Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
Directed by: Dwight H. Little
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Ellie Cornell, Danielle Harris, George P. Wilbur, Michael Pataki, Beau Starr, Kathleen Kinmont, Sasha Jenson, Gene Ross, Carmen Filpi, Raymond O’Connor, Jeff Olson, Karen Alston
1/2 (out of 4)
Mom, dad, come quick! There’s a child living on top of my bed!
I apologize if I seem more forgiving of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers than I should be, but I have good memories of seeing it in a packed theater with a rowdy audience. It certainly aims to be a crowd-pleaser, similar to other Part-4’s in horror cinema like The Final Chapter or The Dream Master. Watching it again after so many years, I can see all the flaws in it, but even taking that into consideration, Halloween 4 is an acceptable slasher – it’s not afraid to put a child in peril and is smart enough to bring back Donald Pleasence, basically the guy who held the whole franchise together (in my humble opinion). Don’t get me wrong – this is still a cynical cash grab just like Halloween II was, but at least it’s slightly more logical, with slightly smarter characters.
Michael Myers’ special method of acupressure will cure headaches permanently.
With the negative reaction to the Michael-less Halloween III, Moustapha Akkad decided to bring him back 6 years later. But to get yourself in the proper frame of mind for Halloween 4, you have to forget that Michael Myers had his eyes shot out at the end of Halloween II and was burned to a crisp (along with Dr. Loomis). Just accept that they were both merely burned badly but are still alive, ten years later (and Michael’s eyes have supernaturally healed themselves). But a still-heavily-bandaged Michael (after 10 years?) is now being transferred (to where – the movie doesn’t say) and as soon as the ambulance is on its way, he wakes up and starts a new killing spree. Now, we all knew this was inevitable, but apparently nobody in the Halloween universe has learned their lessons from the first film. Never transfer a serial killer anywhere, and if you must do it, at least have the sense to put the guy in a cage first. (Well I did say this movie was slightly more logical, didn’t I?)
This is how Donald Pleasence made it through Halloween 4, 5, and 6.
So we are introduced to little Jamie Lloyd (played by cute-as-a-button Danielle Harris), who is the daughter of Laurie Strode, who has died in a car wreck (in other words, Jamie Lee Curtis wasn’t ready to come back). She is having nightmares about Michael (played this time by George P. Wilbur), even though she knows nothing about him, and to top it off she gets teased at school for being an orphan and having an “Uncle Boogeyman.” God, kids can be so cruel. In the meantime, Loomis (Donald Pleasence) shows up and complains about not being informed of Michael’s transfer (par for the course) and immediately travels to Haddonfield, because that’s where Michael likes to spend his Halloweens, after all. Pleasence lends this series some legitimacy as always; here he is shown as a limping, physical wreck with scars, but clearly resigned to the fact that his mission in life is to fight Evil. (A scene where an old preacher man, played by Carmen Filpi, gives him a lift is entertaining and gives the film a bit more weight than it otherwise would have).
Just hang your kid up here while you run errands.
The rest of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers is filled with the drama surrounding Jamie’s older sis Rachel’s (Ellie Cornell) love life, where her date (Sasha Jenson) gets mad about her last minute babysitting orders and runs off to Kelly, the hot sheriff’s daughter (Kathleen Kinmont). Michael joins the party, stalking and slashing as he tries to get to his niece. The continuing subplot surrounding Michael’s need to slaughter his family members is still silly, but at least it gives this film a certain focus. Danielle Harris is a trooper; she’s put through the ringer, getting stalked by Michael, falling off roofs, down stairs, etc. Ellie Cornell plays her “final girl” role adequately. Of course, since Sasha Jenson and Kathleen Kinmont prove themselves as proper frenemies of Rachel, we don’t mind it when Myers takes them out. It’s clear though, that the town of Haddonfield doesn’t want a repeat of the previous decade, so Loomis puts the town rednecks on the trail after Myers takes out an entire police station (offscreen). That was a small-town touch that made sense to me.
Michael knows how to get past the hard candy shell to the creamy center.
Halloween 4 does exactly what you expect it to do. Director Dwight Little possesses little of John Carpenter’s talent, but the direction is competent, if unremarkable. There’s not much in way of subtext here beyond the typical monologues about hunting “Evil,” but the ending does suggest there’s something infectious about it (or at least, that it runs in the blood). You’ll also get a kick out of some head-scratching scenes, like the one where Myers is killing people on the bed of a truck and the people riding in the cab don’t even notice, or the scene where Loomis is thrown through a window by a blonde-haired Myers (George Wilbur’s stunt double?) Still, this film moves at a better pace than Halloween II, and doesn’t feature anything as goofy as a darkened hospital with nobody inside it. Interestingly, like the fourth chapters in the Elm Street and Friday the 13th franchises, this seems to be the last gasp for the Halloween movies – they would just get worse from here on in (although I have heard that H2O is the exception). Personally, I would have left Michael Myers alone and continued the anthology concept started with Halloween III. But that’s why Moustapha Akkad got paid the big bucks and not me. Moustapha was a smart man.
– Bill Gordon
Buy Halloween 4 on DVD
Buy Halloween 4 on Blu-ray
The audio commentary on the Anchor Bay DVD is a typical yakker with Danielle Harris and Ellie Cornell, where they just gossip (and if they’re lucky, an informational tidbit comes through). It’s funny, though, to discover that when it comes to horror film history they are completely clueless. (For fun, count the number of times they say “I can’t remember…”) Sometimes, it seems like they’re not even paying attention to the movie. Anyway, the commentary track featuring screenwriter Alan McElroy and Anthony Massey (HalloweenMovies.com) is much more informative. Halloween 4 is now available on Blu-ray (along with Halloween 5).
My god! There’s a film crew up there! Have they been here the whole time?!