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With October 31st looming large on the calendar, it’s a very appropriate time indeed to revisit “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” and follow up “Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers”, a couple of often overlooked slasher sequels to John Carpenter’s 1978 classic. First unleashed way back in 1988 and 1989 respectively, and originally made available in the UK in VHS and DVD releases of indifferent quality, the two films have remained minor cult classics among old school 80s style horror fans, and so these new Anchor Bay versions, out now on region 2 Blu Ray, certainly come as a welcome move.
“Halloween 4” saw the series getting back to its stalk and slash roots after the bizarre (though highly entertaining) fantasy of “Halloween 3: Season of the Witch”, with the one and only Michael Myers returning to Haddonfield to hunt down his surviving 10 year old niece Jamie, played by future scream queen Danielle Harris (who went on to star in the likes of “Hatchet 2” and Rob Zombie’s 2007 “Halloween” remake).
The film was directed by Dwight H. Little, who helmed a number of genre films back in the 1980s and 90s before settling mainly into television projects, working on the likes of “Prison Break” and “Bones”, and is arguably one of the better horror sequels of its era. Though undeniably derivative and basically just revolving around the usual teens doing daft things and falling under Myers’ knife, it takes a decent stab at mixing Carpenter’s creepy dark suburban atmospherics with splatter death scenes, and generally succeeds, by the standards of the genre at least. With Donald Pleasence adding a touch of lunatic class as always in his iconic Dr Loomis role, the film is certainly one of the better slashers of its era, and though it may feel a little quaint today, still has plenty to offer fans of the form and franchise.
Perhaps expectedly for a film of its era and relatively low profile, “Halloween 4” doesn’t look outstanding on Blu Ray in terms of picture quality, not showing a particularly notable increase in image detail or colour range. Still, given the film’s limited budget and likely poor quality film stock, this is arguably just a reflection of how it is meant to look, and it does offer somewhat of an improvement over the previous DVD releases. Similarly, although the transfer isn’t exactly a revelation, it at least doesn’t suffer from the kind of pixilation or smearing which has marred other releases. In sound terms the Blu Ray offers only a minor upgrade, with nothing much to write home about, with neither the score nor the sound effects managing to really enhance the film’s eerie atmosphere.
“Halloween 5” basically follows the same plot as its predecessor, Myers having recovered from his apparent death at the end of part 4 and returning yet again to stalk poor Jamie, who is now recovering under the watchful eye of Dr Loomis. The film does add a touch of wackiness this time around, with a mysterious man in black lurking around the streets, leading to some fairly ridiculous plot twists and a daft ending.
Swiss director Dominique Othenin-Girard took up the reins this time around, who also helmed the unremarkable “Omen 4: The Awakening” in 1991, and who sadly didn’t really manage to either shake up the usual “Halloween” formula or to even successfully replicate its finer moments. Though there’s nothing much actually wrong with the film, it feels rather leaden throughout, with its kill scenes lacking imagination or flair, and Othenin-Girard failing to whip up any atmosphere or scares. More than anything, the film seemed to represent the series running out of ideas and steam, which is possibly why it took another 6 years for the next in the franchise to appear.
The new “Halloween 5” Blu Ray fares slightly better than “Halloween 4” in terms of image quality, with increased sharpness and better colour definition. Whilst this isn’t to say that it holds up terribly well compared to modern releases in the format, it’s pretty reasonable for a film of its age and a definite improvement on the previous standard definition editions. Since the film wasn’t particularly impressive in the first place in terms of look and production design, it’s not too much of a surprise that the Blu Ray doesn’t add much extra detail or depth, or even in terms of sound, though there’s just about enough of an all round upgrade to please undemanding fans.
This pretty much sums up the new Blu Ray of both “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” and “Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers”, as a pair of (perhaps understandably) unambitious though adequate releases that should give undemanding fans a reasonable step up from their old DVDs and which now stand as the best versions available of the two films. Although time hasn’t been terribly kind to “Halloween 5”, “Halloween 4” has arguably improved with age, and is very much worth revisiting as a fine slice of old fashioned fun and one of the better films in the variable franchise.