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Halloween II (1981) Blu-ray: 30th Anniversary Edition Review

I thought I'd share this new review (by one of my favorite movie reviewers, Kenneth Brown) that put up about the new HD transfer of the 1981 clasc. Below is the review and a link to see more details on the overall quality of the film.

Halloween II has garnered a bum rap over the years. And yet, among the many, many ill-fated horror franchise sequels that lumbered out of the shadows in the '80s, director Rick Rosenthal's 1981 followup to John Carpenter's 1978 slasher clasc stands, severed head and bloody shoulders, above the rest. How much of Halloween II's success as a film and as a sequel should be credited to Rosenthal, though, remains a bit of a mystery. Carpenter, who originally declined to fill the sequel's director's chair, stepped in at the eleventh hour and shot additional sequences after the studio declared Rosenthal's cut to be tame and bloodless. Distancing himself from the final film as much as posble, Carpenter has made his role in the production abundantly clear: "I had no influence over the direction of the film. I had an influence in the post-production. I saw a rough cut of Halloween II and it wasn't scary. It was about as scary as Quincy." Ouch. Rosenthal, of course, countered that Carpenter's changes had ruined his "carefully paced film," and their tit-for-tat was never really settled. Be that as it may, I suppose there's little value in digging up a thirty-year-old corpse. Whether Halloween II is Rosenthal's baby, Carpenter's, or some hellish hybrid, it works; flaws and all. And sometimes that's all that matters.

"You mean from the Myers House? That little kid who killed his ster? But hes in a hospital somewhere!"

I suspect "ruined" is much too harsh a word when describing the changes Carpenter made to the sequel, but Rosenthal had one thing right: Halloween II is carefully paced, regardless of what sequences were added in post-production. Picking up where Halloween left off -- with Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) staring at an empty patch of grass where serial killer Michael Myers' dead body should be lying -- Rosenthal's sequel hits the ground running. Myers stalks from house to house in Haddonfield, Illinois, stealing knives, stabbing helpless young women... you know, the usual. Amidst all the chaos, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is rushed to the hospital, where she learns Michael was hit by a car, set on fire and charred to a crisp. Oops. Turns out Myers wasn't the poor sap set aflame, as he turns up at the hospital and begins slicing, dicing and, of all things, scalding nurses and staff members, one by one, in true slasher -- at-times splatter -- fashion. Meanwhile, a paramedic named Jimmy (Lance Guest) takes a liking to Laurie, the police prove to be no help whatsoever, and dearly devoted Dr. Loomis, ever on the hunt, discovers a shocking secret about the Myers family.

Rosenthal does a fine job replicating the tone and deciveness of Halloween, and it isn't hard to go from one to the next without so much as a break in stride. At least initially. Setting the sequel in a hospital requires less absurd decion making from its characters, and in some regards -- I stress some -- Halloween II is a more newy film than its predecessor. That said, removing Laurie from her smalltown life, even with a trip to the local hospital, robs the sequel of some of its this could happen in my neighborhood chill. While we're on it, casting an entire ward of wooden supporting actors takes a toll, dialing up the gore undermines the real horror of the on-screen murders, and turning Myers into a near-inhuman killing machine seems a bit misguided (Carpenter's masked madman takes multiple slugs to the chest, not to mention a few to the brain-pan, and still has enough fight in him to stagger out of an exploon soon after). But these familiar trends, while rather new to budding slasher aficionados in 1981, don't spoil the proceedings as much as they might in a lesser sequel. Curtis and Pleasance's performances are a large part of the film's edge, sure, but Rosenthal does his part too. He not only has a handle on suspense, he has a tight grip on the tenon Carpenter infused in Halloween. Don't misunderstand; the original is a more effective slashes and, without a doubt, the only genre clasc in the Halloween franchise. That said, Halloween II has a string of devious jolts, gory shocks and creepy encounters tucked up its tattered sleeve; enough to lift it above the horror-sequel muck and, if nothing else, win the critically panned followup some overdue respect.

