Shout! Factory // 1981 // 93 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // March 4th, 2013
You don't know what death is.
John Carpenter's original 1978 Halloween was a revelation for the horror genre. It wasn't the first slasher movie and nor was it the best, but it captured the cultural mind enough to explode the form, resulting in innumerable imitators and endless series of pretenders. Its sequel, released three years later, was also a trendsetter in its own way. On the one hand, it revolutionized the idea of the horror franchise (a dubious distinction, to be sure), and on the other, it took the very good ideas from the original into wild and silly new realms. Now, Halloween II arrives in its second, and definitive, Blu-ray edition courtesy of Shout! Factory.
Beginning mere moments after the end of the original film, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis, True Lies) has been taken to a local hospital to tend to her stab wounds. While Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance, The Great Escape) plugged six slugs into the maniacal Michael Myers (Dick Warlock, Pumpkinhead, who was also the stunt coordinator), the killer immediately rose up and disappeared into the night. But now Michael has arrived at the hospital, mask and all, ready to take care of unfinished business, and no doctor, nurse, or orderly is safe.
Once upon a time, I hated this movie. I still know why, but it had been many years since I last watched it and harbor much more positive feelings about it today.
Halloween II can still, by no means, be called great film and its most interesting aspect is also its greatest flaw. In opening the film directly after the first film, it creates two films that take place over less than a single day, which gives the sequel a nice continuity with the first. The trouble is that John Carpenter, in the final moments of the original Halloween, changed Michael Myers (or "The Shape," as he appears in the credits) from a man into an unkillable monster. Rick Rosenthal (Halloween: Resurrection), who directed the sequel, takes that notion even farther, with multiple false deaths and increasingly impossible returns. That, of course, became the standard for horror films, but that's something nobody should celebrate.
There's plenty to like about the film, in spite of that, though. Rosenthal doesn't quite achieve the level of suspense that Carpenter delivered in the first film (a near-impossible task, in any case), but it's a measured, slow building level of tension that actually works pretty well. Within the confines of the hospital, Michael Myers is able to work out of the shadows and strike his victims without forcing absurd coincidences. The level of gore is strong, as well. It's not a murder-fest, but there is enough blood letting and creativity in the kills to keep things interesting, if not as tense as it could be. How both Dr. Loomis and Michael Myers are able to return in Halloween 4 makes absolutely no sense, but that's a story for another time.
Halloween II received a Blu-ray upgrade less than 18 months ago from Universal, and while I can't comment on how that release looked and sounded, this new 2-disc release from Shout! Factory is definitely the version to own. The 2.35:1/1080p transfer is phenomenal, nearly perfect in every way. The natural grain structure has been retained nicely, giving it a nicely filmic quality, and the colors are warm and realistic throughout. Black levels are deep and solid, while whites stand out well against them. The image is as crisp and clear as it ever has been and, while there are a few blips and instances of damage, they are rare enough to be barely noticeable. The two lossless audio mixes are great, as well. The 2.0 track is the one that most accurately represents how the film originally sounded, but the 5.1 remix is its best representation. The dialog and music sound perfect, while the surround channels are filled with nicely differentiated background voices, car noise, and various other sounds. Purists will stick with the 2.0, but the 5.1 is really the one to use.
The extras really round the film out, and are nearly all newly produced for this release. It starts with a pair of very strong audio commentaries. The first features Rosenthal alongside actor Leo Rossi (Fast Getaway), who plays Bud in the movie. This is a nice, amicable conversation between friends, with plenty of information about the production and the intentions with the film. The second finds Dick Warlock with Robert v. Galluzzo, who created the Icons of Fright website. This one is filled with more stories than information and isn't quite as engaging as the first, but it's still well worth a listen.
The release continues with a separate DVD with the television cut of the film. Most of the blood and guts gets cut out and a few extra scenes are added in to keep its running time basically intact. The image and sound aren't nearly as good as the Blu-ray, as it clearly hasn't been given the same level of restoration, but it's of interest nonetheless. That disc also has a DVD-ROM copy of the script, for those of you who want to read the piercing dialog.
Back to the Blu-ray, which continues with a 45 minute featurette, "The Nightmare Isn't Over!" It's a fairly standard making-of piece that has a lot of the same info from the commentaries, but gets more involved in the troubles between Rosenthal and Carpenter about the production, and is interesting enough. A few deleted scenes and an alternate ending also feature Rosenthal's commentary, a short piece revisiting the film's locations, trailers, and a still gallery close out the disc.
Halloween II is a big step down from the classic original, but taken next to most horror sequels, it stands up pretty well. It's imperfect in many ways, but still a measured and fairly enjoyable slasher film. The Blu-ray presentation from Shout! Factory is fantastic and fans of the film will be very happy with what they find.
Surprisingly, case dismissed.
Review content copyright © 2013 Daryl Loomis; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Alternate Ending
* Image Gallery
* DVD Copy