Halloween 4Halloween 4
Director: Dwight H. Little

Cast: Donald Pleasence, Ellie Cornell, Danielle Harris

Halloween 5
Director: Dominique Othenin-Girard

Cast: Donald Pleasence, Danielle Harris, Wendy Kaplan
Review by Brian M. Sammons

This is going to be a two for one review on these late ’80s slasher flicks that brought masked maniac Michael Myers back to the fans. There are a few reasons for the quick one-two punch. First, both of these new Blu-rays were brought out by the same company, Anchor Bay, and released on the same day, August 21. Next, both star a very young Danielle Harris as the niece and now only surviving member of member of Mike’s estranged family. Lastly, they complement each other well, even if one is much better than the other, and sort of make their own mini-epic. So without further ado, let’s grab a butcher’s knife, a William Shatner mask painted white, a sack full of candy, and let’s get to trick or treating with Halloween 4 and Halloween 5.

Part 4 was subtitled “The Return of Michael Myers” and it was exactly that. Six years after the box office bomb that was the Michael-less Halloween 3, producers wisely brought back the boogie man and it paid off big time. Halloween 4 was well received by fans for the most part and made a nice sized pile of money. But was it really that good or was everyone just hungry for, and happy to see, Michael Myers once again?

Well I’m happy to say that the fourth time was, in fact, the charm. That is not to say that it’s a perfect fright flick. No, there are more than a few silly parts in it, such a thumbs being driven through people’s skulls, and the whole thing isn’t as good as the first two Shape slasherathons. Still, it’s directed with some style, there are some moody and creepy bits. Danielle Harris does a great job as the terrified target of the unstoppable killing machine, and it was just nice to see Dr. Loomis and Michael Myers back and doing their thing. Yeah, despite being blown to hell and burnt beyond a crisp in at the end of Part 2, both the killer and his Captain Ahab like psychologists are back with only a few burn scars between them. Hell, somehow Mike even grew back both his eyes that were shot out, but I digress.

Anyway, the story behind this flick is that Mikey hears he has a little niece left after his sister Laurie (played by Jamie Lee Curtis in the first two films) died in a car crash. Well Mike just can’t have that. So he escapes from the asylum-slash-intensive care unit he’s been comatose in for years and returns to Haddonfield. Dr. Loomis follows and the usual stalk and slash goodness follows. Part 4 even ends with a pretty cool twist ending that I won’t spoil here, even if it’s all but ignored in the hastily assembled Part 5 looking to strike while the “we love Michael” iron was hot.

Halloween 5Pretty much right off the bat things were not looking very promising for Halloween 5 as it has no connection to the ending of the previous film. Instead of that cool ending, young niece Jamie has been in a home for disturbed children for the year. Oh, and for some silly reason she’s mute for 3/4ths of this movie. As for Mike, when last we saw him he was shot to hell and gone, fell down a well, and then dynamited. But after a year of living with some bum, he’s right as rain and off to try to kill his niece once more. The psychic bond the pair seemed to share in the last movie is reinforced here, but that’s the least of this movie’s silly supernatural shenanigans.

Part 5 introduced the downright stupid idea of the curse and cult of Thorn which only lessened the horror and cool factor behind Michael Myers. Now instead of simply being evil, some unknowable Shape of terror, Michael is just some part (and in the truly dreadful Part 6 we learn that he’s more like a puppet) of a witch cult or something. That comes second only to Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake in missing the point of what made the character of Michael so damn terrifying.

In addition to the unnecessarily added silly bits, the whole thing is just a mangled menagerie of missteps. Ellie Cornell’s big sister Rachel is unceremoniously killed off at the start of the movie and replaced with sister-stand-in Tina who really could not be a more annoying character if she tried to be. There’s no real Halloween mood anywhere in this film, no real scares and chills, and since this was made in 1989 there’s a slimy film of the grunge movement that was just beginning. Honestly I was never a fan of grunge so that just annoyed me to no end. That bit of personal bias aside, this movie could best be summed up with the grunt of ‘meh.’ It’s not truly horrible but it is also far from good. Perhaps the best thing that can be said for it is that it’s at least better than Part 6.

Now on to the extras found on these two new Blu-rays from Anchor Bay. But first, let’s talk about the elephant in the room, at least for those that knew about it. Press releases for the Halloween 4 Blu-ray release promised “30 minutes of NEW scenes!” Sadly not a single minute of added or deleted footage can be found on this disc. Furthermore an audio commentary with the writer of the movie, Alan B. McElroy, was also advertised to be included but that is also MIA. There’s been no word about what happened to the missing goodies, and their absence here is a shame. That said, there are some extras worth crowing about. There is a new audio commentary with the director and the guy who runs a Halloween related website. A second commentary track with the actors who played the hunted sisters, Ellie Cornell and Danielle Harris, was ported over here from a previous DVD release. There is about a twenty minute panel discussion from a horror convention where both Halloween 4 and 5 were discussed. Lastly there is a theatrical trailer.

As for Halloween 5, the extras include a new commentary track with Don Shanks, who played Michael Myers in the film. A second commentary was ported over from an earlier DVD featuring the director Dominique Othenin-Girard and the two (at the time) child actors Danielle Harris and Jeffrey Landman. There is also a short (around 17 minutes) and seemingly random collection of behind the scenes footage called “Halloween 5: On The Set, ”a six minute promo reel, and a theatrical trailer that brings the extras here to a close. Now it must be said that one featurette from the previous DVD releases called “Inside Halloween 5” has not been ported over and whenever that happens, when a new edition actually loses extras in the ‘upgrade’ process it really sticks in my craw.

Halloween 4 is a fine return of Michael Myers. While nowhere near as good as the original or even the second film, it is an enjoyable bit of slasher goodness. Halloween 5 is far less well-made or fun. It is very uneven and kind of a mess at times, and makes some bad decisions by the bushel full, but there are a few good bits to be found in it if you look hard enough. And if you’re a fan of The Shape then it’s pretty much a given that you’ll want to have it. So consider Halloween 4 a must have and Halloween 5 basically a “yeah, you should probably get this one too.”

About Brian M. Sammons

Brian M. Sammons has penned stories that have appeared in the anthologies: Arkham Tales, Horrors Beyond, Monstrous, Dead but Dreaming 2, Horror for the Holidays, Deepest, Darkest Eden and others. He has edited the books; Cthulhu Unbound 3, Undead & Unbound, Eldritch Chrome, Edge of Sundown, Steampunk Cthulhu, Dark Rites of Cthulhu, Atomic Age Cthulhu, World War Cthulhu and Flesh Like Smoke. He is also the managing editor of Dark Regions Press’ Weird Fiction line. For more about this guy that neighbors describe as “such a nice, quiet man” you can check out his infrequently updated webpage here: http://brian_sammons.webs.com/ and follow him on Twitter @BrianMSammons.

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