Release Date(s)1981 (October 16, 2018)
Studio(s)Universal Pictures (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A-
Halloween II, which formerly followed up the original film (that is, before its recent sequel reboot), completely changed the trajectory of the character of Michael Myers. While it had its detractors, it also became a popular film in the franchise, particularly when it began airing on TV. Picking up where the original film left off, Michael is still alive after being shot repeatedly by Doctor Loomis. Now fully intent on killing Laurie Strode, Michael soon makes his way to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital to find her, carving up a set of fresh victims along his path.
I’ve always had a like/dislike relationship with Halloween II over the years. It’s a totally different beast that’s a bit more pedestrian in its approach, which makes it more harmless than effective. Whereas the original was more about the build-up, the sequel is more about the kills, losing some of the suspense in favor of unsuccessful shock value. That would be ok to some degree, but that pesky and unwarranted notion of Laurie Strode actually being the sister of Michael Myers, making his entire drive behind coming back home to Haddonfield more about murdering her than being an evil entity with no real motivation behind what he’s doing, is an aspect of the series that I’ve never, ever warmed up to. Michael is just an evil entity with no explanation. He just is. It’s what makes him a unique and terrifying movie monster in the first place.
That said, there’s something of a sense of fun about this entry. It’s a little more playful, and in some ways, tongue-in-cheek with its content. For instance, there’s a scene of a mother taking her child to the hospital because she has a razorblade stuck in her mouth, assumedly from eating Halloween candy before checking it first. There’s the requisite death by boiling water, hypodermic to the brain, scalpel to the throat, and claw hammer to the skull, but you show me a kid with a razorblade stuck in her mouth and the weirdo in me who appreciates black humor giggles inside. That alone makes Halloween II a worthy follow-up. Its pluses don’t fully outweigh its minuses, but I actually find the film a tiny bit more watchable the more times I see it. However, it will never surpass the original, or for that matter, some of the other sequels.
Six years after their debut of Halloween II via a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray, Scream Factory revisits the film with a Steelbook release. It comes with a new transfer that’s been taken from a 4K scan of the film’s original camera negative. While I was mostly pleased with the film’s previous transfer, it’s nice to have a fresh scan six years later. It’s a definite step up in clarity, with solid grain levels, deep blacks, and excellent depth. The color palette is a little cooler as well, but the various hues, including deep, cherry reds, benefit from it, as do flesh tones which appear pink and natural. Contrast is good and the image is entirely stable with only miniscule imperfections leftover. The audio is presented in English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. These appear to be the same audio options as the previous release, but the subtitles are a new addition. The 5.1 mix is a pretty good one with decent placement of sound effects and score, which can be a tad thin in spots. Dialogue on both tracks is clean and clear with some spatial activity and ambience. I prefer the 2.0 experience as I’m a purist in that regard, but the 5.1 track is a nice upgrade of the film’s original soundtrack.
This release also carries over all of the extras from the previous Scream Factory Blu-ray release, which includes a separate DVD that features the extended TV version of the film, as well as the film’s script as a .PDF file. Included on the Blu-ray is an audio commentary with director Rick Rosenthal and actor Leo Rossi; another audio commentary with actor and stunt coordinator Dick Warlock, moderated by Rob Galluzzo; The Nightmare Isn’t Over!: The Making of Halloween II 45-minute documentary; Horror’s Hallowed Grounds: The Locations of Halloween II, hosted by Sean Clark; a still gallery with 53 on-set images; a posters and lobby cards gallery with 82 images; 2 TV spots; a network TV ad; 6 radio spots; and a set of deleted scenes and alternate ending with optional audio commentary by Rick Rosenthal. Still M.I.A. from the Universal Pictures Blu-ray is the Terror in the Aisles documentary, but then again, I didn’t expect it to be included anyways.
Halloween II, while not a perfect sequel, was definitely a moneymaker for the folks behind it. It’s one that I’ve struggled with over the years, but disregarding the might and majesty of the original film, it’s an adequate little slasher. Is Scream Factory’s double-dip (or perhaps triple-dip if you also bought their now out-of-print boxed set of the entire series) worth your hard-earned cash? Well, having a new transfer with added subtitles and all of the previous extras in a nice Steelbook package with striking artwork makes it a solid upgrade for me, but your mileage may vary.
- Tim Salmons