Halloween II (Shout! Factory)

Discussion in 'High Def' started by Chunkblower, Oct 19, 2012.

  1. Chunkblower

    Chunkblower Member

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    [​IMG]


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    Reviewer: Chunkblower
    Review Date: October 19, 2012

    Format: Blu-ray
    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Release date: September 28, 2012
    MSRP: $29.93
    Region A
    Progressive Scan
    Codec: AVC, 1080p
    Widescreen 2.35 | 16x9: Yes
    1981


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    It’s hard to believe now but there was once a time when a sequel, even to a hugely successful film like Halloween, wasn’t a sure thing. It wasn’t until the durability of the concept was proven through imitators that there was the impetus for a sequel to Halloween and a franchise was truly born. Three years is a long time and the marketplace for horror films had fundamentally changed in the interim; while Carpenter’s original film relied on suspense and the power of suggestion, gory successors like Friday the 13th had jaded audiences. John Carpenter could be generously described as lukewarm to the proposition of creating a sequel to Halloween, and understandably so. Not only did Halloween II have to follow up his own classic film, it also had to compete in a crowded marketplace of successively bloodier slasher films. Carpenter wrote the screenplay and acted as producer but handed the directing reigns over to some new blood. Was first time director Rick Rosenthal equal to the challenges faced by Halloween II? The answer to that is not a simple yes or no.

    The Story

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    It’s Halloween night, 1978, and while Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis, reprising her star-making role) is taken to the Haddonfield clinic to have the injuries and trauma she suffered at the hands of escaped killer Michael Myers (played this time by Dick Warlock) treated, the hunt for Myers continues. Injured and sedated for most of the night, Laurie strikes up a tender romantic interest in Jimmy (Lance Guest), one of the ambulance drivers who brought her to the hospital.

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    Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) and Sherriff Brackett (Charles Cyphers) continue to search the alleyways and street corners for Michael, but their efforts don’t yield any fruit; quite the opposite, in fact, when a trick or treater is accidentally burned alive in fiery car crash (poor Ben Tramer…). When Sherriff Bracket learns that his daughter Annie is among the victims claimed by Myers, he bows out of the police efforts to find him, leaving the rest of the search to be overseen by Deputy Hunt (Hunter von Leer).

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    While wandering the streets, Michael offhandedly learns of Laurie’s whereabouts via an errant radio broadcast, and makes a beeline straight for the clinic, where he slashes his way through the oversexed night staff trying to find Laurie and finish what he started earlier that night.

    Meanwhile, Loomis learns a vital piece of information that provides insight into Michael’s motivations and where he can be found. As he rockets towards the clinic where Laurie is he can only hope that get there in time to save her. The film concludes with a fiery finale that leaves Loomis and Michael dead... or so we thought.

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    There’s a subtle shift in perspective. While Halloween was largely Laurie’s story, she’s sidelined for most of part 2. The cinematography adopts the first person perspective of Michael’s point of view. Problem is, Michael is a cipher, there’s no character there and centring a large portion of the film on him gives it a kind of aimless, meandering feel. Halloween II lacks the strong central characters the original had anchoring its core and it suffers as a result. It`s odd how much goodwill it borrows from the original, yet how much it suffers in direct comparison to it. I can`t think of a horror sequel that suffers so much when contrasted with its predecessor.

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    What we get instead is a fairly bland group of protagonists in the hospital staff. I`ve seen the film more times than I can count and I still don’t know what all the female nurses names are. The stern Mrs. Alves makes an impression but has precious few scenes. Too bad; her commanding presence would have lent the later scenes where Jimmy and Jill are planning on leaving the hospital a sense of urgency. Bud is at least perversely funny; his raunchy singsong in the cafeteria is highlight of the entire movie. In the early 80`s Lance Guest was an immensely appealing and instantly likable young actor and Jimmy’s flirtations with Laurie are cute if laid on a bit thick. I could have done with a scene or two fewer of Jimmy sneaking into Laurie`s room. Dude, I know you have a crush on her, but let the poor girl get some sleep!

