Ever since Blu-Ray won the digital home theater war over HD DVD as the dominant format, it’s been inevitable that slowly but surely, we’d be getting all the HALLOWEEN movies all over again. I can think of no other franchise whose titles I’ve purchased several times over on DVD. (Hell, even on VHS!) So this fall is essentially what us Michael Myers fanatics have been bracing ourselves for. Anchor Bay Entertainment unleashed the Blu-Ray debuts of HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS and HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS earlier this week. Die hard HALLOWEEN enthusiasts are going to pick them up no matter what, but I’m sure the rest of you are wondering, is it worth the double (or quadruple) dip? Here’s a quick summery on the plots of the 2 films and then we’ll delve right into what’s new on these Blu-Rays.
The subtitle of HALLOWEEN 4 is fairly self-explanatory. Picking up 10 years after the events of HALLOWEEN 2, Michael Myers – thought to be an invalid is being transported between hospitals when he makes a daring escape. Although his sister Laurie Strode has long since been deceased, he heads back to Haddonfield to target his niece Jamie Lloyd and will stop at nothing to get her. On his tail is his doctor Sam Loomis who also survived the blast 10 years earlier that was thought to have killed them both. HALLOWEEN 5 is the rare sequel that not only picks up from the moment the last film ends, but also tweaks that ending and shows us exactly how Michael Myers survived his demise at the hands of a handful trigger happy state troopers. It then picks up one year later where suddenly, Michael has a psychic link to his niece Jamie Lloyd and a mysterious man in black arrives in town sporting the same tattoo that Michael has on his wrist. What’s his connection to the legendary bogeyman? Sadly, they don’t bother to answer this question until the next sequel!
OK. There’s good news and bad news regarding these releases. How about we start with the bad, since the good outweighs the bad in this case? In an earlier press release, the HALLOWEEN 4 Blu-Ray was supposed to include an advertised 30 minutes of deleted and alternate scenes. For whatever reason, these were not included in this final release. Judging from the commentaries it doesn’t seem that there was much deleted footage from the movie, so perhaps these elements don’t even exist? (More on the commentaries in a bit.) While this disc carts over the existing DVD commentary with stars Danielle Harris and Ellie Cornell and adds a new commentary track with director Dwight H. Little moderated by author Justin Beahm, missing is the original writer commentary from the DVD release with Alan B. McElroy. Also missing is the featurette “Final Cut” on the making of HALLOWEEN 4 from the original DVD release. Why these items are absent is beyond me considering the Blu-Ray format is supposed to be able to store a lot more information than a DVD. So if you’re a completist, might want to hang on to those DVD releases so you have for all the original featurettes.
HALLOWEEN 5 fairs better in terms of new material, but again, the original featurette from the DVD releases “Inside HALLOWEEN 5” is missing, as are the introductions from Danielle Harris and Ellie Cornell. That said, we do have approximately 17 minutes of rare raw on-set footage from HALLOWEEN 5, only some of which we’ve glimpsed in previous releases and a great, great commentary track with Don Shanks, H5’s Michael Myers.
Onto the commentaries, since the new ones are the big draw for these releases. The one on HALLOWEEN 4 with director Dwight Little is thoroughly entertaining and a welcome addition. Not a tremendous amount of new info is revealed that hasn’t already been documented about this particular sequel as it’s a pretty straight forward plot and the production was also fairly straight forward. There’s no good explanation for the suddenly blonde Michael Myers in the school scene except that they were running out of time and had to grab whatever mask was in the props truck. Still, it’s great to hear about the development and process of the making the film that essentially put the HALLOWEEN franchise back on track from the director at the helm.
Now, the new commentary on HALLOWEEN 5 with Don Shanks I find fascinating for a number of reasons. HALLOWEEN 5 is probably my least favorite of the sequels. I remember when it played in theaters being so, so excited for it and being so, so let down that the trailer was as misleading as it was. It was a bizarre dark left turn in the series, no doubt because of the influence of foreign director Dominique Othenin-Girard, but also introduced ideas and characters that have never made much sense. Until now.
The closest we can get to any kind of explanation behind the motives of the characters in Part 5 is thanks to Don Shanks’ commentary track here. We all remember that notorious picture from Fangoria magazine of some weird gutterpunk dude that finds Michael at the beginning, yet in the movie, he’s instead found by an old hermit who… let’s Michael just lie around for a whole year, I guess? Well, the scene as originally shot featured a much younger punk fellow named Dr. Death whose entire shack was adorned in cult symbols and Satanic paraphernalia. He actually gives Michael Myers the “thorn” tattoo and keeps him on an alter. When Michael comes to, he kills Dr. Death over the alter he created for him first by breaking his back and then smashing him with a rock. You can actually catch snippets of this in the final edit as part of it is the old hermit, part of it is the original footage. Apparently, longtime HALLOWEEN godfather Moustapha Akkad was the one that objected to the original footage and had them re-shoot the scene after the film had wrapped.
Also, a serious topic of hot debate is the meaning/origins of the “man in black”. Don Shanks played both Michael Myers and the man in black. In our original Icons interview, Shanks had said that the two would be twin brothers hence explaining why he played both parts, although that explanation never came to light, at least during the course of H5. But here in the commentary, he says that it was explained to him that it’s an alternate personality for Michael, almost a Fight Club kinda thing. Alright, the only scene I can see this making sense in is the jail break scene at the end because of that weird fade in of the man in black, hence signifying that he’s not really there. But… then how does that make sense everywhere else in the movie? So Michael Myers breaks himself out of jail? He leaves town, just to arrive again via bus with silver tipped boots? Or was that supposed to signify the arrival of his alternate personality? Then again, Don also mentions that he doesn’t know why they chose an “African American” to play the man in black in Part 6, when in actuality its actor Mitch Ryan, a Caucasian fellow, (Sorry to spoil HALLOWEEN 6 for ya!) so maybe not all the info he’s sharing is accurate. Regardless, he offers so much wonderful insight into the entire picture hence making this a delightful and worthwhile commentary.
Lastly, there are the new digital transfers of the films and they look fantastic. Anchor Bay always tends to do a great job with their catalog titles, and these HALLOWEEN sequels are no exception. In particular, even though HALLOWEEN 5 is my least favorite, I appreciate how crystal clear it is here, especially the several scenes where Michael Myers is unmasked and we can clearly make out Shanks face. This was done because A) they wanted to establish that he looked exactly like the man in black and B) he bares a resemblance to Danielle Harris. I also have to thank Anchor Bay for high-def Ellie Cornell, freshly wet and right out of the shower with nothing but a towel. I didn’t realize how fantastic and welcome this scene was until I saw it in good ‘ol 1080p. So thank you!
The new features are interesting – they include the raw footage and a vintage featurette from the films initial release, but I usually tend to find myself only watching these sort of features once. I prefer a well edited and produced mini-documentary over these any day.
Bottom line, if you’re a huge HALLOWEEN fan and have the appropriate Blu-Ray home theater set-up, then these are worth it for the new digital transfers and new commentaries alone. If you can do without those, then perhaps the upcoming HALLOWEEN II and HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH Blu-Ray’s from Scream Factory will be more to your liking.
*Editor’s Note: All “screengrabs” taken above were all shot on an iPhone and should not reflect the final image of the Blu-Rays. Sorry in advance! We have no way of properly doing Blu-Ray screengrabs yet.