Directed by Rick Rosenthal
Distributed by Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Christmas came early for The Horror Chick this year with Universal’s release (finally!) of both Halloween II and Terror in the Aisles (presented here as supplemental material for H2) in stunning high definition. The brand new 30th Anniversary Blu-ray edition of Halloween II is something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, and the fact that one of my favorite horror films of all time is being included as a bonus feature of all things is just like getting a ten-ton cherry on top of a Godzilla-size sundae; it’s an overload of awesomeness.
Most people around these parts should be pretty familiar with the premise of Halloween II, but just in case there are a few of you out there who may not have ever seen it for yourselves, let’s get you caught up with the rest of the class.
Directed by Rick Rosenthal (who was handpicked by John Carpenter himself to direct), Halloween II picks up right where the first film ends- Dr. Loomis (Pleasance) and Sheriff Brackett (Cyphers) are on the hunt for local madman Michael Myers (Dick Warlock) after he escaped Loomis’ clutches when the doctor found Laurie Strode (Curtis) being attacked in the Doyle House.
Injuredm but still alive and kicking, ol’ Mikey is undeterred in his quest to kill young Laurie and tracks the teenager to the Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, where she’s been transferred to for treatment. Leaving a trail of bodies in his wake, Michael finally meets Laurie and Dr. Loomis in an explosive showdown where the doctor and the babysitter try to put a stop to Myers’ reign of terror.
Look, I love Halloween II unabashedly. It was always one of my favorite movies to watch during October on my local television station, and despite its flaws and Carpenter’s departure, it’s a rather solid sequel that carries on the legacy of its predecessor well and always delivered the scares for me as a kid. So rather than do my normal “what’s great, what’s not great” review, here are my five reasons why Halloween II kicks so much ass:
1. Dean Cundey’s Cinematography: The opening shot alone (after the inserted footage from the original) is enough to make film students cream their pants. There isn’t much that hasn’t already been said about the legendary cinematographer’s work over the years so I’ll leave keep it short and sweet- nobody shot horror better in the 1980s than Dean Cundey.
2. An Ambitious Script: Where Carpenter’s original Halloween was simplicity at its best, Halloween II was a complete 180 from that storytelling approach. Not only did you have the slasher aspects of the story, but you also had a “buddy cop drama” storyline with both Loomis and Brackett searching for the elusive Myers throughout the neighborhood streets, a hospital drama brewing in the halls of Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, a sex romp heating up in the therapy room between horny EMT Budd (Leo Rossi) and equally horny nurse Karen (Pamela Susan Shoop), and a teenage romance blossoming between Laurie and wholesome EMT Jimmy (Lance Guest). It’s surprising since the script came from both Carpenter and Debra Hill (who produced Carpenter’s original Halloween, but I liked that it embraced the first film’s essence while trying to do something different and take things in a bit of a different direction as well.
3. LANCE GUEST!!: As a child of the 80s, one of my absolute favorite movies to watch on a rainy day was The Last Starfighter (which was directed, ironically enough, by Nick Castle, who played Michael Myers in Carpenter’s Halloween in 1978) so seeing Alex Rogan in a horror movie was (and still is) pretty freaking cool. And yes, I know he was also in Jaws: The Revenge, but I was never a huge fan of the Jaws sequels myself.
4. Michael Bleeds from the Eyes: Probably one of my favorite shots in Halloween II has always been when Michael starts bleeding after Laurie shoots him. Those two simple trickles of blood streaming down from the eye holes in Myers’ mask, and I always felt like it was reflective of his relationship with Laurie, almost like tears of pain. It was such disturbing visual to me as a kid and is an image that still has the power to resonate even 30 years later.
5. Gary and His Mouthful of Razors: Ahhh, who could forget poor young Gary (Ty Mitchell) being escorted into the hospital in Halloween II with a mouth full of razor blades. Looking like what has to be one of the most uncomfortable and goriest blood gags of Rosenthal’s flick, I loved how they inflicted that kind of suffering on a kid (whose brainless mom wants to make it all better by playing a few rounds of Monopoly after they check out of the ER)- it felt really savage and a little bit cruel. Which I kinda dug. Plus, it ensured I’d always check my Halloween candy from there on out.
