Anchor Bay // 1988 // 92 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Sean Fitzgibbons (Retired) // August 14th, 1999
Ten years ago he changed the face of Halloween. Tonight, he's back.
Anchor Bay releases Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers as a precursor to their upcoming Halloween: Special Edition. Anchor Bay proves they can deliver with a good transfer, but their bonus materials still leave something to be desired.
Halloween 4?! How can the fourth installment of any horror series be any good? I'm sure many of you are asking this question as I type. After all, Friday the 13th: Part 4 was supposed to be "the final chapter," but the series continued on for five more sequels. Who could forget A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master? For those who can't forget it, I'm sure they'd like to. Nevertheless, by the fourth installment of a horror series things have become tired and the typical plot of the film just doesn't fit the bill anymore.
So why do so many people find Halloween 4 to be a good sequel? Originally, John Carpenter and Deborah Hill, the creators of the original Halloween, planned on having a series of movies with the "Halloween" name, but each film being a separate horror film with a different premise. After the overwhelming success of the original film, Carpenter and Hill decided to make a sequel involving Michael Myers, which would do away with Myers and answer any lingering questions from the first film. After finishing off Michael Myers, Carpenter and Hill made Halloween 3: Season of the Witch which followed in their original plans for the Halloween series, a new film with a new premise. Halloween 3 bombed, and it seemed as if the Halloween series was dead in the water.
Once 1988 rolled around, it was ten years after the events of the first two Halloween films. Carpenter and Hill had no intention of making another Halloween sequel involving Michael Myers (especially after they killed him off), but many felt Myers still had potential as a horror movie icon (with the likes of Jason and Freddy). Therefore, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers was born and Myers returned to the big screen and re-focused the Halloween series back to the white masked killer.
Since the second Halloween film continued the events of the original Halloween, immediately from the ending, Michael Myers had really only one evening of mass murdering. Unlike other horror movie killers, Myers had not gone on numerous killing sprees (just one) and was therefore much easier to work into a sequel. Halloween 4 bends the ending of Halloween 2 in order to bring back Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance), the psychiatrist obsessed with seeing Myers dead.
As it turns out, both Myers and Loomis survived the fire in Halloween 2. Myers is left in a coma while Loomis bears scars from the fire, but still continues his duties as a psychiatrist. On October 30th, 1988, Myers is transferred from the Richmond Mental Institute, during which time he regains consciousness. As he is being moved he overhears the conversation between two doctors in which one doctor states that Myers has one living relative, his niece, Jamie (Danielle Harris) daughter of the now dead Laurie Strode, who is living in Haddonfield, Myers' hometown. Myers escapes custody while in transit and heads off to Haddonfield. The next day, Dr. Loomis discovers (without his discretion) that Myers has been moved, and was able to escape. Loomis races to Haddonfield to find Myers and kill him off, once and for all.
Things are not as easy as they appear when Myers dawns a new mask, which many other people are wearing that Halloween. To aid in his hunt for his niece, Myers disables the power station for Haddonfield, causing a blackout. Upon hearing that Myers has returned to Haddonfield, a mob of local men forms to hunt Myers down. Unfortunately, anyone wearing the white mask of Michael Myers is subject to the paranoia of the lynch mob. By the end of the film, we learn that the evil of Michael Myers is not easily destroyed in an outstanding ending to the movie which is reminiscent of the original Halloween.
Halloween 4 spawned an immediate sequel (Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers) the following year, which is highly regarded as the worst of the Halloween films. Two more sequels would follow in the '90s, Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers and Halloween H20, which marked the return of Jamie Lee Curtis to the series. Fans should note that Halloween H20 splits into another vein following Halloween 2, as if Halloween 4, 5, and 6 never existed. That's another story altogether...which I will gladly go into when Halloween H20 is released on DVD.
As for this disc, Halloween 4 delivers a nice transfer for fans to enjoy. While not anamorphic, the 1.85:1 widescreen image on the disc looks very nice. Sequences in the daytime look bright and clean and flesh tones are presented warm and realistically. While not perfect, this image transfer is a vast improvement for Anchor Bay, especially in light of their original release of Halloween.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital track on this disc is extremely well done. The track is not overly generous in its use of surround effects, but during tense sequences a creak will come from the rear channel and make you do a double take. These well placed noises in the rear channel help to create a more immersive feel for the film. Dialogue is well placed on the soundstage with this disc, but the best part is hearing the updated Halloween score in surround sound. When Michael Myers is transferred out of the mental institution at the beginning of the film and the familiar John Carpenter theme kicks in you're set in the mood to enjoy Halloween 4.
Anchor Bay is not too kind with Halloween fans in respect to the extra content on this disc. As extra material on the disc, fans are given a theatrical trailer for Halloween 4 and the original Halloween. Not much, and certainly not enough to prove that their upcoming Halloween: Special Edition will be all that special. We'll just have to wait and see.
Yes, the dialogue in this film sounds as if a 4th grader wrote it. Yes, the acting is rather poor. However, what stands up for me with Halloween 4 are the inventive plot twists that occur throughout the film, as well as the ultimately brilliant ending. This is the last Halloween film before the series falls into a true slasher series form.
As for the transfer, my only major gripe is with the black level on the video transfer. The black level on this disc is a tad bit off with some grain visible in scenes that are not completely dark. Horror films demand a consistent and good black level to achieve tension, and when the black level is slightly off it is quite evident. Again, Anchor Bay is proving that they are growing as a studio with this disc, but it certainly does not give me full confidence that the studio can produce top-notch discs.
Oh yeah, almost forgot, Michael Myers' mask in this film sucks. Myers doesn't get another good mask until Halloween H20. The mask is so bad they won't even feature it on the poster for Halloween 4, instead they use the original mask.
Fans of the Halloween series will definitely want to pick up this disc as it is the best transfer for Halloween 4 on any format. Those who have not seen Halloween 4 but have seen the original two Halloween films might want to consider giving this disc a rental. Anchor Bay has come a long way with this disc, but they still have a way to go before I'm completely confident in them as a quality DVD studio.
Film acquitted, hung jury on the disc. Despite a nice transfer the disc has virtually no extra content, but at a low $20 street price it's hard to go wrong.
Review content copyright © 1999 Sean Fitzgibbons; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailer