Halloween II (1981)

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Released 16-Feb-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio & Animation
Production Notes
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1981
Running Time 87:45 (Case: 92)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Rick Rosenthal
Studio
Distributor

Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis
Lance Guest
Donald Pleasence
Pamela Susan Shoop
Jeffrey Kramer
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $32.95 Music John Carpenter
Alan Howarth


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Of course, with a film that succeeds just by sheer word-of-mouth as Halloween managed to do, sequels are all but guaranteed. Maybe not so much in 1981 as is the case today, but the temptation to dip into the well once again must have been quite enormous. This sequel found John Carpenter voluntarily relegated to the roles of producer and writer, leaving the direction in the hands of Rick Rosenthal. While the results are still head-and-shoulders above most of the imitators that the original has attracted in the past twenty-three years, Halloween II is a big disappointment by comparison. A lot of this has to do with the trading of atmosphere and suspense for more explicit violence, but the real problem is the lack of any likeable support characters. I just couldn't care what happened to half of the people Michael Myers killed in this instalment, because most of them had all the personality of a surfboard.

    Halloween II picks up exactly where the original left off, a rare thing in sequels both then and now. Michael Myers/The Shape (Dick Warlock) has just been shot six times by Doctor Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) and fallen from the balcony of the Strode home. This is one of the first continuity errors of this sequel: in the original Halloween, Myers fell from the back window of the house and was seen missing from that balcony by Loomis. In this instalment, he falls from the front balcony and Loomis takes the time to walk out the door in order to find him.

    Meanwhile, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is taken to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, where she is sedated and treated by a doctor who has just returned in a less than sober state from a party. The fact that no hospital would allow this to occur or turn its hallway lights off, for that matter, is a major scripting faux pas that pales in comparison to the idea that a multi-winged hospital in a state as populated as Illinois would have so few people in it. Such unbelievable events almost turn the film into a comedy, but not nearly as much as the explanation as to why Michael Myers is going to all the trouble of hunting Laurie Strode in the first place. It's a credit to Nancy Stephens that she could deliver this revelation with a straight face, although it wouldn't surprise me to learn that there are a lot of outtakes based around this moment.

    Much of this can be blamed upon John Carpenter, who has been quoted as saying that he realized there was no more story in Halloween II once he'd started to create the script. Well, he's right in one respect: there was a faint premise of a story here, but executing it would have required a lot more money and actors than this production obviously had. Anyway, now that I've finished talking about the negatives, there are still a few good things about this film. The cinematography still manages to inject an atmosphere of pure dread, and the tactic of having The Shape lurking around in the shadows of several shots still works well. The score music has been radically altered in this outing, shifted up almost an octave or so in pitch, and it works well because it hasn't quite become the cliché present in episodes four, five, and six.

    In short, this film is definitely not the standard-setting classic that Halloween has been for the last twenty-odd years, but it is worth investigating if you are willing to really suspend your disbelief and go with the flow. As a story, it is still far ahead of Halloween H20 (at least it isn't set in a place you'd expect to be deserted), but don't expect anything extraordinary.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    After the stellar transfer that was afforded to the original Halloween, the transfer afforded to this, the best of the sequels so far, is a major let-down.

    The transfer is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced, a fact which many of the problems can be blamed upon.

    In a nutshell, the transfer lacks resolution, often taking on an indistinct and blocky look that I'd normally associate with the well-worn VHS cassettes I've seen of this film. Sharpness in the normal sense of the word is all but non-existent The shadow detail of this transfer is on par with that of the original episode, in that there is just enough detail within the blacks for the night-time shots to make sense, but little more. There is no low-level noise to spoil the darkness of the image.

    The colours are dull and uniformly undersaturated, but this is clearly an artistic choice rather than any fault of the transfer. What can be blamed upon the transfer is their blotchy, murky appearance.

    MPEG artefacts were not a problem in this transfer, although there were moments when the background seemed to be on the verge of macro-blocking, such as during Loomis' arguments with the police. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some serious telecine wobble during the opening titles and the credits, but didn't seem to be quite as big a problem during the film itself. Aliasing was still quite a problem in this transfer, being less noticeable than in the original Halloween, but more constant and distracting. Film artefacts consisted of black and white marks on the print source that were just as consistent in this sequel as the original, but adding to the fun was the presence of reel change markings at 16:38, 33:28, and 69:10. I'm sure I missed one in there somewhere, although I have to wonder how since the markings are quite large and nasty-looking.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Just as the video transfer is a disappointment compared to that afforded to the original Halloween, the audio transfer provided for Halloween II can best be described as nothing special, which is a surprise given that the former was originally a monaural film and this one was originally presented in Mag Stereo.

    There is only one soundtrack on this DVD: the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround-encoding and a bitrate of 224 kilobits per second.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand most of the time, although there were one or two words here and there that became muffled and indistinct. Some whine can be heard in the high frequencies at various points in the film, and distortion becomes a problem at 84:45, as well as throughout the ending credits. There were no perceptible problems with audio sync to add to the fun, however.

    The score music in this film is credited to John Carpenter and Alan Howarth. Essentially, the former is responsible for writing the majority of score, while the latter has adapted and performed it in this film. The main Halloween theme has been raised in pitch quite noticeably, making it sound more synthetic and ultimately twee. To be quite honest, the new renditions of the theme sound so synthetic that they seem more appropriate for a sequel to some Disney-produced load of drivel rather than a sequel to the greatest low-budget horror movie of all time.

    The surround channels were moderately active to support the music and the occasional directional effect, such as a speeding car or the yellings of the angry mob outside the Myers house. There are no split surround effects, however, which really dates the soundtrack when taken in combination with the limited fidelity and high-end distortion. Overall, the surround usage can be described as adequate, but only just.

    The subwoofer was not specifically encoded into the soundtrack, but it did pop up occasionally to handle the reverberations from such sound effects as gunshots or explosions.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu is heavily animated and accompanied by Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, building the appropriate atmosphere for the film once again.

Production Notes

    A moderate-length essay about the production of Halloween II, which reveals some facts of minor interest. The featurette on Halloween, however, reveals more about the artistic and financial concerns of both films than this group of production notes.

Theatrical Trailer

    Presented Full Frame with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio, this trailer is in similar condition to the main feature, and is not especially pleasant or entertaining. A little work to clean up the source material, at the very least, would have been appreciated.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    With the seriously deficient quality of the Region 4 release, one might think that they'd be vastly better off with the Region 1 version. However, it appears that the Region 1 version's video quality is even worse, with "pixelization and aliasing problems" adding to Region 1's woes, according to Widescreen Review. Additionally, the Region 1 version misses out on the Theatrical Trailer, making our version of the disc superior by the narrowest of margins. The transfer quality of the local version, however, leads me to recommend that serious fans of the series buy neither version until someone in either Region wakes up and creates a 16x9 transfer from an earlier-generation source. The fact that this could be done with the original Halloween makes me believe it is still possible with Halloween II.

Summary

    Halloween II is the best sequel of the Halloween series to date, although some laughable details in the story really do it an injustice.

    The video quality is uniformly mediocre, although (just barely) watchable.

    The audio quality is also mediocre, lacking fidelity and clarity a lot of the time.

    The extras are minimal.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Thursday, February 01, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
New UK DVD edition has anamorphic and audio commentary - Andrew500 (read my bio, at your leisure)
Sequel + original - Neil
Rick Rosenthal cut - Toby