Halloween II [1981]

Director: Rick Rosenthal
Stars: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Charles Cyphers, Lance Guest, Pamela Susan Shoop
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 93 minutes

Halloween is one of the great modern horror films, but as a franchise its track record has been spotty at best, painfully bad at worst. Halloween H2O: Twenty Years Later, directed by horror vet Steve Miner (Friday the 13th parts 2 and 3, House), won't displace John Carpenter's original but it might help you forget the films in between. Miner certainly has: the film begins as if sequels 3 through 6 never happened. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis, reprising her role for the first time in almost two decades) faked her death and is now a single mom and headmistress of an exclusive California private school. She's also a secret alcoholic who lives in fear of her homicidal brother-bogeyman Michael Myers. Guess who decides to show up for a family reunion? The film begins with classic horror-movie exposition (the deserted college campus, Michael's escape, Laurie's waking nightmares) accomplished with some humor and style, but it's all setup for the second half, a driving roller coaster of stalk-and-slash thrills. There's little of the self-conscious genre referencing of Scream and at times the film is a little far-fetched--it is a slasher movie about a knife-wielding homicidal maniac who won't stay dead, after all--but Curtis transforms Laurie from a shrieking victim into an empowered, determined horror-movie heroine who's learned a thing or two from the previous films. Adam Arkin, Josh Hartnett, and TV cutie Michelle Williams (Dawson's Creek) costar, and the script received uncredited polish from Scream writer Kevin Williamson; Curtis's mom, Janet Leigh, pops up in a cameo. --Sean Axmaker

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