Halloween II (1981) blu-ray review

ImageHalloween II picks up right from where Halloween ended, and “The Night He Came Home” continues.

This is the first horror movie I can recall ever watching as a little kid living in Brazil where it showed on TV. I immediately became a fan of the franchise and a horror film fanatic was created.

The iconic villain of Michael Myers survives being shot 6 times in the first Halloween by Dr. Loomis (shot 7 times when they show the recap from the first film in this one), played by the legendary actor, Donald Pleasance. Myers finds out that his sister Lori was taken to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, via a kid on the street listening to the news on his boom box, and the stalking begins.

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Myers gets his knife from the Elron’s place. Sneaky bugger.

Halloween II was directed by Rick Rosenthal who did a good job at keeping a similar feel to the original Halloween as far as style and composition of scenes. The use of light and shadows were prominent throughout, and done effectively. The violence and gore was also upped quite a bit in this film as opposed to the first one, due largely in part to the growing popularity in slasher films at the time such as Friday the 13th and Friday the 13th II — all copy-cats of the first Halloween film, which had all upped the body counts and blood amount for the increasingly popular genre. As the story goes, John Carpenter, who produced this film, also had a part in directing some scenes which upped the blood count and body count. Listening to interviews and reading a lot about this movie, one realizes that there were “many cooks in the kitchen” and a lot of studio interference.

Despite all that, this movie still works really well for me — and as it turns out — audiences in 1981, as well.

Halloween II made a splash at the box office becoming the top grossing horror film in 1981. Critics tore it to shreds at the time but over the years there has been a huge cult following and continued appreciation for this film, which I’m glad to see.

In my opinion it has to be considered one of, if not the best horror sequels of all-time. The iconic villain Michael Myers and his “pure evil” and indestructible nature became even more stated here. Dick Warlock, who donned the Myers’ mask in this and was the stunt coordinator of the film, did a great job. He might just be arguably right up there as one of the best to ever play the role. His mannerisms, slow gliding walk, and movements are creepy and a joy to watch. Warlock clearly enjoyed the hell out of playing this role and creating the stunts. Listening to Warlock talk about this film, it’s easy to see how much pride he has about having been involved in such an iconic role. I’d say that aside from Nick Castle in the first Halloween, Warlock was the best Michael Myers in the franchise — with George P. Wilbur from Halloween 4 very close behind.

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Lori’s a pretty good shot considering she’s never held a gun before!

The hospital setting is perfect, even though it seemed like the halls were way too empty, and I know that’s something a lot of people have a problem with in this film, myself included. But after re- watching it a couple of more times, I have bought into the fact that perhaps a small town hospital like this in mid-western America could be that under staffed and empty during the overnight shift. Or maybe I’m just such a big fan of the film, I’m rationalizing and being too forgiving of some of the plot holes and unlikely scenario played out in the setting of this movie. Still, it was a fun place to see a slasher take place. The use of the dark hallways and spare staffing, made things even more dire for poor ol’ Lori Strode.

And speaking of Lori Strode played by “scream queen” Jamie-Lee Curtis, this was a terrific performance which further cemented that deserving title. Although she is only on-screen a total of 25 minutes, when she is on, she definitely owns it. It really is sad however that later on in the franchise this character would be cheapened quite a bit.

Donald Pleasance as Dr. Sam Loomis was amazing yet again. Gotta love the line, “You haven’t seen death,” which he gives to one of the neighbors of where the crimes took place. Pleasance brought the same class to the sequel as he did to the original. I can’t help but laugh though at the terrible judgement Loomis has in this when he thought that kid Ben Tramer wearing a Myers mask was the real Myers and it resulted in the poor kid getting crushed by a Police car and burned to death. The subsequent investigation and outcome of Ben’s death and Loomis’ terrible mistake, is kind of humorous when watching this movie all these years later. It’s almost like, “Oops, my bad. Moving on.”

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Loomis knows who wrote that in blood.

Scream Factory has once again demonstrated why the company has so many horror fans excited about buying their favorite horror films. This blu-ray/DVD package is tremendous, and offers outstanding value.

I’m not going to get all technical about the 1080p video quality and analyze colors, noise, and all that. There are better sites out there that focus on this stuff. All i can tell you is that this film looks fantastic on blu-ray. The sound seemed a bit off in some scenes where the music just flat out blared and was pulsating in comparison to the dialogue which was almost too quiet at times. the Halloween theme music was mixed differently in this and is not as good as John Carpenter’s music in the original. Overall, the music is still outstanding; especially in some of the important stalking sequences.

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One tough cookie.

The extras on this disc are excellent and there is plenty to keep fans busy long after the film is done. The making of features are very informative and entertaining. The audio commentaries are enjoyable to listen to as well, although at times I got the sense that director Rick Rosenthal was going through the motions and didn’t really have his heart in it. There were a few moments during Rosenthal’s and actor Leo Rossi’s commentary of long periods of silence, leaving me to scratch my head and say, “What the hell. Is something wrong?”

Horror’s Hallowed Grounds – The Locations of Halloween II; was a real fun look at the locations and what they look like today.

There are also, of course, deleted scenes and the DVD contains the “Television version” of the film, which has the violence and gore toned down quite a bit, and uses the alternate ending which was nowhere near as effective as the original theatrical ending. Come to think of it, I don’t see why anyone would have much of an interest in watching the television version, unless you’re just a completest that has to have it.

Halloween II on blu-ray from Scream Factory is the best presentation of the film to date. Any fan of the Halloween franchise should pick it up — well worth it.

– JP

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About jpthorn

If you would like to submit books or films for review, e-mail me at thehorrorbooth@gmail.com
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4 Responses to Halloween II (1981) blu-ray review

  1. Later on in the Summer, I’m going to get this and part 3.

  2. Beer Movie says:

    The first Halloween is one of my absolute favourite horror films, if not my number 1. I have been meaning to catch the second for a while. Am waiting for a blu-ray boxset of all of the films, which strangely does not seem to exist.

    • jpthorn says:

      A bluray boxset of all the films would be great, but I’m not sure it will ever happen due to different studios owning different films in the series. But I could be wrong. This blu-ray of Halloween II is probably as good as a presentation of the film I think we will ever get. Thanks for reading my review.

      • Beer Movie says:

        Thanks for the info about the films being in the hands of different studios. That probably explains a fair bit of why there is not a complete box set. Ah well, might just have to start picking them up one by one.

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