Pasadena, California. There was discussion of filming Halloween II in 3-D; Hill said, "We investigated a number of 3-D 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 3-D."
The sequel was intended to conclude the story of Michael Myers and Laurie Strode. The third film, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, released a year later, contained a plot that deviated wholly from that of the first two films. Tommy Lee Wallace, the director of Halloween III, stated "It is our intention to create an anthology out of the series, sort of along the lines of Night Gallery, or The Twilight Zone, only on a much larger scale, of course." When asked, in a 1982 interview, what happened to Myers and Loomis, Carpenter flatly answered, "The Shape is dead. Pleasence's character is dead, too, unfortunately." Neither Carpenter nor Hill were involved in the later sequels that featured Michael Myers again.
The screenplay of Halloween II was written by Carpenter and Hill. In a 1981 interview with Fangoria magazine, Hill mentions the finished film differs somewhat from initial drafts of the screenplay.
Film critic Roger Ebert notes that the plot of the sequel was rather simple: "The plot of Halloween II absolutely depends, of course, on our old friend the Idiot Plot, which requires that everyone in the movie behave at all times like an idiot. That's necessary because if anyone were to use common sense, the problem would be solved and the movie would be over." Characters were described as shallow and like cardboard. Hill rebuffed such critiques by arguing that "in a thriller film, what a character says is often irrelevant, especially in those sequences where the objective is to build up suspense."
Historian Nicholas Rogers suggests that a portion of the film seems to have drawn inspiration from the "contemporary controversies surrounding the holiday itself." He points specifically to the scene in the film when a young boy in a pirate costume arrives at Haddonfield Memorial Hospital with a razor blade lodged in his mouth, a reference to the urban legend of tainted Halloween candy. According to Rogers, "The Halloween films opened in the wake of the billowing stories about Halloween sadism and clearly traded on the uncertainties surrounding trick-or-treating and the general safety of the festival
The main cast of Halloween reprised their roles in the sequel, except for Nick Castle, who had played the adult Michael Myers in the original. Veteran English actor Pleasence continued the role of Dr. Sam Loomis, who had been Myers's psychiatrist for the past 15 years while Myers was institutionalized at Smith's Grove Sanitarium. Curtis (then 22), again played the teenage babysitter Laurie Strode, the younger sister of Michael Myers. Curtis required a wig for the role of long-haired Laurie Strode, as she had her own hair cut shorter. Charles Cyphers reprised the role of Sheriff Leigh Brackett, but his character disappears from the film when the corpse of his daughter Annie (Nancy Kyes) is discovered. Actor Hunter von Leer heads the manhunt for Myers in the role of Deputy Gary Hunt. He admitted in an interview that he had never watched Halloween before being cast in the part. He stated, "I did not see the original first but being from a small town, I wanted the Deputy to have compassion."
Stunt performer Dick Warlock played Michael Myers (as in Halloween, listed as "The Shape" in the credits), replacing Castle who was beginning a career as a director. Warlock's previous experience in film was as a stunt double in films, such as The Green Berets (1968) and Jaws (1975), and the 1974 television series Kolchak: The Night Stalker. In an interview, Warlock explained how he prepared for the role since Myers received far more screen time in the sequel than the original. 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."
Warlock also claims that the mask he wore was the same one as used by Nick Castle in the first film. Hill confirmed this in an interview.
Warlock, along with other cast members who had a death scene, stated in a documentary on Halloween II: Collector's Edition that he made sure everyone was safe while they filmed the death scenes. For example, during Leo Rossi's death scene, where he was strangled from behind, he told him to arch his back and arms further as he gave four tugs, telling him to go limp after the fourth tug, and he would cushion the fall.
The supporting cast consisted of relatively unknown actors and actresses, except for Jeffrey Kramer and Ford Rainey. Most of the cast previously or later appeared in films or TV series by Universal Studios (the distributor for this film). Kramer was previously cast in a supporting role as Deputy Jeff Hendricks in Jaws and Jaws 2 (1978). In Halloween II, Kramer played Dr. Graham, a dentist who examines the charred remains of a boy confused with Myers. Rainey was an actor well known for his supporting roles on television shows such as Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and The Bionic Woman. He was chosen to play Haddonfield Memorial Hospital's drunk resident doctor, Frederick Mixter. A host of character actors were cast as the hospital's staff. Many were acquaintances of director Rosenthal. He told an interviewer, "I'd been studying acting with Milton Katselas at the Beverly Hills Playhouse and I brought many people from the Playhouse into Halloween 2." These included Leo Rossi, Pamela Susan Shoop, Ana Alicia, and Gloria Gifford. Rossi played the part of Budd, a hypersexual EMS driver who mocks Jimmy as a "college boy." Rossi would go on to have minor roles in television series such as Hill Street Blues and Falcone and several direct-to-video releases.
