Halloween II: it’s one of those titles that has been popular enough to stay in print since its original VHS release but has never been considered notable enough to get special edition treatment.  Even when it got its first blu-ray edition, it got a half-hearted stab at extras.  Fans of this series will be happy to know that Scream Factory, a spin-off label of Shout! Factory, has picked it up and given it a true special edition treatment.  The end result truly throws out all the stops for the slasher movie fanbase.

The disc gets going on a strong note with a newly buffed-up, anamorphic transfer.  If you own the Universal blu-ray issued in 1981, it’s worth noting that this transfer gets rid of the minor print damage and also restores the Moustapha Akkad credit missing from the beginning of the transfer on the Universal version.  The results look very impressive, delivering nice rich tones of darkness for the constant night photography and shadows in this film.  Dean Cundey’s cinematography looks as elegant as it should look here.

Audio also gets an improvement in this new edition: not one but two lossless stereo tracks are provided, one 2.0 and one 5.1.  The latter was listened to for this review and it does a good job of opening up the soundscape for a modern home theater.  There’s plenty of activity in the different speakers during the suspense scenes and the John Carpenter/Alan Howarth score has plenty of sonic muscle, especially those shivery synth-stingers that punctuate the shocks.

There’s also a pile of fresh extras that slasher fans can spend hours combing through.  It all starts with two freshly-minted commentary tracks.  The first pairs director Rick Rosenthal with actor Leo Rossi.  The tone of this track is warm and nostalgic: not only are these two proud of their work here, they were also friends well before the film was made.  Their comments are very scene specific, with some good nuts and bolts production info for the fans.  Unfortunately, the second half loses steam but the good cheer of the participants goes a long away – and Rossi’s story about the infamous “hot tub” scene alone makes the second worth sticking with.

The second track features stunt coordinator and interpreter of Michael Myers, Dick Warlock, with Robert V. Galluzzo along as a moderator.  As you might expect, Warlock is able to provide plenty of specifics on how the various stunts and kills were staged but he also reveals some other interesting details (like how he spent about two decades as Kurt Russell’s stunt double).  The track works well thanks to Warlock’s humble, ingratiating style and Galluzzo keeps him peppered with questions, wisely filling out potential gaps in the second half with questions about the rest of Warlock’s career.

The rest of the blu-ray is filled out with a variety of featurettes and other goodies.  On the shorter side, there is a theatrical trailer, several t.v. spots (including a network ad) and multiple radio spots, including a few in Spanish(!). There is also an animated image gallery packed with both color and black and white stills as well as promotional art from different countries.  The deleted scenes and alternate ending that appeared on the Universal blu-ray are retained here but this edition adds optional commentary from Rick Rosenthal explaining the whys and wherefores behind these snips.

The best stuff amongst the blu-ray extras are the featurettes.  The first is an episode of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds that explores the film’s various locations today.  Some of the institutional buildings have changed but the homes look surprisingly similar.  The results are both informative and light-hearted – and keep your eyes peeled for an actor who makes a cameo from a previous episode of the show.

The other featuretter is an all new interviewed based retrospective piece entitled “The Nightmare Isn’t Over!”  It runs nearly forty-five minutes but you’ll never look at your watch because it moves at a snappy pace and delivers tons of fascinating stories.  Rosenthal, Rossi and Warlock all appear here but there also several other cast members, composer Alan Howarth, producer Irwin Yablans and even Carpenter protege Tommy Lee Wallace.

The comments of the cast give the piece a rosy glow, with a lot of good-natured chat about the fans and various on-set shenanigans.  That said, the piece isn’t afraid to discuss the downside of this production: both Yablans and Wallace speak frankly about the commercially-motivated nature of the sequel and the piece pulls off a real surprise by bringing in co-editor Skip Schoolnik to talk about Carpenter reworked the film in post-production to make sure Universal was happy.

If that’s not enough extras for you, this set also delivers a bonus DVD with two more sizable extras.  The first is the television version of Halloween II, presented in a decent-looking full-frame edition.  If you’re a fan, this is worth watching because despite the t.v.-friendly edits for violence, nudity and profanity, it differs from its big-screen twin in a number of ways.  Some scenes are dropped and others are restructured, plus there are several bits of additional dialogue and a lot of alternate takes of shots sprinkled throughout.  The end result isn’t the original director’s cut, despite what some sources claim, but it is much closer to his original version and includes the film’s alternate ending.  The DVD is rounded out with a downloadable copy of the film’s script.

All in all, Scream Factory has produced the definitive edition of Halloween II for the blu-ray market.  If you already have the Universal blu, you’ll want to hang onto it for its inclusion of Terror In The Aisles but this new edition surpasses all previous versions.  It’s hard to imagine anyone else topping what Scream Factory has pulled off with this title – and it’s a great way for this company to begin what will hopefully be a long and successful string of blu-ray updates for genre favorites.

To read Schlockmania’s film review of Halloween II, click here.