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Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Halloween II: Unrated Director's Cut (2009)

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Neil Middlemiss, Jan 11, 2010.

  1. Neil Middlemiss

    Neil Middlemiss Well-Known Member
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    Halloween II
    Unrated Director's Cut
     
    Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
    Year: 2009
    US Rating: Unrated
    Film Length: 119 Minutes
    Video: 1080P High Definition 16X9 - 1.85:1
    Audio: English 5.1 DTS Master Audio
    Subtitles: English SDH, English
     
    “Six guys to lift one stiff. That's one for the books.”
     
    The Film: 2.5 out of 5
     
    Rob Zombie’s Halloween was more directly a remake than his sequel. His grittier, grimier vision of John Carpenter’s notorious cinematic killer was similarly framed as a story and followed the same general plot of the 1978 horror classic. For his follow-up, Zombie makes only a passing nod to the original’s 1981 follow up with a lengthy sequence at Haddonfield hospital, before departing entirely from remake territory to independent plotting. Departing from established frameworks is the right idea, but Zombie becomes enamored by a poorly defined ethereal sub-plot which distracts from what could have been a far more intriguing concept.
     
    Halloween II begins just as Halloween ended, at the scene of the first film’s bloody climactic end. The slaughtered, the injured, and the dead hulking 7ft madman responsible for the carnage, are loaded into ambulances amongst a sea of flashing lights from emergency vehicles. After a lengthy sequence in the hospital setting (which, in hindsight, is where the film could have spent more of its time to greater effect), we are taken to a time two-years after the gruesome Halloween night murders, and the emotionally damaged Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) is living with Sheriff Lee Bracket (Brad Dourif) and his daughter, Annie (Danielle Harris). Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) is making the media rounds peddling his book on the psychology of Michael Myers (Tyler Mane), whom Loomis had treated before Myers’ escape and subsequent rampage. Myers, rumored to still be alive after his body ‘went missing’, is shown wandering in what is a solitary journey unique to Zombies imagining of the character.
     
    In Halloween, Rob Zombie, the director of House of 1000 Corpses and the grimy The Devil’s Rejects, sought to provide more context for Myers, taking us to his childhood and presenting the Myers family, not as they were in the original (normal), but as a seedy and unpleasantly degenerate family. In his sequel, Zombie persists in attempting to qualify the brutal convictions of the unstoppable foe. Again playing Michael Myers mother, Deborah is Sheri Moon Zombie. Mrs Myers is seen in visions by Michael – ghostly white, almost angelic, often with a white horse, and shown as a companion to the killer as he acts. We may have wondered what was driving Myers’ in previous outings, but having an answer is far less interesting than having the question, it turns out. The entire dreamscape sub-plot becomes a tiresome diversion from what could have been a pretty good, visceral and bleak horror film. And it seems at odds with the direction Zombie wants to take Michael Myers; a grounded, more realistic, and earthly killer (which we see unmasked in this film, and looking like Grizzly Adams).
     
    While the characters generally are foul-mouthed, low-class losers of sorts (the strip-club owner, for example, may have the seedier profession, but isn’t the seediest person to meet an unfortunate end in the film), Brad Dourif’s Sherriff is a genuine bright spot. A fatherly, friendly, level-headed officer of the law, who demonstrates reason and care even while his unreasonably trashy daughter is embarrassingly rude. The young girls in this film are shown to make poor decisions, trash up their rooms in some sort of teen rebellion display, and choose to party at ill-advised times. The character of Laurie Strode, played once again by Scout Taylor-Compton, despite being necessarily central to the story Zombie is telling, becomes entirely disposable – as do her friends, where we should be caring for their safety, we find ourselves wondering how long it will take for them to meet their inevitable end. And the character of Dr. Loomis is once again mishandled by Malcolm McDowell. Taking the Loomis character in a less than favorable direction is an interesting concept – but hollowing him out to be a bizarrely self-serving ego-maniac, resetting him to a publicity whore after his courageous act at the end of the first Halloween (only to replay once again that premise) is disappointing. Add to that McDowell’s over acting, and we find that the Loomis character has become a meaningless shell, fit it seems, only for fodder.
     
    All is not totally lost, however. Zombie continues to show great skill behind the camera, and once again chooses good in-frame visuals to both set the tone of a scene, and set the stage for the violent chaos that often ensues.  And the violence here is brutal, and effective. Writer/Director Zombie handles these scenes skillfully, and genuinely knows how to film his Michael Myers character with great effect. The make-up and prosthetic effects are top-notch, and the way Zombie lights his film is distinct to his styling, and effectual.
     
