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Old 08-27-2006, 10:11 PM
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Default Halloween 4: Special Edition




Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: August 27, 2006

Released by: Anchor Bay
Release date: 7/25/2006
MSRP: $19.98
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes





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Divimax Edition
2001 Edition



Anchor Bay has had an impressive history of releasing stellar discs of cult films, but they seem to do worst with their biggest titles. Six releases of Army of Darkness and still no anamorphic director’s cut. An almost equal number of releases of Evil Dead and still no Within the Woods. And now, Halloween 4, the celebrated 1988 return of Michael Myers, is seeing its third release on the digital format. The first, in 1999, non-anamorphic and barebones. The second, in 2001, anamorphic, 5.1 and bundled with a little featurette. Now, in 2006, we get a bonafide special edition. The Halloween 5 Divimax edition was a worthy upgrade with its sharp picture restoration, comfy commentary and rare behind-the-scenes footage. Is Michael’s third release of his third return to Haddonfield as warm of a homecoming?

The Story

Chronologically, it’s been 10 years since Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) blew up the Haddonfield hospital with himself and Michael Myers in it. Before blasting a few propane tanks, Dr. Loomis took the liberty of shooting Michael ("SIX TIIIIMES!") in the eyes. No matter, since we learn now that both Michael and Loomis are alive and well, and Michael’s eyes seem to have recovered fine. Loomis is caned and rambling prophecies, while Michael lies in his bed comatose. What brings him out of slumber? Moustapha Akkad, of course. The Halloween story continues as Michael learns that the supposedly dead Laurie Strode left behind a little daughter, Jamie (Danielle Harris). It’s back with the mask, and back to the shell shocked Illinois town of Haddonfield for one more night of knife wielding.


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Divimax Edition
2001 Edition


In ten years, not much has changed. The teenagers still like to goof around, talk about boys and leisurely stroll down those hedge-trimmed Haddonfield sidewalks. The film’s surrogate Laurie Strode, Rachel Carruthers (Ellie Cornell) is this time the one stuck at home this Halloween, as she must babysit little Jamie. This is to her shagrin, since she has the hots for Brady (Sasha Jenson), and may loose him to the sheriff’s daughter, Kelly Meeker (Kathleen Kinmont) if she doesn’t spend Hallow’s Eve with him. Being the wholesome Final Girl though, she agrees to stay with Jamie, but this won’t just be a night of pumpkin carving and scary movies.


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Divimax Edition
2001 Edition


Michael is back, and no “hell won’t have him” Loomis quip will keep him down. Through some sort of telepathic connection that would be taken even further in Halloween 5 & 6, Michael can feel Jamie, and Jamie Michael. In its own way the film is kind of a perverse Beauty & the Beast, as the soul mates are faced with insurmountable odds. Michael will chase Jamie through a school, on a rooftop and down some uncharacteristically blue Haddonfield back roads as he tries to finish what he started back in 1978. Will Michael get his target, and more importantly, what kind of impact will he leave on those that survive the horrific night?


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Divimax Edition
2001 Edition


Penned with loving homage to the original by Alan B. McElroy and directed with a Hitchcockian class by Dwight H. Little, Halloween 4 delivers some old school suspense uncharacteristic of the time. 1988 was a time when the slasher film was all but spent, and it was beginning to pervert itself with increasingly outlandish backdrops and increasingly schlocky production values. Jason was taking Manhattan and Freddy was having a kid, but Michael was simply returning to what he does best. In the way the film remains old fashioned in its scares and earnest in its story, it has a quality that makes the film much more timeless than its other eighties brethren. The gore inserts by Friday the 13th, Part 7 helmer John Carl Buecher, commissioned after the film was finished, seem thusly out of place despite their messy perfection.


