A Quick Review of the Special Edition Halloween II and III DVDs

Posted on Sep 26, 2012 in 80's Horror, All Reviews, Halloween, Horror for the Holidays, Please Rewind: Revisiting My Youth | 0 comments

www.tavernofterror.comThe long awaited Scream Factory special collector’s editions of Halloween II and Halloween III: Season of the Witch have been released, and as a hardcore fan of both sequels I am happy to announce that these editions really live up to the anticipation.

Scream Factory brings the love to these releases, giving each of them slip-sleeve covers with brand new retro-style artwork from Nathan Thomas Milliner, plus reversible covers inside featuring the original artwork from the 80’s.

The bonus features are legion, most notably the all-new exclusive documentaries. Each one includes new interviews with the cast and crew of the films. Halloween II’s documentary The Nightmare Isn’t Over, is a solid 40 minutes while Halloween III’s Stand Alone runs about a good 30.  Featuring comical insights and behind the scenes secrets, these mini-documentaries are well done, reaching out to everyone from the stars, the directors, the producers, and even the composer of the two films, Alan Howarth.

My favorite moment is in Stand Alone is when a fan asks director Tommy Lee Wallace a great question about Halloween III: Season of the Witch. He asks if main heroine Ellie was a robot the entire time or if she was made into one later. Wallace replied, laughing, “I don’t know!”(I always assumed that Ellie was replaced by an identical droid to assassinate Dr. Challis if he escaped, which of course he did.)

The trailers, radio and TV spots are all here, including even a TV spot for Halloween III’s first run on television! All to this nostalgia whore’s delight.

Halloween II offers both the theatrical cut as well as the full television cut with additional footage, available here for the very first time. While not as interesting as the extended network cut of the original Halloween, this is still a prized gem for collectors. Halloween II also contains a rather lackluster alternate ending and some deleted scenes, none of which prove too interesting but they round out the feeling of completion with the set.

Both sets also include episodes of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds, which revisits the original film locations of the two films.

And what DVDs would be complete without commentary? Scream Factory offers up numerous commentaries for each film. Halloween II gets commentary from director Rick Rosenthal, Actor Leo Rossi and the shape himself, Dick Warlock.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch includes separate commentaries by director Tommy Lee Wallace and Tom Atkins!

All in all, there are enough bonus features to keep you entertained until the actual holiday comes around.

I bought the DVDs because I do not yet own a Blu-Ray player, but both are available on Blu-Ray. I think the remastered widescreen presentations of the DVDs are just gorgeous however, and I’m still happy with this medium.

But as if all of this wasn’t enough, Halloweenn II came with a collectible Haddonfield Memorial Hospital nurse’s hat (modeled here by my lovely wife), and Halloween III: Season of the Witch came with a poster of the new artwork. Both of these items are being proudly displayed in the tavern along with the masks that go with each picture.

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I’m kind of a mask freak.

And now some quick thoughts on….
HALLOWEEN II

People always want to compare sequels to the original, and they almost always want to point out the obvious: the original was better. Often audiences fail to realize the merit of taking cherished characters and putting them in new situations or perhaps even taking them to the next level.

Of course no sequel to Halloween will ever compare to the original. No shit. It was a groundbreaking film. But what I enjoy about Halloween II is that it does indeed take the characters to the next level.

Myers catches up with the slasher craze of the early 80’s and his kills are far nastier, debatably even the nastiest in the franchise. Loomis goes from tracker to martyr here in his quest to stop Myers at any cost.

The oddly empty hospital atmosphere sets a creepy tone, but the threat of one’s own backyard being invaded by an unstoppable force of evil is what the movie is really missing. What made Myers such a threat was that he was on your porch, in your living room, in your closet. Putting him in a public place rather than the private sanctuary of neighborhood homes is like taking away Dracula’s fangs.

Additionally, I need this movie to connect the dots from the original to my favorite of all the sequels, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. I consider these three to be the true Myers trilogy. It was all downhill after that.

Halloween II honors the original while conquering new ground, something most of the franchise failed at. It still stands up well after three decades and manages to scare the crap out of viewers today, making it more than just a footnote in slasher movie history.

And now some quick thoughts on….
MY STRANGE OBSESSION WITH HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH

Halloween III: Season of the Witch is one of many horror classics to be celebrating its 30th anniversary, along with genre favorites The Thing, Creepshow, Basket Case and Evilspeak.

Being the first and last of the Halloween series to not feature Michael Myers or any other characters from the original storyline, this film is often shunned and overlooked just for that alone. Debra Hill and John Carpenter didn’t want to be involved in revisiting Myers again, but were instead interested in making a new Halloween-time horror film each year, each being a different tale. It’s an awesome idea, but they had already made two Myers focused Halloween films, and the fan base was put off by the sudden change which was not properly marketed.

Fans of this sequel often state that the only reason it bombed was because it didn’t contain Myers. Defenders always point out that if it had dropped the “Halloween III”from the title and had simply been called Season of the Witch, it would have been regarded more highly. While this is true to some extent, as a hardcore fan of this flick I think it is worth mentioning that it is a heavily flawed film despite all of that.

The movie is sluggish in pace, redundant as all hell, and it has a very low body count with minimal blood and gore — especially for the era. The finale in the warehouse is rather anticlimactic (why does Conal Cochran vanish, what the fuck is that?) and it’s only Atkin’s frantic phone calls in the end that give the film a real final moment of impending doom.

However, the strange concept and the attention to the holiday’s dark roots shine through in this film. The appreciation for masks, and vintage Don Post masks at that, is also prominent, and as a mask-lover myself I really appreciate that. I also always enjoy the frightful scenario of everyone in a town being in on one big evil, whatever it may be. Plus, the montage of children parading in the masks all across America on Halloween night always floods my senses with sentimentality for my own lost innocence.

Seeing Halloween time set in the early 80’s is a flashback to my own childhood and the holiday that I have always favored most. Add to this the focus on Halloween masks, which as a kid I always marveled at in the window of my neighborhood novelty shop, and the movie is like owning a time machine.

Most people complain that this flick isn’t very scary and is actually rather boring. I have a deep, nostalgic fondness for this film but I can’t exactly argue with people when they make these complaints. The movie is damaged in this sense. It drags for the most part.

But still, it goes for the throat by making children the victims — even showing us the crazy, gruesome death of a child, which is normally considered taboo. The movie is also carried by a solid performance from genre heavyweight Tom Atkins, who does his best to keep the action going by climbing through every window and running through every alley he can find! In addition we get the morbid charm of Dan O’Herlihy as the sinister Cochran, and the chilling atmospheric moment when he delves into the holiday’s macabre origins. The film also contains a lot of random, in-crowd geek-out details, such as Carpenter and Howarth’s eerie synth score and Dick Warlock’s appearance on screen, sans Myers mask.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch is much like the holiday of Halloween itself in that it is more of a feeling you get from it rather than anything else that makes it so close to one’s heart. It’s a vibe you either get or you don’t. If you don’t get it, that’s fine – just don’t expect those of us who do get it to be able to explain its appeal too easily. With this odd little fright flick, we have a movie that I know isn’t great but is still great to me and to other horror nerds like me. This is why this movie that tanked so badly and is so commonly panned has a collector’s edition in the first place. That’s also why I always find myself returning to it whenever the leaves start to change.

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