Unlike most sequels, this one begins exactly where the first film ended. The first few scenes are from the closing shots of the last film. Once past this short rehash, the movie immediately proceeds in its own direction with Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) telling an angry neighbor “You don’t know what death is!” as the search for Michael Myers begins anew.
The film divides its time for the most part between Dr. Loomis’s search for Michael, and the hospital where Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), the lone-teenage survivor of Michael’s killing spree is taken. The character of Dr. Loomis seems more and more like one of his patients than a psychiatrist as the search for Michael continues. Pleasence brings the character to life; Dr. Loomis swings between depressed resignation that he did not do more to prevent the escape, and maniacal ravings about Michael’s evil.
While Dr. Loomis continues his quest to find “the evil”, Laurie is taken to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital. She begs not to be put to sleep, but the doctor ignores this and drugs her up so he can tend her stab would and cracked ankle bone. Unfortunately, Michael Myers learns where she is, and heads for the hospital himself.
Director Rick Rosenthal takes over the helm from John Carpenter, who directed “Halloween”. John Carpenter and his creative partner Debra Hill maintained their input into this one as the writers and producers. The combination of creative talents works well, for although it was not better than the original, “Halloween II” was just as good (rare indeed for a sequel).
Rosenthal uses the hospital setting to great advantage. With only a skeleton crew working, the hospital is dark and empty. In several scenes, Rosenthal uses the darkness of the hospital to mask Michael’s presence in a room only to have him appear as the light shifts, a truly chilling effect. Rosenthal originally wanted to go with more of the implied violence like Carpenter had used in the original, but he ended up shooting some very gory death scenes to help the film compete with some of its competition in the booming slasher film field of the early 80’s. Not all of the murders are shown, but every dead body turns up in the end clearly showing how they died.
In addition to the gorier tone of the film, the character of Laurie had changed too. Unlike some movie characters that move through injury and emotional trauma without showing a sign of effect, Laurie is hurt, tired, and scared out of her mind. As she recovers her wits, she also realizes that it is not over. When the nurses find that the phones are dead, Laurie knows it is Michael, but instead of trying to convince the staff of the danger, she plays comatose and waits for her chance. She escapes to another part of the hospital, just before Michael finds her room. A game of cat and mouse begins. But Laurie must not only deal with her Michael’s pursuit, she must also deal with the effects of her injuries and the drugs she’s been given. Rosenthal uses the drugged perspective to give a surreal feel to Laurie’s first encounter with Michael when he murders a nurse before her eyes. Witnessing the murder brings Laurie out of her haze, but thanks to her injuries, the chase that ensues is much closer and more spine chilling than it would be if she were not so encumbered.
All and all an excellent follow up to the classic slasher film. Ten murders, one accidental death by police car, gallons of blood, a special appearance by Pamela Shoop’s two biggest talents followed by her even better death by scalding water and a good explanation of why Michael Myers is so interested in Laurie Strode. I recommend doing the double feature by watching “Halloween II” immediately after the original “Halloween”, preferably late at night with the lights out….. good luck getting to sleep afterwards!