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

Halloween 4 (Blu-ray)Starring Donald Pleasence, Ellie Cornell, Danielle Harris, George P. Wilbur, Beau Starr

Directed by Dwight H. Little

Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment

In the years following Michael Myers’ incineration at the hands of Dr. Loomis, other slashers trudged on, undaunted by diminishing returns and the inevitability of franchise fatigue. In those years, Jason Voorhees raked up an impressive body count, appearing in four films – yes, A New Beginning counts – while Michael’s potential smoldered on a Smith’s Grove gurney. Producer Moustapha Akkad was astute enough to recognize the potential in more mayhem and, as such, ordered the resurrection of horror’s greatest boogeyman in 1988.

Since its release, I’ve seen The Return of Michael Myers countless times. I was a little boy of nine when it was released (probably ten by the time I saw it on home video), and my dad was cool enough to rent it for me the day it hit VHS. I watched it, rewound it and watched it again. The next day, I couldn’t wait to get home from school to do the same. Truth be told, I once liked it more than John Carpenter’s original – it’s much more fast-moving, and seeing a little kid as the protagonist certainly helped anchor my own attention back then. So yes, it’s commonplace to be hyperbolic in nature, but when I tell you that I’ve seen Halloween 4 no less than forty/fifty times, please believe me. There are few films I’ve seen more.

I love Halloween 4 so much that it often pains me to see it dismissed as another dumb slasher movie. Yes, it’s undoubtedly a film working within established confines, but director Dwight H. Little crafted what I consider to be the best slasher sequel of all time. From frame one, it’s obvious that Little took a long, hard look at John Carpenter’s Halloween and understood the importance of mood. Here, the atmospheric montage of fall landscapes set to eerie ambient music is all that’s needed to set the tone. He ensures that every exterior is bathed in fall colors: Bright leaves litter yards and roads, accented by October décor. At night, thick fog swirls through the streets – suggesting evil is afoot and possibly around every corner. Little’s movie is literally drenched in Halloween flavor, making this optimal holiday viewing year after year.

That’s not to suggest that Halloween 4 coasts only on atmosphere. It’s actually a rare sequel where everything feels fresh, energetic and … logical. Alan B. McElroy’s script paints Haddonfield in a believable light as a small Midwestern town badly scarred by a horrific killing spree and desperate to forget. The townspeople we meet speak of Michael’s killings in clipped and hushed tones, as if the wound has only begun to heal. Beyond that, these people take action. When the ever-dependable envoy of bad news, Dr. Loomis, shows up, it’s the antithesis of the first two films in that everybody heeds his warnings for once! The locals form a lynch mob, and the new Sheriff is determined to prevent another bloodbath. It’s a far cry from the usual ”that was a long time ago, he’s dead now!” rhetoric these films usually wallow in.

Probably the best aspect of McElroy’s script is how tactical Michael is this time. He isolates his victims by causing a town-wide blackout and murders the entire police force, preventing anyone from coming to little Jamie Lloyd’s rescue. We’ve never seen Michael this diabolical, and it gives the villain increased presence, and threat, in this sequel.

Halloween 4 (Blu-ray)
The script also lays out some intensely likable characters to root for. Rachel (Ellie Cornell) is a terrific substitute for Jamie Lee Curtis – equally likable, but with a bit more confidence at the outset. Cornell is a natural heroine, and her chemistry with Danielle Harris has resonated powerfully with fans over the last twenty-five years for good reason. As Jamie, Harris is absolutely fantastic. She’s vulnerable but never annoying. Throughout the first act of the film, we watch Jamie struggle to obtain a sense of normalcy despite her unfortunate ties to Michael, and it’s actually sort of heartbreaking because we know her life will never be ordinary.

The supporting cast works, too. Sasha Jenson’s Brady is an enjoyable lout who makes one hell of a final stand, Kathleen Kinmont blew my ten-year-old mind as the voluptuous sexpot (and Sheriff’s daughter) Kelly, while Ben Meeker (Beau Starr) is the kind of cop you want guarding your town. Barman Earl (Gene Ross) and Reverend Sayer (Carmen Filpi) add some extra, memorable flavor. And don’t even get me started on Ted Hollister.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite aspect of every Halloween film in which he appears: Donald Pleasence. The actor took Loomis one step closer to insanity with every performance – just a little faster to fly off the handle each time. Pleasence’s involvement was a terrific way for the series to retain some “legitimacy” (having an excellent actor appear in what many perceived as by-the-numbers productions) while the series ticked along. Unfortunately, the series stopped feeling like Halloween once he passed, and for me the franchise died when he did.

The setpieces are excellent throughout; the whole Meeker house sequence never fails to generate goosebumps, while the suspenseful classroom chase takes full advantage of its desolate school halls (and watch out for that blonde-haired mask). For a late-80s slasher flick, the emphasis remains on tension and atmosphere, rather than trumped up gore (which likely would’ve been excised by the overzealous MPAA of the era anyway) and violence. As such, Halloween 4 retains a degree of class that most slashers never achieve.

