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Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) - Blu-ray Review

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Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Meyers - Blu-ray

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3 stars

Rumor has it that when the John Carpenter and Debrah Hill penned (and, once again, Michael Myers-less) script for Halloween 4 was turned down, the duo promptly sold their rights to all things Halloween to producer Moustapha Akkad.  Whether out of anger or suave financial smarts, the move meant their partnership with what they originally created in 1978 was over and done.

Akkad knew what had to be done.

His first move was to bring the knife-wielding Myers back and win back the fans that Carpenter had turned away with the stand-alone Halloween III: Season the Witch fiasco.  It was the smartest move in Horror history.  Fans were chomping at the bit for another chance to witness the boogeyman and quickly made the fourth entry - when it arrived in 1988 - the highest grossing of the three previous films.  Now with its debut on blu-ray, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers can be seen by a whole new audience of the slasher genre.

It's the 10th anniversary of the Halloween night massacre in Haddonfield, Illinois.  Not everyone is celebrating, though and, when hearing mention of a niece living in Haddonfield, Michael Myers escapes from an ambulance while being transferred to another mental facility, the party is officially over. He eventually makes his way to the small town of his youth, mentally obsessed with finding and killing his nine-year-old niece, Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris) and anyone else shielding her from him. Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) is hot on his trail and, alongside Rachel Carruthers (Ellie Cornell), must protect Jamie from her psycho uncle.

Directed by Dwight H. Little (Bloodstone), Halloween 4 doesn’t reinvent the wheel; it doesn’t have to.  Opening ten years after the original, the movie simply has to provide a rationale for Myers to return to Haddonfield.  Enter its secret weapon: Danielle Harris.  Usually when a film series relies on a child star, fans grow weary of its intentions.  Harris, who was all of 11 years old when the film was shot, does more to elevate the movie with her energetic screams and overall dedication to the role than the actual script.  She’s always been a smart actress and here, as a child, her prowess proves to be a natural part of her energies.

Returning to the Halloween fold is Donald Pleasance as Dr. Samuel Loomis, Michael's old psychiatrist, who survived the hospital explosion that ended the second film.  Loomis is not your typical psychiatrist and his relationship with Michael Myers is not the typical doctor-patent relationship.  He’s tried to kill him for ten years and knows he is pure evil; there’s no hope for making him a productive member of society.  Loomis himself is too affected by Michael’s undying nature and, when the two are reunited in a seriously iconic scene of hopeless weariness early on, the audience can see just how depressed Loomis is by their catch-and-release “fishing” games.

Acting as a more than competent sequel to Halloween 2, Little packs the film with wide shots and moments of subtly that might seem out of place for hard-nosed slasher film.  It’s this approach that gives the movie an added lift from the usual body count.  Sure, people die and Myers survives but with the less-is-more approach Little invites the imagination to fill in the blanks.  The result is some good ol’ atmosphere that haunts every edge of this film.  Mix in a bit of horror cheese and the result is a quasi-Hitchcockian slasher film.

With the exception of bringing back Jamie Lee Curtis (who passed on the opportunity to continue on as Laurie Strode), Halloween 4 gives its fans exactly what they want from a real Halloween film and it doesn’t involve flesh-melting masks.  It might be a tad quieter in guts and gore than one expects but it cleverly brings new mythology to life and opens the story up nicely.  Myers mindlessly chops away at his victims and chases his nine-year-old niece with ferocity only Hell itself can understand.

The genre might have been waning but Michael Myers was just getting his second wind.  Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers shows there’s still life in a stale genre when its once straightforward mythology gets a cheesy bit of a facelift.

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Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Meyers - Blu-rayMPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 88 mins
Director
: Dwight H. Little
Writer
: Alan B. McElroy
Cast: Donald Pleasance; Ellie Cornell; Danielle Harris; Michael Pataki; Kathleen Kinmont
Genre: Horror
Tagline:
He's Back!
Memorable Movie Quote: "Martians could land on Ben's doorstep and all he'd do is spit once and get himself a shotgun."
Distributor:
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Official Site:
halloweenmovies.com
Theatrical Release Date: October 21, 1988
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
August 21, 2012

Synopsis: Ten years after his original massacre, the invalid Michael Myers awakens and returns to Haddonfield to kill his seven-year-old niece on Halloween. Can Dr. Loomis stop him?

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Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Meyers - Blu-ray

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
3 stars

2 stars



Blu-ray Experience
2.5 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - August 21, 2012
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, Spanish
Audio: English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Playback: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)

Presented by Starz and Anchor Bay, the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode is a good stab at HD but not very impressive. This film needs a complete overhaul and, unfortunately, that will never happen.  While sharper than standard DVD, the overall definition and clarity is definitely lacking. Compared with what has been seen before in previous releases, the background and foreground details are sharper.  Colors certainly pop with the format and daylight sequences are gloriously clear.  There is a nice film-like quality thanks to a thinly-layered grain structure, but black levels are inadequate during night scenes and contrast levels are never consistent.  Presented with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack, the sound suffers a bit with its originally recorded thin dynamic range.  Again, a remaster just isn’t going to happen.  Prepare to lean forward and crank the volume way up.  Sonics leave a lot to be desired with this release.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Actresses Cornell and Harris spend much of their recording time reminiscing about the production and working with the cast & crew.  It is apparent that the two had a blast making the movie and are a lot of fun to listen to.  Details are revealed and behind the scenes secrets are revealed.

Special Features:

Anchor Bay ports over most of the supplemental material from previous Halloween 4 releases.  While not all of the material makes it (gone are a couple of the commentaries) to this release, they do keep the interview gem.  Included is a fairly interesting discussion panel that was recorded at the H25 Convention.  Danielle Harris, Kathleen Kinmont, and Sasha Jenson answer audience questions about the making of the film and its immediate sequel.

  • Halloween Discussion Panel (18 min)
  • Trailer

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