Halloween II (1981 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Rick Rosenthal
|Produced by||Debra Hill
|Written by||John Carpenter
|Starring||Jamie Lee Curtis
Pamela Susan Shoop
|Music by||John Carpenter
|Edited by||Mark Goldblatt
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$25.5 million|
Halloween II is a 1981 American slasher film and the second installment in the Halloween film series. Directed by Rick Rosenthal, written and produced by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, it is a direct sequel to Carpenter's Halloween, immediately picking up where it had left off. Set on the same night of October 31, 1978 as the seemingly immortal Michael Myers continues to follow Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) to a nearby hospital while Dr. Sam 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 the film picks up right at the end of the cliffhanger ending of the original movie. The sequel was a box office success, grossing over $25.5 million in the United States. In terms of the response from film critics, the film has received mixed reviews both during its initial run in theatres and since. Several commentators criticized the film's generally uneven pace, certain plot holes and muted character performances, while praise was received to the film's genuinely scary moments that captured the spirit of the first film.
Originally, Halloween II was intended to be the last chapter of the Halloween series to revolve around Michael Myers and the town of Haddonfield, but after the lackluster reaction to Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), the Michael Myers character was brought back six years later in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988).
After being attacked by Michael Myers (Dick Warlock), who vanished after being shot six times and falling from a second story balcony on October 31, 1978, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is rushed to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital that same night while Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) continues to search for Michael. Seeking shelter to recover from his injuries, Michael steals a kitchen knife from an elderly couple's house and kills their teenage neighbor. He learns that Laurie is at the local hospital after listening to a radio broadcast and heads there. Paramedic Jimmy Lloyd (Lance Guest) starts to develop romantic feelings for Laurie, despite the chagrin of head nurse Mrs. Alves (Gloria Gifford), and soon realizes Laurie is in a comatose state. When Loomis sees Ben Tramer (who is wearing a mask similar to Michael's) walking towards him, he mistakes him for Michael and attempts to shoot him, but Sheriff Leigh Brackett (Charles Cyphers) tries to stop him when an oncoming police car hits a van and explodes, accidentally killing Ben.
Once Michael arrives at the Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, he cuts the phone lines, and after killing most of the hospital personnel using various tools and methods, he reaches Laurie's room, but finds it empty. When Jimmy goes to get help, he discovers Mrs. Alves's corpse in the surgery room. While trying to run out of the room, he slips in a pool of blood on the floor and loses consciousness.
Meanwhile, Dr. Loomis follows clues Michael left at a school he broke into when his colleague Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) and a marshal (John Zenda) arrive with orders to transport Loomis back to Smith Grove's Sanitarium. During the drive, Marion tells him that Laurie Strode is Michael's sister. Now knowing Laurie is in danger and that he must get to her before Michael does, Loomis shoots at the window, demanding the Marshal quickly bring him to the hospital where she is.
Just when Nurse Jill Franco (Tawny Moyer) locates Laurie in the hallway, she is killed by Michael, who suddenly appears behind her and stabs her with a scalpel and then pursues Laurie through the hospital. She escapes to the parking lot after climbing through a window and then using an elevator and finds that none of the cars will start and all the tires are flat. Jimmy makes it out of the hospital and gets to his car to seek help, but he falls unconscious on the steering wheel horn, leading Michael to them. Dr. Loomis, Marion, and the Marshal arrive just in time to save Laurie. Loomis shoots Michael five times with his gun when he breaks in through the glass door and corners them. Marion goes to contact the police from the car. When the Marshal examines Michael's body, Loomis warns him to get away from Michael, but he wakes up and slits the Marshal's throat before chasing Loomis and Laurie into a surgery room. Michael stabs Loomis in the stomach, wounding him, before Laurie shoots him in the eyes with Loomis's gun; blinded, he starts swinging the scalpel. Loomis and Laurie then fill the room with ether and oxygen gas as a distraction. Loomis orders Laurie to run for it before igniting the gas and blowing up the surgery room with him and Michael inside, evidently immolating them both in the fire. Michael stumbles out of the room, engulfed in flames before he collapses and finally dies.
The next morning, a visibly shaken Laurie has flashbacks of Michael's burning body as she is loaded into an ambulance and driven off to safety.
- Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode
- Donald Pleasence as Dr. Sam Loomis
- Charles Cyphers as Leigh Brackett
- Lance Guest as Jimmy Lloyd
- Pamela Susan Shoop as Nurse Karen Bailey
- Hunter von Leer as Deputy Gary Hunt
- Tawny Moyer as Nurse Jill Franco
- Ana Alicia as Nurse Janet Marshall
- Nancy Stephens as Marion Chambers
- Gloria Gifford as Nurse Virginia Alves
- Leo Rossi as Budd Scarlotti
- Ford Rainey as Dr. Frederick Mixter
- Jeffrey Kramer as Graham
- Dick Warlock as The Shape (Michael Myers)/Patrolman #3
- Cliff Emmich as Bernard Garrett
- John Zenda as Marshal Terrence Gummell
- Anne Bruner as Alice Martin
- Lucille Benson as Mrs Elrod
- Catherine Bergstrom as Debra Lane
- Dana Carvey as Barry McNichol
- Nancy Loomis as Annie Brackett (corpse cameo)
- Brian Andrews as Tommy Doyle (flashback)
- Kyle Richards as Lindsey Wallace (flashback)
- Jack Verbois as Ben Tramer
- Adam Gunn as Young Michael Myers
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 executive 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. The plot twist of Laurie being Michael's sister required a retcon of the timeline between Judith's murder and the events depicted in the first Halloween; while Michael Myers is said to have committed the crime fifteen years ago and to be twenty-one.
Film critic Roger Ebert, who was a big admirer of the first film, 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 Myers' 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, though his character disappears from the film when the corpse of his daughter Annie (Nancy Loomis) is discovered. Actor Hunter von Leer heads the manhunt for Myers in the role of Deputy Gary 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." Nancy Stephens, who played Loomis's nurse colleague Marion Chambers in the original, also reprised the character and was given a more important role, revealing to Loomis the family connection between Laurie and Michael.
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 an 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 television 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. 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 Pamela Susan Shoop, Leo Rossi, Ana Alicia and Gloria Gifford. Rossi played the part of Budd Scarlotti, a hypersexual EMS driver who mocks Jimmy as a "college boy."
Shoop played Nurse Karen Bailey, 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." Gifford and Alicia played minor supporting roles as head nurse Mrs. Virginia Alves and orderly Janet Marshall. Actor Lance Guest played an EMS driver, Jimmy Lloyd. 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." Future Saturday Night Live and Wayne's World star Dana Carvey also appears briefly in a non-speaking role, wearing a blue baseball cap and receiving instructions from the TV reporter.
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), which, ironically, contained graphically violent content.
Carpenter composed and performed the score with Alan Howarth, who had previously been involved in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), and worked with Carpenter on several projects including Escape from New York (1981), Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), Christine (1983), and Prince of Darkness (1987). The film's score was a variation of Carpenter compositions from Halloween, particularly the main theme's familiar piano melody played in a compound 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."
The film featured the song "Mr. Sandman" performed by The Chordettes, which would later be featured in the opening scenes of Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. 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?"
|Original track listing|
|3.||"He Knows Where She Is"||1:09|
|4.||"Laurie and Jimmy"||3:05|
|5.||"Still He Kills (Murder Montage)"||4:33|
|6.||"The Shape Enters Laurie's Room"||1:36|
|8.||"Flats In The Parking Lot"||1:26|
|10.||"The Shape Stalks Again"||3:04|
|11.||"In the Operating Room"||1:50|
|12.||"Mr. Sandman" (song performed by The Chordettes)||2:22|
|30th Anniversary Edition|
|3.||"He Knows Where She Is"||1:09|
|4.||"Laurie and Jimmy"||3:05|
|5.||"Still He Kills (Murder Montage)"||4:33|
|6.||"The Shape Enters Laurie's Room"||1:36|
|8.||"Flats in the Parking Lot"||1:26|
|10.||"The Shape Stalks Again"||3:04|
|11.||"In the Operating Room"||1:50|
|12.||"Mr. Sandman" (song performed by The Chordettes)||2:22|
|13.||"Halloween II Suite A"||10:06|
|14.||"Halloween II Suite B"||5:05|
|15.||"Halloween II Suite C"||6:36|
|16.||"Halloween II Suite D"||3:50|
|17.||"Halloween II Suite E"||8:09|
|18.||"Halloween II Suite F"||5:09|
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. The film grossed $7,446,508 on its opening weekend. 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. It also features captioned black and white stills from the film at the beginning of each chapter.
An alternate version of Halloween II (sometimes referred to as 'The TV Cut') has aired on network television since the early 1980s (most recently on AMC and Chiller), with most of the graphic violence and gore edited out and many minor additional scenes added, while others are removed. The length of the film still runs nearly identical to the theatrical version. There are many edits such as the murders of Alice, Dr. Mixter, Janet, and Mrs. Alves—all presumed to still happen, but some are off camera. Jimmy's discovery of Mrs. Alves dead and his subsequent slipping in the pool of blood has been significantly shortened and moved just prior to the explosion which kills Myers. Also added are scenes of Michael cutting the power (this explains the dark setting throughout the latter half of the film) and a power generator kicking in. There is also extra dialogue between Laurie and Jimmy, Laurie and Mrs. Alves, Janet and Karen, Karen and Mr. Garrett, Bud and Karen, Jill and Jimmy, etc. Another notable difference is the killing of the Marshall. In the theatrical version his throat is slit, while in the TV version it is softened, with Michael grabbing him and stabbing him from behind (with no detail shown). While the theatrical version ends with the presumed deaths of Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis and leaves the audience in a gray area as to whether Jimmy survives, the television cut features an extended ending showing Jimmy alive (with bandaged head wound from his slip) in the ambulance with Laurie Strode. They hold hands and Laurie says, "We made it."
