(NOTE: This review was originally posted on the U.S.-based Amazon.com website.)
Certainly, after watching "Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers", I had little interest in ever seeing Michael Myers again, who over the course of six films has transformed from a mysteriously eerie serial killer into a monolithic robotic Druid (!) henchman. Amazingly, the next film in the franchise would redeem the "Halloween" name, a rarity for a sequel so late in the series. In fact, "Halloween H20" is probably the best sequel in the Halloween series (I confess to having a soft spot for "Halloween 2", but I freely admit the film is problematic). Simply put, "H20" is the sequel fans had been waiting many years to see... even if some (like me) didn't know it.
The decision was made for "H20" to ignore the last series of sequels and act as a direct sequel to "Halloween II"; it was a wise decision, freeing the series from the various inane story lines and C-List characters that accumulatively dragged down the series over the years. Pleasingly, "H20" manages to both scare and entertain in a way that I thought just wasn't possible for the film series anymore. Finely directed by old school slasher film director Steve Miner (doing a better job with "H20" than he ever did on any of his 1980's "Friday The 13th" films), the film is smartly cast, has good production values, and is a blessed with a tight, straightforward plot. Jamie Lee Curtis gives a great lead performance, and the ending is the most satisfying of all the Halloween films (and that includes the original).
Special bonus points for "H20": it's the first sequel since "Halloween II" to get "The Shape" right! Armed once again with a creepy William Shatner-esque mask, a lithe build and quick, methodical body movement, "The Shape" is looking and acting more like his old eerie/ghostly self than he has in years. Certainly, this is a welcome reprieve from the graceless, hulking, albino-masked mongoloid that brutishly skulked around in the last few film sequels.
"Halloween: H20" isn't perfect; the characterizations (with the exception of Curtis's role) are drawn rather sketchily, the plot is a little too simplistic, and the music score is far more "Scream" than "Halloween" (literally, as parts of the score is actually taken from the "Scream" film!). Still, "H20" is a must-see for any self-respecting horror fan, and is well-made enough that (just as was the case with the first film) even non-genre fans should enjoy it; a four-star film (out of five).
Recently, there has been a lot of rancorous noise regarding U.S. distributer Echo Bridge's recent budget Blu-Ray release of "Halloween H20", which can either be purchased alone or as a double feature with the awful "Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers". Primary criticisms from early reviews have been the following: "H20" has had its original aspect ratio changed; only a Dolby 2.0 lossless soundtrack is included; the print is of poor quality; and there are no extras of any kind.
Regarding the Echo Bridge Blu-Ray release, while not the worst Blu-Ray I've ever seen, this Echo Bridge release does indeed suck, even at its price of $9.99. Blacks are OK but lack detail, colors look flat, the print is dirty, and edge enhancement and compressions artifacts pops up throughout the film. Also, the film's original theatrical aspect ratio has been altered from 2.35:1 to 1.78:1 (although nothing has been cropped, as the film was shot in Super 35, which allows for aspect ratio changes on a film without losing any picture). Unfortunately, the open matte presentation does indeed alter the cinematic feel of the picture, throwing composition off in many scenes, and giving the film an overall TV Movie-like feel that was clearly not intended by the director. Finally, the Dolby 2.0 lossless soundtrack is decent for a surround track, but why is this here on a Blu-Ray, when perfectly good DTS-HD 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks exist elsewhere? Overall, with a sub-par presentation and zero extras, the Echo Bridge Blu-Ray release of "H20" screams "cheap cash-in", and will certainly disappoint fans of the film. Overall, a one star review (out of five) for the Echo Bridge Blu-Ray release of "H20".
This is not my first disappointment with an Echo Bridge Blu-Ray release. My first was merely weeks ago, when I picked up Echo Bridge's recent Blu-Ray release of "From Dusk 'Till Dawn"; just as was the case with "H20", the Blu-Ray was pretty crummy looking, even for its price. Frustrated and disappointed with that earlier release, I took a chance and ordered the Canadian Blu-Ray release of "From Dusk 'Till Dawn" from Canadian distributer Alliance (who has a dodgy reputation when it comes to Blu-Ray releases), and I'm glad I did, as the Alliance Blu-Ray was superior to the Echo Bridge release in every regard. Feeling encouraged, I decided to give the "Halloween Triple Pack" Blu-Ray release from Alliance a shot (which I picked up from Amazon.ca for $30.00, including shipping). This is a case of a gem sandwiched between two turds, as the best of the Halloween sequels ("H20") is unfortunately bookended between the two very worst sequels ("Curse" and "Resurrection"). It is on the strength of "H20" alone, that I decided to splurge on the Canadian import.
So, was it worth the trouble and cash to purchase this import? Certainly, for me I feel it was. Although "Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers" and "Halloween: H20" are presented in 1080i (only Halloween: Resurrection" is shown in 1080P), the picture quality of all three of the films look respectable, certainly heads and shoulders above any DVD release. The aspect ratio for "Halloween: H20" is indeed in its original aspect ratio of 2.35.1 ("Halloween: Resurrection" is also shown in its correct aspect ratio of 2.35.1, while Halloween: The Curse...", originally released in 1.85:1, is shown in an incorrect aspect ratio of 1.78.1). Sharpness is good, colors are accurate looking and blacks are strong for all three films. There doesn't appear to be any edge enhancement or DNR.
Is "H20" on the Alliance triple-pack presented better than the Echo Bridge release? Yes, it is. The print on the Alliance release isn't quite as dirty-looking as the Echo Bridge Blu-Ray (although it's far from clean), and the original aspect ratio is left untouched, restoring the film's cinematic look that was lost on the Echo Bridge release. In the end, it would have been nice if they cleaned up the print for "Halloween: H20" a bit (which unfortunately looks the shabbiest of the three films), but all things considered, "H20" looks better than the Echo Bridge presentation by a fair amount, even in 1080i.
The audio on the Alliance release "H20" completely blows away the Echo Bridge release. In fact, the audio for all three films sound quite good, with each film given a solid 5.1 DTS-HD Master audio soundtrack, complete with strong surround effects and good bass.
So, the bottom line is, is the "Halloween Triple Pack" worth the $30.00 (and up) price which this Blu-Ray is going for? For hardcore fans, I would say yes. Now, make no mistake about it, all of these films can (and should) be presented in a far better manner on Blu-Ray than what is on this triple-pack disc, with a nice 1080P picture and special features galore. Yet, for what it is, hardcore fans should be pleased, as the presentation for all three movies is quite decent.
However, for casual U.S. fans, in spite of my poor review, I do think they'll be better served with either the $9.99 Echo Bridge stand-alone Blu-Ray release of "H20", or the $16.00 Echo Bridge "H20"/"Curse of..." Blu-Ray double feature. The fact is, I simply can't justify casual fans shelling out 30-plus dollars for one good film and two awful ones. Casual fans likely won't mind (and may even prefer) the screen-filling open matte presentation of Echo Bridge's "H20" Blu-Ray release, and will probably feel satisfied enough with the Dolby 2.0 lossless soundtrack.
The sad reality is, this is probably as good as it's going to get for these films on Blu-Ray in the Region "A" market... at least for a while. Hopefully, Echo Bridge's distribution rights while expire sooner than later for these "Halloween" films, and they'll see a better presentation down the line.