Blu-Ray Review: 'Halloween 2' / 'Terror in the Aisles'


This could be a whole lot of nostalgia talking, but I (and many others of my approximate age) hold a certain fondness for Rick Rosenthal's 1981 sequel Halloween 2. While certainly not up to the standard of John Carpenter's near-flawless original film, Halloween 2 fits rather snugly on the "decent sequels to excellent movies" shelf, right next to Rocky 2, Psycho 2, and Jaws 2. (Yes, they're all good Part 2s, at the very least.) Many recall pretty fondly how H2 picks up (literally) one second after Halloween finishes, and I'd echo those sentiments: having a Part 2 take place in the same night as Part 1 creates a very cool kinship between original and sequel.

For the most part, anyway.

To the 3.2 horror freaks who may not know the story: in Halloween, a lunatic called Michael Myers kills a bunch of babysitters and their boyfriends. Only the brave and heroic Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) survives. In Halloween 2, Laurie is tucked safely away in her hospital bed while the lunatic continues to roam Haddonfield -- until he (of course) sets his eye-holes on the hospital. And that's when Laurie's recovery bed proves to be anything but safe. The novelty here is that, as you probably know, dark hospital hallways late at night are pretty damn creepy. 

But with Michael's main quarry remanded to little more than a quivering weepy-head stuck in a hospital bed, Halloween 2 kind of stumbles on the whole "Michael vs. Laurie" angle. On the other hand, Halloween 2 borrows liberally from those films that clumsily copy-catted its predecessor -- which is my roundabout way of saying that Halloween 2 has more gore than would 150 consecutive viewings of Halloween 1. The assembly line body count approach makes H2 feel more like a Friday the 13th chapter than anything that would follow such a bloodlessly suspenseful classic like Halloween -- but hey, it was 1981. Gore was just picking up steam back then.

Partial thanks may go to the then-still-involved John Carpenter and Debra Hill for making Halloween 2 such a novel little treat, or perhaps there actually was some legitimate respect for the first one, and the goal was to make (at least) a half-decent sequel. So while none of the flick's biggest fans (me included) would call Halloween 2 a true classic of the genre, it earns a lot of credit for trying to (simply) continue the first film's story and not fumbling anything too egregiously. And hey, any childhood favorite that is still a good deal of fun today is a movie worthy of some note.

Minor little touches that I've always enjoyed:

-- The synthed-up version of Mr. Carpenter's classic Halloween score. The old version is better, clearly, but the new touches work well enough for a Part 2.

-- The poor kid at the hospital with a sliced lip. It seems pointlessly brutal but it's actually a quietly malevolent moment: that something so vile could happen in such a nice little town. (Plus it's just a nice nod to one of the oldest Halloween-related urban legends ever told.)

-- I believed it at 16 and I still believe it now. Pamela Susan Shoop has the all-time perfect pair of breasts. There's not much nudity in Halloween 2 at all, but the one moment of truly unfettered jiggle is a staggering sight to behold. (And then the poor nurse gets her face boiled off.)

-- Again, the ominously clinical and endless dark hallways of Haddonfield General. Other slasher flicks (Visiting Hours, Hospital Massacre) took their own shots at medical malevolence, but Halloween 2 pulls it off much more effectively.

-- The powerfully direct way that silent lunatic Michael Meyers simply walks through a door that's impeding him.

-- The strangely off-putting use of the silly song "Mr. Sandman" over the end credits.

For the most part the extra features are disappointing: eight minutes of dull deleted scenes (most of which deal with nurses doing unimportant things) and one patently goofy alternate ending. I know there are some other fascinating moments of excised footage out there, as I vaguely recall seeing them on the network version of Halloween 2, but they are not included here. 

What IS included - and this is really pretty cool - is the 82-minute 1984 theatrical release Terror in the Aisles, which is a pretty excellent "clip movie / semi-documentary" that offers Donald Pleasance and Nancy Allen as the hosts of dozens of great horror moments. Backed by some fine editing, some clever narration, numerous scenes of memorable horror films, and some cool archival interviews with Alfred Hitchcock, this is a great little treasure of a special feature. Why this rather cool (theatrically-released) feature film has been relegated to "special features" anonymity is anyone's guess, but even if you're not a Halloween 2 fan, I say Terror in the Aisles is worth $15 all by itself. 

-- Note of a bizarre nature: it seems that one of the original title cards (it said "Moustapha Akkad presents") has been removed from this version of Halloween 2. Other horror geeks have noticed it, and they're demanding answers. Well, they're firmly requesting answers. Anything, Universal?