Returning to the final climactic moments of October 31st, 1978, Dr. Loomis intervenes in Michael Myers' attack on Laurie Strode, shooting Michael six times and finally blasting him off the upstairs balcony of the Doyle home.
But The Shape disappears before Sheriff Brackett arrives and paramedics take Laurie to the hospital. Loomis warns Brackett to continue the manhunt because Michael Myers is still a murderous threat to anyone in Haddonfield. Blamed for letting Michael escape yet again, Dr. Loomis is ordered back to Smith's Grove sanitarium under police custody, foiling his attempt to hunt down Michael before he can kill again. Unknown to anyone, Michael has pursued Laurie to the hospital where she's being treated for her wounds and severe shock. The night he came back restarts the cycle of killing in Haddonfield all over again.
While HALLOWEEN II picks up right where the first film left off, three years had elapsed since John Carpenter directed the original and immensely popular HALLOWEEN in 1978, now released in a new Collector's Edition on Blu-ray and DVD by Shout! Factory this Tuesday.
A new bonus feature documentary included on this release will prove a strong draw to HALLOWEEN devotees and film buffs alike, though clearly the Blu-ray edition will be the higher quality of the two versions available.
Carpenter and co-producer Debra Hill wrote the script for HALLOWEEN II, reassembling most of the original production's cast and crew including Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance, though Carpenter refused to direct the sequel himself.
While he was interested in continuing the HALLOWEEN series, basically he felt directing the follow-up film would be repeating a job he'd already completed with amazing success. Carpenter already had designs on directing THE FOG as his next feature project.
Production designer Tommy Lee Wallace was originally approached by Carpenter and Hill to direct their sequel script, but Wallace backed out of the opportunity over a different vision where to take the second chapter in the HALLOWEEN saga.
Instead the directing job went to Rick Rosenthal, a television director, producer and now first-time feature film director. The original production executives — Moustapha Akkad, Irwin Yablans and Joseph Wolf — returned to fund the project and guide it into theaters in time for a Halloween 1981 release. Rosenthal's vision of the film leaned heavily on slowly building suspense and emotional terror, an approach later modified by a few Carpenter reshoots to increase the graphic scares of victim deaths.
Cinematographer Dean Cundey shot the sequel, giving it an effective continuity in visual style and menacing mood with the original hit. Cundey's contribution to both films is not to be underestimated, and his photographic style is one of the key reasons HALLOWEEN II recaptures the satisfying feel from its predecessor.
Carpenter, Hill and Rosenthal had roughly eight times the budget of HALLOWEEN (about $2.5 million), and so the dramatic scope and on-screen cast of HALLOWEEN II expanded accordingly. Fans would argue that this budget proved to both benefit and undercut the sequel's effectiveness as an edge-of-your-seat horror thriller.
The script opened up the plot to include much more of Haddonfield, though the main action would take place in the dreary, near-empty small town hospital. This wider scope diffused the claustrophobic terror of a maniac killer pursuing victims in a suburban house, thus watering down some of the film's suspense compared to Carpenter's taut original shocker.
The increased cast results in a series of more grisly murders which are less horrifying by their sheer number, time-released through the story to increase the body count but blunting their dramatic impact. This conflict between terrifying suspense and more vivid deaths arose largely because of the time that had passed since HALLOWEEN, wherein more gory horror flicks like FRIDAY THE 13th had pumped up the blood quantity in lieu of creative originality. Such tensions between dramatic approaches wove their way through this sequel's production which eventually proved a bit divisive between Carpenter and Rosenthal, not to mention causing debate among the now-franchise's fans when they saw it themselves. Still, some kills in HALLOWEEN II — Karen's hot tub boiling, nurse Jill's backstabbing and the final confrontation between Loomis and The Shape — remain iconic moments for fans of the series, many of whom consider its finale the 'real' end of the HALLOWEEN saga with subsequent sequels existing mostly for entertainment value.
As a direct moments-after sequel, HALLOWEEN II stands as the most legitimate story to follow in the franchise if not as successful in execution compared to the incomparable origin story. Fans either embraced or questioned the rationale behind Michael's relentless pursuit of Laurie Strode as his target, but plot machinations aside they ate up this second helping of masked killer antics. If Jamie Lee Curtis' Laurie remains passively doped up through much of the story, then Donald Pleasance's maniacal Dr. Loomis provides the character-based glue that holds this sequel together. Despite the introduction of a family connection between killer and prey, Loomis' obsessive, Ahab-like compulsion to defeat the monster he unwittingly released became the driving dramatic motivation for the series to continue. Dick Warlock proved a memorable follow-up of actor for what was intended to be the final chapter in the The Shape's murderous spree through Haddonfield. Box office profits and sequel-happy studio slates would soon prove that dead is just a temporary state of mind for Michael Myers.
