Rick Rosenthal's Halloween II isn’t the best release in the series but, with its workmanlike earnestness, the minor dip in glossy quality isn’t a complete undoing. It holds up better than most slasher sequels. Besides, measure the original release both in reception and its critical analysis, the drop is to be expected. There’s no way John Carpenter could hope to match his best work. It’s what happens most often in sequels. Especially in the horror genre, audiences expect more of the same and the creative forces behind the movies tend to overdue it.
In Halloween II, it’s the violence that’s to blame; this is a straight up slasher movie. Myers has become equal to his imitators. Ratcheted up to the nth degree (thanks, ironically, to Carpenter's interference), the violence overpowers the psychological aspect of the original and replaces it with buckets of on-screen gore. Fans would have to wait until Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers to get the psychological back into the series and, by that time, even Carpenter had exited the series.
Picking up EXACTLY where the original ended, Halloween II traces the steps of a (maybe not) wounded Michael Myers as he searches for his sister, Lori Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), in the streets of Haddonfield, Illinois. As the town descends into mass hysteria, people turn on trick or treating kids and the Sheriff Brackett (Charles Cyphers) discovers a whole Samhaim connection to the madness of the Myers plague. Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance), still packing heat, reigns Armageddon down on his former patient in the halls of the local hospital as Myers ratchets up the body count by boiling nurses in hot tubs and mass bloodletting rituals in his obsessive hunt for his sister.
Bloodier and gorier than the original, Halloween II cashes in on the intricate plotting for a more immediate thrill ride this time out. It’s rather straight-forward and while the madness of Haddonfield is interesting to watch, there’s no tasking of the audience to actually think about what they are witnessing. Rosenthal was wise to include scenes of contemporary controversies surrounding the holiday itself. He’s got little else in the picture outside of a Myers, Strode, and Loomis reunion.
Stylistically, Rosenthal attempts to recreate the elements and themes of the original film. He repeats the POV shots – helmed once again by Dean Cundey - that kicked off the original film as Myers searches alleys and enters the house of an elderly couple. His pacing is right on scale with the original and he even inserts a love story into the mix. However, his “jump” scenes are largely off due to his reluctance to keep Myers in our peripherals; most of the time Myers is front and center and he fumbles a couple of key stunt sequences.
Of course, I won’t suggest Rosenthal is the one to blame about the changes in the tone of this two-parter. Rosenthal honestly recaptured the spirit of the original. It was the film’s creator who changed everything else. Yes, folks, John Carpenter will take the blame for mucking up what could have been a really good follow-up.
Carpenter, fearing the picture wasn’t scary enough, entered into the post-production part of the film and started retooling and re-editing the finished product. There are several grotesque scenes he shot and edited to keep the film from being considered too tame. He felt slasher audiences had changed since his Halloween was released and he wanted to address their need for bloodlust with more gore, more nudity, and less actual scares. The close-up of a hypodermic needle being thrust into an eyeball is enough to send anyone into hysterics. Yeah, Carpenter figuratively and literally did all that to Rosenthal’s work.
Halloween II does have its moments but it is largely a victim to a director that felt he had to maintain the style and look of the original and its creator who wanted to shake things up with a violent send-off to the characters people felt they wanted more of. Carpenter might have wanted to kill his creation off but, as we all know, he failed. What we do get are two versions of the movie; the television cut – which took out Carpenter’s gore and nudity and substituted them with Rosenthal’s storylines – and the retooled theatrical version.
You decide which Halloween II is better.
MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime: 93 mins
Director: Rick Rosenthal
Writer: John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis; Donald Pleasance; Charles Cyphers; Jeffrey Kramer; Lance Guest; Pamela Susan Shoop
Tagline: More Of The Night He Came Home
Memorable Movie Quote: "Look, Jimmy, rule number one, never get involved with a patient. Nurses, that's another story. But patient is no good, it never works out."
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Blu-ray Distributor: Shout Factory
Official Site: halloweenmovies.com
Release Date: October 30, 1981
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: September 18, 2012
Synopsis: Shaken and injured from her battle with unkillable psycho Michael Myers, Laurie Strode is taken to the Haddonfield Hospital for observation, while Dr. Sam Loomis continues his desperate search for his monstrous patient. After slashing his way through the town, Myers manages to track Laurie to the hospital. Numerous night-shift employees are slaughtered in a variety of gruesome ways as Myers closes in on his fixation.
English SDH, French, Spanish (less)
English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German SDH (less)
Available on Blu-ray - September 18, 2012
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD)
Playback: Locked to region A
Shout! Factory has outdone what Universal did with the same transfer just last year. Cleaning up the transfer and relieving it of some of its dirt and debris, the two versions of Halloween II are downright impressive. The 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer handles Dean Cundey's intermittently soft, shadow-slathered photography with great finesse and actually saturates it with a newly found crispness. Colors and skintones are pleasing and well-saturated, bloody reds are eye-catching, black levels are satisfying throughout, and fine detail is tenfold above what came before; clean and precisely resolved. In addition, the audio is a major improvement with two DTS-HD MA soundtracks, one 5.1 remix and one stereo mix, and both are greatly appreciated as they fill the sound field with immersive dynamics.
- There are two good commentaries; one from director Rosenthal and actor Leo Rossi and a second one from stunt coordinator Dick Warlock. Both are interesting and engrossing, covering far more than simply descriptions of on screen action and actually go into the creation of the movie, some of the issues that came about and a few anecdotes.
Shout Factory's release of Halloween II is the definitive Blu-ray edition of the '80s sequel. The 45-minute featurette about the making of the movie is a fan’s wet dream that features the cast and crew reminiscing about the production of the movie. Rosenthal, Warlock, executive producer Irwin Yablans, director of photography Dean Cundey, co-composer Alan Howarth and other key members of the crew rip back the curtain of the script and production, and rarely pull any punches when talking about the highs and lows of the film. By adding the Television Cut, we get to see more of how Rosenthal wanted the film to look and appear in its facing. For my money, this is the better of the two versions and keeps the tone of the original a lot better than Carpenter’s ratcheted up version. With a generous helping of supplemental content, the new Collector's Edition trumps the 2011 30th Anniversary Edition Universal release in almost every way.
- The Nightmare Isn't Over: The Making of Halloween II (45 min)
- Halloween II: The Television Cut (92 min)
- Horror's Hallowed Grounds: The Locations of Halloween II (13 min)
- Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary (8 min)
- Alternate Ending (2 min)
- Theatrical Trailer and TV & Radio Spots (7 min)
- Stills Gallery (5 min)
- Halloween II Film Script