     
     The Video: 4 out of 5
     
    Halloween II: Unrated Director’s Cut comes in the original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 and stylistically, it has taken its predecessor and pushed the level of added grain, contrast between light and dark, and muting of colors to attain a 70’s era look to good effect. Filmed on 16MM, the resulting look of the film adds to the murk of Zombies Haddonfield. In fact, Zombie's film is so stylized in grain, that, besides lacking pops, lines, and other damage, the film is a step towards Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse double feature, though admittedly not quite as bold. The feature spends a good deal of time in dark locations (both outside and inside), and black levels are solid.
     
    The dream sequences are bathed in clean bright whites, with a hint of bluer hues, and are the most demonstrative scenes of the quality of the blu-ray.
     
     
    The Sound: 4 out of 5
     
    The English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, the only audio option, is deep, enveloping, and effective. Crisp center channel dialogue, a rumbling, tense score, and surprising use of the surrounds really provide a great auditory experience while watching Rob Zombies brand of bloody brutality. Healthy bass (especially as Myer’s angrily embeds a knife into his victims), and generous LFE gives the suspense a boost – but the real joy in listening to this horror film is the clarity. The third act in particular delivers a better than expected delivery of a better than expected sound design.  
     
     
    The Extras: 3.5 out of 5
     
    Deleted and Alternate Scenes (25:14): A total of 23 scenes are presented here – some are snippets, others are fully fledged. Among them are additional scenes with Margot Kidder (as the Psychiatrist), Malcolm McDowell, and two completely unnecessary vomit scenes.
     
    Audition Footage (9:37): Audition footage of seven actors, including Chase Wright Vanek as the young Michael Myers, and Octavia Spencer as Nurse Daniels. Octavia screaming at the top of her lungs comes as quite the shock. Interesting footage.
     
    Make-Up Test Footage (3:35): Test footage of the make-up for Deborah Myers, and Michael Myers indoors and out. The tests check for lighting, etc. These tests, without sounds, are an odd extra.
     
    Blooper Reel (4:26): An assembly of onset flubs and pratfalls.
     
    Captain Clegg and the Night Creatures Music Videos (19:11): Music videos for ‘Zombie A Go Go’, ‘Honky Tonk Halloween’, ‘Redneck Vixen From Outerspace’, ‘Dr. Demon & The Robot Girl’, Transylvania Terror Train’, and ‘Macon County Morgue’.
     
    Commentary with Writer/Director Rob Zombie: Zombies commentary is wall to wall, and he shares an incredible amount of information about the production, and about his inspirations, experiences on-set, working with his actors, and more (including noting the scenes added to create this unrated cut). Perhaps I am reading more into his commentary, but I get the distinct feeling that he is more than a little miffed about the reaction to his film, which may explain the somewhat exacerbated exhales from time to time and the sense that he is a tad frustrated explaining his film, and even frustrated with the experience of making his film (there are several references to issues during production).  Despite my impressions of Zombies demeanor, the commentary provided is really quite good, and worthy of your time.
     
    Uncle Seymour Coffins’ Stand-up Routines (8:40): Presented in four parts, these sequences with Uncle Seymour Coffins’ performance at the mic were used interspersed during the party sequence where Captain Clegg and the Night Creatures performed.
     
    Movie IQ – Watch the film with MovieIQ for pop-up facts, etc.
     
    BD-Live - Connect real-time for information on the cast, music, trivia and more
     
    Previews: Trailers for Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, Universal Soldier: Regeneration, Blood: the Last Vampire, Zombieland, District 9, Moon, 2012, The Stepfather, Michael Jackson’s This Is It, and Black Dynamite
     
     
     
    Final Thoughts
     
    Halloween II is disappointing, even in this Unrated Cut.  Zombie once again appears to be pre-occupied by the crassest behavior of his characters, and where he succeeds in finding the right tone for Sherriff Brackett, he fails entirely for all other characters to elevate them beyond potty mouthed petulant annoyances. His preoccupation with the mystical element dilutes the effectiveness of the horror (again, not knowing what drives Myers is more effective than being given some clue), and the latter half of the film contains an ill-placed focus on a Halloween party, which is presented too much like a music video (as are the scenes that close the film, with a song used that does not suit the franchise at all). What does it all add up to? Zombie knows how to shoot horror film death scenes, and can wield the filmmaker’s tools effectively to bring style and horror to his films, but a preponderance of unlikeable, low-brow characters, and an ill-fitting diversion into dreams, visions, and psycho-contextualization, unravels the end result.
     
    Overall 3 out of 5
    Neil Middlemiss
    Kernersville, NC

     
  2. MattFini

    MattFini Well-Known Member

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    Really good review, Neil.

    Personally, Halloween II gets my vote as 2009's worst movie. I like Zombie's stuff prior to Michael Myers, but I couldn't find anything worthwhile in this mess.
     
