U.S. One Sheet poster.
|Directed by||Rick Rosenthal
John Carpenter (Additional scenes)
|Produced by||Debra Hill
|Written by||John Carpenter
|Starring||Jamie Lee Curtis
Hunter von Leer
|Music by||John Carpenter
|Editing by||Mark Goldblatt
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Release date(s)||October 30, 1981|
|Running time||92 minutes|
|Preceded by||Halloween (1978)|
|Followed by||Halloween III: Season of the Witch|
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 unkillable Michael Myers follows his intended victim Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) to a nearby hospital while Dr. 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 intended to be the last chapter of the Halloween series to revolve around Michael Myers and Haddonfield, but after the lackluster reaction to Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), Michael Myers returned seven years later in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988).
After having saved Laurie Strode from his patient Michael Myers, Dr. Sam Loomis informs Sheriff Leigh Brackett (Charles Cyphers) that although he shot him six times in the heart, the inhuman Myers still lives, who tracks down Laurie Strode to the Haddonfield Memorial Hospital. At the hospital, one of the EMS attendants, Jimmy (Lance Guest), begins to show an interest in Laurie and reveals that her attacker was Michael Myers, infamous for murdering his older sister fifteen years earlier on Halloween night. Michael Myers eventually arrives at the hospital and proceeds to murder the staff one by one, while Laurie drifts in and out of consciousness, having strange flashbacks about her adoption by the Strodes and visiting a boy in an institution. Myers soon chases Laurie through the hospital, but she manages to elude him, though heavily sedated and limping badly.
Meanwhile, Dr. Loomis and the Haddonfield police are on the search for Michael. They then discover that Myers has broken into the local elementary school and scrawled the word "Samhain" in blood on a chalkboard. Dr. Loomis explains that it is a Celtic word that means "lord of the dead", the "end of summer", and "October 31." Loomis' assistant from the first film, Nurse Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens), arrives and reveals that Laurie Strode is Myers' sister, and Dr. Loomis realizes Myers is at the hospital. In the film's climax, both Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis are engulfed in an explosion in the hospital and it ends with Laurie being transferred to another hospital.
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 with the exception of 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 Mike 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 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 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 a interview.
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, 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. The 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 II] 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. 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?"
To advertise Halloween II, 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.
Halloween II premiered on October 30, 1981, in 1,211 theaters in the United States. 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.
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.
An alternate version of Halloween II has been airing on AMC network television beginning in the early 1980s, with most of the graphic violence and gore edited out and several minor additional scenes added. While the theatrical version ends with the presumed deaths of Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis, the television cut features an alternative ending showing Jimmy in the ambulance with Laurie Strode. They hold hands and Laurie says, "We made it." 
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.
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).
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.