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Halloween II (1981) (4K Ultra HD)
John Carpenter's Halloween is my favorite movie. That 1978 horror film truly is the immortal classic; a perfectly executed suspense film that inspired generations of horror fans. Rick Rosenthal directs the 1981 sequel, Halloween II, with Carpenter and Debra Hill returning to write and produce. The original film is heavy on suspense and light on gore, but this follow-up, released the year after the graphic Friday the 13th, focuses more on bloody kills than building suspense. That is not to say Halloween II is a bad film; it is not. Artfully shot by cinematographer Dean Cundey, the film is a direct and worthy continuation of Michael Myers' night of terror in Haddonfield, Illinois. Where it falters is in pacing and execution. The original Halloween is so perfectly paced and shot that this film has trouble recapturing that magic. It also bolsters Myers' background with information that remains controversial among series fans. The added gore may spook some viewers, but Halloween II is simply not as memorable as its predecessor.
Carpenter did not want to direct a sequel to Halloween, but did agree to return to write, direct and compose the score. Horror fans recognize Halloween II as part of the then fledgling slasher genre, which includes Friday the 13th, Prom Night, and Sleepaway Camp, among others. This was certainly a different production, too, as Carpenter originally approached art director Tommy Lee Wallace to shoot the film before tapping Rosenthal, who was not given full control over the final cut by Universal. Rosenthal worked to recreate Carpenter's style but brings Myers from the periphery of scenes to center stage, to varying degrees of effectiveness. There is some professional disagreement over who wanted the additional gore and nudity in Halloween II. Rosenthal has said it was Carpenter, but that may have been a result of Carpenter being asked by the studio to work on a couple of sequences they were unhappy with. In archival interviews, Rosenthal is critical of Carpenter's changes, indicating that the tweaks ruined his film's pacing, but has been more positive in recent interviews. By many accounts it was producer Moustapha Akkad or financier Dino De Laurentiis who asked for it, recognizing the growing popularity of R-rated slashers.
The narrative picks up exactly where Halloween left it, and filmmakers reshot the sequence of Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) shooting Myers, causing him to tumble from an obviously different balcony into grass, leaving a cartoonish outline, instead of a bare fall ground. The story then follows Michael as he carves up a couple of locals on his way to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, where Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is being treated. Loomis enlists Sheriff Leigh Brackett (Charles Cyphers) to help find Michael, and the gravity of the task becomes apparent when Brackett finds out his own daughter, Annie (Nancy Kyes), is a victim. Most of the film sees Michael prowling the halls of the hospital, killing nurses and orderlies. Laurie has been given drugs for pain, so much of her night is a fever dream. When she realizes Michael has come for her, she begins to fight back.
This film is also controversial among fans in that it introduces the idea that Michael is a motived being. Gone is reasonless "shape" from the original, and instead we are introduced to the Michael that wants to kill his sister. The new Halloween trilogy from David Gordon Green, which ignores the numerous sequels and picks up after this film, deletes that plot point, allowing Laurie to escape being kin to a mass murderer. With its schoolhouse sequence in which "Samhain" is written on a chalkboard, Halloween II also toys with the idea that supernatural forces may be driving Michael. Whatever fuels the killer, he certainly gets creative when murdering people in this film. Some of the franchise's most memorable deaths are found here, though one wonders how Michael does not get scalded when dunking a nurse's head into boiling water. Halloween II also lets viewers know that Michael is pretty much invulnerable. If you can accept that, this sequel is a lot of fun. Some early scenes in the hospital do drag, and none of the supporting staff characters are as interesting as the original supporting cast. Curtis remains a powerful, compelling lead, though I prefer Pleasence's work in later sequels. While Halloween had not yet earned the reputation it has today during the production of this sequel, the filmmakers had big shoes to fill. Halloween II offers some artfully shot chase sequences, doses of suspense, and plenty of gore. It may not be the immortal classic, but it is certainly among the better films in the Halloween series.
THE 4K ULTRA HD:
Shout! Factory continues to release the Halloween series in new, improved editions to please fans. After previously releasing this film on Blu-ray, the studio now offers it on 4K Ultra HD with a transfer sourced from the original camera negative and approved by cinematographer Cundey. The 2.35:1/2160p/HEVC/H.265 image offers HDR10 and Dolby Vision. This is a fantastic presentation and is certainly the most impressive I have seen in the film's extended home-video life. Fine-object detail is abundant, and the corridors of Haddonfield Memorial have never been more expansive. Close-ups reveal every drop of blood or facial feature captured on film, and wide shots (which Rosenthal uses far less frequently than Carpenter) are impressively detailed. Film grain is present and properly resolved, and I am happy to report the presentation is free of digital tinkering or edge halos. The HDR grade provides deep, lifelike colors, brighter sequences when appropriate, and impressive, inky blacks and shadow detail. The source is in excellent condition here and fans will absolutely want this edition in their collections.
The disc offers 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, English mono, and a new Dolby Atmos mix that I sampled as a 7.1 Dolby TrueHD track. The new mix expands the soundstage without resulting to artificial effects boosting or remixing. There are plenty of directional effects that pass through the entire soundstage. Dialogue is crisp and clear. The score is presented well, and all elements are nicely balanced. The LFE comes alive in the explosive climax, and the soundtracks are free from hiss and distortion. English SDH subtitles are included.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This three-disc set arrives in a hinged 4K case with reversible artwork. The case slides into a sturdy carboard slipbox that sports the newly created artwork. The 4K disc includes a Commentary by Rick Rosenthal and actor Leo Rossi and a Commentary by Actor and Stunt Coordinator Dick Warlock and Rob Galluzzo. The second disc, a Blu-ray, offers the film and previously created extras, including the aforementioned commentaries, The Nightmare Isn't Over: The Making of Halloween II (44:55/HD), a solid documentary; an episode of Horror's Hallowed Grounds (13:11/HD), about the locations; Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Rosenthal (8:06/SD); an Alternate Ending with Optional Commentary by Rosenthal (1:44/SD); Trailers, TV Spots and Promos (11:07 total/HD); and Newsprint, Stills and Poster Galleries (15:22 total/HD). The third disc, a DVD, includes the T.V. Version of the Film (93:16/SD).
It is beginning to feel like we get a new edition of Halloween II every October or so, but Shout! Factory's new 4K Collector's Edition is certainly a must-own for horror fans. While this bloody sequel cannot top its classic predecessor, this is still a worthy continuation of Michael Myers' night of terror. Highly Recommended.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.