Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Charles Cyphers, Jeffrey Kramer, Lance Guest, Pamela Susan Shoop, Hunter von Leer, Dick Warlock, Leo Rossi, Gloria Gifford, Tawny Moyer, Ana Alicia, Ford Rainey, Cliff Emmich, Nancy Stephens
Written by: John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Directed by: Rick Rosenthal
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 90
Date: 10/30/1981

Halloween II (1981)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Fighting Shape

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After creating the most successful independent film of all time (at the time) with Halloween (1978), director John Carpenter remained on board for this sequel, as co-writer, co-producer, composer of the music score, and -- some say -- an uncredited second unit director. But he left the directing duties to Rick Rosenthal. The story picks up just as the previous film leaves off; it's still Halloween night, 1978, in Haddonfield. Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) goes to the hospital, and though Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) shot the killer, Michael Myers, six times, he simply "got up and walked away."

Now Myers heads toward the hospital, while Loomis and the police search the town for him. A man wearing a "shape" mask dies in a fiery car crash, and it throws the good guys off for a while. But meanwhile, Myers manages to kill just about everyone in the hospital, including a naked nurse canoodling with a randy ambulance driver in the hot tub therapy room.

Rosenthal does his best to imitate Carpenter's style, using wide angles and long takes, keeping scary information in the background or at the edges of the frame. But it's really a clear example of why Carpenter is a master filmmaker and Rosenthal is not. There's just a certain edge missing, a certain pulse, that Carpenter could do with ease that Rosenthal can't. But the movie succeeds thanks to its urgency, and the way it ties in so closely with the classic original. The old characters are still fresh and strong, and the new ones seem to fit well. Many Halloween fans probably wish that there were no sequels at all, but from among the ten films in all (as of 2014), this one isn't a bad entry.

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