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Sometimes the subtitle says it all… After HALLOWEEN 3 took the series off on an interesting, albeit completely different tangent, the franchise really got back on track with HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS ($25). HALLOWEEN 4 takes place 10 years after the events the events depicted in HALLOWEEN and HALLOWEEN II, with a comatose Michael Myers being transferred from one psychiatric facility to another. Of course, the transfer takes place on October 30, which gives Michael enough time to snap out of the coma and return home to Haddonfield, after learning that he now has a young niece living there. Other than on The Jerry Springer Show, family reunions don't come much bloodier.

With HALLOWEEN 4, Donald Pleasence returns to the role of Dr. Sam Loomis. Loomis is, of course, the only person on Earth who truly understands the evil that is Michael Myers. After discovering that Michael Myers has escaped from the ambulance that was transporting him to a less secure psychiatric hospital, Dr. Loomis knows instinctively where is Myers is heading and sets off in hot pursuit of the inhuman killing machine. While the plot may seem formulaic, HALLOWEEN 4 is a suspenseful outing that proves to be one of the best of the sequels. Sure, the body count is high, but HALLOWEEN 4 takes the John Carpenter approach of building genuine tension and suspense, instead of offering a series of quick, meaningless killings. Thanks to the stylish direction of Dwight H. Little, HALLOWEEN 4 actually manages to capture the flavor of the original classic.

Even the concept of Michael Myers Halloween mask is used to maximum effect in this sequel. Just as the audience is positive that Michael Myers couldn't possibly be lurking around the next corner, his ghostly white mask appears out of perfect darkness. HALLOWEEN 4 even takes the time to pay homage to John Carpenter's brilliant opening sequence to the original HALLOWEEN. Lastly, I have to give credit, where credit is due. What would the HALLOWEEN series have been without the presence of Donald Pleasence? Yeah I know, Pleasence was dead by the time HALLOWEEN: H20 was made, but at least that film brought back Jamie Lee Curtis! Still, the earlier sequels would have amounted to nothing without Pleasence and his obsessed portrayal of Dr. Loomis. In addition to Pleasence, the cast of HALLOWEEN 4 includes Ellie Cornell, Danielle Harris, George P. Wilbur, Michael Pataki, Beau Starr, Kathleen Kinmont and Sasha Jenson.

Anchor Bay Entertainment has done a nice job transcribing HALLOWEEN 4 to DVD. The Letterboxed transfer restores the film's 1.85:1 theatrical framing, but unfortunately lacks the 16:9 enhancement for wide screen televisions. On a 4:3 display, HALLOWEEN 4 looks great. The transfer is sharp and very nicely detailed. Even the dark shadowy areas of the image offer surprising clarity. Color reproduction is excellent. Strong, cold blues, which dominate the night sequences, are perfectly rendered. The daylight shots are warm and glowing, but they are not over saturated. Flesh tones remain natural looking during both the day and night sequences. Even the strongest hues offer no problems with chroma noise or bleeding. Blacks are a perfect velvety black, plus the image has very good contrast. Digital compression artifacts remained in check throughout the presentation.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has an impressive little mix that effectively upgrades the circa 1988 recordings. Sound effects are very well deployed throughout all the discrete channels, in addition to the track having a very open soundstage. Dialogue is very clean and always intelligible. Bass reproduction is quite strong, but the bottom end doesn't rock like a brand new soundtrack. The film's music by John Carpenter's long time collaborator Alan Howarth is well integrated into the mix, especially his adaptation of Carpenter's HALLOWEEN main title theme. An English Dolby Surround soundtrack is also provided, but is nowhere as lively as the Dolby Digital mix.

The interactive menus are fairly simple, providing the standard scene and language selection features. Theatrical trailers for HALLOWEEN 4, as well as the original HALLOWEEN are provided as supplement and are accessible through the interactive menus.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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