Released by: Universal Studios
Released on: September 13, 2011.
Director: Rick Rosenthal
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence
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HALOWEEN II has always been regarded by many fans with some suspicion. It was a troubled production - director Rick Rosenthal claimed that his original cut was an almost elegant suspense film sabotaged by studio tinkering. Iconic original HALLOWEEN creator John Carpenter stepped in during post-production to add some gore to the death scenes - and famously quipped that Rosenthal’s original version was about as “scary as an episode of QUINCY”.
The plot is pure simplicity: HALLOWEEN II begins exactly where the first one left off. Michael Myers, after being ventilated by Dr. Loomis at the conclusion of the first film with six shots at point blank range has, simply walked away. Veering into more supernatural territory we are left wondering whether Myers is even human. The rest of the movie consists of Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode being taken to the hospital to be treated for her injuries and Michael stalking her. And of course he kills a bunch of people on his way to the grand prize.
HALLOWEEN II is, bluntly, a shaggy dog of a movie. It is trying to do two distinctly different things that are directly at odds. It wants to be a carefully paced suspense film AND a crudely shocking slasher. The kills in this film display a higher level of gore than the original - the hypodermic needle gag is worthy of Lucio Fulci and the hot tub bit was quite extreme by major studio standards in the early 80’s. This is contrasted with Rosenthal’s attempts (especially in the beginning of the film) to build tension through meticulous pacing and careful use of music cues. And in many ways, it just doesn’t work. It also suffers from a pretty intense strain on credibility. The hospital is the prototype for every ridiculous horror film where a killer goes after victims in a poorly lit and virtually deserted medical facility.
The other main problem is Pleasance. One of the finest actors of his generation, the man here is saddled with a poorly written part that starts at an intensity level that is so high that he just doesn’t have any place to go - at least logically. What Pleasance does is simply play for the bleachers - he’s completely over the top. Its not technically a “good” performance but it is certainly an entertaining one. The man’s dramatic line readings coupled with his non-stop antics like waving a gun around like a lunatic are a wonder to behold. At one point Dr. Loomis is tearing ass down a street filled with trick or treating kids firing wildly at someone in a Shatner mask that he thinks is Michael Myers. And he’s being tailed by the incompetent sheriff! In the real world this nutcase would be in jail or under psychiatric observation - in the bizarre world of HALLOWEEN II he is an integral part of law enforcement.
And yet, for all its flaws HALLOWEEN II is an entertaining film. The kills are graphic, Pleasance is a ton of fun to watch and the movie is never boring. Its also neat seeing gifted character actors like Leo Rossi (as an ambulance driver) in small roles. The film is also masterfully shot - cinematographer Dean Cundey shows once again why he is one of the best in the business - color palettes are simply stunning.
Universal 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is a solid piece of work. Detail is significantly improved over the old DVD pressing - sometimes even to the film’s detriment such as making the wig Curtis is clearly wearing blatantly obvious. There was no digital artifacting that I could spot, nor was there any notable issue with black levels or edge enhancement. And no overzealous use of DNR either. Occasionally tiny white and dark specks (almost miniscule scratches) appear but these must be present on the source material and frankly are so minor that it does not have a significant impact on the viewing experience. And the film’s grain structure seems natural and unhampered with.
HALLOWEEN II’s biggest letdown is in the audio department. We get 2 lossy tracks - a DTS Processed 5.1 surround mix and a stereo DTS 2.0 track. The 5.1 is not particularly impressive and seems tinny and lacking power at times. Truthfully, I preferred the stereo track. It had more bottom end and comes off as a more faithful representation of what the film probably sounded like in a movie theatre in 1981.
Extras are excellent - the much remembered alternate ending that ran on TV is included as are other scenes from the TV edit. The other great treat is the full length TERROR IN THE AISLES documentary. Wryly narrated by Donald Pleasance and actress Nancy Allen it's comprised mostly of clips from horror/suspense films from the 60’s and 70’s but it's a lot of fun and fondly remembered by viewers of a certain age. Kudos to Universal for its inclusion - in a solid HD transfer no less.
A quick note on the producer Moustapha Akkad controversy. His credit was removed from the Blu-ray but remained on the box packaging. Universal claimed that this was an honest mistake and that they will rectify the situation.