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    Donald Pleasance is often credited as an anchor for the series but re-watching all the sequels this year I’m more and more at a loss to understand why. Sure, he was a constant presence and few actors could gravely intone portentous dialogue the way he could. But Loomis, for all his efforts, doesn’t ever seem to accomplish anything. It’s only when he’s given a piece of exposition (that comes totally out of left field, though having it delivered by Nancy Stephens is a nice touch) does he make a proactive decision. For most of the film he’s futilely spinning his wheels trying to pick up Michael’s scent. And while it makes sense that Leigh Brackett wouldn’t continue participating in the manhunt, a vengeful motivation would have lent some drama to the second half of the film that’s lacking. Deputy Hunt just seems to be going through the motions.

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    And yet for all its narrative shortcomings, Halloween II works. Picking up where the original left off and continuing the same night at least gives it a sense of legitimacy and while some of the story decisions miss opportunities for drama the events at least feel plausible. As much as I’d like Laurie to continue to be front and centre in Halloween II it makes logical sense that she’d spent the right of the night sedated in a hospital bed. Conversely, it make much less sense that that hospital is so understaffed and bereft of patients (besides a surprisingly robust maternity ward) on what is usually a busy night for emergency rooms, but the deserted and darkly lit corridors add a great deal of atmosphere, so I’m willing to let that slide. What I find a little more jarring is the gore. It`s not that I’m opposed to gore, just that following Halloween it feels out of place. I know it was a commercial decision to make the film more competitive in a 1981 market (though I`m not sure that was necessary). Still, it’s not as gory as a lot of its contemporaries and definitely mild compared to the horror movies of today. Only a nod to Halloween urban legends and the scalding in the hot tub remain potent, the latter probably due to its unfortunately misogynist undercurrent (pun intended, for Rhett`s sake).

    Halloween II was made during the Carpenter/Hill/Cundey/Howarth golden age so it has the same look and feel of other films made under these collaborators. It’s one of the most pleasing cinematic aesthetics I’ve ever experienced, with Cundey’s high contrast visuals perfectly matched with the minimalist electronic score by Alan Howarth. Halloween II fits perfectly among Halloween, The Fog, Escape from New York and The Thing, and that’s high company to keep. Halloween II might be the least among this batch of classics but taken on its own merits it’s still a commendable addition to the genre and a more than worthy follow up to a great original. I find it plays best when viewed on its own; double featuring it with the original just blows its flaws far out of proportion.

    Image Quality

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    I got out my Universal 30th Anniversary Blu-ray from last year to do a side by side comparison, but I needn’t have bothered; with the exception of the Moustapha Akkad credit at the beginning (replaced in the Universal release, reinstated here) this transfer is exactly the same as the Universal release from last year. It has all the same strengths and flaws: colors are potent, detail is strong and grain is well preserved. Dean Cundey`s high contrast cinematography is represented with inky blacks and beautiful blue and orange lens flares. There`s a bit of chroma noise in the few red drenched scenes (when Laurie is waiting for the basement elevator, for instance) and the occasional source defect here and there but only things I`ve noticed after careful analysis and nothing that should affect your enjoyment of the film, whatsoever.

    Sound

    inline ImageThis Shout! Factory release also utilized both the 2.0 and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks from the previous Universal release, as well. The 5.1 remix does little beyond spreading the music and the occasional stinger sound effect to the rear channel. I actually think the 2.0 track serves the claustrophobic nature of Halloween II`s cramped interior scenes better, but you can decide for yourself. If you have the Universal release, you`ve probably already made up your mind on this one, anyway.

    Something that`s not carried over from the Universal release is the subtitle options; hearing impaired or non-Anglophone Halloween fans are SOL. It’s the only blemish on an otherwise faultless presentation.

    Supplemental Material

    Shout! Factory has produced some great special editions in the past, but they’ve really pulled out all the stops with this 2 Disc Collector’s Edition release.

    inline ImageI never usually care about packaging but, in this case, it warrants a mention. Shout! Factory has commission new artwork that graces the both the o-card and the insert on the case. Knowing fans, though, they’ve gone the extra distance of making the case insert reversible and printed the theatrical artwork on the other side. Now, is this a company that understands their customers, or what?