The DVD review copy that FilmEdge received is good for standard def viewing if that's your favored disc format, though we highly recommend getting the Blu-ray edition of HALLOWEEN II for the highest image and sound quality available. Word has it that Shout! Factory's HD transfer for this Collector's Edition may well be superior (in very small technical ways) to Universal's 30th Anniversary Blu-ray release, so if you didn't buy the 2011 version, consider Shout! Factory's new release a favorable purchasing option. While the image quality of the DVD standard-def issue is solid considering the 480p quality, the disc's rating is hampered by the quite compressed Dolby 2.0 stereo audio track which gives background gunshots and explosions a rather tinny effect. Their Blu-ray edition is definitely the way to go to hear HALLOWEEN II in its full DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio glory.
Where Shout! Factory's new Collector's Edition shines on either disc format is in its newly minted Bonus Features content, specifically the 45-minute documentary The Nightmare Isn't Over: The Making of Halloween II produced for this release. Produced in HD for the Blu-ray release but equally serviceable in the standard-def edition on DVD, this quite thorough look back at the production and cinematic legacy of HALLOWEEN II will please hardcore fans and casual inductees of the Myers mythology. A plethora of cast and crew members from the film, including Rosenthal, Warlock, Cundey, Wallace, exec producer Irwin Yablans plus actors Leo Rossi, Lance Guest, Nancy Stephens, Ana Alicia and Tawny Moyer all contribute their experiences making the sequel as well as relating how fans have kept them all popular guests at conventions for two decades and counting.
No less than two Audio Commentary tracks supplement the feature film: the first with director Rosenthal who is joined by actor Leo Rossi to reminisce at length about their memories of the sequel, though often the duo wander far away from the on-screen topic to discuss their family and careers outside HALLOWEEN II if they don't forget to talk at all; and the second track pairs Icons of Fright creator Robert V. Galluzzo with stunt coordinator and Shape portrayer Dick Warlock who both take the conversation deeper into actual on-set details of scenes, addressing fan myths about making the film as much as they reveal specific facts about Warlock's stunts and kill scenarios with his fellow cast members. Both are worth playing after enjoying the feature itself, though many stories told by Rosenthal and Warlock are probably familiar to the most devout HALLOWEEN fans.
Writer/producer Sean Clark takes fans on a 13-minute tour across Southern California during Horror's Hallowed Grounds: The Locations of Halloween II. This fun installment revisits the locations used in the film — from the Veteran's hospital to the Elrod House to the Babysitters' neighborhood opening the story — replicating key shots at the houses, streets and buildings as they appear today. A light-hearted but very detailed treat for devotees made by a die hard fan himself, and Clark quickly proves he has HALLOWEEN II memorized down to the smallest on-screen details when he recreates these location shoots.
Fans can also watch the HALLOWEEN II that could have been with collections of Deleted Scenes and the gimmicky Alternate Ending, both of which offer optional commentary tracks by director Rosenthal.
A Still Gallery plays as a remote-commanded slideshow of publicity and production stills, all of which remain in SD on the DVD.
Three vintage TV Spots of questionable image and sound quality (given their age) and six Radio Spots (including two in Spanish) round out the bonus features menu on the DVD edition . . . but wait, there's more!
Fans who purchase the Blu-ray edition of the HALLOWEEN II Collector's Edition get additional bonus materials that only add to the wisdom and value of opting for the HD version of Shout! Factory's new release:
HALLOWEEN die hards will enjoy the 92-minute long Television Cut of HALLOWEEN II, which is somewhat more tame in terms of excising the gore and nudity while adding very short scenes and extended snippets to fill its televised run time. Sadly, this TV version is not presented in HD image or sound as it's a DVD supplement disc, but it's definitely a buying bonus for fans who don't already own it separately.
This same DVD disc also offers a .pdf file of the HALLOWEEN II Film Script that you can download off the disc onto your computer hard drive for your viewing, reading and printing pleasure. A nifty little keepsake for the true HALLOWEEN acolytes.
Shout! Factory has it completely right when they offer this latest release of HALLOWEEN II as a Collector's Edition, as this second-year-in-a-row Blu-ray release of the film will appeal most to franchise collectors and hardcore fans — though don't be fooled by the timing into thinking this is yet another quick-buck rehash of what came before. With slight image improvements in the HD Blu-ray transfer for this release plus the new making-of documentary, this Shout! Factory Collector's Edition is indeed worth collecting (especially with a mere $19.99 retail price tag).
A stalwart and enjoyable sequel, if a bit troubled in its conflicted tone, HALLOWEEN II is a worthy and often chilling follow up to Carpenter's original blockbuster surprise that revitalized and redefined the horror genre on its own terms. This sequel makes a handsome and horrific bookend to the 1978 original and can easily serve as the final entry in the Myers/Strode saga if you so choose. FilmEdge highly recommends opting for the Blu-ray edition to savor all the HD perks presented in that format, but either the Blu-ray or DVD versions make an excellent introduction to the HALLOWEEN sequels if you're just now starting your franchise collection on disc. After all, 'tis the Halloween season again, so stalk down your own copy today.