For the 30th Anniversary Edition of Halloween II we had been promised a full restoration and HD remastering, but looking at this AVC encoded 2.35:1 image, it is clear that nothing meticulous has taken place with regards to the process.
Whilst I am happy that this looks suitably more detailed and defined than I have ever seen it before, the print is still very noticeably marked and marred with a multitude of pops, dots, nicks, splodges and speckles. Although I haven’t actually compared the image here with either the Region 1 of Region 2 SD editions as yet, I’m pretty certain that they don’t boast as many age-related distractions as the BD does. But this does not mean that the image is bad. The pros, as far as I am concerned, far outweigh the cons.
Grain is intact and DNR is not an issue. The texture occasionally gets stronger but, in the main, Halloween II looks faithful and film-like. There is no edge enhancement and no aliasing. Noise was not a problem either. Detail gets a sure-fire improvement. The picture will never look all that sharp, but definition is certainly elevated. Bullet-hits on Michael's body, the texture of his now well-worn mask. Blood-splashes on the first victim's face and neck. The brickwork of the hospital and some shop sign and window displays. Registration plates. Even the hanging residue of the gunsmoke in the operating theatre after Laurie has put two slugs into her brother's noggin. All of these things, and much more, have been afforded appreciably finite detail that has been absent before. We do get some shimmer on objects at times, and some scenes, or even just shots, lose a degree of distinction but, on the whole, there is much more to savour than you've seen on home video ever before.
And, going hand in hand with this, the colours are superb. They may well have been ramped-up a little bit, but they appear rich, bright and redolent – and that is perfectly appropriate to the look and mood of the film. The primaries are luscious and quite comic-book in gaudy splashes. The reds of neon and blood are vivid, the emergency lighting down in the basement authentically suffused without looking muddy or showing any signs of banding. The greens of foliage, cop-jackets and the interiors of police cruisers are smooth. The festive and evocative use of orange is beautifully rendered via the sight of the plentiful pumpkins, all looking nicely plumped-up and eerie with candle-light, and the raging orange, red and white of the two big infernos that we see looking dazzlingly hot and intense. The whites of the climactic fireball do bloom-out though for a few frames, but this settles down when we see the figure striding, ablaze, down the corridor. There's no problem with midnight-blues either, which are perfectly blended and atmospheric. Skin-tones tend to vary from character to character – as they should, I suppose – but there is often a ruddy and overly warm aspect to them. Only Laurie and a few of the cops tend to look a little cooler. Contrast is fine and much better than seen on the muddy old DVDs. But blacks are astonishingly deep and strong. In fact, they can be too strong at times, their sheer depth – which was always a magnificent trait of this film and something that every version I've seen of it has strictly adhered to – occasionally engulfing some detail within. However, they help provide the image with a tremendous sense of depth. Once the lights go out in Haddonfield Memorial, the BD becomes a visual delight that showcases Dean Cundey's fluid camerawork and his immaculate sense of depth and composition. Rick Rosenthal may have called a lot of the shots on the production, but the Carpenter/Cundey hallmark is stamped all over it, that's for sure.
Halloween II is now given some infernal sonic life with a very solid and demonstrative DTS Processed 5.1 track. We would have preferred lossless but, to be fair, this still sounds quite impressive and provides a genuine kick up the backside to what was once quite a lacklustre audio experience. For the record, we also get a DTS 2.0 option, but I stuck with the surround track.
The music, which is such a major component of the film is marvellously handled and presented. We aren't talking about warmth here, as there is no organic quality to the classic synthesised score at all. But there is a precision, a depth and a keen sense of scintillating clarity to the metronomic beat and the glistening high note stabs. The stingers, again all of them are electronic, occur with abrupt and direct sharpness, perfectly capturing the shocks of the moment. It should also be noted that the bass levels, even during the slow pounding pursuit cues are surprisingly deep and robust.
Dialogue is fine, with voices coming over radios, TV's and telephones all managing to sound clear and yet realistically placed.
