Since its release, David Gordon Green’s Halloween sequel has earned critical acclaim for being perhaps the best follow up to John Carpenter’s 1978 original. For the longest time, that title was held by Rick Rosenthal’s Halloween II, the highly successful 1981 follow up that took place on the same night as the original.
Halloween II continues the saga of the 1978 film. Picking up moments later, Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) is taken to a hospital while Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) continues to hunt his escaped patient. Unbeknownst to both, Michael (Dick Warlock) has followed Laurie to the hospital intent to finish the job.
Rather than picking up moments later, Halloween 2018 jumps ahead 40 years, ignoring all the sequels and instead showing us an aged Laurie, who now lives as a recluse and suffers a strained relationship with her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). Their already stressed relationship is put to the test when Michael (James Jude Courtney) escapes from an institution and returns to terrorize Haddonfield.
Both films pay tribute to the Carpenter film in their own ways, and both are actually quite good. But which is better?
The first step is determining which has the better overall story, which Halloween 2018 can easily claim. Since Halloween II takes place on the same night as the first, it struggles to properly develop its characters. When viewed with the first movie, it works fine. When viewed on its own, Halloween II feels incomplete. In the end, it feels less like its own movie and more like an extended third act to the original.
2018, on the other hand, has more of a narrative. Rather than simply picking up after the story is well underway, Green takes his time to establish the fractured relationship Laurie has with her family. Her desire to re-connect with them gives her a tangible goal, with Michael being the obstacle she must overcome to reach it. The original may have been light on story, but that’s precisely why this film unpacking Laurie’s trauma makes it a more risky and thoughtful sequel than most, scoring the 2018 film its first point.
Halloween II – 0 Halloween 2018 – 1
One of the most iconic things about Halloween is the score, so how do the sequels live up to Carpenter’s masterful music? Well, they both get Carpenter as a composer, but both are also drastically different. Halloween II features an updated synth version of the original film’s score. It’s very good, but it also keeps the music from innovating and trying anything new.
While the 2018 film features an update of the original theme, Carpenter also experiments a lot more with his music. The 2018 film features music that is melancholic, eerie, foreboding, and outright terrifying. From the ominous opening at the institution to Allyson running for her life through Haddonfield’s deserted streets, Carpenter always keeps his score as lively as it is scary. It’s one of his best scores, and earns the 2018 film another point on this list.
Halloween II – 0 Halloween 2018 – 2
The original Halloween was a beautiful looking film, thanks to the talents of Dean Cundy. Cundy would go on to become one of Hollywood’s most prolific and successful cinematographers, giving all of his films a unique visual style. How can you compete with that? The answer is you can’t, which is why Halloween II scores its first point on this list.
Halloween II is the only direct sequel that Cundy returned for (not counting Season of the Witch). While Halloween II isn’t as strong as the original, it’s just as good looking, with Cundy bringing back the signature visual style that made the original so unsettling. Make no mistake. Michael Simmonds does a great job in the 2018 film, and while there are moments approaching Cundy’s brilliance, there is still only one Dean Cundy.
Halloween II – 1 Halloween 2018 – 2
Most people don’t go into a slasher movie expecting great characters, which is one of the reasons the original Halloween is so highly regarded. It did have a good cast with some memorable personalities in it, choosing to develop its heroes rather than merely bringing lambs to the slaughter. So overall, which films have better casts, exluding Jamie Lee Curtis?
Halloween II features the return of several characters from the original, such as the famed Dr. Loomis, nurse Chambers, and Sherriff Bracket. While these roles are nice additions, the majority of the time is spent with the not quite as interesting hospital staff. In spite of a few memorable personalities, I still struggle to remember everyone’s name after almost 15 years of watching this film. 2018 has an overall more solid ensemble, from the ill fated podcasters that introduce the story, to the reserved Officer Hawkins, and of course, Karen and Allyson. Loomis delivers the goods in Halloween II, but he’s one of the few who does. With 2018, we have a lot more memorable faces.
Halloween II – 1 Halloween 2018 – 3
One of the things that brings people to a slasher movie is a good set of kills. While Halloween was more about the mood than the body count, its sequels made sure to keep the red stuff flowing. So out of these two, which has the more creative death scenes?
