DVD Review: HALLOWEEN II - Good Sequel, Poor Quality Transfer

The original is a classic icon of horror cinema. The sequel is less of a classic, but it's entertaining enough to engage viewers. Released today on DVD, well in time for Halloween itself, read on for our review...

The original is a classic icon of horror cinema. The sequel is less of a classic, but it's entertaining enough to engage viewers. Released today on DVD, well in time for Halloween itself, read on for our review... It's still Halloween night 1978 and Michael Myers has stuck around the neighbourhood, despite being gunned down by Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasence) six times! Discovering that Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has been taken to the Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, he follows her there, leaving a path of death and destruction in his wake. Could there actually be a reason why Michael is really after her... Halloween II is a solid sequel to John Carpenter's original masterpiece, if not a fantastic one. The unsettling atmosphere and suspenseful tone carry over from the first film, meaning that this sequel is almost as engaging and creepy as the original. The majority of the action is contained to the Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, a veritable maze of endless, claustrophobic corridors and the perfect place for a serial killer to hunt down and chase his prey! In a move by writers Carpenter and Debra Hill, limiting the bulk of the narrative to the one location helps generate more tension and excitement as Myers literally seeks out Laurie in the ultimate game of cat and mouse. The film also has a sense of mystery to it, with Loomis and the police's hunt for Myers providing further suspense and helping build the taut underlying elements of the narrative. Despite the excellent generation of fear and suspense, Carpenter and Hall do embody many of the most traditional horror genre tropes. There are plenty of red herrings and a central antagonist who doesn't die to name only two of these, so Halloween II will be a rather predictable watch for most horror fans. It does remain entertaining though, with some inventive murders and unintentionally comedic moments. Rick Rosenthal's direction is similarly stereotypical, with plenty of killer point of view shots and laborious tracking shots to keep viewers on edge. However, despite the familiarity of his style it does work to produce both suspense and shock in abundant amounts. As well as his more traditional approach to the direction, Rosenthal does employ some truly inventive techniques at times too. In one scene, a nurse at the hospital goes to find Dr Mixter after Laurie reacts badly to her medication, only to find him dead with a needle stuck in his eyeball. As the nurse retreats into the shadows, Myers fades into the audiences' view behind her in a moment that is possibly the most strongly terrifying of the whole film! The performances are extremely typical of the time of the production, with a range of strong to poor talent. Donald Pleasance is his usual, excellent self, returning as Dr Loomis. Pleasance manages to capture the intense paranoia and nervousness of the character after Myers survives being shot six times by him. Loomis is the only person who fully understands the power and sheer evil of Myers and Pleasance perfectly captures the character's desperation in finding him before he kills again. Loomis is probably the meatiest of roles within the film and Pleasance does not disappoint. Jamie Lee Curtis also returns as Laurie Strode, but her part has far less substance than in the original outing. Here she is limited to a lot of physical action - in particular, running around the hospital in a bid to escape from Myers - or simple facial expressions in her hospital bed. However, despite the lack of material for her Curtis remains proficient within her role and keeps viewers' on the edge of their seats. Tony Moran as Michael Myers is the essence of larger than life, silent menace. Moran successfully captures Myers imposing presence, keeping his pace slow when chasing Laurie in a move that brilliantly helps heighten tension. The supporting cast are distinctly average, with nobody standing out as particularly memorable. In fact, they're all pretty solid candidates for 80s horror film canon fodder!


The DVD print on this release is unfortunately extremely poor quality wise. The image looks as if it could have been recorded on to a VHS from the television back in the late 80s and is afflicted with heavy grain and distortion, plus an irritating pixilated look. The definition is slightly blurred and both visuals and text are 'soft', making them harder to focus on. Despite the poor visual quality the colours remain bright and lurid, with orange pumpkins glowing with a malevolent luminance and blood running with a deep, unsettling red! The lower image quality adds to the horror and unnerving tone of the film at times, as people and objects blend into the background in darker scenes due to the lack of definition between the deep blues, blacks and other desperately dark colours. This certainly plays upon viewers' fears, as Myers literally disappears into the shadows! However, this does not really compensate for the overall disappointing picture quality on this release. The audio quality is far better than the images, most notably due to the fact that John Carpenter's iconic creepy composition is loud and full throughout the film! The dialogue is generally clear, although not entirely clean. Most conversation is audible and intelligible, but parts are rather muffled and require audiences' to listen up more. Sound effects - such as background sirens, the slashing of Myer's butcher's knife and the crashing of cars - are all excellent, transporting viewers directly into the heart of the terrifying ordeal. The main success of this release is, however, the prominence of the soundtrack. Carpenter's electronic score often takes over the action and occasionally distorts a little dialogue, but it immediately induces fear within audiences and helps generate an immense amount of atmosphere and tension. As soon as the original piece starts playing you'd have to be superhuman to not have a shiver go down your spine!


Unfortunately there are no special features accompanying the film. A retrospect on the production (or even the series as a whole) would have been much appreciated if an audio commentary was too much to ask for! Halloween II is available now on DVD.

Stuart Cummins hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.