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Halloween II (1981)

Shout! Factory
DVD Released: 9/18/2012

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/20/2012

I'd like to think that I had a fairly normal and happy childhood. But, my parents didn't grow up with much exposure to movies and TV, so they didn't understand that they should have monitored/censored what I watched. Therefore, I was way too young when I saw Halloween...and loved it. So, when Halloween II opened in theaters, I begged my sister to take me to see it. She did and I can clearly remember running as fast as I possibly could from the car to the front door when we get home because I was so freaked out. Looking back, Halloween II isn't as scary now as I found it then, but it does offer some great examples of what a sequel should and shouldn't do.

Halloween II begins immediately following the events of Halloween. Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) has just shot escaped mental patient Michael Myers (here played by Dick Warlock) six times, but Myers is still on the loose. While Loomis assists the police in looking for Myers, the lone survivor of the killer's initial rampage through the town of Haddonfield, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is taken to the hospital, where she's treated and placed in a room to rest. However, the presumed safety of the medical center doesn't last, as Myers makes his way to the hospital to finish what he started. As the killer stalks the hallways and the staff, Dr. Loomis learns the secret reason as to why Michael Myers came home to Haddonfield.

The immediate question which comes to mind about Halloween II is "Was a sequel to Halloween really necessary?" The answer to that is definitely no. We know at the end of Halloween that Laurie has survived and the ambiguous nature surrounding the fate of Michael Myers only amplified the terror in the film. However, as we all know, money rules Hollywood and the idea of a second Halloween probably seemed very logical once the box-office receipts came in.

So, if there's going to be a Halloween II, which is the best way to go? Do you do a completely new movie and take the chance of turning off the audience, or do you simply give them more of the same? With Halloween II, the answer is about 20% of the former and 80% of the latter. The basic premise here continues to be Michael Myers stalking Jamie Lee Curtis and plowing through anyone who gets in his way. The new material comes in when Loomis learns more about Myers past, and of course, the iconic ending. One other noticeable addition is that Dr. Loomis gets even loopier and his speeches in this movie make little to no sense.

Obviously, Halloween II was facing an uphill battle from the outset. Unless it could do something completely radical, it was going to be seen as a pale imitation of the first film. But, as far as pale imitations go, you can do worse (and many, many slasher films of the 80s proved this). The movie has a nice amount of tension, and Director Rick Rosenthal does a fine job of re-creating the look of Halloween. The mask looks a little weird (always may gripe with the sequels), but Michael Myers is still a menacing figure. I have issues with the dark and seemingly deserted hospital and the singular location makes the movie feel a bit flat at times, but having just watched Halloween 4and 5 again, you realize that Halloween II proves that there can be a decent Halloween sequel.

Halloween II has the worst use of a boom-box ever on DVD courtesy of Shout! Factory. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer has been enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is fairly sharp and clear, showing only a hint of grain and no detrimental defects from the source material. There are a few scattered black dots, but no scratches. The grain is subtle save for a few shots where it is noticeable. Now, Halloween II is a dark movie and it's always looked dark on home video and this transfer is no exception. It's difficult to say if the image is truly overly dark, but the image does go completely black at times. During the brighter scenes, the colors do look good. The level of detail is OK for a DVD, but the image does have a slightly flat look. Despite the fact that the DVD box states that the audio here is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, the only audio on the DVD is a Dolby Digital 2.0 track. The dynamic range on this track is off, as the music is my louder than the dialogue. The famous John Carpenter score is very high-pitched in this film, and the loud music is quite shrill at times. In addition, louder or prolonged sounds take on an odd effect which sounds like a vacuum cleaner or a plane flying overhead. The dialogue is clear and audible and some sound effects sound fine, but overall the audio here is disappointing.

The Halloween II DVD contains a ton of extras. One of the most important to long-time fans will be the TV cut of the film which is contained on the second disc in the set. This has been letterboxed at 1.33:1, so we lose the nice widescreen aspect of the movie, and audio is a Dolby Digital mono track. The TV cut contains a few moments not seen in the theatrical cut, but the weird thing about this version is how whole scenes have been reimagined around the character of Jimmy (Lance Guest). Did he re-cut the film for this take on the movie? Back to Disc 1 and the theatrical cut, we get an AUDIO COMMENTARY with Director Rick Rosenthal and actor Leo Rossi who plays Budd in the film. (There was a rumor that this commentary was going to be on the Blu-ray Disc released by Universal last year, but it didn't materialize.) This isn't a bad commentary, but it isn't the tell-all that many fans wanted it to be. Rosenthal gives specific info about some scenes, but he doesn't say much about Carpenter's involvement in the movie and he rarely comments on the story. There are a lot of silent gaps when we would rather be hearing about the movie. We also get a second AUDIO COMMENTARY with Dick Warlock, who played Michael Myers. "The Nightmare Isn't Over" (45 minutes) is a fairly detailed making of featurette. The piece doesn't include any on-set footage (and doesn't mention if any exists), so it's completely comprised of interviews with many involved in the film. We get comments from Rosenthal, Producer Irwin Yablans, Director of Photography Dean Cundey and much of the cast. While the primary commentary was a disappointment, we get the juicy comments here as there are some frank comments about disappointment with the script and some nods to Carpenter's opinion about the film. (And Yablans has an interesting aside about suing Carpenter.) The obvious absentees from this piece are Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis. "Horror's Hallowed Grounds" (13 minutes) has host Sean Clark taking us through some of the memorable locations from Halloween II and we see how they look today. (It's actually interesting to note how detailed Clark's descriptions are.) The DVD contains an ALTERNATE ENDING (2 minutes) which is the same one that appears in the TV cut. This can be viewed with optional commentary from Rosenthal. We also get six DELETED SCENES which run about 8 minutes. All but one of these takes place in the hospital and they are all fairly incidental moments showing the hospital staff interacting. There are no new characters or subplots here. These scenes can also be viewed with commentary from Rosenthal. (There was a scene in the novelization based on the screenplay which demonstrated how Michael Myers got across town to the hospital, but I guess they never shot it.) We get a STILL GALLERY of over 50 images including production stills, lobby cards, and posters. There are 3 TV SPOTS including one for a television airing of the movie. This is followed by 6 RADIO SPOTS, two of which are in Spanish. The final extra is the TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long