The 2018 film has a greater focus on character than gore, and while there are some good kills in the film, they pale in comparison to what Halloween II has to offer. The film cleverly uses the hospital setting to provide Michael with some very creative implements of murder. People are dispatched with scalpels, syringes, garrotes. One poor victim is even scalded to death on a hot chemotherapy pool. When it comes to the death scenes, Halloween II is never short on creativity.
Halloween II – 2 Halloween 2018 – 3
The original Halloween worked on its ability to build a sense of forboding even when no violence was occuring onscreen. That’s one of the reasons it’s so beloved. It’s scary not just in certain scenes, but throughout its running time. So which film manages to build a sense of dread more effectively?
Both films have some very good moments. 2018 builds suspense nicely during Michael’s escape on a deserted road, and during the podcasters’ ill fated reprieve at a local gas station. But something about the deserted halls of Haddonfield Memorial just seems scarier. Halloween II sets up that Michael has entered the building almost from the beginning, creating a sense of impending doom even in the moments when the film drags. With images of him stalking empty hallways and Laurie’s frantic dash through darkened boiler rooms, this movie heaps on mood almost as well as the original, earning Halloween II another point.
Halloween II – 3 Halloween 2018 – 3
Chosing which film handles Michael better is a tough one as both films have great talents behind the mask. Halloween II features veteran stuntman Dick Warlock, who brings a cold mechanical feel to Michael’s character that makes him deeply unsettling. However, he doesn’t feel quite as ethereal as Castle did in the original, one of the reasons James Jude Courtney of 2018 edges him out just a little.
Courtney capture’s Nick Castle’s mannerisms and walk perfectly, likely due to Nick Castle personally coaching the stuntman while on set. Having seen all the Halloween sequels this was the first time I truly believed I was watching the character from the original film again. Compliments to Warlock, but Courtney does some very special work on this film. Once more, Michael feels more like a ghost than a man.
Halloween II – 3 Halloween 2018 – 4
Both films feature Laurie Strode as the protagonist, but it’s no contest which film handles the character better. While it has plenty of virtues, Halloween II’s biggest flaw is Laurie is a passive character for most of the film. She spends most of the running time confined to a bed with little agency in the story until towards the end. For this, she’s not nearly as compelling as the character in the 2018 film.
In the 2018 film, Laurie never stops being active. She prepares for Michael from the first scene, and when he arrives back in town she sets out to do whatever it takes to destroy him and protect the people she loves. She’s a character with flaws to overcome and demons to face. While Halloween II struggles to give Laurie something to do, 2018 makes sure she’s always busy.
Halloween II – 3 Halloween 2018 – 5
That Stupid Twist
It’s pretty clear that both movies are flawed, each boasting one particular flaw that almost sinks them. Halloween II infamously revealed that Laurie was Michael’s younger sister, robbing the character of some of his mystery and taking away the randomness that made the first film so frightening. Halloween 2018 becomes an entirely different film for a brief period when it’s revealed that Michael’s doctor, Sartain, orchestrated his escape so he could study him in action. Both are dumb, but which is less dumb?
I’ll personally give this point to 2018. The Sartain plot is incredibly silly, but it doesn’t impact Michael or Laurie’s story. It’s just an unneeded device to show how Michael broke free. Halloween II set up the brother/sister plot, which paved the way for a slew of uninteresting sequels about Michael stalking family members. Halloween II‘s twist took Michael out of the dark. That Sartain fails to do so scores the 2018 film its next point.
Halloween II – 3 Halloween 2018 – 6
So after all this, which film ends on the highest note? Halloween II had Laurie on the run from the Shape in the deserted halls of Haddonfield Memorial. Halloween 2018 wraps things up with a final showdown in Laurie’s booby-trapped home. Both are solid finales and are among the best parts of each film, but which one is better?
I’m gonna have to give this point to Halloween II. Its prolonged stalking through the hospital is a masterful sequence. We follow Laurie across hallways, down stairwells, through deserted boiler rooms, up elevators, and even over broken glass. While the finale to 2018 is still great, it doesn’t quite ramp up that feeling of exhausted terror like the second film.
FINAL SCORE – Halloween II – 4 Halloween 2018 – 6
So after looking at these elements, it seems, at least for us, that Halloween 2018 barely edges out Halloween II with its more character driven story and a strong hero. But Halloween II is still a technical marvel with some wonderfully macabre moments, and a scary finale that is right up there with the original. Both films are worthy successors to Carpenter’s original classic. Both have their share of flaws and virtues, and regardless of which you like better, both are among the best horror sequels out there.
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