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

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 Distributor: Anchor Bay / Starz

Release Date: 21/Aug/2012

Region: A

Length: 88 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC, 30 Mbps)

Main Audio: English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD (48 kHz, 1.5 Mbps)

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Ratio: 1.85:1

Note: The film has also been given a few DVD releases.

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“I stopped watching and caring after three. I just thought that there really shouldn’t have been another movie. That was enough. Far be it for me to say. They pay me every time they make another, so… [laughs].” -John Carpenter

They didn’t stop. The late 1980s brought with it a renewed slasher craze and Moustapha Akkad knew that there was money in further sequels. His idea was simple enough; “Go back to the basics.” Unfortunately, this simply meant “bring back Michael Myers.” (The third entry of the series had nothing to do with the Myers storyline.)

The basics” should have meant a simple story focusing on suspense to be shot using wonderfully atmospheric photography. Some claim that this is exactly what the filmmakers achieved. One wonders if these people bothered to actually watch the original film before they made such a claim. Gone are the haunting point of view shots and the meticulous reveals of the shape lurking (the constant reminders that characters are being stalked). The original film also saved the infamous mask’s close up until the end of the film. He was kept in the shadows prior to this. The effect was quite menacing.

In Halloween 4, fluid camera motion is traded in for a less distinguished style. While one could argue that the cinematography employs similar blueish nighttime lighting, the camera work is radically different and less effective. The film is also too busy. There are too many convoluted story elements that take away from one’s sense of dread. The most detrimental of these elements is probably the redneck lynch mob. Are there really that many rednecks in Illinois? This story thread was distracting and killed the atmosphere and mood of the film. The murders were closer to the style of the Friday 13th films than to Carpenter’s masterpiece. The original film focused on building the audiences anticipation of the murders and not on the murders themselves. Perhaps the director made an earnest attempt at replicating this approach, but he wasn’t very successful.

However, this film has its good points. The character of Jamie is certainly sympathetic enough to carry us through to the end of the film and the part is well acted by Danielle Harris. The ending is also creepy and extremely chilling. It could have been built up more effectively, but it is perhaps one of the best things about the film. (Unfortunately, the ending is a cheat and is explained away in part 5.)

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers is one of the better sequels in the series and is a fan favorite. One can look upon it as a guilty pleasure (even if it isn’t a great film). 

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The Presentation: 

3.5 of 5 Screams

Anchor Bay packages the discs in a standard Blu-ray case with reasonably attractive artwork.

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The animated menu showcases the Halloween theme with footage from the film and is nice enough. 

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Picture Quality:

3 of 5 Screams 

While fans are given a serviceable Blu-ray transfer that improves on previous releases due to its added resolution, the transfer might disappoint some of the more discriminating viewers. Detail seems to be rather flat and shadows are sometimes a bit washed out. Grain seems to overwhelm the picture at times and there are scratches evident on the print (though, these issues are never distracting). When one compares it to a DVD release of the film, it is evident that the picture is a significant improvement over the standard definition releases. It is perhaps not fair to expect anything more than this. After all, the disk is vastly superior to many back catalog Blu-ray releases.

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Sound Quality: 

3 of 5 Screams

The disc’s 5.1 TrueHD soundtrack is also serviceable but unremarkable. The lossless mix has more fidelity than the standard definition releases of the film. The dynamic range of the track is minimal but has decent spacing. Dialogue is mixed a bit low, but one can always understand what the characters are saying. The music comes through nicely, but is not as dynamic as one might hope. The mix keeps to the front channels, which is due to the film’s source elements. This is not a bad mix and is on par with what one might expect for such a release. Most of the complaints here are likely due to the source elements (and are forgivable).

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Special Features:

3.5 of 5 Screams

Earlier DVD releases included a commentary track with screenwriter Alan B. McElory and a nice 17 minute “making of” featurette and neither one of these supplements were ported over for this Blu-ray release. This is a shame, because both of these extras were nice and would have added value to this disc. Luckily, fans are given more supplemental material than might be expected for such a release (including a brand new commentary track with the film’s director).

Audio Commentary with Director Dwight H. Little & Justin Beahm

The commentary with director Dwight H. Little offers more actual information than the actor’s commentary and is consistently interesting and always engaging. Fans will welcome this addition to the disc.

Audio Commentary with Actors Ellie Cornell and Danielle Harris

This track is extremely conversational. There is the occasional ‘behind the scenes’ anecdote, but there really isn’t a lot of information contained in this commentary. It still manages to remain charming and engaging and should therefore delight die-hard fans of the series.

Halloween 4/5 Discussion Panel – (18:28) – (480p)

This excerpt of footage from the H25 Convention has Jeffrey Landman moderating a question and answer panel with Danielle Harris, Kathleen Kinmont, and Sasha Jenson. Daniel Harris seems to dominate the footage and speaks candidly about her opinions on the films and the experience that she had shooting them.

Theatrical Trailer – (1:36) – (480p)  

The film’s theatrical trailer is interesting and better than average. It is nice to have it included on the disc.

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Final Words:

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers is considered one of the better sequels in the series and has an extremely strong cult following. Fans will be happy that the film is available in high definition and that it is an improvement over the DVD transfer. Many will be disappointed that the transfer isn’t better than it is, but die-hard fans will find the improvement to be substantial enough to warrant an upgrade.

Review by: Devon Powell