The devil is the details and, for once, he's welcome there. Michael Myers lingers as a woman looks right past the shadowy killer standing less than twenty yards away; the shoes of a nurse clatter to the floor as the stoic maniac lifts her into the air; a needle slides, oh so slowly, into the temple of another nurse after Myers materializes from the darkness like a demon; childlike moans and wails escape his throat after being blinded. In each case, Rosenthal -- or Carpenter, or perhaps both -- favor slow, deliberate chills over gotcha scares. There are missteps along the way (a trick-or-treater with a razor blade jammed in his mouth, a victim being severely burned by scalding water while Myer's hand remains unscathed, and Michael's ability to sneak up on anyone and everyone except Laurie), with a different breed of devil preding over the film's lesser qualities, but it's all in good, schlocky fun and doesn't derail Rosenthal's later-that-same-night extenon of Carpenter's original frightfest. And thirty years later, Michael's logic-defying invulnerability doesn't distract as much as it once did. If anything, it should be applauded for inspiring the unstoppable runs and sequel-to-sequel reigns of other horror icons. Jason. Freddy. Pinhead. Killers and otherworldly creatures had been skirting death at the last minute, lunging out of lakes as the credits rolled, and haunting the dreams of lone survivors years before Halloween II shambled onto the scene, but Rosenthal and Carpenter's Michael Myers 2.0, in whole or in part, influenced the genre juggernauts that followed; bullets no longer put down the baddie, blades no longer felled the beast, and the madman would just... keep... coming... no matter what weapon his helpless victims brandished. Michael suddenly didn't seem so human. He had become a true movie monster.

When it comes to catalog releases, Universal has a reputation for repurpong outdated masters plagued by texture-damning noise reduction and egregious edge enhancement. Fortunately, Halloween II seems to have escaped (largely) unscathed. I didn't notice any gns of substantial smearing, ringing or other symptoms of overzealous DNR and EE, and haphazard digital manipulation and unghtly encoding anomalies aren't an issue. It's still wise to approach the sequel's 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer with appropriate expectations -- only so much can be done with Dean Cundey's intermittently soft, shadow-slathered photography -- but the presentation's highs outnumber its lows, and then some. Colors and skintones are pleang and well-saturated, the ol' red sticky stuff packs particular punch, black levels are satisfying throughout, and fine detail is, by and large, surpringly crisp, clean and precisely resolved. Again, there are a variety of shots and less-exacting scenes that will no doubt disappoint those hoping for a razor-sharp image, but those who understand the inherent limitations of the film's source won't criticize Universal's efforts. (Much.) Moreover, artifacting and banding are nowhere to be found, grain is intact and unobtruve, and aberrant noise and troubling crush are kept to a bare minimum. The only issue of note? White specks, dark pocks, tiny burns, split-second squiggles (for lack of a better term), faint horizontal blue splotches and other minor nicks and scratches pepper the original print material, surging and relenting time and time again. To be fair, a complete overhaul by way of a frame-by-frame restoration would be required to properly eliminate all the pesky print damage, the cost of which I would imagine is extremely prohibitive. (Especially for a critically panned '80s horror-franchise sequel.) As such, this is probably the best Halloween II will ever look. Still, if comparisons to the Blu-ray edition's standard DVD counterpart are any indication, that isn't nearly as bad as it might sound.

Halloween II hobbles onto Blu-ray without a ngle lossless audio mix. Instead, it offers two lossy options: a hit-or-miss 768kbps DTS Processed 5.1 surround track (that never quite capitalizes on the soundscape's potential) and a flat but reasonably faithful DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue is clear and intelligible in each one, but voices sometimes sound tinny, muffled or, in the worst of cases, both. Even so, the stereo track is the way to go, especially for purists; the processed 5.1 mix is too uneven to provide a very nuanced or immerve experience. Rear speaker activity is decent but unreliable, scrambling to snatch up obvious effects and muc cues while leaving others languishing at the front of the soundfield. Low-end output is a tad disappointing as well. While the LFE channel certainly lumbers in for many a kill, it lacks finesse and power, and ultimately leaves something to be dered. It's serviceable; I'll give it that, but I wouldn't give it much more. I recommend sticking with the stereo mix. Unless lossy audio is a deal breaker, of course...

Only three extras are included: an uncharacteristically happy alternate ending (SD, 2 minutes), a small collection of deleted scenes (SD, 8 minutes) and Terror in the Aisles (HD, Dolby Digital Stereo, 82 minutes), an R-rated documentary (released theatrically in 1984) comprised almost entirely of clips from various "terror films" of the '60s, '70s and '80s. Hosted by Donald Pleasence and Nancy Allen, it's a vintage treat; one that, until now, has only been available on VHS.

Halloween II isn't perfect; not by a long shot. But among horror sequels of the '80s, its much better than its critical drubbing might suggest. Sadly, Universal's Blu-ray release has its own share of problems. With a pair a lossy audio tracks in tow and just ten-minutes of sequel-centric extras, horror junkies will have to rely on its solid video transfer and the incluon of Terror in the Aisles (an 82-minute theatrical documentary released in 1984) to justify the disc's tempting pricepoint. My advice? At thirteen dollars, Halloween II is a bargain-priced treat. Give it a spin.

Source: ... 51/#Review
indygogo Tuesday 9/20/2011 at 02:14 PM | 83021
I loved it!!

TheShape1188 Tuesday 9/20/2011 at 08:35 PM | 83042