If John Carpenter’s iconic 1978 classic Halloween is the blueprint for the slasher genre, then its sequel, released in 1981, turned that same blueprint into a joke. Halloween II is a sluggish mess that emphasizes every annoying horror trait and almost single-handedly morphs them into laughable clichés in just over 90 minutes.
The story follows immediately after the events from the first film as the masked killer, Michael Myers, falls from the second-story balcony after being shot six times. When the man who shoots him, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance), looks over the edge onto the grass below, Myers is gone. His intended victim, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), is taken to the hospital where she will be cared for the rest of the movie.
The entire film cuts back and forth between the hospital where Myers is stalking its employees (there are literally no other patients besides Laurie), and Loomis riding around in a car trying to find Myers, who’s at the hospital.
Myers is at the hospital for one reason and one reason alone, yet he winds up inexplicably sidetracked, meanwhile Laurie Strode just lay in her bed the entire time like a sitting duck, essentially waiting for him to come find her. This isn’t interesting, it’s just annoying.
Luckily, the surprisingly intense 3rd act is filled with some intriguing character revelations and thrilling chase sequences. However, the 60 minutes beforehand don’t set up any of this at all, but merely sit around and wait for this part of the plot to just happen (again, Laurie just sitting in her hospital bed). You can literally start the film at the one-hour mark and get the exact same enjoyment out of this movie but save some time in the process.
Although John Carpenter, who wrote and directed the first film, wisely doesn’t return to direct, he still co-writes the script with Debra Hill. Rick Rosenthal takes the directorial reins, and he actually has a couple flashes of brilliance. There’s a beautiful shot inside the doctor’s office where Myers, hiding in the darkness, steps two inches forward and all of a sudden, the previously-hidden mask is thrust into view.
Unfortunately, the context surrounding this shot is wasted. There are two characters who meet their demise in this scene. One is a young nurse who we see only a handful of times before, but we don’t know her name, her personality, or have any reason to care about her fate. The other is a doctor, who is dead upon our arrival. We’ve literally never seen this character before this very moment. I mean, come on! Even the Friday the 13th movies try to develop some semblance of a story and background behind their quick kills. But this is a microcosm of the plethora of issues that riddle this film.
With cars that won’t ever start and phones that won’t ever work, there’s a lot of convenience at play, much like there is in other slashers, but instead of just one or two moments relying on those tropes, this entire movie relies on them. Characters are constantly leaving their posts for dumb reasons that get themselves or somebody else killed. This is perhaps no better summed up than by the nurse who tries to flee the hospital, notices every car in the parking lot has flat tires, and then runs back INTO the hospital.
Once again, Pleasance is the standout performer here. However, this time, he has no help. The acting everywhere else is completely uninspired, including Curtis, who seems to be sleepwalking through her role.
Also once again, this movie fails to properly evoke the Halloween ethos, although it just may be better at doing so than its predecessor, somehow. While a hospital isn’t exactly what I conjure up in my brain when I think of the holiday, it gives the set designers an excuse to decorate more.
Plagued by dead-end/nonexistent storylines and a meandering plot, Halloween II doesn’t ever seem to want to tell a story until the final 30 minutes. The movie just plays out as an aftermath from the first film, but there’s no new story to be told, just a series of moments. Scenes drag and we sit there waiting for the end. There seems to have been the brilliant idea of setting an entire slasher inside of a dark hospital, however, that’s neither fun nor interesting without a good enough script. The results are something similar to Friday the 13th with its episodic approach, but with fewer victims and fewer places to hide, which only decreases the suspense. Brooding and self-indulgent, this is a movie that thinks it’s doing way more than it is. And somehow, fans throughout the years have been tricked as well.