Halloween II: Unrated Director's Cut (US - BD)
Gabe weeps through Rob Zombies second shot at the Halloween franchise
Following his mental institution break-out and his rampage of slaughter, Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) is shot dead by Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton), his long lost sister. Laurie is sent to the hospital, while Michael’s body is sent to the morgue. Unfortunately, on the way to the morgue the ambulance hits a cow, and Michael, seemingly not dead, escapes into the wilderness. Two years later Laurie is an emotional mess, and wild-man Myers is hallucinating discussions with his dead mother, who urges him to kill again.
I had minor hopes for Halloween II. Rob Zombie’s first crack at rebooting John Carpenter’s iconic, generally all around perfect proto-slasher film was pretty much terrible all around, but at least he was trying to do something different with the property (unlike most horror remakes, which take the ‘remake’ part of the equation a little too personally). Probably more important is the fact that Zombies first sequel, Devil’s Rejects, was a vast improvement over its prequel ( House of 1000 Corpses). There was a chance that the writer/director just needed a whole film to get the bad stuff out of himself, and that given the chance he could do something special within the confines of his little universe. My minor hopes have been dashed.
The film takes the opposite rout of the first remake in that it starts as a pretty direct, stylistic remake of the original movie (the original Halloween II), then it turns into a long and unnecessary character study, this time of Laurie Strode as much as Michael Myers. This part of the film is arguable the best it gets, thanks to some well executed scares, some colourful nightmare imagery, and some convincing gore. From here the stalk and slash elements become the tacked-on occasional joy between long dialogue and hallucination scenes. This is certainly a very violent movie, and the realistic frequency of the violence is certainly what I’d call disturbing. Though the violence found in most slasher films can’t really be considered gratuitous without rendering the entire existence of said film moot, Zombie pulls his version of Halloween so far away from the usual slasher conventions Michael Myers’ signature kills do feel particularly gratuitous because they aren’t serving the story. More to the point they tend to stop the plot in its tracks and in some cases are unintentionally, riotously funny.
The more arty stuff is certainly pretty, sort of recalling grim and gritty arthouse horrors like E. Elias Merhige Begotten, but it never fits in the mix, and is certainly heavy handed. A visual metaphor loses every ounce of its point when a filmmaker starts the film with a definition of the central image’s meaning, and manages to weave the image into the story every ten minutes (I’m speaking, of course, of the white horse motif). It’s good that he’s using a franchise remake to explore personal interests, and perhaps this exploration will eventually lead to another good flick like Devil’s Rejects (which I’m starting to think wasn’t as good as I thought), but Zombie really needs to break out of his mould here. Thematically he’s still dealing with ‘70s hillbillies, and his visuals have barely grown from his White Zombie music video roots. Halloween II is burdened with too many flashing lights, intercut shots, and sudden bursts of abstract sound, something it had appeared the director had gotten out of his system between House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects.
As per usual, it’s the director’s writing that really gets in the way. Effectively Zombie has turned Michael Myers into a mix of Jason Voorhees and Norman Bates. It was wasteful enough to give the Shape a meaningful back story (though at least he was trying something new with the character), but turning him into a ‘real world’ version of another slasher icon is downright perfunctory. An even bigger problem is the length and lack of editing. There’s no reason for the sequel to a slasher reboot to be a solid two hours, and the time is spent with the new Laurie and her dipshit friends is so grating it actually creates a tear in the fabric of time that makes each minute feel like ten. Zombie’s comedy dialogue continues to be his real Achilles heel, and his attempts at ‘girl talk’ make Diablo Cody’s heroines sound conventional and normal in comparison. His first year Freud stuff is pretty ugly too, which actually made me feel most sorry for Scout Taylor-Compton, whose casting was one of the first film’s shining beacons of inspiration. This time’s her version of Laurie Strode is left a clichéd late ‘90s ‘riot grrl’, and an obnoxious screaming wreck. I was chomping at the bit for her untimely death after the first reel.
