Reviewed December 10th, 2001 by David Nusair
John Carpenter’s original plan with the Halloween series was, after the second installment, create a completely different storyline with each movie – never again returning to the Michael Myers character. Well, that was his plan anyway, until Halloween 3 was released to terrible reviews and even worse box office (in retrospect, though, Halloween 3 is a decent little horror movie, as long as you’re prepared for the fact that it has nothing to do with Myers). So, ten years after the release of the original Halloween, producer Moustapha Akkad decided to return to Haddonfield – without John Carpenter.
But despite the fact that Carpenter had no involvement this time around (he co-wrote the script for the first sequel), this is a slight improvement over Halloween 2. That film was essentially just a rehash of the first one, aping everything from Myers’ movements to the storyline itself. With Halloween 4, the filmmakers have smartly decided to go with an entirely new plot (though some elements will never change; this is a Halloween picture after all).
The film opens with Myers about to be moved from one institute to another, with disastrous results. After murdering one of the paramedics by jabbing a thumb into his forehead (!), he’s once again on the loose. First stop: the local convenience store, to purchase his infamous Shatner mask. How nobody noticed a bandaged man walking around town is never explained, nor do we find out how he paid for that mask (though I guess it would be safe to assume he just stole it). It wouldn’t be a Halloween film without Dr. Loomis running around trying to convince everyone that the very same psychopath that he shot six times in the chest and engulfed in flames is still alive, so once again poor Donald Pleasance returns (what a disappointment it was to discover that he doesn’t once refer to Myers as “pure evil,” though he does call him “evil on two legs” which is almost as good). It’s revealed fairly quickly that Jamie Lee Curtis’ character has since died in a car crash, and is survived by a 10-year-old daughter named Jamie (wow, clever). Naturally, once Myers learns he has a niece, he becomes an unstoppable killing machine, murdering whoever gets in his way (and even innocent folks that don’t get in his way – it’s all the same to him).
Director Dwight Little opens the film with some promise – we see various images that are clearly Halloween related (carved pumpkins, ghosts on lawns, etc.), in a montage that’s eerily effective. The now-famous Halloween theme doesn’t kick in until a few minutes later, so all these images need to stand for themselves. This really works, but it turns out to be about the only positive directorial flourish Little brings to the table. The rest of the movie just looks bland – there’s nothing scary or ominous about Haddonfield anymore. Where it once was an almost-sinister looking little town, now it just looks like Anywhere USA. Myers isn’t quite as menacing as he used to be, either. In the hands of Carpenter, Myers truly was a boogeyman – he’d be popping in and out of shadows and his choice of victims never felt as random as it does here – but in the hands of Little, Myers becomes just another psycho.
Some of the plot choices are a little questionable as well. Near the end of the film, a gang of redneck hillbillies decides to take matters into their own hands, heading off into the night in search of Myers – armed to the teeth with shotguns. This subplot is entirely useless and seems to only exist to offer up more bait for Myers to sink his teeth into. But, I suppose, without silly subplots like that one, Halloween 4 would probably run about 45 minutes (that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, of course).
Acting wise, this is a pretty strong bunch. As Jamie, the little girl stalked by Myers, Danielle Harris is surprising effective portraying a delicate balance between genuine curiosity and sheer terror. She’d appear in the next sequel, before being banished from the series for good. And reprising his character of Dr. Loomis, Donald Pleasance (sporting a laughably small scar on his face – which is apparently the only permanent damage he received from being burned alive at the end of part 2) isn’t so bad once you start accepting the fact that this character has gone completely nuts. Think about it – wouldn’t you also go off the deep end if the guy you shot in both eyes managed to consistently thwart death? Given that, this is likely an accurate portrayal of a man obsessed.
Halloween 4 was a noble attempt to revive the series and inject some originality, but with a concept as thin as this one, no amount of good intentions will ever be enough.
Audio: This 5.1 DD soundtrack is good, but not great. Ambient sounds are generally limited, appearing occasionally in the guise of a storm or a “jump” moment. The difference between this and the included 2.0 track is negligable, but both are crisp and clear.
Video: This was obviously a low-budget film, so the transfer adequately reflects that. Presented anamorphically at a ratio of 1.85:1, this transfer suffers from occasional artifacting, but is otherwise pretty good. The bland look was obviously there from the get-go, so there’s only so much the DVD folks could do.
Extras: The only major extra included is a 17-minute documentary. Despite its short length, this is a well made and entirely fascinating look at the making of the movie. There’s a lot of good info to be had here (including the fact that Melissa Joan Hart was competing for the Jamie role!), dispensed through newly-recorded interviews with a lot of the key players. Everything from the stuntwork to the writing of the script to the performing of the score is covered here – this is certainly the ideal featurette. The trailer is also included.
Conclusion: Halloween 4 has been called the best of the sequels, and I’m inclined to agree. But really, that’s not saying much...
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