    First up on Disc 1, we have an audio commentary with director Rick Rosenthal and actor Leo Rossi. It’s easy to listen to but there are huge gaps in the track and very little insight into the making of the film. Disappointing, considering this was Rosenthal’s chance to set the record straight with regards to the Carpenter reshoots.

    inline ImageThe Shape speaks! A second commentary with Michael Myers himself, stunt coordinator Dick Warlock (and moderated by Rob G from Icons of Fright) is the real gem. Warlock is a total character and has a lot to say from tidbits of info about his early career with fellow Carpenter alumni Kurt Russell at Disney, to insight into the making of the film itself. Rob G does a good job of prodding information out of him and keeping him on topic with scene specific questions.

    inline Image“The Nightmare Isn’t Over!” (44:55) is just about the perfect retrospective documentary. It touches all the bases and provides an in-depth look into the film without stretching needlessly into feature length. Best of all there’s that really satisfying sense of frank discussion you get after enough time has passed and the participants don’t feel the pressure to pull their punches. A few participants are conspicuous in their absence. Donald Pleasance and Debra Hill are no longer with us so it’s expected that they wouldn’t be included but I’m disappointed (if not terribly surprised) that John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis didn’t participate. It makes the documentary lack the sense of completeness I would’ve liked, but it’s a credit to Director Michael Flesher that I didn’t really notice until after it was over.

    inline ImageSean Clark takes fans on a tour of the locations from the film in “Horror’s Hallowed Grounds: The Locations of Halloween II” (13:10). Clark has the infectious, giddy enthusiasm of a fan as he revisits the locations used in the film and even interviews a few of the people lucky enough to own homes that are so iconic to us fans. Despite Clark’s sometimes irreverent attitude, there’s something kind of magical about these clips.

    inline ImageThe Deleted Scenes (8:06) and Alternate Ending (1:41) found in the Television Version of Halloween II are included separately on disc 1 with an optional director’s commentary, which actually provides more insight into the creative process than Rosenthal’s feature commentary does. There’s also a brief shot of Jamie Lee in her bra, for those of you keeping score.

    The inclusion of the red-band Theatrical Trailer (2:18) we’ve all seen a million times at this point is a no-brainer. Far more interesting are the TV and Radio Spots (1:41 and 3:17, respectively) which include a bumper for the network TV premiere of Halloween II and some Spanish language radio spots. As someone who occasionally spends hours watching old network TV promos on YouTube, I loved these materials.

    The first disc is rounded out with an animated Still Gallery (5:02) that at least includes some interesting promo and behinds the scenes shots.

    inline ImageThe sole supplement on Disc 2 is the rare and long sought Television Version of Halloween II (1:33:16), in standard definition full frame with deleted scenes replacing some of the violence and the nudity and coarse language completely expurgated. This is the jewel in the crown of an already stellar release. I’m sure I’m not alone in having had this version be my introduction to the film. While we got to see the deleted scenes included on Universal’s Blu-ray from last fall, it’s been a long time since we’ve been treated to having them reincorporated into the film proper. Watching the TV cut again after so many years was a real trip down memory lane. It was also eye-opening just how different the TV cut is; not only are violent and sexy scenes replaced with scenes of exposition, the entire structure of the film is rejiggered to the point where the story is practically incomprehensible. As a kid I just took it at face value but now that I`m familiar with the theatrical cut it’s jaw-dropping some of the decisions that were made in re-cutting the film. For instance: Mr. Garrett`s death is recut into a suspense scene (stealing footage and music from later in the film) and still frames of Michael are inserted when the new version needs a reaction shot that doesn`t exist. Comparing both versions directly really brings home just why my opinion of part II was so negative for so long.