Shoop played Nurse Karen, who is scalded to death by Myers in the hospital therapy tub. Featured in the only nude scene in the film, Shoop discussed filming the scene in an interview: "Now that was hard! The water was freezing cold, and poor Leo Rossi and I could barely keep our teeth from chattering! The water was also pretty dirty and I ended up with an ear infection." Before working with Rosenthal, she had made several cameo appearances on television shows such as Wonder Woman or B.J. and the Bear, and later made appearances on Knight Rider and Murder, She Wrote. Gifford and Alicia played minor supporting roles as nurses. Ana Alicia went on to star for 8 seasons on the highly successful CBS serial Falcon Crest. Actor Lance Guest played an EMS driver, Jimmy. In much the same way as the original Halloween had launched the career of Curtis, after Halloween II, Guest went on to star in such films as The Last Starfighter (1984) and Jaws: The Revenge (1987), and the television series Life Goes On. Last Starfighter director Nick Castle stated in an interview, "When I was assigned to the film, Lance Guest was the first name I wrote down on my list for Alex after seeing him in Halloween II." Castle adds, "He possessed all the qualities I wanted the character to express on the screen, a kind of innocence, shyness, yet determination.
Carpenter refused to direct the sequel and originally approached Tommy Lee Wallace, the art director from the original Halloween, to take the helm. Carpenter told one interviewer, "I had made that film once and I really didn't want to do it again." After Wallace declined, Carpenter chose Rosenthal, a relatively unknown and inexperienced director whose previous credits included episodes of the television series Secrets of Midland Heights (1980–1981). In an interview with Twilight Zone Magazine, Carpenter explains that Rosenthal was chosen because "he did a terrific short called Toyer. It was full of suspense and tension and terrific performances."
Stylistically, Rosenthal attempted to recreate the elements and themes of the original film. The opening title features a jack-o'-lantern that splits in half to reveal a human skull. In the original, the camera zoomed in on the jack-o'-lantern's left eye. The first scene of the film is presented through a first-person camera format in which a voyeuristic Michael Myers enters an elderly couple's home and steals a knife from the kitchen. Rosenthal attempts to reproduce the "jump" scenes present in Halloween, but does not film Myers on the periphery, which is where he appeared in many of the scenes of the original. Under Rosenthal's direction, Myers is the central feature of a majority of the scenes. In an interview with Luke Ford, Rosenthal explains,
"The first movie I ever did [Halloween 2] was a sequel, but it was supposed to be a direct continuation. It started one minute after the first movie ended. You have to try hard to maintain the style of the first movie. I wanted it to feel like a two-parter. You have the responsibility and the restraints of the style that's been set. It was the same crew. My philosophy was to do more of a thriller than a slasher movie."
The decision to include more gore and nudity in the sequel was not made by Rosenthal, who contends that it was Carpenter who chose to make the film much bloodier than the original. According to the film's official website, "Carpenter came in and directed a few sequences to clean up some of Rosenthal's work." One reviewer of the film notes that "Carpenter, concerned that the picture would be deemed too 'tame' by the slasher audience, re-filmed several death scenes with more gore." When asked about his role in the directing process, Carpenter told an interviewer: "That's a long, long story. That was a project I got involved in as a result of several different kinds of pressure. I had no influence over the direction of the film. I had an influence in the post-production. I saw a rough cut of Halloween II, and it wasn't scary. It was about as scary as Quincy. So we had to do some post-production work to bring it at least up to par with the competition."
Rosenthal was not pleased with Carpenter's changes. He reportedly complained that Carpenter "ruined [my] carefully paced film." Regardless, many of the graphic scenes contained elements not seen before in film. Roger Ebert claims, "This movie has the first close-up I can remember of a hypodermic needle being inserted into an eyeball." The film is often categorized as a splatter film rather than a slasher film due to the elevated level of gore. Film critic John McCarty writes of splatter films: "[They] aim not to scare their audiences, necessarily, nor to drive them to the edge of their seats in suspense, but to mortify them with scenes of explicit gore. In splatter movies, mutilation is indeed the message ...." Rosenthal later directed the eighth film in the Halloween series, Halloween: Resurrection (2002).
