HALLOWEEN 4 THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS DIVIMAX SPECIAL EDITION Distributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment Film Year: 1988 Length: 88 minutes Genre: Horror/Thriller Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Colour/B&W: Colour Audio: English 5.1 Surround English 2.0 Surround Subtitles: none Film Rating: U.S. SRP: $19.98 Release Date: July 25, 2006. Film Rating: / Scare Factor: / Starring: Ellie Cornell (Rachel Carruthers), Donald Pleasence (Dr. Sam Loomis), Danielle Harris (Jamie Lloyd), Beau Starr (Sheriff Ben Meeker) Screenplay by: Alan B. McElroy Directed by: Dwight H. Little Ten Years Ago HE Changed the Face of Halloween. Tonight HE'S BACK! In 1988, it was 10 years since the first Halloween film shocked audiences with John Carpenter’s simple but very effective stalker/slasher flick. Audiences saw The Shape, Michael Myers, continue to kill in a 1981 sequel and then were given a third Halloween film in 1983 that had nothing to do with the other two. It was a trick-or-treat for fans but sure enough Michael Myers would return to Haddonfield, Illinois again. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers brings the film back to its original storyline. After being both shot and incinerated, it’s become clear that Myers is “evil on two legs” as Dr. Loomis, Myers’s past doctor describes. After waking out of his coma, it is learned that Michael is returning to Haddonfield to murder his innocent niece, Jamie. He butchers people along his way to get to her and Dr. Loomis is still pursuing him because he believes he’s the only one who knows how to stop him. He’s suffered trauma from his pursuit and is physically burned from the events in Halloween II and comes off as a tired, worrisome old man who lacks the energy to carry on. His role is to mainly aid the police (or what’s left of the force) to prevent more Haddonfield murders. In this film we learn that Jamie is the daughter of Laurie Strode from the first two films. She has been adopted by the family of her “sister” Rachel and together they soon learn that Halloween night isn’t safe alone! The film full of chase scenes that is ok but lack danger and fright. They come across as average and the whole film feels low-budget from bad acting to the look of the “obvious” sets. The ending was supposed to be a shocker but I didn’t find it shocking at all. It could have been if it were written better, but there was no lead to it – it just “happened” and that made it unconvincing without more explanation. For a film that was probably hyped back in the day, I left with a feeling of disappointment especially after the visuals in the title sequence caught my attention. It’s a basic slasher film that isn’t very violent either. VIDEO QUALITY / This new DiviMax Edition (Anchor Bay’s terminology for transferring film to high-definition before down-rezing it to DVD) is mediocre in appearance. The source has serious grain in many scenes. Since I know nothing about what source was used, my first impression is that this DVD came from a theatrical print of some sort rather than one closer to the original. It makes the film look unclean and not impressive for a title that is supposed to be the best given that it’s advertised as a DiviMax Edition. I do not have Anchor Bay’s 2001 release of the film for comparison so I’m not sure if there is any dramatic difference between the two. On the other hand, the film does have nice colour balance; flesh tones, scenery, the sky, etc. always looked fresh and colourful but not so much so that it looks overwhelming. It’s a comfortable balance seen on many films in the late 1980s. Contrast is excellent too; outdoor scenes were nice and bright and never looked artificially pumped for contrast. Black levels were deep enough to satisfy horror fans who demand accurate deep black levels. I wasn’t bothered by edge enhancement because the film delivered good resolution. There are various but not obvious compression artefacts that I seen on my 8-foot wide screen. It is likely that those of you with small screens won’t notice them, but like many Anchor Bay discs, this title’s compression isn’t as refined as the titles I watch from 20th Century Fox. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. For those viewing with 0% overscan, most of the unused black area is at the top of the screen. As a side note, the green colour that highlights your selection in the main menu is offset from the words/letters. It reminds me of a serious Y/C delay and it’s not present in the sub menus. AUDIO QUALITY / The original soundtrack was Ultra Stereo (remember Ultra Stereo?!) but this title has been given the 5.1 treatment. The Dolby Digital decoding reveals a repurposing effort that is mediocre. It gets the job done but that’s it. It’s mostly mono from the centre speaker and there are a few effects (as well as the music) that expand to the left and right channels. To my surprise, surround use is limited as well as the LFE. The mix doesn’t attempt to hide the serious ADR sound. It would have been nice to integrate the voices in the environment more but instead it is forward, heavy and closely mic’d. I noticed at several instances the dialogue not matching the lips of the person at all – not because it wasn’t in sync but because the lines looked replaced with others. TACTILE FUN!! / TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: OFF Since there is very little LFE I wouldn’t recommend using the transducer, not even for the brief moments it is used. The level of LFE is recorded so low it makes it virtually undetectable. Don’t expect shaker fun in this film! SPECIAL FEATURES / This special edition delivers some new features that weren’t included in the previous edition. Is it worth the upgrade? If I were a huge fan I would think so! New to this disc is two audio commentaries; one is with actors Ellie Cornell and Danielle Harris and the second is with writer Alan B. McElroy. A nervous sounding Anthony Massey from Halloweenmovies.com starts the questioning with McElroy as they talk about many aspects of this film. I enjoyed the first commentary a little more than the second but both are a pleasure to have on this disc. Also new to this disc is the 18-minute Halloween 4&5 Cast Panel at the H25 Convention and guests included are Danielle Harris, Kathleen Kinmont, Sasha Jenson (all from Halloween 4) and Jeffrey Landman from Halloween 5. Danielle Harris is the star of this panel; most of the questions were directed to this beautiful actress and she was the most responsive to the audience. The other three were quieter…and Jenson and Kinmont were just plain awkward people…they seemed like somewhat strange individuals… The discussion begins with the best question ever: To Danielle Harris: “How did you and Ellie do that ruff scene?” Harris’s reply: “Ohh, the roof scene…! …gotta love American accents… The video for this feature is presented in 4:3 and in Anchor Bay tradition, it is properly framed in that area (inside the player) if your DVD player is set to 16:9 enhanced widescreen mode. Nice job guys! Lastly, ported over from the previous release is the 17-minute featurette titled Halloween 4: Final Cut and features interviews from producer Akkad, writer McElroy, director Little and composer Howarth among others. The theatrical trailer is also included as well as trailers for Halloween, Halloween 5 and the Masters of Horror Collection. You also get a chapter stop insert. IN THE END… I was disappointed that The Return of Michael Myers felt like a cheap film. The script was written like a typical slasher flick with empty characters and typical death scenes. This film is contrasted with Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, a much better film. That film also gets the Divimax treatment and the DVD is released on the same day. Be sure to click on the title above for the link to the review of that DVD on Home Theater Forum. Michael Osadciw July 10, 2006.