Halloween II was not released until three years after the first film. The horror landscape was already shifting under the success of Halloween. Movies like Prom Night, My Bloody Valentine and Friday the 13th were all released in the span of those three years. Halloween II was given a much higher budget of 2.5 million (as opposed to the 320,000 budget of the original). John Carpenter would not return to direct instead opting to stay on as producer and writer along with Debra Hill. Taking over directing duties was Rick Rosenthal making his directorial debut. How was the sequel? It was okay.
All things considered, Halloween II (which takes place moments after the first film) is probably the best of the sequel films. This is mostly due to it staying much closer to the style of John Carpenter’s first film while also have stronger writing. We also were given a new rendition of Carpenter’s score that is a worthy follow up. Halloween II is not a bad movie there is genuine suspense given to the film and there is a considerable effort on Rosenthal’s part to replicate’s Carpenter’s style.
I think in some ways this was a mistake. The story for Halloween II doesn’t work with Carpenter’s slow burn style. There is a lack of new characters worthy to care about and with the body count being higher it meant less time for suspense. Also, the kills were a lot more graphic. The kills seem to take a more Friday the 13th approach rather than the first Halloween which was far more methodical and subtle.
Halloween II also commits the first sin of the series, it gave Michael Myers a motive. Many like to complain about Rob Zombie’s remake of Halloween taking away the mystery of Michael Myers by giving him a backstory. I would argue by then the damage was already done by the sequels. Halloween II retcons the reason Michael Myers goes after Laure Strode by saying it’s his lost sister. At that moment, Myers no longer becomes an elemental force. Instead, Myers is just a disgruntled brother. This is a creative decision that Carpenter has since said he has regretted making.
This doesn’t break the movie but it is a retcon that I think makes the first movie weaker while also Michael Myers a weaker villain. This is now being retconned again by David Gordon Green’s sequel to Halloween so now the series is more a choose your own adventure story. If you prefer the idea of Michael Myers have no family connection than you go on with Green’s continuity and if you prefer the family connection you go on with Rick Rosenthal’s Halloween II.
I won’t deny one thing watching Halloween and Halloween II back to back isn’t a bad double feature. For all the fault of Halloween II, it was meant to bring the story to an end. When viewed in this context it isn’t so bad. The finale is as explosive and bombastic as classic Universal. Plus there are some strong scenes throughout the movie and a hospital at night is a creepy setting. Halloween II has its moments but it isn’t nearly as refined as the first film and also makes the mistake of giving Myers a motive. This movie is enjoyable just don’t go in expecting the first Halloween.