    Final Thoughts

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    Shout! Factory has cemented their place as the distributor whose releases I most look forward to. It’s not just the stellar audio and video presentation and the wealth of extras, it’s the small touches – commissioning all new cover art but including the original theatrical art on a reversible insert – that shows they get fans and what they want, and are going to do their damnedest to make them happy. Well, they’ve succeeded. This is a fantastic, feature packed release that’s smartly priced. An absolute essential must-buy for Halloween fans, and even casual viewers would do well to add this to their collection. I’m not just recommending Halloween II; I’m commanding you to buy it.

    Rating

    [​IMG] Movie - B+

    Image Quality - A-

    Sound - A-

    Supplements - A+


    Technical Info.
    • Colour
    • Running time - 1 hour and 33 minutes (Theatrical Cut) 1 hour and 33 minutes (Television Cut)
    • Rated R
    • 2 Discs (1 Blu-ray, 1 DVD)
    • Chapter Stops
    • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (Theatrical Cut)
    • English Dolby Digital Mono
    • French 5.1 (if applicable)
    • Spanish 5.1 (if applicable)
    • English SDH subtitles (if applicable)
    • French subtitles (if applicable)
    • Spanish subtitles (if applicable)
    Supplemental Material
    • Audio Commentary with director Rick Rosenthal and actor Leo Rossi
    • Audio Commentary with stunt coordinator Dick Warlock
    • “The Nightmare Isn’t Over! – The Making of Halloween II” Documentary
    • “Horrors Hallowed Grounds: The Locations of Halloween II” Featurette
    • Deleted Scenes with optional Audio Commentary with director Rick Rosenthal
    • Alternate Ending with optional Audio Commentary with director Rick Rosenthal
    • Theatrical Trailer
    • Radio and TV Spots
    • Still Gallery
    Other Pictures

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  2. Nailwraps

    Nailwraps Well-Known Member

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    What release are the DVD pics from? The Goodtimes release, the Universal release, or the Scream release?
     
  3. rhett

    rhett Administrator

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    The Universal release. Review updated to note that.
     
  4. Gomezfan69

    Gomezfan69 New Member

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    Great review. I'm glad that we got such a good release here as this is my favorite Halloween film. There is a slight difference in the two blu-ray transfers though as Scream Factory did a scratch removal pass on their transfer. Watching the documentary I was amazed at how good Ana Alicia looks considering she's in her mid 50's (Tawny Moyer hasn't done so well).
     
  5. old-boo-radley

    old-boo-radley They stay the same age...

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    Tits look great in HD.
     
  6. evildeadfan123

    evildeadfan123 Sam & Dean Winchester

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    I purchased this last month, and watched the TV cut. I also recommend this Blu-Ray, and I also own the 30th Anniversary Blu-Ray, so they are both actually worth owning.
     
  7. Workshed

    Workshed a.k.a. Villyan Shit

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    nice review, chunkblower.
     
  8. crieff405

    crieff405 New Member

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    The transfer is a little cleaner than the Universal one - look for white specks in the first couple of scenes in the Universal BD that are not in the Scream Factory release. The Scream Factory release also has lossless audio where the Universal release did not.

    Otherwise good review. It's nice to see a US distributor take a leaf out of Arrow Films' book and do reversible covers.
     
  9. crieff405

    crieff405 New Member

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    Oh, and is it just me who finds "Rob G of Icons of Fright" incredibly annoying? It isn't that he's pushing 50 and balding yet still dying his hair and dressing like a So-Cal '90s punk, it's that his sense of humour is AWFUL.

    The television cut, by the way, is a half-assed attempt at recreating director Rosenthal's original idea. He originally wanted to emulate the more suspenseful structure of the original - have Michael disappear completely after the opening scenes (taken from Halloween's ending), only to reappear twenty minutes later. This TV version replicates this, awful sound editing and cutting included, but it does clear up why Loomis and Brackett end one conversation (in the theatrical cut) with "I SHOT HIM SIX TIMES! I SHOT HIM SIX TIMES", only to be shown again 20 minutes later, continuing same conversation: "I shot him six times, Sheriff!"
     

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