Directed By: Dwight H. Little
Starring Donald Pleasence, Danielle Harris
Anchor Bay brings us an all new high definition transfer of the fourth installment in the Shatner mask killer series.
The original Halloween is easily one of the greatest horror films ever made. It was innovative in its use of Hitchcock method and style in combination with some of the best ever indie film technique ever. The story was simple. A young kid suddenly and unexpectedly loses his mind and attempts to basically kill his entire family. He is committed and Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) takes on the responsibility of trying to treat Michael. He realizes early on that Michael is filled with pure evil and that their is no cure for him. So, Loomis just tries to make sure Michael is maintained and kept away from the public, and especially his family.
Inevitably he does escape and he returns to his home town of Haddenfield to finish what he started, kill off the rest of his family and anyone else who stands in his way. So over the most excellent first film Michael chases Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) across Haddenfield with Loomis following close behind. The first movie ended on a fantastic, scary, and frustrating cliffhanger. The second finished the story, and although it wasn’t as innovative as the first it was still dramatic and scary and the finality of it was satisfying. Carpenter had the idea to use the Halloween title for a bevy of different kinds of stories all centered around October 31st. So the third film, while fun in its own way, had nothing to do with the first two. I think if that’s what Carpenter wanted to do he should have done it with the second film rather than trying to start this idea with the third. By the end of the second film the word Halloween was synonymous with Michael Myers.
Financier of the first two films Moustapha Akkad regained control of the title and decided that he would produce a fourth film that would bring the franchise back to its roots, back to Haddenfield, back to Michael Myers. In the fourth film Myers again escapes the asylum and returns to Haddenfield. It’s been ten years, and many of the town’s residents have grown to think of Myers as a ghost story, something to scare each other with around a camp fire. Dr. Loomis scared from burns and walking with a cane is still determined to keep Myers from killing anymore. This time Michael is after his only living relative, a 10 year old niece named appropriately winking at the fans, Jamie (Danielle Harris). Michael, in predictable fashion kills his way through town with the town’s sheriff and Dr. Loomis working to thwart his plans.
So, there’s not a lot of uniqueness to this new installment to the franchise. Also, the writing and direction are much more flat than Carpenter and producer Debra Hill’s original work. But, at the same time, this is a return to form for the franchise, Michael is back. This film takes Myers beyond the mixed up boy who kills his family to being the pure embodiment of evil. With this film, Michael becomes unstoppable completely, now we know that he truly can’t die. This is good and bad. It’s good because we need an explanation for why he continues to survive after all the stabbings and bullet hits he’s taken. It also elevates him as something even more scary than an average man. It’s bad because it takes the personality out of him. He’s no longer confused and sick, he just a machine that’s been programmed to kill his family, a terminator if you will.
So, while the film doesn’t bring anything new to the franchise I still enjoyed seeing Michael doing his business again, and the film doesn’t take the story to the ridiculous extremes that future installments do. The story is still grounded and spooky. Compared to the first two films this installment is just serviceable, but it’s still better than some future installments. Overall, with the lack of character development, the plot holes (I think Michael has developed the ability to teleport across Haddenfield), and the unoriginality of the story, I still quite enjoy this film. It doesn’t take any chances with the mythology, it just gives fans what they want, and that’s ok by me.
This anamorphic widescreen Divimax transfer isn’t as impressive as many other Divimax releases from Anchor Bay. That’s not saying this isn’t a good transfer because it is. Colors look great and detail level is strong in brighter scenes. It’s the all important darker scenes where the transfer shows it’s weakness. Many scenes are just so dark that you’ll lose sight of important details. Also some grain is apparent in the blacks. Considering the age of the source and the low budget nature of the film, this transfer still looks quite good. It’s the best this film has ever looked on home video.
Anchor Bay ahs given us a surprisingly strong Dolby Digital 5.1 mix along with the standard Dolby 2.0 stereo. The 5.1 mix offers some nice ambient sounds in quieter scenes and some good use of directional audio here and there. Dialogue, score, and sound effects are mixed clean and clear throughout the film. This presentation is much better than I expected given the age and nature of the source material.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
There’s nothing new or particularly special about this packaging. It’s just a variant of the previous packaging and the original poster art. The only big difference is the addition of a Divimax logo. This is a bit disappointing. Why not something more elegant? Now I know this isn’t one of the first two films so it doesn’t have or deserve the weight that those films carry, but at the same time if you’re gonna do a special edition why not make the packaging special?
There are a couple of commentaries up first as far as extras. The first commentary features the two lead actresses in the film. They discuss their work in the film and share some interesting behind the scenes stuff. These tow have done a number of Q&A’s at conventions together here as they seem very practiced at talking about this film. Sitting them down together in front of it does offer some good bits of information here and there though. The second commentary is less interesting. It features the writer for the film. He discusses how quickly he had to write the script and how much he loves the franchise but often the movie just plays with no commentary for long stints.
Halloween 4: Final Cut is a featurette brought over from the previous special edition of the film. It features interviews with the primary members of the cast and crew sharing their memories of making the film. My favorite of the extras is a panel held at a convention celebrating the 25th anniversary of the franchise. The panel features the primary cast from Halloween 4 plus one from Halloween 5. This featurette lets the fans ask the questions. Danielle Harris (Jamie) seems to be the most happy to be a part of this event and she’s the most engaging.
Other than that we get some trailers. Overall the extras here are quite nice and go beyond what one would expect from a less popular fourth installment in a horror movie franchise.
No, this isn’t a Carpenter Halloween film, but it does take us back where we want to go in the franchise and for that we have to be thankful. Anchor Bay has given us a nice presentation of the film on DVD even if the packaging and the transfer don’t quite seem definitive.
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10
The Movie 7/10
The Video 7/10
The Audio 7.5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 9/10
Overall ( Not an Average) 7/10