Dir. Rick Rosenthal (1981)
As Dr. Loomis looks for the disappeared Michael, Laurie tries to recover from the attack in the hospital. Michael is back to try to finish the job.
The followup to the original Halloween and the only film in the entire franchise that didn't take place on October 31st, Halloween II featured a script by the Horror Master with a brand new director, first-time filmmaker Rick Rosenthal. Rosenthal would go on to direct Halloween: Resurrection as well, but his first attempt went a lot better. The film takes place immediately following the events of the original film, as Laurie Strode has been taken to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital after surviving the attack by Michael Myers. Michael is still alive as well, however, and he makes his way to the hospital in an attempt to finish what he started. Dr. Loomis is pursuing him, however, looking to complete his own plan to kill Michael before he is able to kill again.
Halloween II lacks a lot of the scares that the original did so well, though it makes up for it by adding a bit more blood and some creative kills. The death of a young trick or treater who happens to be wearing the same mask as Michael, who gets sandwiched between two cars before burning to death, is brutal and inadvertently hilarious, a needless death that sticks out in the series as one that isn't directly caused by Myers himself. The bodycount is also double that of the original, a whopping ten deaths as compared to five (and two dogs). It also feels like a sequel, unlike a lot of the other films in the series where the plot diverges wildly from what was originally intended.
One of the things I find interesting about these films, and slasher films more broadly, is the perception that the violence is misogynistic in nature and aim. The fact that these slasher villains are always stalking women, at times committing more violence towards the fairer sex, is seen as indecent, an assault on women so that men can live vicariously through the killer. I firmly believe that this is (almost always) a nonsensical argument and is instead a reflection of the perspective that women are weaker and must be protected by men. It's no secret that horror movies target young and teenaged boys, and while it could certainly be argued that the nudity in the films is used merely to titillate its adolescent audience, I would posit that the actual murder and mutilation of females in horror is more related to a natural (or societally induced, at least) instinct for these young men to protect the "weaker" sex. Killing men is seen as a fair fight, a mano y mano gladiatorial match won by the stronger man, whereas anytime a man uses violence against a woman (outside of the home, at least), it's seen as a perversion of that natural tendency to protect.
Thankfully, many of these attitudes are changing (especially that "outside of the home" part), though the horror movie victimization of women has rarely slowed down over the years. Perhaps it's a relic of a bygone era, one in which filmic principles have not caught up to the changing times. Perhaps it's just because there are more women than there are men, or because men would put up a bigger fight in general and are therefore not targeted by whatever maniac is on the loose. Either way, the Halloween movies generally do a fair job of ensuring that there are relatively equal numbers of the dead on both sides, and Halloween II is no different.
Halloween II is, of course, where the series first announced that Laurie was Michael's sister, part of the lore that really drove the plots of the rest of the series until DGG's unholy trilogy destroyed the narrative. I can see the argument for why the sibling idea is a bad one: part of the draw of Michael Myers is that he's an unstoppable killing machine who kills for no reason, the personification of evil that exists in an seemingly just world. I get that, I really do. However, making Laurie Michael's sister makes sense from a narrative perspective. Having Michael kill for no reason erases any logic for the films to be a franchise at all. Every killer has to have some explanation, regardless of how tenuous it may be. Jason kills around Crystal Lake, Chucky tries to find Andy, and Freddy kills the residents of Springwood as penance for his own murder. Having the Halloween franchise revolve around Michael and his fucked up family is in keeping with the rest of the genre, providing a method to his madness. It does, however, make the story a little less scary.
As far as sequels to horror movies go, Halloween II is a pretty decent one. It's got more blood, more bodies, and an interesting plot, and of course returns the considerable acting talents of Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance. It is not, however, entirely worthy of the original. It's a good film, but it's not a great film, and it certainly doesn't rank anywhere near the top of the best horror films ever made like its predecessor. All in all, it's a fun watch that tries its best to maintain the tone and spirit of the original, and while it doesn't always accomplish that, it's an enjoyable film that helps to establish the mythos that created the horror franchise with the most films to its credit (except for Puppet Master, which... ehhh.)
Who this movie is for: Slasher fans, Franchise lovers, Phlebotomists
Bottom line: While not nearly as good as the original, Halloween II is an enjoyable film that helps to create arguably the best franchise in horror. Lots of kills and a badass ending help make Halloween II a sequel worth watching. Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance are fantastic as always, the score is almost as good as the original, and this one is well worth your time if you haven't seen it. Make it a double header with the first film for best effect.