In Defense Of: “Halloween II” (1981)

Halloween II

It’s something I’ve discussed in these features several times to date, most recently in breaking down a similar horror sequel in Child’s Play 2, but, once again, it bears repeating that Halloween II has to cope with the fact that the mystery its predecessor thrived in is gone, as audiences have been exposed to Michael in a way that makes trying to hide him or keep him off screen again for long stretches impossible. It’s a loss of mystique that every direct sequel in the horror genre tends to have to deal with in one way or another, and how said sequel (or sequels) cope with that defines whether or not it sinks or swims.

Whereas Child’s Play 2 successfully dealt with that issue by pushing Chucky and his personality more to the fore, Halloween II benefits from simply extending the events of Halloween in order to jump right into the action, the ball already rolling, rather than set itself, say, three years later, forced to slow build a narrative based around explaining everything that has happened in the years since Michael disappeared into the night. Instead, we get to see the immediate aftermath of a night that just won’t end for the characters caught up in the horror of it all, which gives Halloween II the opportunity to serve as a companion piece to its predecessor rather than a separate beast altogether.

We get to witness Loomis grow increasingly more exasperated that Michael’s still on the loose, confused about how he took bullets to the chest and walked away but vindicated in his belief that Myers is less a man and more a force of pure evil. We also see a shell-shocked Laurie in the process of getting through immediate trauma only to remain on high alert, knowing her would-be killer is out there somewhere, to the point of being aware of little details that might suggest he’s come for her, like the hospital’s phone line being out. Even Sheriff Brackett (Charles Cyphers) disappears from the action after discovering Michael had killed his daughter Annie (Nancy Loomis), shaken by grief and concerned about having to break the news to his wife.

If Halloween was about unexpected evil taking advantage of a town complacent in their security, Halloween II is about the paranoia that said evil is everywhere. Citizens immediately descend on the Myers house in response to the news of Michael’s murders. An innocent teen gets run down and accidentally set ablaze because he’s mistaken for Michael. A young nurse at the hospital (Ana Alicia) is afraid to even wander alone down a long hallway to retrieve a doctor due to the news report she’d seen about the murders in the break room. Even beyond Michael, a mother brings a child to the hospital room for having eaten candy laced with a razor blade, a tiny, otherwise throwaway detail in the film that only serves to emphasize the idea that evil doesn’t need to wear a mask and kill people to have its presence felt.

That said, the evil that does wear a mask and kills people in the movie is definitely a force to be reckoned with, and Halloween II ups Michael’s body count in a big way, particularly once he gets to the hospital. Like the first film, Myers isn’t content to just walk in and kill everyone as quickly as possible and be done with it, opting instead to haunt the empty halls and slowly prey on his victims, clearly savoring every moment without ever having to say a word.