I don't think that there was a great deal of surround activity going on – a door closing over, cars screeching and police sirens, perhaps – but the mob attack on the Myers house does seem to filter back around you with shouts and anger. Directionality across the wide front soundstage is good though, and doesn't sound overly boosted or enhanced to me. Listen to when Nurse Karen suddenly bangs on the glass doors to alert the night-watchman to let her in – great positioning over to the far right and a real convincing sense of impact and urgency. Again there are doors opening and closing left and right, voices and movement. When Loomis opens up the gas during the finale, the hissing fills the room. And then there is the vicious swiping that Michael makes with the scalpel at the end – they are loud, wickedly air-rushed and exhibit highly discernible movement.
Gunshots are a little less consistent than I thought they would be. Some are loud and punchy, but others come over as weak and downmixed. I will say, however, that the “warning shot” that Dr. Loomis fires through the window of the dopey Marshall’s car sounds a lot better here than it has on many previous versions, with proper separation between the blast and the shattering glass. Impacts are forceful, such as when Michael stabs the empty bed repeatedly, or when bodies hit the floor. And details within some of the violence is still quite pleasantly clear – the squish of the knife into the girl on the phone near the start, the smash of the car dragging Ben Tramer into the parked van, Michael crashing his way through the door to the operating room.
Overall, Halloween II's new audio mix sounds great to me. It is clear, crisp and a lot louder than I had expected it to be. No complaints here, folks.
I hope you didn’t anticipate much of worth from this Anniversary Edition, folks. Because you won’t find it here.
In place of the fun commentary from Kim Newman and Stephen Jones that adorned the R2 edition, we get a slew of rather rubbish deleted scenes (just hospital staff fumbling about, and Loomis conferring with one of the Haddonfield deputies, and nothing that adds or reveals anything of interest, and an alternate ending that is, quite frankly, utter pants, even if it does shed some light on a character who, otherwise, mysteriously disappears in the final cut of the film.
Oh, and we also get the feature-length “horror-clip-a-thon” from 1984, Terror In The Aisles. Well, whoopee-doo! Somebody obviously thought that this would be a great bonus and that it would help sell the disc. There are many people out there who actually think this tour of genre highlights is a proper film or a proper documentary, what with its hokey hosting from the great Donald Pleasance, who really should have known better, and Nancy Allen, and its pathetic roster of audience members who leap, scream and bicker throughout the horror-show – but I can assure you that it is neither. This was utter rubbish back when it was released, and it is worse than redundant now. We see clips from Texas Chainsaw, The Exorcist, Halloween, Jaws, Alien, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Night Of The Living Dead, but the majority of the screen-time is spent in the company of Sly Stallone and Rutger Hauer in a slew of material from Night Hawks, Wait Until Dark and a few other offerings that are much more like thrillers. This tells you nothing at all about why we are drawn to horror films and delivers even less in terms of trivia or insight into the movies highlighted.
Sadly, Halloween II is badly served with this selection.
Although not a patch on the original, Rick Rosenthal’s Halloween II is one of those cult gems that remains terrific fun. It plays directly after the events of the first movie and is, therefore, one of those rare horror sequels that acts as a great continuation of the tale, rather than as a half-baked contrivance or semi-remake. However, the downsides are that John Carpenter wasn't at the helm, and his screenplay makes a mockery of the suspense and the mystery of his classic original, not to mention dumbing-down his two lead protagonists of Laurie and Loomis. But even if the film is chock-a-block with stupid people doing illogical things, there remains the ever-glorious dark avenger of Michael Myers to keep the spirit of Samhain alive … and bloody.
For something boasting the tag of a 30th Anniversary Edition, there is little here in the way of supplemental material that is worth the time or the effort, and this hardly feels like much of a celebration. But, this said, I'm quite smitten with Universal's transfer. With mammoth black levels and nice bright colours, the image looks vibrant and atmospheric. Detail provides a definite upgrade and, despite a rather unfortunate speckling of pops and flecks, Dean Cundey's awesome cinematography is wonderfully presented. The DTS 5.1 track has some weight to it, as well. So, all in all, this is a worthy upgrade that I have no hesitation in recommending.
All together now …
“Mr. Sandman … bring me a dream.
Make him the cutest that I've ever seen ...”
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.