• Halloween II (2009)



    Released by: Sony Pictures

    Released on: 1-12-2010
    Director: Rob Zombie
    Cast: Scout Taylor-Compton, Tyler Mane, Malcolm McDowell, Sheri Moon Zombie, Chase Wright Vanek
    Year: 2009
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    The Movie:

    Rob Zombie’s follow up to his remake of John Carpenter’s undisputed classic takes place a while after the events of the first film. We catch up with Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) just as she wakes up from a horrible nightmare where Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) escapes from the cops and slashes his way through a hospital to get to her. These dreams are recurring and have obviously been a pretty big source of stress for her. The shrink (Margot Kidder) she’s seeing doesn’t seem to be helping things very much, though her father, Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif) tries to support her as best he can, though his daughter Annie (Danielle Harris) just doesn’t seem to get it. As October 31st looms large just around the corner, her stress level is increasing as she’s sure Michael is still around and out to get her.

    As luck would have it, she’s right. He’s still out there, trying to sort out some ‘issues’ with his late mother, Deborah (Sheri Moon Zombie), and to get his beloved family all back where they belong. He makes his way back to the small town of Haddonfield, Illinois leaving all manner of bodies behind him. This soon comes to the attention of Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell – who overacts a lot here), who has just written a book and cashed in on his experiences with the Myers murders. His speaking engagements, however, seem to always end with the press asking questions he would rather not answer. Loomis may know more than anyone realizes, however, and he may just hold the key to preventing Michael from killing Laurie.

    Halloween II starts off strong, but you just know it’s not going to last. The opening sequence where Michael Myers slaughters his way through the hospital is gory, intense, suspenseful and even genuinely frightening at times and it sets the stage perfectly for what could have been a really good sequel to a rather lame first film. Unfortunately, after that fantastic opening sequence it’s all downhill. For every great, suspenseful murder set piece Zombie crafts, there’s a groan inducing scene involving Sherrie Moon’s Deborah appearing in angelic white robes beside a large white horse calling gently to her fucked up son that’ll either have you scratching your head or trying not to snicker. On top of that Laurie’s such a cliché ridden character that you can’t really feel for her. Yeah, fine, she’s had a hard life, we get that – so why turn her into the bummed out goth kid cliché rather than expand on her experiences and feelings? We don’t get any of that, we get a foul mouthed bitchy teenager in a Black Flag shirt who works for a horny hippy in his record store and who complains that not even her psychiatrist understands her. It’s hard to relate to a character you can’t like, and if you can’t like the central ‘victim’ of the story, the tension drops considerably.

    Zombie tries hard to tie in all of the Deborah/young Michael/goofy white horse imagery into the film’s theme of ‘family’ but it gets very muddy at about the half way mark and his point gets lost behind all the anger and gloom. The film is well put together on a technical level and despite Myer’s uncharacteristic grunting when he murders people, he’s an imposing and very evil looking presence, but ultimately it doesn’t go anywhere all that interesting. The gore is good, the cinematography appropriately dark and plenty stylish and Brad Dourif is as good as always but nothing really ever comes together here, not the way it should.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Sony presents Halloween II in its original 1.85.1 aspect ratio in an AVC encoded 1080p anamorphic transfer that, for the most part, looks pretty darn good considering how dark a palette Zombie used for this film. If you saw the first movie, the visuals more or less mirror the look that was created for that picture. The scenes that take place outside of the hospital during the introductory scene are very dark but detail remains strong. Color reproduction (keep in mind this is an intentionally drab looking film) looks accurate and there aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts to report. Any edge enhancement that shows up is minor and there isn't any heavy aliasing either. Skin tones look lifelike and natural and black levels stay pretty solid without getting too murky. There are some scenes (well, a lot, actually) where the colors have been intentionally muted or altered a little bit but this is obviously a stylistic choice and not a problem with the transfer itself. You'll really take in a lot of detail in close up shots and the enhanced resolution that the Blu-ray offers over the SD release shows off a lot more of the various backgrounds and textures used throughout the picture but do keep in mind that this is a very grainy, drab looking film and that this transfer reflects that. The image is often dark and far from the pristine, pretty picture that some expect from a Blu-ray transfer, but it is definitely in keeping with what the director wanted.

    Audio for Halloween comes courtesy of a rock solid English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track with optional subtitles available in English only, and closed captioning provided in English as well. There's nothing to complain about here, the DTS-HD mix is very powerful and strong. Dialogue stays clean and clear throughout and there are no problems with hiss or distortion. Rear channels are used quite effectively in a few scenes and even if things could have been a little more active in this regard, they do help with the atmosphere and the mood. Every thump, every thrust of the blade, every odd grunt that Michael makes as he slaughters his way through Haddonfield has some welcome punch to it. The score sounds quite good and you'll notice some decent response from your subwoofer during a few key scenes. This is a considerably more aggressive and enveloping mix than that which was included on the first film’s Blu-ray release and it sounds pretty damn impressive.

    The extras kick off with a commentary track from Writer/Director Rob Zombie. Say what you will about the man, his music and his films the guy can be pretty interesting on his commentary tracks. He’s got a very down to Earth attitude here as he talks about some of the different ideas he tried to infuse t he movie with, most notably the whole "mommy-white horse" symbolism and where it came from. He’s pretty honest about his experiences here, talking about the good and the bad and not always praising his own efforts but rather speaking frankly about what he thinks works and doesn’t work. He also covers the basics, such as casting, locations, effects work, ideas that didn’t make it into the picture and while there are a few moments of dead air, this is otherwise a pretty solid track for a very mediocre movie.

    After that commentary, there’s a series of twenty-three deleted and alternate scenes running a combined twenty-five minutes. Little of this is all that important, but it’s interesting to see it included here and those who enjoyed the movie will probably want to sift through it. There’s also a four minute blooper reel and some test/audition footage for a bunch of the actors who appear in the movie: Chase Wright Vanek, Angela Trimbur, Jeffrey Daniel Phillips, Chris Hardwick, Mary Birdsong, Richard Brake, and Octavia Spencer. Combined, these run just under ten minutes but to be honest, they’re rather dull. More interesting is the test footage for the different Michaels and for Deborah Myers, but at just over three minutes they’re fairly brief snippets. There’s also a nine minute collection of Uncle Seymour Coffins' Stand-Up Routines which are mildly amusing. All of this material is in high definition.

    From there, check out the half a dozen music videos that have been included here: Zombie-A-Go-Go, Honky Tonk Halloween, Redneck Vixen From Outer Space, Doctor Demon And The Robot Girl, Transylvania Terror Train, and Macon County Morgue. All performed by Captain Clegg And The Night Creatures, there are all in HD and run just shy of twenty minutes in total.

    Rounding out the extras are HD trailers for Boondock Saints II: All Saint's Day, Universal Soldier: Regeneration, Blood: The Last Vampire, Zombieland, District 9, Moon, 2012, The Stepfather (remake), Michael Jackson's This is It, and the amazing Black Dynamite. The disc has got some Blu-ray Live functionality built into it and comes complete with Sony's MovieIQ feature as well. Animated menus and chapter selection are, of course, also included.

    The Final Word:

    Halloween II is a better film than Zombie’s first attempt at reimaging the Michael Myers mythos but it’s still got some pretty serious problems. It improves on the first film in certain ways, but doesn’t really correct enough to save it. That said, Sony’s disc looks pretty good and sounds incredible and includes some decent high definition extras features as well. Those who enjoyed the movie will want to see it on Blu-ray, as overall this is quite a nice package.