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Anchor Bay presents
Halloween 4—The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

"We're not talking about any ordinary prisoner, Hoffman. We are talking about evil on two legs."
- Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: November 30, 2001

Stars: Donald Pleasence
Other Stars: Ellie Cornell, Danielle Harris, Michael Pataki
Director: Dwight H. Little

MPAA Rating: R for (horror violence and language)
Run Time: 01h:28m:06s
Release Date: October 09, 2001
UPC: 013131192094
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B C+B-B B

DVD Review

As far as horror film franchises go, the Halloween series, with it's lumbering, knife-wielding maniac Michael Myers, has fallen far behind such prolific contemporary villains as Jason Voorhees (Friday The 13th) and Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare On Elm Street) in cinematic output. There have only been 5 sequels to the original Halloween since 1978, and one of those didn't even include Michael Myers (Halloween 3: Season Of The Witch). I guess it's a testament to the success of John Carpenter and Debra Hill, the forces behind the first film, that their evil creation is able to live on in our demented minds.

Not familiar with the Halloween mythos? The first film introduced us to Michael Myers, a six-year-old boy who murdered his teenaged sister on Halloween 1963 in the Rockwell-esque town of Haddonfield, Illinois. Myers is committed to a sanitarium for the criminally insane, and put under the care of Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence). Only Loomis is able to recognize that Myers is pure, unadulterated evil, and he works tirelessly to make sure Myers can never be released. Of course, that would make for a relatively dull horror film series, and Myers escapes in 1978 and returns to his hometown, dons a William Shatner mask, and goes on a relentless killing spree. Teenage babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) becomes the eventual target of Myers (it's a family thing), and over the course of two films, the dead teenagers pile up quicker than you can say "Trick Or Treat".

Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers picks up ten years after the events of Halloween 2. Myers has been re-institutionalized, again under the care of Dr. Loomis. The film opens with a predictable sequence where Myers is to be transferred from one sanitarium to another, late at night. Does he escape? You betcha. And where might he be heading? Well, if you guessed Haddonfield, then you must be truly psychic. Did I mention it's also Halloween?

His target now is his niece, 7-year-old Jamie, the daughter of the late Laurie Strode. Jamie (Danielle Harris) has been adopted by the Corruthers family, but she is plagued by bad dreams featuring 'the nightmare man,' which of course is the good ol' masked psycho we all know and love. To make matters worse, she is mocked and taunted by her classmates and made to feel like an outcast. Teenaged stepsister Rachel (Ellie Cornell) is the poor kid put in charge of protecting Jamie on Halloween night, when Michael Myers returns to Haddonfield to go on yet another bloody rampage.

The Alan McElroy screenplay, despite some of the limitations of the general goofiness of the whole unstoppable Michael Myers concept, is actually pretty decent. While he doesn't offer much in the way of surprises, he does dish out a creepy climax that more than makes up for the predictable beginning. He does turn up the scare-o-meter by writing a screenplay where a 7-year-old girl is mercilessly hunted by a sadistic killer, and that does give this film a little more of a dark edge. Director Dwight Little, best known for Bloodstone and a couple of landmark episodes of Millennium, proves himself to be decent emulator of the visual style of John Carpenter. The look of the film, with it's wet streets, blowing leaves and gray skies, sets a terrific spooky tone that is reminiscent of the original, and Little paces the action (though much of it is silly at times) with a quick hand.

One of the best parts of a Halloween film is the raving theatrics of Donald Pleasence as the high-strung Dr. Loomis. He is on top of his game here, complete with a cane and facial scars as a result of his last run-in with Michael Myers. Spouting an endless stream of frantic, clichéd phrases, the character of Loomis is really one of the saving graces of the whole series. He knows that Myers is The Boogeyman, and his attempts to convince the unbelievers of Haddonfield is a cornball treat. Any future films in the franchise will sadly suffer a gaping hole now that Pleasence has passed away, and that is a real shame.

The remaining cast here is flat and one-dimensional, with the exception of young Danielle Harris (Wish Upon a Star). Her portrayal of Jamie is the best thing in the film, next to the wacky rantings of Donald Pleasence, of course. It always seems like a dirty and manipulative trick by a filmmaker to put a child in danger, yet Harris exudes a really credible layer of fear and horror. She comes across as very real, and she's not the stereotypical smart kid with all the answers.

As far as sequels to sequels go, this is a pretty good one. If you can get past the unbelievable immortality of Michael Myers, and his ability to be almost everywhere at once, then you probably won't be disappointed. Nothing can really compare with John Carpenter's original, but Dwight Little has assembled a respectable follow up.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Anchor Bay has issued this rerelease in a 1.85:1 widescreen anamorphic transfer. Some minor grain, most noticeable during the foggy night scenes, is about the only real issue. The source print is pretty much blemish-free, and looks very good overall. Colors, while a bit on the flat side, remain consistent throughout. Strong shadow delineation, a must for a film that features so many night shots, is present here, and provides decent depth to the action.

For a low budget horror sequel from 1988, this image transfer from Anchor Bay is a good one.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: A 5.1 and 2.0 surround mix are included here by Anchor Bay. Both mixes provide a decent surround field, though vastly underused. Rear channel cues are limited to some of the more standard sounds, such as with storms, which provide a fuller, overall listening experience. All of the dialogue sounds really clean and hiss-free, and the haunting Halloween theme sounds excellent. Dynamic range, especially for a cheapo 1988 film, is more than adequate. I couldn't find much difference between the two audio options, other than a slightly improved spatial imaging effect with the 5.1 mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu
Scene Access with 26 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: There isn't an abundance of supplement, but what's here isn't bad. Aside from a widescreen theatrical trailer, the disc's only other highlight is the brand new featurette Halloween 4: Final Cut (16m:45s). This documentary, shot in 2001, features interviews with all the production principals, including Dwight Little, Alan McElroy, Moustapha Akkad, as well as stars Danielle Harris (WOW!), Ellie Cornell and George Wilbur. Plenty of background info, or at least as much as you can gather in just under 17 minutes, including the tidbit that Harris was up against Sabrina The Teenage Witch star Melissa Joan Hart (WOW! again) for the role of Jamie.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers is a far better sequel than Halloween 2, and there are a couple of neat twists that keep this from becoming another mundane slasher film. Though there is surprisingly little actual suspense or tension to speak of, Donald Pleasence and Danielle Harris contribute a pair of strong performances that carry the film through the slow spots. The included 17-minute feature Halloween 4:Final Cut is a nice bonus for all of those Michael Myers-philes out there.

 


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