  3. TravisR

    TravisR Well-Known Member

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    I don't know if it was mentioned on the disc but this movie was shot on 16mm.

    As a fan of the Halloween series, this movie is lousy but it's still better than most of the other Halloween sequels. I'm hoping that the footage added back fixes some of the problems with the movie though.
     
  4. cineMANIAC

    cineMANIAC Premium
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    I remember reading something about 20 minutes being added back to the film. I don't know if this has anything added to it that would be considered significant (more than 10 minutes would qualify in my book) but I really didn't like the theatrical version and I usually tolerate this type of project from particular directors (I enjoy most of Zombie's films). I might be inclined to rent the unrated version IF anyone can confirm it is a better film
     
  5. WillG

    WillG Well-Known Member

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    I wrote a more lengthy review in the Movies Forum about this but, just to recap, I basically felt that most of the flaws from Zombie's first film were just amplified in this film. Again, the film gives no one to care about (with the one exception of Brad Douriff, but even his character seems to devolve from the first movie into another White Trash type). The Laurie Strode character is really just a non-entity (and even though it is often said Jamie Lee Curtis' Laurie was pretty much wasted in the original HII, she has the complexity of Michael Corleone compared to this iteration). And why the hell would Laurie still be hanging around in Haddonfield anyway? I guess maybe she gets a free place to live, but you would think she would at least be somewhere far away on Halloween especially when Myers's body "went missing" As much as I enjoy Malcolm McDowell, his story is completely superfluous until maybe the end of the film. It should have just been established quickly that he became a media whore with his book and then have had him show up at the end.

    However, Zombie does have a good flair for cinematography and there were some pretty nice shots.

    I'll probably still end up buying it thought, I'm a pretty big Halloween Junkie.
     
  6. cineMANIAC

    cineMANIAC Premium
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    Thanks WillG I'll probably cave and pick this up after all. I can't say I loved the first one but I certainly enjoyed it and I think is a perfect example of a radical re-imagining of a tired idea. Zombie took the original concept and amped it up his way and, for me at least, it worked OK. I'm not a huge supporter of remakes but I think you can take a concept and radically reinvent it and the results can be interesting, kind of like what Peter Jackson did with King Kong. The dream sequences in H II kind of reminded me of the ghost flashbacks in The 1983 slasher flick The Forest.
     
  7. TravisR

    TravisR Well-Known Member

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    I rented it and the biggest change that I noticed is that there's a fairly big subplot with Laurie being really angry towards Annie in the first half of the movie. I remember people saying that they found Laurie unsympathetic in the theatrical cut so the director's cut will probably make those folks take the disc out of their player and snap it in half. I had no problem with Laurie in the theatrical cut but the director's cut turned her into a real bitch.

    I think some elements are changed in the climax but I can't remember that part of the movie from my theatrical viewing. That says more about the movie than my memory.
     
  8. Neil Middlemiss

    Neil Middlemiss Well-Known Member
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    The hospital sequence has several elements added (which I won't reveal here) but they make those scenes much more gruesome.
     
  9. TravisR

    TravisR Well-Known Member

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    After listening to the commentary, I have alot more sympathy for Zombie now. It sounds like he really got burned by The Weinstein Company. He says how during the shoot, they wouldn't pass down important production information and they'd keep cutting the budget and cutting days from the shooting schedule which made him have to change alot of stuff on the spot. That doesn't seem like a recipe for success. Maybe if the production had no problems, the movie still would have been bad but I can't imagine that all the problems caused by The Weinstein Company didn't result in a worse movie.

    I've read interviews with Zombie where he said that he'd never work The Weinstein Company again and from the sound of things, I don't blame him.
     
  10. cineMANIAC

    cineMANIAC Premium
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    I don't think anyone is working with the Weinstein Company ever again anyway :). They're broke
     
  11. Russell G

    Russell G Fake Shemp
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    I was really dissapointed by this when I saw it in the theaters. I really liked Zombies first Halloween, this one was just terrible. That damned horse and ghost mum stuff made no sense to me at all. That said, I'm curious to give it a second chance seeing as I did have high expectations the first go round.

    I'm one of the ones who found Laurie to be annoying, and didn't think it made much sense for every character to become a goth emo kid. Sounds like they explore that more in the unrated cut. I'll wait for this to hit the cheap bins.
     
  12. TravisR

    TravisR Well-Known Member

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    For what it's worth, the additions do make Laurie more interesting (and helps give a little more background info on her friends) but those additions also make her pretty unlikable. While I generally think it's best to have likable protagonists in horror movies, I think 'unlikable Laurie' works best for this movie.
     

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