Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers


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"Goddamn you "

Oct 15th, 2009

I see four distinct eras in Myers history(thus far), each with their own merits and flaws. The teenage Laurie saga (Halloween 1 & 2), The Jamie Lloyd saga (Halloween 4, 5 & 6), Old Laurie saga (Halloween H20 and Resurrection) and Zombie's saga (Halloween 1 & 2 remakes). This is the beginning of the second saga separated by Halloween 3 (the one without Myers).

I'm not gonna lie to you this is my favourite Halloween sequel bar none. I've seen this so many times, probably more than the original (it's not better but I have so much fun with this one). I have destroyed my old VHS copy and the tape I used to record it off TV but now I have it on DVD so I can watch this over and over again (bring on the Blu ray).

Set ten years after the last film to feature Myers (Halloween II) Michael managed to survive the explosion that we all assumed killed him (How naïve we were). Lying in a "coma" he overhears that he now has a niece living in Haddonfield and reawakens to hunt her down. Too bad for him Dr. Samuel Loomis (who is just as hard to kill as him) begins yet another hunt to bring his reign of evil to an end.

I saw this before I saw part 3 so I was never subjected to the whole "why wasn't Myers in this?" debate. That's probably why the subtitle never really worked for me, the return of Michael Myers? How can you have a Halloween movie without him? (Little did I know) I genuinely thought I had missed an entry in the franchise, with Laurie now dead and leaving behind a daughter I had missed a lot (this was before I was aware that horror sequels tend to have glaring plot holes) but as I was kindly filled in by the nice doctor in the mental hospital all was well (I had no idea at the time that's all that anyone got).

This is the sequel I wish I had got right after the first as it's not exactly a carbon copy although it has similar elements. While everything appears at first a complete re-tread of the original with Michael returning to Haddonfield to destroy his remaining family members there's more than enough variation to set this apart.

Loomis picks up his trail quickly and ends up in a spooky showdown in broad daylight (I like that unlike other horror flicks of the time Myers doesn't shy away from the light) in which Loomis is left without a car and hours behind him (he's not very good at showdowns our Loomis). With his head start Michael's going to make the most of chasing down a little girl. That's right; his niece is only a child rather than the typical horny teenager. How genius was this? Teenagers had been done to death (pun not intended but it works) by the time Halloween 4 rolled around and what's more terrifying than a little child murder. All of the Kruger films told us of a how Freddy was a child murderer but Michael Myers was actively chasing a kid down. There has yet to be a capable adult in the town that has been able to stand up to this man, what chance did she have?

Well here comes the twist unlike the previous movies (and pretty much every sequel and remake that followed) Loomis actually reaches the girl before the film's end (no feature-long "he's evil, man believe me" ok that sounds more like a hippie version of Loomis). With this the theme of the movie changes, no longer is Myers able to skulk about in the dark but has to lead a full on assault upon those trying their best to protect her. Characters here are not picked off one by one but actually throw themselves in Michael's path to slow him down. It's basically a horror version of The Terminator.

If that wasn't enough of a difference we get multiple plot threads at play; a lynch mob search the streets (in place of Loomis) for retribution after the terror Michael unleashed 10 years prior, a nice surprise as the shape is not the only one to take a life. A love triangle between the teenage players (we can't get rid of them all, come on now) and Jamie's strange dreams of the shape before she even meets him all culminate at the end to give a satisfying conclusion.

The acting here from the supporting cast is solid. No one is going to win an Oscar but they did enough to keep me entertained. While the cast are fine our two hero's go above and beyond the call of duty crafting characters that I wanted to survive. We watch most slasher sequels to see the villain slice and dice but I'm thankful that the characterisation here managed to retain the fear factor, first time out I was jumping in my seat willing our twosome to make it to the end.

Danielle Harris is great as Jamie Lloyd (A nice little homage to original victim Laurie, Jamie Lee Curtis) and at no point did I want to slap her for terrible child acting. It's a real shame that horror movies back then were looked down upon as Harris could have been an amazing actress if she had been given half a chance(although now she's having a resurgence in the horror genre). It's funny how the best child actors can be found in the horror genre (and probably some of the worst come to think of it).