Halloween II is surely a Rob Zombie film, and thusly it is surely grainy as all get out. The grain is fine and speckled, but there it is, all over the place. You really aren’t going to miss it. The grain actually appears to have been possibly added in post, based in its consistency and extreme nature. (edit: a simple look over at the imdb specs tells me it was shot 16mm, which makes this Blu-ray all but entirely unneeded, since the format is not capable of 1080p) You also can’t forget this is a Rob Zombie film because it’s dark and de-saturated, and there are a whole lot of extreme close-ups. Even in high definition viewers are going to have to squint to tell what’s going on. I’m guessing that the standard definition release is a case of blurry white shapes over utter blackness, but here on Blu-ray we get sharp white shapes over utter blackness. Details are clearly lost in this grainy darkness, but at times things are well lit enough to lead to plenty of super-sharp edges. The de-saturation makes for an almost monochromatic experience throughout a lot of the film, but there are plenty of excessively colourful moments, mostly pertaining to the nightmarish final act. The grain is still excessive, but the overall colour quality is pretty sharp, and pure (outside those purposeful black dots). There are a few super-stylized moments throughout the film, mostly representing Myers’ fractured mind, and these are crisply black and white, or solidly highlighted with colour pops in some cases.
Halloween II comes fitted with a full-bodied DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. The film is mixed mostly in terms of dynamic ranges, not spatial movement, or directional effects. The uncompressed nature of the track is likely most valuable for the really high volume levels, which feature no distortion. A lot of the non ambient sound is centred on the track along with the dialogue, including all the incidental noises, and the more grotesque sounds of Michael’s murders. The punchy bass added to each knife stab is a good touch. It’s hard to differentiate between what is soundtrack music, and ambient, spooky effects, but we surly find both dancing about the stereo and surround channels listlessly and for punctuation. Tyler Bates continues his solid streak of not particularly original, but definitively creepy terror movie scores, and really saves the film’s bacon on several occasions. I’m very disappointed at the total lack of the original John Carpenter score during the film proper (it eventually plays over the credits), but the musical elements certainly make the 5.1 enhancement worth the effort.
I was expecting a little more out of this disc in terms of extras considering the Halloween release. The first thing that comes up during writer/director Rob Zombies solo commentary track is the stupid white horse motif, which apparently he came up with while they were filming. Somehow this makes me feel better about the whole thing because it didn’t require much thought, even if it proves that Zombie wasn’t putting much effort into the project. Zombie keeps up his unbroken streak of straight forward commentary tracks, and I was fully prepared to let him turn me around on my opinion here, but the behind the scenes story is a pretty depressing one. The overarching themes of the track are monetary hardship and giving up on plot elements. Only fifteen minutes into the film Zombie already mentions a dozen changes, some for purposes of lost footage, but often just for the hell of it. I imagine editing was hell. The track works well to point out the differences between this director’s cut and the original cut for those of us that missed the film in theatres.
There’s no making of documentary this time around (perhaps they’re saving it for a special edition?), but there is a pile of twenty-three deleted/extended/alternate scenes (25:15, HD) which takes up some room, and gives fans a clearer vision of what exactly Zombie intended with his script (or something). Most of these are minor scenes of idle chatter, none of which add anything to the plot, or even really the characters. And the film is plenty long in this director’s cut form already. This is followed by an amusing blooper reel (04:30, HD), seven audition reels (09:40, HD), three make-up test reels (03:30, HD), ‘Uncle Seymour Coffins’ Stand Up’ in four parts (08:40, HD), six Captain Clegg and the Nightmare Creatures music videos (19:10, HD), and Sony trailers.
Halloween II is a pretty miserable, and oppressively long film, but it’s better than Rob Zombie’s first crack at the series, if only for the more visceral elements. Ironically enough, despite his need to create a subversive slasher film, Zombie’s best work comes out of the film’s most conventional slasher moments. Hopefully this marks the end of the director’s time in the Halloween sandbox, and he uses his tonal abilities for something more original next time around. The Blu-ray release certainly fulfils Zombie’s intended look, though that look is so grainy and dark I’m not sure the format’s abilities are being exercised to their fullest. The sound is certainly impressive, and the extras, though not particularly time consuming, should be enough to please the fans.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 12th January 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH, English
Extras: Director Commentary, Deleted and Alternate Scenes, Audition Footage, Blooper Reel, Uncle Seymour Coffins' Stand-Up, Captain Clegg and the Night Creatures Music Videos, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Rob Zombie
Cast: Brad Dourif, Scout Taylor-Compton, Bill Fagerbakke, Danielle Harris, Howard Hesseman, Margot Kidder
Length: 119 minutes
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