The film's score was a variation of Carpenter compositions from Halloween, particularly the main theme's familiar piano melody played in a 5/4 time rhythm. The score was performed on a synthesizer organ rather than a piano. Overall, the score is on a much grander and darker than the simple piano music of its predecessor. Many regard it as superior to the original, due in no small part to the different instruments used to create a different mood. One reviewer for the BBC described the revised score as having "a more gothic feel." The reviewer asserted that it "doesn’t sound quite as good as the original piece", but "it still remains a classic piece of music." Carpenter performed the score with the assistance of Alan Howarth, who had previously been involved in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) and would work again with Carpenter on projects such as Escape from New York (1981), The Thing (1982) and Christine (1983).
The film featured the song "Mr. Sandman" performed by The Chordettes. Reviewers commented on the decision to include this song in the film, calling the selection "interesting" and "not a song you would associate with a film like this." The song worked well to "mimic Laurie’s situation (sleeping a lot), [making] the once innocent sounding lyrics seem threatening in a horror film." Another critic saw the inclusion of the song as "inappropriate" and asked, "What was that about?"
Halloween II premiered on October 30, 1981, in 1,211 theaters in the United States. To advertise the film, Universal printed a poster that featured a skull superimposed onto a pumpkin. This imagery is described by film historian and sociologist Robert E. Kapsis as "an unmistakable horror motif". Kapsis points out that by 1981 horror had "become a genre non grata" with critics. The effect of this can be seen in the distributor's promotion of the film as horror while at the same time stressing that the sequel, like its predecessor, "was more a quality suspense film than a 'slice and dice' horror film." Use of the tagline More Of The Night HE Came Home—a modified version of the original Halloween tagline—hoped to accomplish the same task.
The film grossed $7,446,508 on its opening weekend and earned a final domestic total of $25,533,818. The rights were sold to Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis and the film was distributed by Universal. While the gross earnings of the sequel paled in comparison to the original's $47 million, it was a success in its own right, besting the earnings of other films of the same genre released in 1981: Friday the 13th Part 2 ($21,722,776), Omen III: The Final Conflict ($20,471,382) and The Howling ($17,985,893). Internationally, Halloween II was released throughout Europe, but it was banned in West Germany and Iceland due to the graphic violence and nudity; a later 1986 release on home video was banned in Norway. The film was shown in Canada, Australia, the Philippines and Japan.
In 1982, the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA, nominated the film for two Saturn Awards: Best Horror Film and Best Actor for Pleasence. The film lost to An American Werewolf in London (1981) and Harrison Ford was chosen over Pleasence for his role in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). The film's performance at the box office later translated into home video sales. It was first released on VHS and laserdisc in 1982 by MCA/Universal Home Video and later by Goodtimes Home Video. From 1988, DVD editions have also been released by these companies. An adaptation of the screenplay was printed as a mass market paperback in 1981 by horror and science-fiction writer Dennis Etchison under the pseudonym Jack Martin. Etchison's novelization was distributed by Kensington Books and became a bestseller.
Critical reaction to the film was generally unfavorable. While film critics had largely showered praise on Halloween, most reviews of its sequel compared it with the original and found it wanting. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote that Halloween II represented "a fall from greatness" that "doesn't even attempt to do justice to the original." Ebert also commented, "Instead, it tries to outdo all the other violent Halloween rip-offs of the last several years." Critic James Berardinelli offered a particularly stinging review:
"The main problem is the film's underlying motivation. Halloween was a labor of love, made by people committed to creating the most suspenseful and compelling motion picture they could. Halloween II was impelled by the desire to make money. It was a postscript—and not a very good one—slapped together because a box office success was guaranteed."
He accused Carpenter and Hill of not believing "in this project the way they believed in the original, and it shows in the final product. The creepiness of the first movie has been replaced by a growing sense of repetitive boredom." Berardinelli was not impressed by the decision to give Myers so much screen time. He says, "The Shape, who was an ominous and forbidding force, has been turned into a plodding zombie. The characters have all been lobotomized, and, in keeping with the slasher trend, the gore content is way up. There was virtually no blood in Halloween; Halloween II cheerfully heaps it on."
