Halloween II Blu-ray Review
Directed by Rick Rosenthal
Written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill
1981, Region A, 105 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on September 18th, 2012
Jaime Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode
Donald Pleasance as Dr. Sam Loomis
Dick Warlock as Michael Myers
Lance Guest as Jimmy
Leo Rossi as Budd
Pamela Susan Shoop as Karen
Once upon a time, Michael Myers killed his sister and spent the next fifteen years in an asylum under the care of Dr. Sam Loomis. As Halloween approached, Michael escaped the hospital and returned to his home town of Haddonfield, Illinois, where he proceeded to stalk three teenage girls. A bloody night filled with multiple murders followed before the good doctor managed to confront his patient with the business end of a handgun. Michael disappeared into the shadows and lived happily ever after.
Over the next three years, countless cinematic knock-offs were unleashed in a wave referred to as the “golden age of slasher films”. It was only a matter of time before the inevitable cash grab was requested by the studio and soon Halloween II was released with the hook that this was not exactly a sequel as it was more of a continuation of the original story. Picking up minutes after the events of the original Halloween, audiences were treated to “more of the night he came home” as the tag line read.
Michael Myers (Dick Warlock) follows Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) to the hospital and begins picking off the staff one by one until he is, once again, cock-blocked by his doctor, Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance). That’s pretty much all you need for a plot synopsis. Honestly, this movie is pretty awesome if taken with a grain of salt. There are some major doozies in the logic department, even for a simple horror sequel. I appreciate that Haddonfield is a small town, but the hospital should probably not be operating on a skeleton crew (no pun necessary) on Halloween night. There is also the heavy presence of the local news media that manages to report the discovery of three dead teenagers before the police arrive to remove the bodies.
Shenanigans are the order of the day at Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, where Budd the paramedic plays stud to Nurse Karen at every opportunity. Mr. Garrett, the security guard bumbles his way thru the basement as he investigates a strange noise and manages to release an extra-springy cat from a nearby dumpster. He takes great care in flipping padlocks from a set of closets before opening them in an effort to catch a hidden intruder—apparently the type that hides inside a closet and replaces the lock on the outside. Head shake.
While it is tempting to throw director Rick Rosenthal (Bad Boys) under the bus for such bone-headed behavior, it is more likely John Carpenter’s screenplay that sets off the bullshit meter. Stories from the production of Halloween II are pretty notorious, as Carpenter reportedly went behind the director’s back and shot additional violent material. As shitty as this is for a producer to do, Rosenthal managed to sink his reputation on his own when he effectively killed the franchise with Halloween: Resurrection (2002), a film that took a big dump on the ending to Halloween: H20 and offered the world a glimpse of Michael Myers kickboxing Busta Rhymes. The corpse of the franchise was later dug up and skullfucked (twice) by Rob Zombie.
There is a lot that works in Halloween II to keep the entertainment factor above the nonsense, mainly cinematographer Dean Cundy’s fantastic photography. Cundy passed on the opportunity to shoot Poltergeist for this film out of loyalty to producers John Carpenter and Debra Hill. The work here matches the look of the original film perfectly before stepping into the deep well of shadows that menace the halls of the creepiest hospital in America. His cinematography fills the anamorphic widescreen format, offering gorgeous images that create suspense through the mastery of introducing a threat within the background imagery just on the edge of the frame.
Returning cast members Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance carry this picture with an effortless ease that should not be underappreciated. Curtis spends the majority of the film in bed under a silly wig, literally catatonic at times. While probably not on set more than a week, she manages to deliver an amazing performance in the last act that is quite memorable. Pleasance runs around the town roasting teenagers and testifying to the history of druid sacrifices before crashing the party at the hospital and blowing the roof off the dump.
Charles Cyphers (The Fog) returns as Sheriff Brackett and enjoys a few scenes with Pleasance before being written out with a surprisingly touching moment with his daughter. Supporting cast members are forgettable for the most part. Lance Guest (The Last Starfighter) is given the most to do as a possible love interest for Jamie Lee Curtis. Leo Rossi (Relentless) is pretty skeezy as Budd, a man more interested in getting laid than dealing with any of the patients at the hospital. Some useless trivia finds future actors Dana Carvey (Wayne’s World) and Billy Warlock (Society) in brief appearances at the beginning of their careers.
