MOTW: Did "Halloween II" Live Up to Its Predecessor?

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On Halloween night in 1963, a six-year-old Michael Myers murders his older sister. Fifteen years later, he escapes from a psychiatric hospital, and stalks teenager Laurie Strode and her friends. Michael's psychiatrist suspects Michael's intentions, and follows him to try and prevent him from killing.
Photo Credit: Dimension Films
November 1st, 2013

MOTW: Did "Halloween II" Live Up to Its Predecessor?

The original "Halloween" movie became an instant cult classic, and although its creators intended it to be a one-off production, that was far from what actually happened. The series went on to become ten films long and span nearly three decades of film history. Fans of the franchise look to the inaugural film, "Halloween," and its successor, "Halloween II," as having set the tone for the rest of the series (with the exception of "Halloween III," which deviated from the franchise's formula). But did "Halloween II" live up to the hype of the original, and do fans consider it worthy of the same praise that was showered on the first movie?

The franchise's second installment was released in 1981—three full years after "Halloween" scared the wits out of the moviegoing public with its gory brand of slashing and screaming, which did much to establish the elements that are now synonymous with slasher films. Although John Carpenter ultimately ended up producing the second film and writing the screenplay, he turned down the offer to direct "Halloween II," and his absence is often cited by critics as one of the film's biggest setbacks. "Halloween II" was directed by Rick Rosenthal, and Debra Hill signed on as cowriter with Carpenter.

Still, for fans who were left wanting more when the credits rolled on the original movie in 1978, the franchise's second installment does a wonderful job of picking up where that film left off. This follow-up starts by revisiting the final moments of the first movie, when Michael falls to the ground after he is shot six times by Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance).

However, when Loomis glances out the window a second time, Michael has disappeared, and we find out later that he has followed Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital. It is later revealed that Laurie is Michael's sister, which is why he's obsessed with offing her. The remainder of the movie makes itself busy with finding ways for Michael to almost accomplish his mission—and lots of people who get in his way meet grizzly, bloody ends.

One thing that "Halloween II" does really well is solidify the image of Michael Myers as the monster that he has revealed himself to be time and time again throughout the series. It also adds more depth to the backstory from the previous film by not only revealing the story of Laurie and Michael's separation as children, but also giving viewers a glimpse of Michael's own difficult beginnings, which drive his inner machinations and murderous rage.

However, "Halloween II" doesn't really stand on its own without the help of the previous film. One could easily watch "Halloween," never watch the next movie (or movies four, seven, or ten, for that matter) and still come away content with a fairly brilliant story. Viewers can't really have that same experience with "Halloween II," because they need the backstory from the first film to understand the second to the fullest. Skip watching the first film, and you won't fully appreciate what the writers are trying to pull off in "Halloween II."

One of the things that keeps "Halloween II" from truly stacking up to the expectations that were set by the original film may lie with its director, Rosenthal. The love and care Carpenter brought to the table in molding Michael is somewhat lost with Rosenthal's take on the story, which is less inspired and less scary. What the second film lacks of the first's horror and scare, it makes up for with gore and violence, since it is, above all, a gruesome flick.

All in all, when taken in context with its predecessor, "Halloween II" is a decent horror film that is a good, natural continuation of the series. Most fans of the series consider film two of the franchise to be more of a companion movie to the original than a film that could or should be viewed independently. Overall, it's a solid, although slow, addition to the franchise that definitely is owed some respect if for no other reason than for bridging the gap in the series and resurrecting a bogeyman in a genre that rarely (up until the time) believed in bringing the bad guy back to life.