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Picks up at the exact moment the first movie stopped and follow the aftermath of Michael Myers murderous rampage through the eyes of heroine Laurie Strode.
For more about Halloween II and the Halloween II Blu-ray release, see Halloween II Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on December 24, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Sheri Moon Zombie, Tyler Mane, Malcolm McDowell, Scout Taylor-Compton, Chase Wright Vanek, Brad Dourif
Director: Rob Zombie
» See full cast & crew
Halloween II Blu-ray Review
A disappointing sequel to a decent remake.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, December 24, 2009
Freaks will always find their way home.
Director Rob Zombie has injected his Horror sequel Halloween II with plenty of gruesome kills and an unforgiving atmosphere that's enough to send chills down any hardcore Horror aficionado's spine, the film one of the most visually brutal yet wonderfully effective genre pictures in recent memory. Writer Rob Zombie has penned a terribly inept, barely coherent script for his Horror sequel Halloween II, the writer attempting to further the mythos and supernatural undertones that seemed ever-present in the original films (and, indeed, Zombie's own remake of the original) but not necessarily explored as deeply as he aims for here. The result is a jumbled picture that's wonderfully atmospheric but terribly clumsy in its storytelling, the two forces at constant odds and the positive atmosphere ultimately succumbing to the negative script. Halloween II's script is a black hole that's as dark and disturbing as the film's visual tone; Zombie gets high marks for effort and visual execution but poor marks for the jumbled story and poor pacing.
Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) is still suffering from the traumatic events of Halloween night. Attacked by the masked slasher Michael Myers and living to tell the tale, Laurie suffers from disturbingly realistic nightmares and a personal life turned upside down as the memory of her encounter with the killer haunts her every moment -- asleep and awake. Laurie's dreams soon become reality as Halloween closes in and Michael -- long thought dead -- is returning at the beck and call of his late mother, Deborah (Sheri Moon Zombie), with the task of reunifying his family. With that, Michael makes a several-day trek back to Haddonfield, Illinois, leaving a bloody trail of slaughter in his wake. Meanwhile, Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell, Star Trek: Generations), fresh off the publication of his book centered on the Myers killings, is fighting a losing battle for his public image, with his latest tell-all tome set to reveal a secret that could forever alter the history of the Myers family and the killer's victims.
It would seem that any Halloween or, indeed, any Horror film -- particularly those that come after an initial outing where story is as important as substance in establishing a killer and the world around him -- should be first and foremost a frightening Slasher Horror picture, and 2009's Halloween II is, superficially, just that. Visually, Rob Zombie's latest picture is gruesome and unforgiving in both its blood and gore and its disturbing, gut-wrenching visual atmosphere. The picture is consistently creepy, devoid of color, and bathed in shadows and crude shapes that seem only to spell doom and gloom; indeed, it's the quintessential look for a Horror picture, and budding Horror filmmakers need take note of Zombie's pitch-perfect visuals and style that have allowed him to quickly rise in the ranks as one of Horror's finest craftsmen behind the camera. Halloween II, in fact, is almost too good at what it does; the film engenders an uncomfortable, unrelenting mood that makes the film almost too unsettling. Consistent darkness, relentless carnage, and graphically realistic kills are the film's unmistakable hallmarks, but is there anything worthwhile below the surface?
The answer, unfortunately, is "no." While no Horror sequel is expected to do much more than repeat the story of the first and increase the body count and liters of blood that douse the screen, Zombie courageously -- but futilely -- tries for something deeper, more purposeful, and far more daring than simply rehashing the first. To his credit, Zombie attempts to craft a complex familial backstory with supernatural undercurrents that would give added weight and dimension to an admittedly strongly atmospheric but otherwise general hack-and-slash picture and series. Unfortunately, the result is confused at best and completely incoherent at worst. Attempting to expand on the mythos of Michael Myers and, indeed, the entire Myers family, Zombie intercuts Halloween II with visions of Michael's deceased mother Deborah and a young Michael (Chase Vanek) that, along with a white horse, serve as something of a bridge to, supposedly, an understanding of the Myers family's psychosis that haunts each member and is the driving force behind Michael's desire to kill and his superhuman strength and endurance that aid him in his brutal ways. It's not so much that the idea presented in Halloween II is a poor one; it's simply somewhat confusing and hard to grasp, especially in the midst of a movie as dark and unrelenting as this. Additionally, the pacing suffers as a result; at two hours in length, Halloween II starts to drag as the atmosphere grows more unbearable and the backstory becomes a hindrance to film's overall feel.
In addition to its topsy-turvy feel -- enjoying the ups of slick direction and an unnerving atmosphere and falling within the disappointments of its poorly-realized backstory -- Halloween II features similarly up-and-down acting. Each primary character is rather unique, and their accompanying actors deliver performances that are suitable for the most part but not particularly engaging or memorable. Scout Taylor-Compton handles her profanity-laden struggles with post-traumatic stress and, indeed, a dark and disturbing secret that's revealed to her late in the film with a good strength and plenty of vigor. Her performance is believable, at least within the context of Zombie's hit-or-miss script that's as aurally ugly as the film is visually. On the flip side, Malcolm McDowell plays his part with an utter goofiness that seems disconnected from the rest of the film; the veteran actor's performance is certainly over-the-top, but his character seems almost superfluous to the story and wrenched into the plot just for the sake of retaining the Loomis character; his is more of a reflection of the rather poor writing than a wholly forgettable performance. Even Tyler Mane's physical performance seems lacking; despite the increased awareness of the character's backstory, Michael in this film seems to be simply going through the motions, more interested in multiple and quickly-delivered stab wounds rather than moving about with the purpose and weight that otherwise define the physical representation of the killer.
