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40 Years Later: Halloween II

30 October 21 words: Jack Leonard

The much-maligned sequel to John Carpenter's classic slasher has never been great, but it still provides plenty of over-the-top horror fun...

Director: Rick Rosenthal
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Dick Warlock
Running time: 92 minutes

John Carpenter and Debra Hill didn’t want a Halloween II. It happened after a dispute between producers over the rights to The Fog, so Carpenter relented to get that film made. Neither wanted to direct, so Rick Rosenthal made his feature debut, ensuring every effort to create a continuity with the first film. 

Set on the same night as the first Halloween, the action directly follows on from the final frames of the 1978 masterpiece, with Michael Myers mysteriously still alive – and on the loose.

What resulted was a daft mess with close to no plot that was far better than it should have been. The gore was ramped up and a sardonic sense of humour added (that starts and ends with Mr. Sandman by The Chordettes). It’s not great, but it is fun.

The film’s skilful use of silence and John Carpenter and Alan Howarth’s synth-based score is well-played

Rosenthal’s delicate pacing and abrupt violence, along with the coldly calculated way that Michael (a.k.a. "The Shape", played by the brilliantly-named Dick Warlock) pursues the injured Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) around a sleepy suburban hospital – picking off the staff one by one – is nicely creepy. Also, the film’s skilful use of silence and John Carpenter and Alan Howarth’s synth-based score is well-played, while the return of cinematographer Dean Cundey (who went on to shoot The ThingBack to the Future, and Jurassic Park) is very welcome. Plus, the over-the-top (pretty much deranged) return of Donald Pleasance as Dr. Sam Loomis is hilarious. 

Forty years later and what Carpenter and Hill never intended to be a series has become a full-on franchise, with the twelfth instalment, Halloween Kills, in cinemas now. But Halloween II does have a certain macabre charm to it – so let’s wheel out the birthday cake, put on our overalls and William Shatner masks, get ourselves a kitchen knife, and cut a big slice. 

Did you know? This film was supposed to be the last Halloween film to revolve around Michael Myers, with the series intended to become an anthology of standalone horror stories. After the lacklustre reaction to Halloween III: Season of the Witch, however, Michael Myers was brought back for Halloween 4 and all subsequent entries.

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