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Divimax Edition
2001 Edition


Instead of tits and gore, which as the slasher continued to move closer to direct to video seemed more and more linked with the genre, Halloween 4 banks on suspense and characters. Pleasence’s Loomis is probably the only slasher good guy in history with enough clout as the slasher trifecta of Michael, Jason and Freddy, and newcomer Danielle Harris proves nearly as appealing. At only ten, Harris steals the show with her crying on cue and her big expressive eyes. Her orphaned Annie story infuses the film with a tragic undertone that heartbreakingly comes to surface in the film’s legendary final moments. Ellie Cornell makes a nice Jamie Lee replacement, but again it’s all about the little girl, which is another eccentricity that sets the film apart from other slashers.


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Divimax Edition
2001 Edition


McElroy should be applauded for his script and the clever way it elliptically recreates scenes and subtext from the original while all the while carving a new direction for the series. While I slightly prefer the surreal European wackiness achieved with the 5th film, McElroy’s script is as classy and crafted a return as Michael could have ever wished. The pair of Halloween 4 & 5 is an interesting one, since both are similar in characters and location yet could not be further apart in both story and style. Yet, as the years progress, I find myself gravitating to both over the later entries in the other big eighties slasher series. Maybe it’s the no-frills Myers approach or the emotional resonance of the recurring main characters, but there’s something about these films that really hold up. The Boogeyman never dies.

Image Quality


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Divimax Edition
2001 Edition


Although the improvement in quality is not quite as substantial as the one witnessed on the new Halloween 5 Divimax, this new Halloween 4 disc is a worthy restoration. The 1.85:1 anamorphic picture looks a great deal sharper, with the removal of grain the biggest accomplishment of this release. By comparison, the old release looks as if it was transferred through a sandstone windowpane. This new release, like the Halloween: 25th Anniversary Edition also downplays the blue hues found in the original DVD release. While it angered many fans of the first film, the changes here are much less drastic, and arguably better. The film is still incredibly blue as is, so at least now it doesn’t look like it was shot entirely underwater. After three releases thus far, Halloween 4 just keeps looking better and better.

Sound

This release retains the seven year old Dolby Digital 5.1 Chace Digital remix that’s been with Halloween 4 ever since DVD. Like their work on the Halloween 5 surround track, this one pushes the memorable Halloween theme to the back speakers and lets the dialogue run loose at the front. All the lightning and gunshots seem to permeate throughout the 5.1 setup with fair directionality. Dialogue is of course perfectly clear and all the bass and timbre register with a little more than you’d expect from a film pushing twenty years.

Supplemental Material

inline ImageWith even more supplements than the Halloween 5 disc, this will no doubt please the fanboys. The first of two commentaries, with Danielle Harris and Ellie Cornell, is the one that really should have been the selling point. The two are much loved by all in horror circles, yet on this track their limited interest in the series and the genre really shows its roots. They come off sounding as if the only films they’ve seen in the series are the ones they starred in, and they continually get Halloween facts wrong throughout the first half of the commentary. They had no idea why Michael was in bandages at the start, they didn’t know Donald Pleasence was in Halloween 6 (nor that he died making it) and they come off sounding as if Halloween III fits in with the Myers chronology. Much of it is like listening to those teenage girls who walk in late for a horror movie and talk about how scary Darkness Falls was as their cell phones go off with “Stars are Blind” while you try and watch the movie. Still, the two are just so loveable it’s possible to overlook their lack of horror geek and embrace all the love they have for the film and for their recounting of the making of the film. Even then, they don’t entirely remember many anecdotes, but they sound cute trying to.

inline ImageThe second commentary, with writer Alan B. McElroy and Halloweenmovies.com moderator Anthony Masi, is really what a commentary should be. Masi has an encyclopedic knowledge of the entire series, and is able to really prod McElroy into revealing juicy knowledge about the film. Not that McElroy needs much prodding though, since he is a self-professed fan of the series as well, and proves it with his expansive knowledge of the films. McElroy is different than most writers too in that he was able to spend several days on set. He parlays his observations those days into a bunch of great trivia on the film, substantially more than Cornell and Harris were able to evoke. Both keep the trivia running the entire time, but make sure to keep things light and lively as well. It’s like having a movie night with a couple likeminded buddies listening to this track, and these guys know their shit.