Halloween II Blu-ray, Video Quality
Halloween II stalks onto Blu-ray with a deliberately messy 1080p, 1.85:1-framed transfer. Shot on 16mm film stock, Halloween II sports a consistently heavy grain field atop poorly-defined details and soft edges that, combined with the generally dark locations, gives the film a rough, disturbed, gritty appearance throughout. Indeed, fear and unease permeate every frame, and the Blu-ray transfer admirably recreates Zombie's vision with ease. Viewers hoping for every gory detail to be rendered in pristine and clear high definition imagery will be sorely disappointed; much of the film's gruesomeness is lost to shadow, hazy details, and darkness. Colors are muted, even in the few scattered scenes where hues other than black, gray, and brown dominate the frame. Black levels are consistently deep with only a few scenes displaying overly bright shades, but blacks do tend to devour most of the finer details. Faces are generally undefined, Michael's mask appears richly textured and worn but is difficult to see clearly, and other objects simply become victims of the darkness and soft texturing. Rob Zombie's Halloween II is by no means a pretty film from a wholly visual perspective, nor is it meant to be so; still, Sony's Blu-ray disc seems a faithful replica of the director's vision.
Halloween II Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Halloween II arrives on Blu-ray with a loud and aggressive DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Whether finer ambience or full-on powerful musical and sound effects, this mix delivers in spades, supporting the grisly visuals with blood-curdling and brain-splattering audio cues that push the sound system to its limits. Rain and thunder seem ever-present in the film's opening act, each making for a wholly immersive and believable environment that only adds to Zombie's intense atmosphere. Additionally, each sonic jolt -- a crashed car, smashing glass, or Michael breaking through a barrier -- is precisely and crisply realized even considering the thunderous volume of each effect at reference levels. Music, too -- despite the absence of the classic Halloween theme through the bulk of the picture -- enjoys fine fidelity, a 360-degree sound field, and a tight accompanying low end that's powerful but not overblown. Also featuring problem-free dialogue reproduction, Halloween II delivers a pulse-pounding listen from beginning to end that's wonderfully supportive of the film's impressive visuals and dark and violent content.
Halloween II Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Sony and Halloween II carve out a few extras for this Blu-ray release. First is a commentary track with Writer/Director Rob Zombie. From the get-go, Zombie addresses the "white horse" issue, speaking on his inspiration for the motif and its place in the film. Additionally, Zombie covers a broad range of topics with a refreshing honesty, speaking on problems with the shoot, filming locations, conditions on the set, connections with the first film and necessary changes from one picture to the next, gore and special effects, and more. Though he occasionally does little more than describe the on-screen action and pauses for several long moments, Rob Zombie proves himself a well-spoken and engaging personality that cares about his craft and creating the best movies possible. Next is a collection of 23 deleted and alternate scenes (1080p, 25:14); a blooper reel (1080p, 4:26); audition footage for Chase Wright Vanek, Angela Trimbur, Jeffrey Daniel Phillips, Chris Hardwick, Mary Birdsong, Richard Brake, and Octavia Spencer (1080p, 9:37); and make-up test footage for "Michael-Interior," "Michael-Exterior," and Deborah Myers (1080p, 3:35 combined runtime). Uncle Seymour Coffins' Stand-Up Routines (1080p, 8:40 combined runtime) is a three part collection of full-length routines from one of the film's tertiary characters. Also included are six music videos -- Zombie A Go Go, Honky Tonk Halloween, Redneck Vixen From Outer Space, Dr. Demon & The Robot Girl, Transylvania Terror Train, and Macon County Morgue -- by Captain Clegg and the Night Creatures (1080p, 19:11 combined runtime); BD-Live functionality; Sony's MovieIQ feature; and 1080p trailers for The Boondock Saints II: All Saint's Day, Universal Soldier: Regeneration, Blood: The Last Vampire, Zombieland, District 9, Moon, 2012, The Stepfather, Michael Jackson's This is It, and Black Dynamite.
Halloween II Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Writer/Director Rob Zombie's Halloween II is a tale of two films; on one hand the picture is horrifically dark and unsettlingly atmospheric, while on the other it boldly attempts to cobble together some supernatural backstory that's ultimately vague, a hindrance to the pacing, and an obstacle to the pitch-perfect mood that otherwise permeates the picture. Halloween II earns several points for its tone and brutality, but loses some for a poorly-realized idea. Still, Rob Zombie does more right than wrong here; he's a talented filmmaker, only his scripts in need of some refinement before his name becomes synonymous with the icons of Horror movie filmmaking. Sony's Blu-ray release of Halloween II delivers a 1080p transfer that's rough around the edges but seemingly reflective of Zombie's intended look, a strong lossless soundtrack, and a handful of extra materials. Recommended as a rental save for die-hard Horror, Halloween, and Rob Zombie fans; buyers can rest assured that the technical quality is up to Sony's lofty standards.
Halloween II: Other Editions
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