Yep, it's that retail time of year again: Halloween for Halloween. I'm not quite curious enough to look up the exact number, you there must be dozens of special editions of the Halloween movies, all totaled. Add VHS, laserdisc and Divimax, and who can keep count?
I've got the brass tacks for you at the end of the review, but yes: I did sit through both of these Blu-rays so I could see how well the films themselves hold up.
Halloween 4 is the better of the two, picking up pretty much right after Halloween 2 (Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, is a deviation of the mythology). Laurie Strode, the heroine of Halloweens 1 and 2, has been killed and now her orphaned daughter Jamie (Danielle Harris) has become the target of crazed, masked killed Michael Myers (George Wilbur). Michael seemed to have been robbed of his sight, and his life, by the end of Halloween 2, but everyone knows you can keep a good slasher down. As October 31 approaches and night settles in Haddonfield, IL., step-sister Rachel (Ellie Cornell) will soon find herself doing much than just making sure the little girl is safe trick-or-treating.
Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) failed to protect Laurie — so when he gets wind of Michael's escape from the psychiatric hospital after 10 years in a coma (and leaving a trail of bloody bodies in his wake, of course), the burn-scarred, beleaguered doc makes it his mission to stop "Pure Evil" once and for all. (But hey, guess what? There's still Halloween 5 to talk about.)
Director Dwight little builds the suspense and cinematographer Peter Lyons Collister enhances it beautifully with some gorgeously warm, toasty fall colors and lots of Halloween holiday atmosphere. Alan Howarth's score is faithful to John Carpenter's original, but with a denser, more orchestral feel. Danielle Harris has the face of an angel, and the child-acting chops to match; Ellie Cornell holds her own as both protector and prey; and Donald Pleasance is amazing as always, as our Captain Ahab, forever locked in battle with what is both his reason for living and the thing which he wants most to kill.
More like the original Halloween than one might expect, Halloween 4 is high on suspense and low on gore. It works wonderfully, and although as is usually the case with sequels and their rate of diminishing returns, the Return of Michael Myers is one of the better arguments against that belief.
SYNOPSIS & FEATURES
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
He had maimed 16 people to get to his sister. He was shot and incinerated, but still the entity that Dr. Sam Loomis (the legendary Donald Pleasence) calls “Evil on two legs” would not die. Tonight, Michael Myers has come home again…to kill! This time, Michael returns to Haddonfield for Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris, Halloween 5, The Last Boy Scout) – the orphaned daughter of Laurie Strode – and her babysitter Rachel (Ellie Cornell, Halloween 5, House of the Dead). Can Loomis stop Michael before the unholy slaughter reaches his innocent young niece?
Bonus Features: Deleted & Alternate Scenes (30 minutes of new scenes), Audio Commentary with Director Dwight H. Little and Author Justin Beahm (new, and very interesting — I always prefer yak-tracks with perspective), Audio Commentary with Actors Ellie Cornell and Danielle Harris, Audio Commentary with Writer Alan B. McElroy, Halloween 4/5 Discussion Panel, and Theatrical Trailer
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
Michael Myers survived the mine explosion thought to have killed him. One year later, his traumatized young niece Jamie is horrified to discover she has a telepathic bond with her evil Uncle…and that Uncle Michael is on his way back to Haddonfield. But Dr. Loomis has a new plan to destroy The Boogey Man in his childhood home using Jamie as bait. With enhanced gore and effects, vengeance has never looked so gruesome!
Bonus Features: Audio Commentary with Director Dominique Othenin-Girard and actors Danielle Harris and Jeffrey Landman; Audio Commentary with Actor Don Shanks and Author Justin Beahm (new, also very interesting for fans of the franchise); Halloween 5: Original Promo (new) and Halloween 5: On Set Footage (new – 17 minutes of raw footage)
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers was released the following year and brought back Danielle Harris (shell-shocked from the horrors she survived in Part 4) and Donald Pleasance (just back for a few expositiony scenes to warn everyone about the evil shape, and to slink away when, as per usual, no one will heed his words). But it's not as carefully constructed as its predecessor — nope, it's a make-the-date assembly line horror flick, suffering from your standard sequelitis.
Michael Myers is on the loose again, once again after convalescing and regaining his supernatural slasher super-powers (this time, at the remote cabin of an old hermit who is brutally murdered for his trouble after MM wakes up to do his dastardly annual deeds). Some of the action takes place in the childrens' hospital, which is supposed to ramp up the scare factor, but the fact is, Halloween 5 is pretty a pretty bloodless and gutless affair. While the masked maniac does stab and skewer with abandon, even he can't compete with all the plot-holes.