The one Halloween sequel in which He doesn't come home, this was producer John Carpenter’s attempt to get the series away from the original's psycho‑on‑the‑loose storyline and turn it into a vehicle for more far-fetched Halloween-themed horror tales.
Though original screenwriter, Nigel Kneale (of the Quatermass series), removed his name from the final film after a coarsening rewrite by director Tommy Lee Wallace, his strange touch is evident in the offbeat story. The setting is an Irish-dominated Northern California company town owned by the Silver Shamrock Novelty corporation, whose Halloween masks are pushed by an amazingly irritating TV jingle you won’t ever be able to get out of your head (‘two more days to Halloween, Halloween, Halloween’).
Tom Atkins and Stacy Nelkin are typical low-rent horror movie protagonists, dim-bulbs who hit onto an Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style conspiracy involving sharp-suited corporate robots and run around as the plot unfolds, but guest star Dan O'Herlihy steals the film as a Celtic joke tycoon (‘the man who invented sticky toilet paper and the dead dwarf gag’) who hates the way American kids are despoiling the religious spirit of Samhain and decides to teach them a nasty lesson.
His scheme, which involves a stolen Stonehenge megalith (‘sure, you’d never believe how we did it’) and a techno-magic spell that turns the heads of TV watchers into writhing masses of snakes and insects is value for money, and O’Herlihy mixes enough serious malice into the charm to come across as a great screen baddie. Beware the UK version, which has suffered swingeing censor cuts to the more enjoyably gruesome moments.