Universal // 1981 // 93 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // October 2nd, 2001
The nightmare isn't over...
After the success of John Carpenter's original Halloween, a sequel was inevitable...with, in fact, TONS of sequels made over a 20 year period (with more in the works. Oh boy). In 1981 Halloween II was released in theaters to legions of fans who wanted to learn more about the night he came home. Carpenter, however, did not return to the directing chair, opting instead to co-produce with Debra Hill and write this decent (but ultimately inferior) sequel. For the second Halloween outing, holdovers Jaime Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence reprise their roles as Laurie Strode and Dr. Sam Loomis (respectively). Universal has re-released Halloween II in a sad bare bones edition (much like the Goodtimes version). The REVIEW isn't over...
At the end of the original Halloween, Michael Myers (AKA The Shape) is shoot six times by Dr. Loomis ("Six times! I shot him six times!!") while chasing down Laurie Strode. After falling out a balcony, you'd think that would pretty much be end of the story. However, when Loomis goes to look for Michael's body, all that was left on the ground was a small pool of blood and a note saying "Went to the market, be home soon."
Just kidding. There was no note. But, Michael Myers IS on the loose again.
After the quick recap, Halloween II picks up with Dr. Loomis hot on the trail of Myers as Laurie is taken to the Haddonfield Memorial to bandage her wounds. This includes some tactful scenes of Michael killing people with large metal things, and the police bumbling around like the keystone cops ("Duh...where'd he go, Wilbur?" "He went thataway!"). Dr. Loomis is all over the place, spewing wacky pontifications about how Michael is pure evil and basically the poop smear on the underwear of life.
About half way through the movie, we learn a secret that connects Michael and Laurie, and the reason Michael wants Laurie dead! Suddenly it's a race against time as Michael once again stalks Laurie, and Dr. Loomis stalks Michael, and...who's stalking Dr. Loomis? Oh yeah, an over-acting coach.
A final showdown takes place at the local hospital between this love triangle, and it's anyone's guess who the victor will be (but I suppose you have a good idea...).
In this reviewer's humble opinion, Halloween II was the last time we'd see a decent movie in this series until the summer of 1998 (Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later). Like the James Whale sequel Bride Of Frankenstein, Halloween II picks up right at the end of the original film, seamlessly going from one film to the other. A well done feat, considering there were a couple years in between the two films.
True, Halloween II does not come close to Carpenter's original masterpiece...but come on, that's a pretty tall order. You really have to judge Halloween II on its own merits, and when you do it tends to stack up pretty well. Plenty of scares abound, and we're lucky to get return performances by Curtis and Pleasence. The rest of the cast does a good job, especially the police captain, sneering at Loomis as he quips "You let him OOUUUT!" Overacting at its finest.
Carpenter scripted this sequel, and he does a good job at putting a few twists and turns in the plot (even if a few are needless, such as the "secret" between the hero and the monster). I do remember hearing an interview with him (although I don't remember when) where he said that he had a real tough time coming up with this screenplay and making it fresh and original. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to keep Halloween II as fresh as his earlier effort, but at least Carpenter gets high marks for trying.
The one thing this film did manage to capture was the spirit and feel of the original Halloween. Maybe I have diluted, nostalgic memories about seeing the original Halloween, but after around 1988, there was something missing, some spirit of the good ol' horror films that has yet to be captured again (and we're moving further and further away from that feel as each successive Scream clone is released). Taken as a whole, Halloween II makes a nice bookend to the original classic.
Halloween II is presented in its original 2.35:1 widescreen format. Unlike the Goodtimes Home Video version, Universal has gone the extra mile and produced an anamorphic version of the film. As to be expected, this transfer is superior to the Goodtimes version in many ways. The colors seemed brighter (though sometimes a bit too dark), the blacks darker, and the edge enhancement from the previous version was hardly present. Overall this is a nice transfer of the film, and should please Halloween fans.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 and is about on par with the Goodtimes release. Dialogue was clean and free of any distortion. Music and effects were mixed evenly, with composer John Carpenter's memorable theme ever present. Also included on this disc are English captions and French and Spanish subtitles.
Originally Halloween II was slated to be a full blown special edition. Director Rick Rosenthal (also helming the upcoming eighth entry into the series -- Halloween: The Homecoming) was supposedly going to record a commentary track, extra footage was to be included...you know, the works. However, Universal recanted and decided to just release a slightly less bare bones edition than Goodtimes did years ago. With smaller companies like Anchor Bay doing great work on titles like the original Halloween and Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers, it's sad to see Halloween II given such shoddy treatment when it comes to supplemental materials. What we do get are some thin production notes, a few cast and crew bios, and a low quality theatrical trailer that isn't worth the film stock it's printed on. Universal usually does nice work with most their discs -- so who dropped the ball on this sucker?
Well, the real snit fit here is the fact that we hardly get any extras. That coveted Halloween II special edition would have made fans of the series really happy. Maybe the third time is the charm...
For the price tag on Halloween II ($20.00 or more) you'll be apt to stick with the Goodtimes version if you don't have a widescreen TV yet. I don't feel that an extra ten bucks is worth the inclusion of a trailer and some cast and crew information. Certainly this is a bargain if you can find it under fifteen dollars, but otherwise it's a lost cause for a film that deserves much better treatment than what we get on this disc.
A little disclaimer: 1998's Halloween H20: 20 Years Later actually takes place AFTER the events of Halloween II. In Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, it assumes that Halloween parts 3 through 6 never actually happened. Apparently that was some other time line, or alternate reality, or SOMETHING (I say dig yourself a hole, you get yourself out...the makers of this series apparently don't share the same mantra). Talk about a cop out.
Halloween II is free to go, but Universal is guilty of doing almost nothing with this release. Case dismissed!
Review content copyright © 2001 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Production Notes
* Theatrical Trailer
* Cast and Filmmakers