At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Horror/ Stars: Donald Pleasence, Danielle Harris, Ellie Cornell, George P. Wilbur, Michael Pataki, Beau Starr, Kathleen Kinmont, Sasha Jenson, Leslie L. Rohland, Gene Ross, Carmen Filpi, Jeff Olson, Karen Alston/ Runtime: 88 minutes

“Hear ye! Hear ye! Hide yer kids! Hide yer spouse! Hide yer pet goldfish! (If you have one). Yell it from the streets, spray paint it on all the walls, and make yerself heard for ladies and gentlemen our horror lord and savior Michael of Myers has risen from the cinematic grave to once again wreak some serious havoc!” (Taken from an actual sermon back in 1988 at Haddonfield Baptist Church…not really). It was in the aftermath of the highly underrated yet not exactly loved at the time installment of the Halloween franchise known as Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, which was also incidentally the only installment in the Halloween franchise which did not revolve around the main psychopath from the first two films, that we see that Halloween 4 was soon set to be released. Yet, realizing intelligently who audiences really wanted at the head of the series, the people behind the series brought back Michael Myers in all his Captain Kirk-mask wearing and butcher knife slashing glory to the point that the creative minds involved even made sure to give this installment the rather inconspicuous subtitle of “The Return of Michael Myers” just so everyone and their mother knew who was at the hacked and moldy jack’o lantern sized heart of this franchise once again. Yet even though the end result is a film that is little more than a decent enough entry in the franchise that isn’t as revolutionary as fans might have hoped, it should still be noted that the creative duo behind the film consisting of super-producer Moustapha Akkad and film helmer Dwight H. Little still should be given a little bit of praise of not only taking the series back to its foundation, but also for delightfully putting a new batch of small-town people in peril in Haddonfield on Halloween as well as giving us a new member to the Myers family weed for our beloved psychopath to terrorize and have numerous attempts to kill. Thus I think it is safe to say that above all, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers is no more and no less than the usual hunt and slash that fans had come to expect; the weirder stuff, thankfully, was still ahead…..

The plot is as follows: Our film opens up once again on October 30, but this time it is the year 1988 and we soon see that delightfully mute psycho butcher Michael Myers is in the midst of a transfer via ambulance from the Ridgemont Federal Sanitarium to Smith’s Grove, but not before we get both a delightful recap for the first two movies for those who walked into this film by mistake and we also learn that he is still in the process of recovery from both all the bullets put in him and the fact that he was nearly roasted alive like a human turkey. Of course it isn’t a spoiler to reveal that along the way Myers manages to cause an accident and viciously murder several people. Shortly thereafter we see Dr. Loomis, now disfigured from his own injuries and requiring the use of a cane, but still very much determined to put Myers down for good, learns of the accident, races to the scene, and, putting two and five together, proceeds to make haste back to Haddonfield which we learn is now the home of a young girl by the name of Jamie Lloyd who happens to be Michael’s niece and daughter of the late Laurie Strode. Since her mom’s untimely demise sometime after Halloween 2, the 1981 one, we see that Jamie has been living with a kindly family, but is ruthlessly and viciously bullied and put-down by all the other kids at school because of her dead mom and her lineage to the point that she is seemingly the only kid in town who never can quite seem to get into the Halloween spirit year after year (I wonder why). Thus, in an attempt to fit in and to maybe distance herself from her homicidal uncle’s shadow, Jamie is able to convince her foster sister Rachel to take her trick-or-treating even though here lately Jamie has been hallucinating pretty badly and seeing her homicidal uncle pretty much everywhere she goes in town (though to be fair in Haddonfield that’s not entirely inaccurate). Plus if that wasn’t bad enough, soon the word gets around town that their infamous boogeyman has come back for another unholy night of both terror and bloodshed. However, it isn’t until the town finds itself being plunged into darkness courtesy of Michael’s cordial interactions with a power station employee that a group of townsfolk gather to mount a defensive. Not only of Jamie and Rachel, but also the town of Haddonfield in general at any and all cost…

