With Halloween fast approaching once again, Anchor Bay seems to remember that they once were the champion of horror movies during the DVD heydays - a period in the studio's existence that is sorely missed by genre fans. As they opened their catalog to review their movie titles, it appears that someone remembered that Anchor Bay actually owns the rights to a few Halloween movies, and here we are now with the first high definition version of "Halloween 4: The Revenge of Michael Myers."
The "Halloween" franchise has been a mixed blessing, just as most other horror franchises that have been sucked lifeless over their long lives. Starting with the fascinating original in 1978 by cult director John Carpenter, it was soon followed by another strong entry, "Halloween 2", only to be followed by a true bomb. Fortunately the filmmakers refocused their efforts in the 1988 movie "Halloween 4" and actually created one of the strongest entries in the entire series. No other film in the series has been so close to the original, so faithful to Carpenter's suspenseful approach and visually as quite striking as the movie that started the series. Until "Halloween 4" came around that is, because this movie incorporates everything we loved about the original, bringing the series back to new heights.
Ten years after the incidents of the original "Halloween" movie, Michael Myers is transferred from his high security mental institution to a different facility one day, when a tragic accident happens. The van that is used to take him to the new institution is thrown off the road and bursts into flames. In panic, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) rushes to the accident site where the van seemingly skidded off the road and finds his worst fears confirmed. His nemesis, serial killer Michael Myers' body is missing from the wreckage. Somehow he must have managed to break free once again, and soon Michael Myers finds himself back on his way to Haddonfield to get even with his family, intent to wreak havoc on mankind once again.
Dr. Loomis follows Michael's bloody trail and upon further investigation finds out that this time, Michael is after his own niece Jamie (Danielle Harris), Laurie Strode's daughter. Completely underestimating Michael's powers, authorities are caught off-guard and Dr. Loomis has to take matters into his own hands once again, while an angry mob assembles on the streets that very Halloween night, shooting everyone who looks like Michael Myers. Unfortunately Michael Myers' mask has been one of the best-selling Halloween costumes that year, making them responsible for a chaotic blood bath that allows the real monster to close in on his victim.
Completely in the spirit of the original "Halloween", this film uses many of the stylistic elements that were prevalent in Carpenter's film. It is not simply a rehash however, adding some interesting elements, and, most importantly, some very unexpected twists to the scenario. Especially the fact that the viewer is often left in the dark as to which of the disguised characters the real Michael Myers is, creates a very suspenseful and dramatic angle that earlier parts in the series didn't have. The innocence of the young Jamie, played remarkably well by Danielle Harris, works perfectly to contrast with Michael's relentless and merciless bloodshed. But also director Dwight H. Little's stylish direction helps a lot to create an aura of fear and enigma around Michael, and especially the rooftop scene is a showcase of skillfully implemented suspense in stalker films.
"Halloween 4" is beautifully photographed and the film's atmospheric cinematography establishes are very ominous, fantastic feel that is very realistic, yet very stylized at the same time. Split-second shots of Michael here, a looming backlit shape there; it all adds up to create a memorable and highly visual horror film. While gruesome at times, the film never becomes a true splatter movie and uses blood and gore appropriately scarcely, and as a result, to great effect.
"Halloween 4" obviously uses the same stalker theme that had been established years before but interestingly in this particular part of the series it doesn't feel repeated. Instead of the "seen-that, done-that" problem many sequels encounter, "Halloween 4" creates a feeling of intimate familiarity. The locations, the cinematography and the direction of the film create a feeling that resembles more of a homecoming than that of a sequel.
Anchor Bay Entertainment, all but abandoning their catalog horror movies in recent years, fortunately remembered that horror fans can be a very grateful audience. The transfer the studio dishes out on this disc is beautiful to behold. Presented in 1080p high definition this cleaned-up print offers plenty of visual detail throughout and offers up a sharpness that you may not have expected. There are no speckles or dust evident anywhere in the film, making this a fantastic looking release. Anchor Bay presents "Halloween 4" in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio herewith colors that are bold and vibrant. While flesh tones very naturally rendered, the transfer also manages to bring out the gorgeous blue hues that are so dominant in this particular film, without any noise or oversaturation.
This Blu-Ray release comes with a Dolby 5.1 TrueHD audio track, offering the same remix as the DVD version did, but presenting it in a format that offers increased fidelity. The track is very clear and transparent sounding with a good sonic range. Bass extension is good, although not overly aggressive, which is also true for the split surrounds. Dialogue is well-produced and is never drowned out by the music or the sound effects.
Alan Howarth - a long-time collaborator of John Carpenter's - has contributed the musical score for the film. From eerie, dissonant clusters to atmospheric motives and a slightly updated interpretation of the original "Halloween" theme, Howarth has always found the right tone to enhance the images on the screen. It is great to see the score presented in its entire clarity here on this release.
As extras, Anchor Bay has been culling the bonus materials from the Special Edition DVD they released in 2006. Therefore, included on this disc are two separate commentary tracks. The first one features actor Ellie Cornell and Danielle Harris, as they discuss the making of the movie, while the second one gives director Dwight H. Little and author Justin Beahm the word.
Also included on this release is a "Halloween Ãƒï¿½...Ã¯Â¿Â½ Discussion Panel" and the movie's theatrical trailer.
To me "Halloween 4" has always been the best in all the sequels to John Carpenter's masterful stalker film, and seeing it in such a great, modern-looking high definition presentation only emphasizes this sentiment. As a fan of the series there can be no doubt that you can't afford to miss "Halloween 4 - The Return Of Michael Myers" on this Blu-Ray Disc!