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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 10/31/00

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
1988 (1998) - Anchor Bay

review by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers Film Rating: C

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/A-/D

Specs and Features

92 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailers for Halloween and Halloween 4, film-themed menu screens, scene access (24 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: none

Halloween 4 is the first REAL installment in the series since Halloween II in 1981. The Myers-less third part of the series is pretty much dismissed by most as a horrible movie, even as far as slasher sequels go. This one stays pretty close to the look and feel of the first movie in the series and ends up being a fairly good, very atmospheric addition to the run. Yeah, it's contrived and implausible, but what slasher movie isn't?

Ten years after the lovable Mikey Myers hacked his way through the little town of Haddonfield, and presumably died in an explosion at the hospital, he makes his way back for more hi-jinx. As it turns out, he wasn't dead... just in a coma and wrapped in bandages for ten years. Late one night (the 30th of October to be exact), hospital personnel arrive to transfer him to a different facility. En route to the hospital, Michael awakens when he overhears the ambulance attendants discussing his one living relative, Jamie (Danielle Harris), his seven-year-old niece living in Haddonfield. Of course he escapes, and the ever-resilient Sam Loomis (series stalwart Donald Pleasence) comes out of his semi-retirement to hunt him down.

Sound corny? Well, that's because it is, but thankfully the real lamebrain stuff is only at the very beginning of the movie to set up the story and to give Michael an excuse to kill. It is, after all, in his nature to kill off his entire family, and if there's no family, there's no movie. In typical teen slasher form, there is zero character development. Most of the characters, with the exception of Jamie's foster-sister, Rachel (Ellie Cornell), are introduced only to be picked off later by Myers. But the filmmakers have found a competent young heroine in young Danielle Harris. Considering the material she was given, she breathes a lot of depth and fear into the confused Jamie. I've never seen a seven-year-old process her feelings out loud the way she does ("You're okay, you're okay," she tells herself after a day of being tormented by classmates), but she does her best at creating a feeling of sympathy and understanding for herself.

Halloween 4 is a loud, bloody horror film, but it's not nearly as gory as a lot of other teen-oriented slasher films. Try as it may, it still can equal neither the power nor the simple beauty of the original John Carpenter masterpiece. Halloween II was criticized for its high body count, but the body count in this movie is higher and even more gratuitous. Thankfully, that doesn't make it entirely unenjoyable on a very base level for fans. This is a technically well made film, and if you're looking for a scary movie that you can completely forget about a minute after it's done, this one will do.

For a non-anamorphic transfer, Halloween 4 is pretty darn good. This DVD sat on Anchor Bay's shelves for a year before it was released to the public, so it doesn't have the anamorphic transfer that most of their new releases do. What we do get is a transfer with a more than decent amount of detail and deep blacks. Many scenes are drenched in blue back-lighting, and they make the transfer to DVD nicely with only minimal artifacting. There is a tad bit of edge enhancement, but not so much that it becomes a distraction. Part of the reason the picture looks so good here is the fact that it was done from a very good print, with an exceedingly low amount of grain, scratches or other source-related defects.

The new 5.1 sound mix is also very good and provides a great amount of depth to the audio portion of the film. Bass is strong but never overpowering and there's a nice balance of sound between both the front and rear channels. I didn't notice any audio dropout in either the dialogue, effects or music track as a result of the new mix, all of which results in an impressive sound piece. Now, we're not talking Saving Private Ryan or Titanic quality, but what Anchor Bay has given us is a vigorous mix that is tons better than any previous release of this movie. Sadly, the extras here are the bare minimum for a standard edition disc. You get just the full-frame theatrical trailer for Halloween 4 and the same horrible looking widescreen trailer for Halloween that was on Anchor Bay's initial release of the latter title. This movie certainly has its fans, but it's not a highly regarded film with a huge following, so the lack of extras is not a big loss.

Halloween 4 is the epitome of a film meant solely for genre fans. It had its appeal when it was initially released (it was number one at the box office for a few weeks) because of the ten-year anniversary and the return of Michael Myers to the series. Beyond that, it doesn't hold a lot of interest for casual moviegoers or those looking for smarter, slicker horror. But if you dig the movie, this DVD is by all means the best way to see it.

Dan Kelly
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