Halloween 4 works well because it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, instead choosing to honor its place in the series by acknowledging what worked before – and following suit. It has likable characters and offers a sense of history that helps enliven the fictional world of Haddonfield, Illinois. If you’re going to resurrect an iconic villain for another go ‘round, this is exactly how it’s done.

Halloween 4 (Blu-ray)
Halloween 4 stalks onto Blu-ray with a solid high definition transfer. Grain structure is intact for those of you who worry about Blu-ray taking the “grit” out of your favorite horror titles. But even so, there are some moments were it looks like some grain has been scrubbed away, leading to some minor image inconsistencies. Details are overall strong, depicting rich textures in clothing, backgrounds and actors’ faces. Colors are bold, with everything looking far more eye-catching than any prior home video incarnation (and yes, I compared this Blu-ray against each DVD release). As the final act of the film is quite dark, black levels are impressive as well. If you’re wondering whether or not Halloween 4 offers a substantial upgrade in picture quality, the answer is a resounding “yes”.

This brings us to a “good, not great” audio presentation. The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack sounds pretty good – its greatest strength being in crystal clear dialogue levels. Ambiance sounds are fair, although Alan Howarth’s great score falls a bit flat. Sound FX are fine but perhaps might’ve been a bit more punchy. The gas station explosion feels particularly unsatisfying – not what you’d come to want from uncompressed audio. But still, there’s nothing egregious here; it’s a perfectly adequate way to enjoy the film, even if I wanted a bit more.

As for special features there’s only one exclusive to Blu-ray, and that’s the brand new audio commentary by director Dwight H. Little. It’s a solid track moderated by HalloweenMovies.com curator Justin Beahm. It’s nice to get Little’s perspective on this flick finally, and his recollections make for a pretty interesting listen. To his credit, Beahm asks some good questions and keeps the dialogue moving. From previous DVD incarnations, we get the commentary with Ellie Cornell and Danielle Harris – a fun and lively discussion if ever there was one. Nice to hear Cornell and Harris’ chemistry is still as terrific as ever. There’s an eighteen-minute Halloween 4/5 discussion panel featuring Danielle Harris, Kathleen Kinmont, Sasha Jenson, and Jeffrey Landman (Billy from Halloween 5). It’s an enjoyable feature in which each participant shares some personal recollections of their experience. Lastly, a standard definition trailer rounds out the set.

Halloween 4 doesn’t stand up against John Carpenter’s seminal slasher. That’s obvious. But it succeeds at everything it sets out to accomplish just the same (with only a slapdash mask design for Michael holding it back). It’s among the top slashers of the 1980s and easily sits as the best sequel in the Halloween saga. In fact, it’s one of the films that cultivated my ongoing obsession with slasher flicks, and watching it always feels like going home again. Anchor Bay has given this a strong Blu-ray bow and supplemented it with some decent extras. If you’re a fan of Halloween, this one belongs in the collection.

Special Features

  • New, Blu-ray exclusive audio commentary by director Dwight Little & moderated by Justin Beahm
  • Audio commentary with actors Ellie Cornell and Danielle Harris
  • Halloween 4 / 5 Convention Panel
  • Theatrical Trailer

    4 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features:

    3 out of 5

    Discuss Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers in our comments section below!
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Matt Serafini

Author (Under the Blade, Feral), slasher movie enthusiast, N7 Operative. Plays games, watches movies, reads books. Occasionally writes about them.

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  • James Coker

    never understood why more horror fans like Halloween 4 over the Original Halloween 2, I much much prefer the second film. it had just great and eerie lighting, strong direction, great music and inventivemean spirited and well executed kills, plus I thought the Climax ends the franchise well. always felt the 4th film was just a pander to the 80’s slasher craze and Horror fan demands. Plus I could never believe that loomis somehow survived that explosion in the operating room and he only has a burn on his cheek. I agree with kasch and saying I would of loved if John Carpenter got to do the Anthology route for the franchise instead

  • Uncle Creepy

    I was with you 100% until you said that everything felt “logical.” I’m all for suspension of belief, and don’t get me wrong I adore this flick, however, I just can’t wrap my head around the final truck scene in which Michael climbs aboard the flatbed truck.

    In every scene of the truck speeding away it is clear the Myers is not under it or even holding on to the back of it. And don’t even get me started about the lack of reaction from the lynch-mobbers which allows Myers just enough time to toss each from the truck without the others noticing despite being inches away.

    Other than that sequence which is completely ridiculous and not even slightly in the realm of believability this is in many ways a perfect sequel.

    Great review, Matt.