Last year, Universal released a flawed Blu-ray of this film that managed to upset diehard fans with the omission of producer Moustapha Akkad’s credit during the opening titles sequence. This new edition of Halloween II is a love letter to the fans and corrects any picture blemishes and restores Akkad’s credit.
Video and Audio:
Shout! Factory could have easily ported over last year’s source material and called it a day, but instead they have gone to bat for horror fans and provided a little something extra.
The picture quality is stronger than the Universal counterpart, with a final scrubbing to the image that removes any lingering scratches or dirt from the frame. The film is presented in the original anamorphic 2.35:1 aspect ratio with a transfer unlikely to be surpassed. Colors are rich and vibrant with an amazingly sharp level of small object detail. Black levels are deep and consistent, with one small exception: when Jimmy discovers Laurie is in a coma there is some digital artifacting circling actor Lance Guest.
Once again, Shout! Factory could have offered up the same audio mix, but instead delivers with a solid 5.1 DTS-HD Master track that really works the system. Surround speakers get a frequent workout and the music has never sounded better. This is a truly satisfying presentation. Purists will be happy to note that the original mix is offered in a DTS Master Audio 2.0 track that is sure to satisfy.
First up are a pair of audio commentary tracks that are entertaining and also a bit frustrating. Track one features director Rick Rosenthal sitting with actor Leo Rossi (Budd) for an informal conversation that is filled with as many anecdotes as it is awkward pauses. There is no mention of the material John Carpenter shot for the film, but there are long gaps of silence over a few key sequences.
The second commentary track is a much more chatty experience, as Rob G (Icons of Fright) talks with actor Dick Warlock, who graciously reflects on playing Michael Myers and also about performing numerous stunts throughout the picture. He seems genuinely pleased to be included in the release and his anecdotes are quite engaging.
Next up is the 45-minute retrospective featurette The Nightmare Isn’t Over! The Making of Halloween II. While following the formula that has become standard for this type of material, director Michael Felsher (Red Shirt Pictures) presents a thoroughly engaging round of interviews with several key members of the cast and crew, discussing the pros and cons of making a sequel to one of the most influential horror films of recent memory.
The folks at Horror’s Hallowed Grounds offer a guided tour of the film’s shooting locations, providing a look at where the action took place thirty years ago.
A collection of deleted scenes (8 minutes) offers a glimpse of odds and ends that were wisely trimmed from the final release.
An alternate ending provides an idea of what “happily ever after” looks like for Laurie Strode.
A second disc offers the television cut of the film on DVD. There are a handful of films that feature alternate material added for TV broadcast (Videodrome, Repo Man), while the original Halloween found director John Carpenter shooting additional material to fill the two-hour time slot.
The TV edit of Halloween II is a real hatchet job that shuffles the order of several sequences, eliminates a few murders and alters the order of events to change the fate of one character. There are a few occasions where scenes are restructured using footage from later in the film and placed into an earlier section (i.e. Mr. Garrett searches the empty basement, but in this version we see Michael Myers enter the room and pursue him—actually this is from the pursuit of Laurie Strode in the last reel!) Music cues are also altered and even the placement of the opening credits has been highjacked.
The deleted scenes are incorporated back into the picture and anything disturbing or offensive (blood, language, violence) is removed. While the death scenes are radically altered for the family audience, at least one near the end of the film was shot in an alternate manner. Oddly, the one thing the TV cut corrects is the number of shots Loomis fires at the beginning of the movie (seven in the theatrical cut, but six on TV).
While it is still common practice for adult language to be dubbed into family friendly phrases with unintentionally hilarious results, Halloween II underwent a far more invasive overhaul that few films have ever suffered. The inclusion of this TV version by Shout! Factory is an unexpected treat for fans of this film and anyone interested in seeing how powerful editing can truly be.
*Note: The screenshots on this page are not a reflection of the Blu-ray image. They were captured using the standard DVD.*
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