While the young Jamie is universally applauded by fans Ellie Harris managed to split opinions as Rachel Carruthers. Many in the Halloween fan community (no there isn't a card) regard Rachel as the top heroine throughout the entire franchise actually surpassing Jamie Lee Curtis' Laurie. While I hold a fondness for the original characters I agree with this totally – her character goes through so many more hardships than Laurie (who only really learns of the boogeyman in the final act of the first).Throughout this movie Rachel evolves from seeing her new step-sister as an annoyance to risking her own life to protect the child she once resented. If avoiding a serial killer wasn't enough she also has to deal with her long-term boyfriend cheating on her. More hero than victim she had the potential to take over as lead.

Thank the Gods they found a way to have Loomis return as Halloween is not the same without him. A sentiment that I never truly felt again after this flick (but we'll get to that in later reviews of the sequels) Pleasence gives a stellar turn and takes part in one of my favourite scenes where he hitches a ride with a bizarre individual. It's not instrumental to the plot but it's a great character moment.

Of course the flipside of Loomis is Michael. Myers here is slightly different beginning his slide into the supernatural (horror icons tend to eventually go that route) with his Herculean strength. Before this I was able to buy him as an athletic build making him stronger than most but It's hard to believe he's been lifting weights in that coma. Carrying out feats that mere mortal's quake at (I know I did), I have to question what is he now?

The look of the film is not quite up to par with the last entries as things appear a little cheaper. This isn't a big surprise as changes from studios and film crews were employed. It's actually impressive that things worked as well as they did as many other franchises killed dead due budget cuts or at least far removed from the look of the original (the Feast films). The music does what it does, with remixes of the same Halloween theme I expected nothing less and would be disappointed without it. At least that's what I thought until I saw Zombie's new Halloween II the lack of the theme didn't make it any less Halloweeny but I'm glad it was kept for the credits.

The one minor problem I can see with this feature is that it does teeter on the edge of forsaking its horror roots by stepping into action territory. Fortunately re-shoots were undertaken and more gore scenes were added in. Most were tame compared to other slasher movies at the same time.

The ending is one of the most powerful I have ever seen and for the time was quite dark especially considering the more mainstream aspects of the film. Skip the rest of this Paragraph if you don't want to know how it ends. **SPOILERS BEGIN** After Myers is defeated we return to the home of Jamie Lloyd to get the happy conclusion and perhaps (as I expected) one last pop up from Myers. Things take a slightly different turn however and in homage to the original we are returned to the P.O.V shot from Halloween's opening. This time someone murders Jamie's adoptive mother and while we wait with baited breath to see it deep down we know who it is which makes it all the more tragic. As Loomis runs to find the killer it is revealed to be none other than young Jamie (see those dream sequences had a point). Donald Pleasence really sells this scene hard, his near breakdown with the realisation that things are repeating was felt by this viewer and when he rose his gun to take her down I really thought he was going to do it. As the credits hit with things left unresolved I couldn't wait to see the next and yet couldn't wish for a better finale.**SPOILERS END**

I don't see how anyone (especially Halloween fans) couldn't find this film enjoyable, most are put off by the fact this was the fourth in the series and back then most sequels sucked (although most of the time I can enjoy bad movies) but it really should be given a chance. It's a hidden gem obscured by the terrible features that follow. There's so much more I could write about this movie (about the new mask, new characters, each individual kill) but I just don't think you'd want to hear me gush about this film any more (perhaps I'll do a first and write the first ever sequel to a review – or maybe not). 8/10

Best Kill
Shotgun through the gut anyone

Trivia
John Carpenter actually wrote a treatment for Halloween 4 that was to focus on the ghost of Michael Myers, when turned down he stepped away from the franchise forever.
Melissa Joan Hart auditioned for the role of Jamie
Jamie's name was Brittany in the original script but was changed in homage to Jamie Lee Curtis


Other reviews in the series

Halloween (1978)
Halloween II (1981)
Halloween III: Season of the Witch
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later
Halloween (2007)
Halloween II (2009)


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Movie Details

Movie Poster Here
Director:Dwight H. Little
Screenplay: Alan B. McElroy
Danny Lipsius
Released: 1988
Rating: 18
Starring: Donald Pleasence
Ellie Cornell
Danielle Harris