Halloween 4 Review

The Film
Horror sequels…. I can’t think of two words that would strike more fear into a reviewer’s heart. The problem with trying to review them is that die-hard fans will watch them anyway and those who aren’t probably don’t care enough to watch them or read about them. My main bugbear with horror sequels is that they rarely do anything different, especially in the slasher genre. Usually the scriptwriters get a bunch of kids together and kill them off before the inevitable standoff and “defeat” of the bad guy.

Truly great horror sequels try and break this mould and ironically Halloween 3 did just that. Unfortunately due to a box office flop they returned to the standard schlock formula with their tails between their legs. It’s a shame because despite it’s faults Halloween 3 at least tried to be different.

Halloween 4 sees Michael Myers in a coma in a mental institution. He has been this way for 10 years, since Halloween 2 in fact. The incredibly intelligent authorities decide it would be a good idea to transfer him to another institution around Halloween night on the 10th anniversary of his capture (these people don’t deserve to live). Unsurprisingly Michael escapes and Dr. Loomis (Pleasance) is outraged that they even considered transferring Myers at all. Of course when they discover the ambulance overturned and the insides covered in blood they decide that Myers died in the crash despite his body not being found. Luckily Loomis has more than 2 brain cells to rub together and he decides to go to Haddonfield assuming that Myers will go back to his old hunting ground to kill his last surviving relative, Jamie Lloyd (Harris).

Meanwhile in Haddonfield we are introduced to lots of teenagers and rednecks (Funny… I don’t remember a bunch of beer swilling gun toting vigilantes in Halloween). Some of the teenagers drink and have lustful thoughts and some are nice girls who won’t sleep around. Now guess which ones are knife-fodder…

The rest of the film is predictable in the extreme. Myers turns up and hacks people to death trying to get to his niece. The police are seemingly powerless and mostly incompetent. Michael chases the three protagonists through an endless collection of set pieces. The film seems to reach a climax on three separate occasions before the fourth and final climax. This may sound exciting but it just seems that they had three ideas for the final encounter and they ended up putting them all in. The only saving grace of the whole film is the surprise ending which really was a surprise when I first saw it. This ending gave the franchise a chance to branch out into a totally new direction. They didn’t have the guts to take that chance properly but even so this film earns 1 extra mark simply for the ending.

To be fair the problems with this film plague nearly all horror sequels. All the best ideas were used in the first film so all you can do is try and do things bigger and better. This means more gore, more girls in underwear and a faster version of Carpenter’s classic tune. Unfortunately, even taking this into account, this film is a sub par effort due to bad execution.

In this case the script is atrocious with numerous plot holes you could drive a bus through. This isn’t unusual for horror films but this film is also badly structured. The first 10-15 minutes are not too bad but then the story becomes badly fragmented and main characters vanish for no real reason and return seemingly at random. Also the vigilante subplot is ludicrous, overdone and just plain dull.

The acting throughout is risible with two notable exceptions. Pleasance is as good as ever as Loomis. He may have more ham than a pig farm but his performance fits perfectly here and is one of the films few saving graces. The other one is Danielle Harris who is remarkably good as Jamie Lloyd. Good child actors are hard to find and in horror films they are almost non-existent. Harris is believable and gives a great performance throughout.

Despite my endless sarcastic comments above this film is not the worst I have ever seen (If I ever review the Avengers you will see how sarcastic I can be). It is watchable on a rainy Sunday afternoon if you have nothing else to do. My main problem with this film is that (apart from the ending) it doesn’t even try to do things differently and technically it is poor due to its script, direction and acting. Fans of the series will of course completely ignore all this and buy it and so they should.

The Disc
Fortunately, given the films quality, this has been released on Anchor Bay’s lower priced range so it shouldn’t set you back more than £9.99. The case is a clear one with an insert detailing the 18 chapters. The menus are simple but reminiscent of the magnificent Halloween disc.

The film is presented anamorphically in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The picture itself is pretty accomplished given the low budget nature of the film. The print used is fairly clean and free of damage. The most important aspect of these sorts of films is how they deal with the numerous night scenes. Good news here as the black level is great and the shadow detail and contrast are excellent making it very watchable. In places some of the colours seemed a little muted and the picture did seem a little soft in the daylight scenes but it wasn’t distracting. The transfer itself is great with no extra artifacts introduced. Overall this is a great transfer given the age and source of the film.

Anchor Bay are masters of the 5.1 remix but in this case I have mixed feelings. They have included both the new 5.1 mix and the original mono track. To be honest neither is that great. The mono track seems muffled throughout making dialogue hard to hear sometimes. In addition to this there is the odd pop and crackle on the mono track, it seems Anchor Bay just dumped the track on the disc with very little work done to it. The 5.1 mix has the usual benefits of directional effects and extra atmospherics in the rears but it does sometimes sound a bit gimmicky. Also although the dialogue is much clearer this seems jarring in certain scenes. There are two scenes where the voices are much louder than they should be and in one this makes the post-production dubbing really obvious as the lip sync is off. Overall neither track is perfect but the 5.1 mix edges out the mono track as you can at least hear everyone clearly in the 5.1 mix.

The extras are fairly perfunctory here. We have one 15-minute making-of documentary that is unusual. I was expecting a standard featurette made when the film was made but I was pleasantly surprised. This is a retrospective documentary with interviews with most of the cast and crew as they are now. Whilst this film is no Citizen Kane they all seem to have enjoyed working on it. The interviews with Harris are probably the most interesting of the lot; she certainly has grown up into a very attractive woman. The only other extra is the original theatrical trailer. It is nice to have I suppose but nothing special. Oh and please don’t watch the extras before the film if you haven’t seen it because they contain spoilers.

Well this is one for the die-hard Halloween fans only I think. The plot is a rehash of the previous films, the acting is fairly wooden (with two exceptions) and the direction is woeful. Even an inventive ending can’t save this film. The disc itself is the usual mixed bag. The picture and transfer are accomplished but the sound is a bit of a letdown. The minimal extras that are here are good but there just aren’t enough of them. Halloween fans will lap this up whilst the more casual horror fan should probably steer clear.

4 out of 10
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