Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers Blu-ray Review
As I have already mentioned, Halloween 4 does not have the gorgeous visual composition that its predecessors enjoyed. They benefitted from the Carpenter/Dean Cundey aesthetic of a luxuriously wide 2.35:1 aspect. Director Little and DOP Peter Lyons Collister here go for a rather less showy 1.85:1, and this is now brought to UK Blu via an AVC encode. The result is a movie that deviates from the visual space and manoeuvrability that the previous entries exploited, and looks much less distinguished or striking.
There are already several versions of Halloween 4 on Blu – American, German and French (any more, anyone?) – but I have to say that this UK disc is the only hi-def edition of the film that I have actually seen. So I cannot comment upon how well this transfer holds up against the others. I will say that I have heard some bad things about the German disc, however.
Well, to be honest, I can’t actually say that I’m impressed with how this looks. Admittedly, the film was never going to look all that grand. Shot low-budget and with the sort of style and stock that proliferated throughout genre-fare during the mid to late eighties, this looks milky and soft and slightly hazy. The grain is present, but it is light and somewhat mushy, which seems to deny the image some of that authentic integrity. This has not been the result of any overt DNR. The image lacks any punch or vitality. It is not, in any way, sharp or well-defined. But then, at the same time, this is pretty much all you could expect from it. The contrast is okay when it comes to the burning pumpkin-orange of the titles and the big explosion by the gas station, and it copes with the relatively few daytime scenes without appearing too ropey and wishy-washy. But there is nothing that pops from the screen, nothing that looks nicely delineated and emboldened with any sort of crisp vigour. The image can appear quite drab, in other words.
Colour saturation isn’t actually a problem … it is just that there isn’t much colour to behold in the first place. Yes, we’ve got those flames, and the red of the ambulance, and the costumes of the kids on Halloween Night, but the spectrum is largely surrendered to blue/black/grey murk. Skin-tones are variable too. They can veer from pink to very pale and ghostly though, once again, this is how the film has always appeared.
Detail may not look like it is up to much, but it is an improvement over the SD version. There’s nothing new that suddenly shines through, and you won’t be able to discern any fresh objects or wounds or previously hidden elements in the frame. But there is a tighter and better resolved level of overall definition that can, on a few rare occasions, remind you that you are indeed viewing a hi-def presentation. Another plus is the absence of digital tomfoolery. There’s no banding, smearing or aliasing going on.
Being realistic, this is fair for how the film should look, so it gets a 6 out of 10. But you really shouldn’t anticipate much of an upgrade over what has come before.
Anchor Bay provide Halloween 4 with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track.
Don’t get your hopes up about this one, folks. Like the worn and flat-looking visuals, the soundmix is severely limited and largely soulless.
What atmospheric ambience is presented is lacklustre. The enigmatic and creepy opening, what with its dilapidated rural shacks and ghostly Halloween paraphernalia draped amidst the desolation, has accompanying wind and rattling, creaking sound effects, but they barely register. The transfer of Michael from the Ridgemont Sanatorium to Smith’s Grove is smothered with a nice gothic rainstorm – recreating the hellish environment of Michael’s escape in the first film – and there are ripples of thunder and waves of rain, but none of this really has any impact. The rears do come into effect to provide a degree of immersion during these and other moments, but this wraparound just isn’t very convincing.
Smaller impacts like a shotgun getting smacked into a teen hero’s face, a neck-snapping and the shattering of glass actually fare quite a bit better. The crackling and frying of power cables sputters and sparks across the front, but barely musters any level of intensity.
There is lots of gunfire in this one. We have Loomis blasting at The Shape, and he’s now upgraded to an automatic and ditched the six-shooter, and the cops and rednecks unleash a hail of benedictory lead via shotguns and rifles. None of this ballistic fun, though, offers any real excitement, I’m sorry to say. Like the soundtrack, in general, it is flat and decidedly un-dynamic. The gunshots bark and belch, but there is no depth or detail to them. Just noise.
The explosion at the gas station struggles to provide any whoomph and the sub is largely left redundant. Incidentally, the curious lack of any extra booming when Loomis’ car goes up seems to be part of the original sound-design. I checked back with my R1 DiviMax copy, and it doesn’t have any audible impact there either. I saw the film at the flicks in its 1989 UK run and …I obviously don’t remember how it sounded then! Don’t be silly.
Dialogue is low down in the mix, and there are definitely occasions when it doesn’t quite match up with the lips of the relevant speakers. However, I don’t believe that this is down to the lossless audio transfer. I’m pretty certain it is down to the original source, and it shouldn’t really bother anybody too much. It also only seems to affect certain characters. This is all nicely centralised, but dampened and lifeless.
Alan Howarth’s score has a few sections when it comes to life with pulsating synth rhythms and thick, brooding tones supplying atmospheric textures. It lacks the glimmering high ends that his updated take on John Carpenter’s famous main theme really needs and that you can hear on either the original score album or Howarth’s newly mixed and expanded version, but these frequent little cues still come across with appreciable vigour in this rather limited scheme of things.
Overall, this is a dull and empty mix.
Anchor Bay ’s UK wing bring over all the extras that adorned their American Blu release, and we are still missing the making-of doc that adorned the DVD. There isn’t much here to be honest, but at least we haven’t been short-changed with regards to the version released across the Pond.
We get two Commentary Tracks that take a retrospective look behind the scenes of Michael’s long-awaited return. The first features the director of the film and author Justin Beahm, and this is a reasonably interesting dissection of the new scenario, the addition of Jamie to the Halloween Mythos, the locations used, the variations existing across the screenplay treatments, the effects and stuntwork, and the presentation of the violence. The second is quite good fun as it features the two female leads – Danielle Harris and Ellie Cornell – and the banter is a little bit more exuberant and frothy. Harris has always been quite opinionated and proud of her stature within the Halloween franchise, and this comes across well.
The only other extra is an 18-minute Panel Discussion segment culled from the big H25 Convention celebrating all the films in the series, with the focus naturally upon Part 4. Present is Danielle Harris, Dwight Little and a couple of producer. The panel field questions from an excitable audience.
In many ways, Halloween 4 seems more dated than its two Myers-focussed predecessors, which are unique in their atmospheres and now seem deliberately period-set. But it was most definitely a welcome return for the genre’s favourite boiler-suited madman. Although he had a tough act to follow, Dwight Little shows some occasional flair for creating suspense and ratcheting up the tension, though he would foundering if it wasn’t for little Danielle Harris and the always great and reliably loopy Donald Pleasance. The film moves fairly briskly and it is pertinent to note that Michael possesses at least something of the same sinister aura that he commenced his rampages with back in 1978, a facet that would be drained-away during the subsequent killing-sprees.
Anchor Bay’s UK BD won’t amaze or impress anybody with its AV transfer, that’s for sure. But you can’t really say that it isn’t being authentic to the original low-budget source. With this type of movie you should know that it will never shine, however much extra resolution you provide it with. But, this said, those with the original DVD may not immediately see too much of an upgrade. This is more detailed, though, and it does sound better … just not that much better. We still lack the making-of, but at least the commentaries have been included. So, really speaking, this is one for the completists.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99
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