Release Date(s)1981 (September 13, 2013)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B-
- Audio Grade: C-
- Extras Grade: C+
These days when a horror movie is a hit, a franchise is willed into existence by the Monday after it opens. Paranormal Activity is the current Halloween tradition, filling the void left by the retired (for now, anyway) Saw series. In that respect, it seems almost quaint that it took three years for Michael Myers to get back in the hack ‘n’ slash business with Halloween II.
By horror standards, Halloween II is unusual in other respects, too. Unlike other sequels that start fresh each time out, Halloween II reunited many key creative personnel from the original, including stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, and Charles Cyphers. Director of photography Dean Cundey returned and John Carpenter and Debra Hill wrote the screenplay and produced. On some levels it’s disappointing that Carpenter handed the directorial reins over to Rick Rosenthal but considering that we got Escape From New York from Carpenter that year, I’d say it was a fair trade.
The movie picks up exactly where the first one left off, with Pleasence’s Dr. Loomis shooting The Shape several times and assuring Curtis’ Laurie Strode that yes indeed, that was in fact the Boogeyman. But of course Myers won’t be stopped so easily. He picks himself up, dusts himself off, and starts all over again. He tracks Laurie down to the emptiest hospital in the Midwest, while Loomis continues his dogged pursuit.
Generally speaking, Halloween II is a worthy and entertaining follow-up even if it can’t match the heights of the original. Myers remains a creepy, unsettling presence and Carpenter and Hill up the body count in novel ways. The hospital setting makes a good backdrop, even if the staff seems to outnumber the patients here by ten to one. I kind of love that they make a point of showing us the maternity ward, then promptly forget about it, leaving us to assume the hospital is full of dead babies by the end.
Still, the movie is not without its problems. Curtis spends most of the film drugged up in bed, which doesn’t exactly make for a compelling first hour. Rosenthal does his best and Cundey’s cinematography helps ease the transition but there are no iconic sequences or images here as in the first film. At best, Halloween II is a slightly above average slasher movie. There’s nothing wrong with that but there’s nothing particularly special about it, either.
Universal’s Blu-ray has its own share of problems, notably the incredibly bone-headed decision to replace the “Moustapha Akkad Presents” title card with one reading “Universal, An MCA Company, Presents”. The late producer is the reason why the Michael Myers franchise continued. He stayed with the series long after Carpenter lost interest and moved on. I have no idea why Universal made this change and the studio isn’t commenting. Regardless of their rationale, it’s bad form and whoever made the decision should be ashamed.
Apart from that, the movie actually looks pretty good in high-def. Universal tends to get a wee bit carried away with edge enhancement and DNR on older titles but here, they used a modicum of restraint. Whether that was on purpose or they just couldn’t be bothered on this title, I couldn’t say but whatever the reason, I’ll take it. It’s not by any means perfect but it certainly looks better than I’ve ever seen it. The audio doesn’t fare quite as well. You can choose between a processed 5.1 mix or DTS 2.0 with no lossless option available. The 5.1 mix is half-hearted at best, so you’re better off sticking with the 2.0.
The disc features a real hodge-podge of extras, including an alternate ending and half a dozen deleted scenes. But the big news is the long-awaited release of the 1984 compilation film Terror In The Aisles, the That’s Entertainment of horror movies. Long held up by complicated licensing issues, this is a fun movie for horror buffs, albeit mainly as a game of Name That Clip. There isn’t much point to it and some of the movies included are downright mystifying (Nighthawks? Vice Squad? To Catch A Thief?!?). But it’s nice that it’s finally seeing the light of day and particularly surprising that it’s presented in 1080p.
As far as horror sequels go, Halloween II is a fairly solid, entertaining movie. But this has to be one of the most peculiar Blu-ray releases of the year. Billed as a “30th Anniversary Edition”, there’s virtually no celebratory material included on the disc. In fact, it goes out of its way to disrespect one of the key players in the Michael Myers saga. And the much-anticipated release of Terror In The Aisles is treated as an afterthought. With no explanation of what the movie is anywhere on the package or disc itself, it’s like Universal is intentionally trying to keep the release under the radar. Personally, I wouldn’t be shocked if this release just quietly disappeared from shelves sooner or later. I’m happy to have both films on Blu-ray but this disc could have been handled much, much better.
- Dr. Adam Jahnke