inline Image The other new supplement is a Halloween 4/5 panel interview with Danielle Harris, Kathleen Kinmont, Sasha Jenson and Jeffrey Landman. Landman is silent the entire time (surprising considering how much he talks on the Halloween 5 commentary) and Jenson is basically just happy to be there, but Kinmont and Harris really make it worth the watch. Harris, even if she naively overlooks the possibility that her character’s name is an homage to Jamie Lee Curtis, is still a pleasure to listen to. She really knows how to play the fans, and deserves to be picked up for more horror movies so her body of work can reflect the size of her cult following. Kathleen Kinmont is hilarious as she jokes around with a naughty tongue, the most memorable bit is her jovially responding to a fan asking whether or not she got along with Ellie Cornell on set by saying “You don’t see the bitch here now, do you?” The entire thing runs just under twenty minutes.

The “Halloween 4: Final Cut” featurette from the second release has been ported over here, and it’s a great little overview of the history of the film. It covers all the bases, with words from the producer, director, cast and Michael Myers himself, George P. Wilbur. It features an interview with the late Moustapha Akkad as well, whose unflinching devotion to the series takes on a tragic quality in light of his recent death. You did good, Mr. Akkad. It runs seventeen minutes.

inline ImageThe disc is rounded off with a Texas Chainsaw Massacre influenced trailer, as well as trailers for some other Anchor Bay product, which play as the DVD is inserted. With two commentaries and nearly forty minutes of interviews, the most surprising think about this impressive little package is how little overlap there is. Anchor Bay has managed to get insight from all sides of the production, each with their own unique anecdotes and observations, and no Halloween fan will be left unsatisfied.

Final Thoughts

Made with loving debt to the original and the films of Alfred Hitchcock, this is a classy and suspenseful return for Michael Myers that holds up much better than most horror films of its time. The transfer really holds up too, thanks to Anchor Bay’s new Divimax restoration of the picture and the active 5.1 track that graced the previous release. The extras are satisfying on all levels and really help make this another must-have disc for Halloween fans. Even if the producers never got the mask right for this installment, Anchor Bay got everything right with this DVD.

Rating

Movie - A-
Image Quality - A-
Sound - B+
Supplements - A-

Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 1 hour and 28 minutes
  • Rated R
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1
  • English Dolby Surround 2.0

Supplements
  • Commentary with actors Ellie Cornell and Danielle Harris
  • Commentary with writer Alan B. McElroy and Halloweenmovies.com moderator Anthony Masi
  • Halloween 4/5 Discussion Panel
  • "Halloween 4: Final Cut" featurette
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Bonus trailers

Other Pictures

 

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Old 08-27-2006, 11:22 PM
For Your Health
Quote:
Much of it is like listening to those teenage girls who walk in late for a horror movie and talk about how scary Darkness Falls was as their cell phones go off with “Stars are Blind” while you try and watch the movie.


Thanks for that amazing review of my favorite Halloween sequel.
__________________
"Send more paramedics."
 
 
Old 08-28-2006, 03:26 AM
Happy Trees Motherfucker!
great review! keepem coming!
 
 
Old 08-28-2006, 10:01 PM
Stalker
Great Review! My only question, is the HALLOWEEN 4 Convention Panel discussion exclusive to this DVD, or is it on the HALLOWEEN 25 Years Of Terror DVD as well?
 
 
Old 08-29-2006, 10:27 PM
The Lord's Arm of Justice
Quote:
My only question, is the HALLOWEEN 4 Convention Panel discussion exclusive to this DVD, or is it on the HALLOWEEN 25 Years Of Terror DVD as well?
The panels for 4 & 5 are only on this release, and not included in the 25 Years of Terror DVD.
 
 

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