Now it is no closely guarded secret to say that Halloween 4 is most certainly not the best sequel in the world of horror that has ever been made. At the same time however, this film is a decent enough little film that does possess both a handful of good frights and a decent if not routine sense of pacing. Indeed it might move a little bit slow when it first starts, it may not possess the distinct touch that Carpenter brought to the original despite the reappearance of that memorable theme, and it may not have the presence of Jamie Lee Curtis other than in just a photo, and there is no truly memorable moments here whatsoever save for perhaps the final shot, but this film still manages to function on the most basic level possible as it manages to usher in a new age for this franchise simply by going back to what worked so well in the past installments. To that end, I would just like to point out that the film is operating at its peak when it chooses to focus on Jamie, Loomis, and Michael. Indeed all of the secondary characters and their respective “arcs” really add next to nothing and you really don’t feel any heartbreak when the majority of them bite the proverbial big one as it were. Yet even though it is a little too padded for its own good, this film still manages to be quite fast paced and surprisingly focused tour into the pitch-black of horror on Halloween that only Michael Myers or The Headless Horseman could truly bring to us as an audience. Plus when you factor in the equally as memorable return of Dr. Loomis, a delightful secondary cast of potential victims, and a little girl in grave danger, the stage is all ready for this decent time-killer of a franchise installment that should satisfy you just as long as you are not expecting something iconic like the original even if this film finds itself largely in that one’s shadow.

Indeed, I say that because when you stop and think about it this film really is a giant reshuffling of the original film from 1978. As such, it doesn’t need to put a lot of effort towards establishing either any of the characters or the backstory involved and this allows the film a wee bit more creative leeway towards ensuring the film reaches its 84 minute, not including credits, runtime. With that said though, the core of the film is still the same: on a pitch-black Halloween night in the small town of Haddonfield, a deranged killer by the name of Michael Myers hunts one particular individual and mercilessly slaughters anyone who either dare or accidentally get in his way. Yet although the film is that simple to comprehend, the film doesn’t suffer because of since it didn’t exactly need to be a novel film for this iconic franchise. Rather it’s a decent enough transition on to the next 2 films and towards one of the later peaks of the series in the form of 1998’s Halloween H20. Now from a technical perspective this film may provide good work from the photography department as well as spine-tingling sense of cadence, but nowhere near enough screen time for Myers which is quite problematic seeing as he is only really competing with two other forces for it since all the other characters, to varying degrees, are quite expendable. The good news then horror fans is that thankfully Jamie and Loomis both prove to be surprisingly good characters, and the actors portraying them do very good work with Danielle Harris nicely selling an authentic frightened little girl while Donald Pleasence seems like he never broke away from the Loomis character in between the filming of Halloween II and Halloween 4 despite 7 years passing between the two. Indeed this is just a role that fits him to a T, and Pleasence just becomes the part from the weariness to the frantic, incessant searching and determined borderline obsessed resolve to stop Myers at all costs, like only he can.

All in all as I said before, Halloween 4 may not be even remotely in close proximity to the list of “finest entries in a horror franchise”, but it is still a decent try and return to the Michael Myers storyline following something involving computer-chip embedded Halloween masks, Tom Atkins, Northern California, mass murder of kids on Halloween night, and Silver Shamrocks. Indeed the film, in all honesty, may do no more and no less than re-thing the main narrative of Michael stalking and horrifically slaughtering people in Haddonfield on All Hallow’s Eve, but the dual act of introducing audiences to Jamie Lloyd, played wonderfully by Danielle Harris, and the return of fellow series icon Dr. Samuel Loomis, played with the same wonderful degree of both frightening intensity and delightful camp by Donald Pleasance ensures that audiences shall find this film both novel yet comfortably familiar like the blanket you’ve used to cover your head at least once during every scary movie you have ever watched, but that is equally as scary due to being a blanket with Pee-Wee Herman on it. Indeed it may not get that bloody and there are still a few little bits of fluff scattered throughout that could have either been shortened or cut completely, but at the heart and soul of this thing, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers is still a decent if not completely uninspired film which makes for a decent entry into this truly iconic horror franchise (and they did it all without the Druids…..but that’s another story). On a scale of 1-5 I give Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers a solid 2.5 out of 5.