Shout! Factory’s horror division, which they’ve christened Scream! Factory, continues to release quality Blu-ray versions of cult classics most uneducated viewers write off as B-movie schlock. One of those 1980s gems they’ve treated like cinema royalty is “Halloween II.” Many look at this sequel as the unwanted imitator of the original that upped the gore ante and added cheap jump moments where genuine ones of suspense once were. However, there’s a legion of fans out there of the franchise that carry a treaty loyalty to the film and its cast and creators. The new “Halloween II: Collector’s Edition” Blu-ray was put together for those individuals.
“Halloween II” begins exactly at the end of the original film. Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) runs downstairs into the front yard of the house he found Michael Myers (Dick Warlock) and Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) in. He discovers that Myers has walked off from the spot where he landed after Loomis shot him several times knocking him off the 2nd story balcony. Laurie is rushed to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital where she’s admitted for treatment. Michael tracks her down to the hospital and begins killing the medical personnel one by one in his search for Laurie. Can Dr. Loomis track him down and end his reign of terror before Myers can get to his sister?
Is “Halloween II” as good as or better than its predecessor? Of course not. Is it good in its own right as an entertaining slasher film? I believe it is. Director Rick Rosenthal did what any man picking up the reigns from a master like John Carpenter would. First, he uses the same director of photography to capture the movie visually. Next, Rosenthal tries to hang on to the suspense that made the first movie a hit, but at the same time add more moments of gore to elevate it to a different level. Did it work all the time? No, it didn’t.
However, it did add all sorts of iconic moments that viewers still hang on to and celebrate to this day. Moments like the blood running down Myers’ mask after Laurie shoots him in the eyes; the swishing of the scalpel as he blindly swings it in front of him trying to kill whoever gets in his way; the POV shots of the killer stalking while we hear his heavy breathing under the mask; and who can forget the scene where the mother is taking her little boy to the emergency room after he bit into an apple with a razor in it? That put Halloween in a bad light from the moment it first debuted in front of an audience.
It’s great to see a cast give such genuine performances in what many actors might write off as an opportunity to just pick up an easy paycheck. Jamie Lee Curtis returns in the role of Laurie Strode and isn’t given a lot of dialogue to work with but does her best to deliver legitimate bursts of fear and anxiety as she crawls and stumbles around the hospital hiding from Michael Myers. Lance Guest (“The Last Starfighter”) plays paramedic Jimmy who is convincingly intent on keeping Laurie safe from Myers’ clutches. Donald Pleasance returns as Dr. Loomis and continues to add a level of class and drama to the film that many slasher movies of the decade sorely lacked.
The high-definition transfer of “Halloween II” delivers the movie to fans in a whole new light that I’m sure it’s never been seen in. The picture is as clean and vibrant as its ever been. The 5.1 audio guarantees that John Carpenter and Alan Howarth’s eerie electronic score mixed with the screams, gunshots, knife swishing, and heavy-breathing terrifyingly envelopes you.
Shout! Factory scores big points with horror aficionados when it comes to the special features for “Halloween II: Collector’s Edition.” It’s literally packed full of treats and goodies. They include the theatrical version and television cut with extra footage not seen in theaters. Two audio commentaries feature director Rick Rosenthal, actor Leo Rossi and actor / stunt coordinator Dick Warlock talking about the film. Two exciting featurettes give fans more insight into the making of the movie. “The Nightmare Isn’t Over!: The Making of ‘Halloween II'” goes behind the scenes and explores the history of the film. “Horror’s Hallowed Grounds: The Locations of ‘Halloween II'” takes the viewer on a tour of where the movie was filmed. There are also deleted scenes and an alternate ending with commentary for both by Rick Rosenthal. A theatrical trailer, TV and radio spots, and a still gallery are found as well.
The Blu-ray release of “Halloween II: Collector’s Edition” is a great gift for any fan of the popular franchise. If it was affordable to buy enough of these to drop into the buckets of trick or treaters on All Hallows Eve, you’d be the toast of your neighborhood. I honestly don’t know what more they could add to this to improve on it. It’s the definitive version of the movie all Michael Myers enthusiasts must get their hands on.