Home video release
Halloween II was first released on VHS and laserdisc in 1982 by MCA/Universal Home Video and later by Goodtimes Home Video. From 1998, DVD editions have also been released by these companies. Shout! Factory re-released the film in a 2-disc collector's edition DVD on September 18, 2012 with new special features, including the alternate television cut.
Although the film was passed uncut with an 'X' certificate for its UK theatrical run, the 18-rated VHS release suffered 17 secs of BBFC cuts which considerably reduced the violence and nudity during the murder of Karen in the jacuzzi. These cuts were eventually waived for the 2002 Sanctuary DVD, and all subsequent releases were fully uncut.
In 2007, the film was released as a two-disc "Universal double feature" with Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Lions Gate re-released the film on DVD in Australia in 2008 with no special features. On October 13, 2013 The Film was again released on DVD in Australia by Via Vision Entertainment with the same DVD Extras as the US Scream Factory Release.
Universal Studios released the film on Blu-ray in the United States on September 13, 2011. It is packaged as a 30th Anniversary Edition and includes deleted scenes, My Scenes featurette, Pocket BLU app, an alternate ending and the 1984 documentary feature Terror in the Aisles.
The release sparked controversy immediately due to the fact that Universal removed the credit "Moustapha Akkad Presents" and replaced it with "Universal, An MCA Company, Presents" ... in a font that did not match the rest of the opening credits. Akkad's son, Malek, called the stunt "disgusting. It's a disgrace[;] obviously, bias[.] [O]bjectively, any horror fan would find this as an insult to the man who has done so much to the series. And to come after his tragic death, he's not even around to defend himself. It's classless. I'm talking to Universal now and they're 'looking into it.'" However, Akkad was still credited on the packaging. Fans immediately called for a boycott of the disc and set up a Facebook page. On November 28, Universal started sending out emails announcing that the revised Blu-ray was now available and for owners of the previous disc to provide the studio with their "address and daytime phone number".
Shout! Factory re-released the film in a 2-disc Collector's Edition Blu-ray on September 18, 2012 under its new Scream Factory label with new special features, including two new audio commentaries, two new "behind-the-scenes" featurettes, deleted scenes, an alternate ending, the theatrical trailer, TV and radio spots, and still gallery. The Collector's Edition also contains the TV cut, along with a downloadable script of the film, on a second DVD disc for both format releases. The new Blu-ray release restores the Akkad credit. The Blu-ray was Released in Australia on October 13, 2013 With Blu-ray Extras TV Cut Scenes, Trailer.
In January 2012, Trick or Treat Studios announced the release of two officially licensed Halloween II masks from Universal Studios. The first mask is a replica of how the mask looked throughout the majority of the film and the other is a replica of how the mask looked during the final scene of the movie after The Shape was shot in the eyes, called Blood Tears. Both masks became available for sale in costume stores starting Halloween 2012.
Critical reaction to the film was very mixed. 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." He also commented, "Instead, it tries to outdo all the other violent Halloween rip-offs of the last several years." Web based 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."
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 hardcore 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.
Despite a more negative reaction than its predecessor, Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis both received praise for their performances. Dick Warlock's portrayal as Michael Myers has also become very popular with fans of the franchise.
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).
A tragic incident with minor connections to the film heightened attitudes about the potent effects of media violence on young people. 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 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 II, 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.
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- Box Office Mojo 1981 domestic grosses chart; last accessed April 19, 2006.
- Censorship in Germany, at MelonFarmers.com; last accessed April 19, 2006.
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- Jack Martin, Halloween II (New York: Kensington, 1981), ISBN 0-89083-864-X.
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- Halloween II DVD
- Halloween II: How Universal disrespected Moustapha Akkad - Shock Till You Drop.com, September 14, 2011
- Halloween II Blu-ray: Justice has been served - Dread Central.com, November 28, 2011
- Janet Maslin, "Movie: 'Halloween II' for Fright Fans", New York Times, October 30, 1981, p. C8.
- David Pirie, review of Halloween II, Time Out magazine, reprinted in 1991, p. 277.
- Jim Harper, Legacy of Blood: A Comprehensive Guide to Slasher Movies (Manchester, Eng.: HeadPress/Critical Vision, 2004), pp. 16–17, ISBN 1-900486-39-3.
- John Kenneth Muir, Wes Craven: The Art of Horror (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, 1998), p. 104, ISBN 0-7864-1923-7.
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- Thomas M. Sipos, "Don't Blame the Devil This Halloween", October 11, 2005, at HollywoodInvestigator.com; last accessed April 19, 2006.
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