Wow, from brilliance to mediocrity in one fell swoop! When the original Halloween became the most profitable motion picture in history, a sequel was a no-brainer. They even managed to dangle a carrot in front of John Carpenter and Debra Hill and got them to churn out a less than inspired script, gave them producer credits and the power to mess with new helmer Rick Rosenthal's head, and Halloween II was born.
The film continues where the original left off. Laurie Strode (Curtis in a very bad wig) has narrowly avoided being skewered by legendary local loony Michael Myers with the aid of Dr. Sam Loomis (Pleasence in all his "Evil" spewing glory) and his medicinal firearm. After filling Myers with more lead than a third world nursery school, the killer ups and walks away, and Laurie is taken to Haddonfield Hospital while Loomis continues his pursuit of "The Shape". Meanwhile, Nurse Marion Chambers comes down from Smith's Grove Sanitarium with some news for Loomis! Michael isn't back in Haddonfield for tasty candy and pumpkin carving! He's back in town for a family reunion with one Laurie Strode, Myer's long lost kid sister! Loomis yells about Evil some more and pretty soon the staff of Haddonfield Hospital (which is apparently having a slow night!) is donating blood the old fashioned way.
To call Halloween II a bad movie wouldn't be fair because it really is a masterpiece when compared to other films of its ilk. However, as a TRUE Halloween sequel it really lets ya' down. The many problems begin and end with the apparent tug of war between director Rick Rosenthal and Carpenter and Hill. It's been widely reported that JC was less than impressed with footage shot by Rosenthal and went off and did several reshoots himself, which he spiced up with more gore and fx, something Rosenthal was avoiding to keep in spirit with the original's "less is more" approach. This "split-vision" is apparent while watching the film, and gives the viewer a sense that this was not the sequel ANYONE had in mind, with the possible exception of Pleasence, who seems as though he is quite drunk and could care less.
It's really a shame, because it seemed as though Rosenthal had a great eye for the subject and came closer than any other directors to recreating the feel of the original, with lots of shadow and color play, tense pacing, and a very effective Myers in the guise of Dick Warlock, who comes very close to out-creeping Halloween's "Shape", Nick Castle, during some of Rosenthal's more elaborate stalking sequences (especially the hospital parking lot sequence toward the film's conclusion!).
I think my main problem with Halloween II can be contributed to what I like to call "The Scooby Doo Factor". The Strode/Myers relationship may give Myers a reason to come to Haddonfield, but the original Halloween had no such plot device and was scarier because of it. What is more terrifying than a guy who kills people for NO reason?! Giving Myers an actual motive sort of spoils the soup for me, and a motive as ridiculous as this belongs in an episode of Scooby Doo, hence the "Factor"!
Pleasence and Curtis also seem somewhat off of their respective games here. I realize that Loomis is supposed to be a little eccentric, but here he is just downright mad. If I were a member of the Haddonfield Police I'd place him in Protective Custody the minute he opened his mouth. Laurie, meanwhile, is doped up and in shock, so while I don't expect tap dances or Shaolin kung-fu battle scenes from her, a few moments of lucidity would be appreciated! It was Halloween's strongest statement that her resilience is what kept her alive but Halloween II ignores this completely and makes her as helpless as a hot second cousin at an Appalachian barbecue. Seriously, she really does little more than crawl and cower and that's not the Laurie Strode I remember!!
Universal re-released Halloween II after a dismal Good-Times version, which had zero features, a lackluster transfer, and bargain bin packaging, so how did they improve upon it?
The Universal version of Halloween 2 is just as bare-bones as the Good Times version. The only improvement is a slightly better image transfer and an admittedly superior soundmix, but aside from that we get NOTHING! This makes me weigh the options somewhat. I can get the Good Times version for $6.99 at Best Buy, while the Universal edition is usually $20 bucks or more. I have
both because when I PRE-ordered Universal's version the package was to include trailers, and the "lost" footage (which is always added to television broadcasts of the film) was rumored to also be included. Of course, none of this came to pass, and I ended up with a slightly better version of my faithful cheapo Region One Good Times platter!
This review covers both versions, basically, because, as stated, they are the same thing. If you are REALLY anal about your sound and picture go with God and purchase the exorbitantly overpriced Universal edition. If, like me, you can get by with a few pops and artifacts save the extra 15 clams and get yourself the Good Times version, a case of cheap beer and some chips and enjoy the movie more, safe in the knowledge that the grass ain't that greener on the other side!