However, especially more in recent years, critics have taken a more positive stance towards the film, stating that it was far better than the slew of inferior sequels and rip-offs that followed in subsequent years. Janet Maslin of the New York Times compared the film to other horror sequels and recently released slasher films of the early 1980s rather than to the original. "By the standards of most recent horror films, this—like its predecessor—is a class act." She notes that there "is some variety to the crimes, as there is to the characters, and an audience is more likely to do more screaming at suspenseful moments than at scary ones." Maslin applauded the performance of the cast and Rosenthal and concluded, "That may not be much to ask of a horror film, but it's more than many of them offer." David Pirie's review in Time Out magazine gave Rosenthal's film positive marks, stating, "Rosenthal is no Carpenter, but he makes a fair job of emulating the latter's visual style in this sequel." He wrote that the Myers character had evolved since the first film to become "an agent of Absolute Evil." Film historian Jim Harper suggests, "Time has been a little fairer to the film" than original critics. In retrospect, "many critics have come to recognise that it's considerably better than the slew of imitation slashers that swamped the genre in the eighties."
Like the original Halloween, this and other slasher films have come under fire from feminist critics. According to historian Nicholas Rogers, academic critics "have seen the slasher movies since Halloween as debasing women in as decisive a manner as hard-core pornography." Critics such as John Kenneth Muir point out that female characters such as Laurie Strode survive not because of "any good planning" or their own resourcefulness, but sheer luck. Although she manages to repel the killer several times, in the end, Strode is rescued in Halloween only when Dr. Loomis arrives to shoot Myers.
Detractors of horror films have blamed the genre for the perceived decrease in the morality and increase in crime among America's youth. According to moral critic Peter Peeters, fragile minds are being warped by "unlimited lust and sex, horror, the gruesome world of corpses and ghosts, torture, butchery and cannibalism, violence and destruction, the unsavory details all vividly depicted and accompanied by the appropriate screams and sound effects." A tragic incident associated with the film Halloween II only heightened such attitudes.
On December 7, 1982, Richard Delmer Boyer of El Monte, California, murdered Francis and Eileen Harbitz, an elderly couple in Fullerton, California, leading to the trial People v. Boyer (1989). The couple were stabbed a total of 43 times by Boyer. According to the trial transcript, Boyer's defense was that he suffered from hallucinations in the Harbitz residence brought on by "the movie Halloween II, which defendant had seen under the influence of PCP, marijuana, and alcohol." The film was played for the jury, and a psychopharmacologist "pointed out various similarities between its scenes and the visions defendant described."
Boyer was found guilty and sentenced to death. The incident became known as the "Halloween II Murders" and was featured in a short segment on TNT's Monstervision, hosted by film critic Joe Bob Briggs. Following the trial, moral critics came to the defense of horror films and rejected calls to ban them. Thomas M. Sipos, for instance, stated, "It would be silly, after all, to ban horror films just because Boyer claims to have thought that he was reenacting Halloween 2, or to ban cars because Texas housewife Clara Harris intentionally ran down and killed her husband. Nor does it make sense to ban otherwise useful items such as drugs or guns just because some individuals misuse them."
Some fans, including reviewer James Rolfe, believe that the later film Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later not only ignores the fourth, fifth and sixth installments, but also the second film and is actually a direct sequel to the original Halloween.
This is because H20 does not include many references to the second film, such as the one in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers where we see Michael had been transferred to a high-security federal sanitarium where he has been in a coma since the fire at the end of the second film. And in the opening of H20, two men simply say that Michael's body was never found, so it could be that they are referring to the first film when Dr. Loomis shot him six times, he fell off the balcony and then vanished. However, Laurie does mention the fire to her son.
Also, according to an online video review of the film, director Steve Miner responded in an interview to the question of what it was like directing Halloween 7 with "you mean Halloween 2."
For years, fans of the franchise had provided theories saying that the character of Jimmy might be the husband of Laurie and the father of Jamie Lloyd from Halloween 4, 5 and 6, and/or John Tate from H20. With all of the evidence fans gathered on this theory, it is possible Jimmy might be the father of Laurie's children.
However, the film does indeed fit into the continuity of H20, as John mentions Laurie watching Michael burn, which occurred in this film, and the following film, Halloween: Resurrection, confirms that Michael indeed killed "three nurses and a paramedic," which also refers to the events of this film, despite the information being incorrect.
The 2018 film takes place in a new timeline that completely ignores the events of every film past the original Halloween, including Halloween II. This makes it the first sequel outside of Halloween III: Season of the Witch to not acknowledge this film.
- Halloween II (1981) on Wikipedia
- on the Internet Movie Database