Halloween II is one of only a handful of follow-ups I can think of to be a literal direct sequel; taking place immediately after the events of the first film. This idea certainly has some potential; exploring how the town’s population would act now knowing that there’s a masked killer on the loose, and how the earlier events would have affected survivor Laurie (a returning Jamie Lee Curtis). Halloween II doesn’t really manage a great deal of this though, instead coming across as a more typically standard slasher movie.
After some unnecessary re-use of original footage, Laurie is taken off to hospital at the start of the film. She then spends a good deal of time out of the picture until the final act, but the majority of the film all takes place in that one location. Now Michael Myers (played by the fantastically named stuntman Dick Warlock) pursues Laurie once again, killing anyone else standing in his way, most of which are the hospital’s idiotic staffers.
John Carpenter returned to co-write and produce this sequel (alongside Debra Hill) but opted not to direct, instead handing duties down to Rick Rosenthal in his debut. Rosenthal lacks the same level of skill and timing to create suspenseful frights that Carpenter possesses, but still gets in a few memorable sequences. The first kill in the film, a pedestrian mistaken for Myers, is quite comically shocking. Later on, we get a number of inventive kills as Myers utilises the instruments found in the hospital to his advantage.
While the murders are creative – a needle to the temple, scalding water bath, blood draining and so on – they are considerably more sadistic and violent than the more restrained original. I was a little surprised to learn that some of the more gruesome moments in the film came from additional shoots by Carpenter himself. Halloween II does also contain moments of effective stalking imagery as Myers draws in on his targets.
Halloween II seems to embrace the supernatural in the way the original skirted around, Myers survives numerous fatal injuries and Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasance) mentions the occult as a possible explanation for this. It’s a sign of what’s to come but does mildly cheapen the chilling ambiguity of the original’s ending, though Myers was supposed to be definitely dead by the end.
Halloween II was seemingly designed to play as the second half of a whole, two-movie story. Having just watched it back-to-back with Halloween, I would not really recommend that as the ideal viewing experience. It’s derivative of, and inferior to the original in every way, but by no means a terrible example of one of the many post-Halloween slasher movies of the period.