So yes, Halloween II still stands the test of time in my book. Now, in terms of the transfer quality for Universal’s 30th Anniversary Blu-ray edition, I have to say I’m pretty pleased. I won’t pretend I’m a huge tech geek or anything, but I watched Halloween II two ways: in the 60hz refresh rate format (which is the standard way most people will see it) and then with the 120hz refresh rate on, which definitely improved the image and gave the movie a much crisper screen quality and more fluidity to the motion throughout.
And while Halloween II looked pretty decent in 60hz, it still has a grainy look to it and there are some scratches here and there, but overall it’s still better than the quality presented in the 2001 DVD version (which is my only frame of reference here). In 120hz, it blew me away. Like I said, I’m no tech geek so all I will say is that if you have the capability to switch over to 120hz on your TV, I say take advantage of it and check out the difference for yourself- the quality improvement is astonishing between the two. But regardless, the quality of the Halloween II Blu-ray is still a vast improvement over what has been released on DVD until now, and most fans should be pleased with Universal’s efforts here.
In terms of bonus features that are Halloween II-specific, sadly there isn’t much presented on the 30th Anniversary Edition. I would have LOVED a commentary track (hell, I wouldn’t have cared if it was Curtis plugging Activia half the time- just SOMETHING would have been nice), but the alternate ending and deleted scenes sort of help take the sting out of the omission of commentary material on Halloween II.
What truly saves Halloween II in the special features department, though, is Universal’s absolutely brilliant decision to include one of my all-time favorite horror flicks of all time, Terror in the Aisles, as supplemental material to Rosenthal’s flick. While I am always the eternal optimist around these parts, even I could never have expected to see Terror in the Aisles released now, especially in high definition. We’ve never even had a proper DVD release of the title so being given a HD version of the movie included in the same price as you’re already paying for Halloween II makes this disc the must-buy Blu-ray of the month for die-hards out there.
In case you’re one of the uninitiated in terms of how much fun Terror in the Aisles is, the movie stars Donald Pleasance and Nancy Allen, who sit in a movie theater filled with patrons documentary-style describing to us, the viewers, just what makes horror movies so appealing to fans everywhere.
Released in 1984, Terror in the Aisles celebrates some of the biggest movies of the modern genre (in 1984 terms at least) including Jaws, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Friday the 13th, Carrie, Halloween I & II, An American Werewolf in London, The Thing and The Shining and pays homage to many of the early horror classics like The Wolf Man, Frankenstein, The Mummy, Dracula, The Fly, Phantom of the Opera and Night of the Living Dead.
Terror in the Aisles also introduced mainstream audiences to the world of cult horror classics including flicks like Cat People, Frogs, Konga, Food of the Gods, Alligator and Saturday the 14th and extensively honored Alfred Hitchcock and many of his films including Psycho, The Birds, Strangers on a Train and Dial M for Murder. In fact, Hitchock is the only director given any screen time at all in the documentary.
Part of what I loved so much about Terror in the Aisles as a kid is that it introduced me to all kinds of movies I wouldn’t probably have discovered otherwise during my younger years- like Nighthawks, The Brood, Videodrome, The Eyes of Laura Mars or Suspiria. What also warms my horror-loving cockles is seeing Pleasance being his hammy old self and just relishing in every word he’s speaking throughout the movie. When he leans in to ask a young couple in front of him if they’re scared, you can’t help but smile at his devilish delivery to the startled lovers.
The transfer of Terror in the Aisles is a step above the recent HD version I caught on cable a few weeks backm and again, like Halloween II, it looks decent in 60hz but absolutely stunning in 120hz. I couldn’t have hoped for anything better, and my proverbial hat is off to Universal for finally stepping up and giving the fans a little something extra this time around with their release of Terror in the Aisles with Halloween II.
At a reasonable asking price of around $13 bucks, Halloween II is absolutely worth picking up when it hits shelves everywhere this week.
3 1/2 out of 5
4 out of 5
2 out of 5