    • LSD Zombie

      I always chalked up that scene as yet another example of Myers being more of a supernatural force. I could be wrong, but it seemed like Dwight Little wanted to convey that feeling all throughout H4.

      • Masked Slasher

        Yeah, I took it as giving Michael more of a spectral quality here.

        The problem I have is that H4 and H5 lack in consistency here because then, H5 attempts to humanize him again (the tear scene).

        That’s an interesting idea in and of itself (to remind us that Michael is still a human being underneath that mask), but it’s so inconsistent across the movies.

  • Caterpillar

    That’s by far the most in-depth and best review of this BD release I have read so far. You just convinced me to buy the disc and finally watch this film. I haven’t seen any of the Halloween films except Carpenter’s original so one question I have is if I should catch up on part 2 first or if this film can be watched on its own.

    Also, can we look forward to a review of the BD of part 5 as well?

    • Masked Slasher

      Appreciate the kind words, sir.

      Halloween II isn’t a necessity, really, although it’s a pretty good sequel (although I think 4 and 5 are better).

      And I just posted my part 5 review as well.

  • Vanvance1

    “For a late-80s slasher flick, the emphasis remains on tension and atmosphere, rather than trumped up gore (which likely would’ve been excised by the overzealous MPAA of the era anyway) and violence. As such, Halloween 4 retains a degree of class that most slashers never achieve.”

    That’s the pragraph that rubs me the wrong way. It’s the cliched ideas that a lack of gore or violence is somehow more ‘sophisticated’ or ‘classier’. That’s a cliche that is well past it’s best before date. One I hope disappears over time.

    • Masked Slasher

      What I’m saying (and apologies if it’s unclear – I know I was ranting) is that it stayed more in-line with the original Halloween with this approach. It wasn’t a movie specifically designed around ‘creative’ deaths like a lot of movies of that era.

      Instead they tried to be atmospheric and moody, which wasn’t really a characteristic intrinsic of that era of slasher flicks.

      • Vanvance1

        That makes sense.

        In light of your clarifications I withdraw my criticism.

  • NYC-Hearts

    Very good review, Matt. While Halloween 4 isn’t without its flaws, one can’t help thinking that the creative forces were really attempting to make a good film (while also cashing in on the franchise name value). From those great opening credits to that final scene that would have been such a brilliant end to the Michael Myers story, there’s an aspiration there that just isn’t present in many slashers of the era.

    Perhaps my judgment is clouded by a nostalgia for the first slasher I was desperate to see when released in theatres. Perhaps. However, since I bought my first copy of this in 1992 on VHS (at the ripe old age of 12), I’ve shown it to tons of people and it usually elicits a response of “hey, that wasn’t that bad”-which, for a slasher, is a pretty good review.

  • LifeMi

    Great review, Matt. Personally, I’ve grown to prefer Halloween II over The Return of Michael Myers. I don’t think either of them are great; I’d probably give them both around a 3.5 to 4 star rating. I think both films suffer from massive logic gaps and lack the classiness Carpenter gave the original. But ultimately, I’d have to give the edge slightly to II because I liked Loomis better, I thought the kill scenes were more inventive and well-executed and the climax, in my opinion, ended the series on a perfect note. There really was no reason to make a Part 4, but I give McElroy credit for finding a way, but it requires you to swallow more bullshit than Halloween II does.

  • Sirand

    Aside from a great final scene, I really don’t get all the fan adoration for Halloween 4. It’s not horrible, but all the ideas behind the film are cheap and it feels like it’s just conforming to the 80’s slasher craze. Hated Myers’ mask (why did it always look cooler on the poster?) and the explanation that Loomis somehow survived the fire with a burn on his cheek is one of the most insanely laughable things I’ve ever seen in a franchise.

    Would’ve preferred Carpenter’s anthology route to beating the bloated corpse of Michael Myers.

  • Jinx

    Great review for a great movie. Can’t wait to watch this blu, even though I’m still a bit sore at Anchor Bay for dropping the previously announced 30 minutes of deleted scenes.

  • Terminal

    I personally love this movie. I too used to watch this over and over on VHS.

  • MonsterMash

    Great review. Almost too long, but I can see you had a lot to say. I shouldn’t talk. I once wrote an eighteen-page review of the original Halloween.

    • Masked Slasher

      Thank you, sir! I actually agree with you about the length (and I cut stuff out!) but ultimately I kept it that way for one reason: if you’re going to give Halloween 4 a 4.5 review, you’d better be able to articulate WHY you think it deserves that score.

      • MonsterMash

        Damn right! It is a pretty good slasher movie though. You’re welcome Matt!

  • Masked Slasher

    I also want to preemptively point out that I didn’t copy Buz’s Jaws review with the whole “I’ve seen this movie more than most” stuff … I wrote most of the review last week, but didn’t get to listen to the new commentary until tonight.

    I was surprised, but delighted, by the sentimental approach we both took at almost the same time.