HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS
Director: Dwight H. Little
Year of release: 1988
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 85 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: Both
Taglines: "He's back", "10 years ago he changed the face of Halloween. Now he's back" and "Horror has returned to Haddonfield".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: Returning to its slasher roots after the commercial failure of Season of the Witch Halloween 4 released some ten years after the original sees Michael Myers resurrected after the explosive climax to part two. Apparently neither Michael or Dr Loomis perished in the hospital fire with the former now once again confined to a mental health facility of a sort where bandaged he has lain comatose since the fire. Whilst being moved to another facility on the night before Halloween Michael overhears the transport team discussing his case and the existence of a young niece living in Haddonfield. Upon hearing this Michael’s bloodlust is stirred up and he reanimates attacking the ambulance crew and causing the vehicle to crash whereby he makes his escape. Dr Loomis after learning of the incident realises that Michael is likely heading back to Haddonfield and that his niece Jamie could be in danger. After making haste back to Haddonfield Loomis with the local sheriff’s department on board attempts to intercept the maniac before Jamie meets a sticky end.
Good points: *The story here is really driven along and spear headed by three great characters, one of course being the returning Dr Loomis played once again by Donald Pleasance. He is as entertaining as ever and in great form coming across as a man who is almost on the point of madness himself as a result of his obsession with Michael. The two new characters in lead roles Rachel and Jamie are also very good. Danielle Harris makes her first of many slasher film appearances as young Myers target Jamie who is presented as the daughter of Laurie who has been killed in the intervening years causing Jamie to be adopted by a local family. Her older sister In this family (Rachel) is very likeable, coming across as, genuine, real and believable and she and Jamie make a great double act to go up against Michael. Though final girl duties are shared between the two Rachel made such an impression here that she is often thought of as the final girl from the franchise that many Halloween fans hold in the highest regard (besides Jamie Lee Curtis).
*The police are a bit more competent in this one so it is more realistic in that sense than perhaps the first couple of films were. As you would expect after the massacre of ten years ago the sheriff this time is much more wiling to listen to Loomis and thus take the threat much more seriously. Something happens at the police station fairly early on to limit the number of police available to help but those who are around are more aware of what they are up against. They even make every effort to call in the state troopers for back up once things start going south. Though I’ve not reviewed it on here yet it was a minor criticism of mine of the original that Loomis nixed a similar idea back then for no good reason so it was nice to see that option utilised here.
On top of this the towns people themselves are eager to fight back against Michael with a posse from the local tavern forming a kind of lynch mob. Though they don’t push this angle as much as they could have done and when it is seen it isn’t exactly handled in the best way its great to see the townspeople so passionate about exterminating Myers once and for all which I think adds to the realism. Mild spoiler: It would have worked better though if we had actually of seen the Ted Hollister character as the mob evidently did instead of just seeing them shoot into the bush.
*There are several clever little scenes and set pieces in the film that really work well and add to the drama with the now quite famous rooftop sequence involving Michael, Jamie and Rachel being the star attraction. I also enjoyed the bits near the beginning firstly with Jamie dreaming and then the scene with Loomis in the car with the preacher shortly after. There are also some claustrophobic intense moments inside the house (Brady struggling to load his gun etc) and some exciting bits with the truck at the climax.
*There is something of a dramatic twist at the very end which would perhaps be something that would divide opinion but I personally loved it. I felt that it made for a very powerful memorable end to the film.
Big Spoiler: I would have shot the ending slightly differently however had I have been directing. Instead of us seeing Jamie standing at the top of the stairs with scissors as Loomis does I would just have shown Loomis’ reaction and then the sheriff arrives and knocks the gun away. Then as he looks up and sees Jamie himself this would be the first time we the audience would see her as well in the closing shot. That would have been even more powerful I think as opposed to the way they actually did it where we saw Jamie for a second time on the stairs at the very end so by the second time it had lost some of its impact.
Another small negative about the way this scene was done is that the sheriff was present despite at this point presumably having learned about the death of his daughter so you wouldn’t think he would be with the main group anymore. This was something done well in Halloween 2 after the sheriff learned of Annie’s death so it’s a shame we didn’t get more of the same here.
Bad Points: *The mask doesn’t look quite as good as it did in the first two films as it has a more cheap basic look to it which may bother some viewers. I didn’t mind it too much myself seeing that it was supposed to be something Michael merely picked up from a retail store so perhaps the design of the mask being sold had just changed a bit over the years. Or possibly you could say the store were just selling a cheap version of the mask with the one Michael got a hold of originally maybe being a more deluxe version. What I’m less inclined to forgive though is how the mask at one point has blonde hair sprouting from it in a brief scene at the school.
*In an unrealistic turn of events Michael seems to have gained the ability to teleport. This is most notable when he very quickly appears on the ground after only moments before being up on the roof. On the subject of this scene I also felt that Jamie untangled herself from the cord way too easily. For realisms sake they should have shown her struggling to untie herself from the cord for a short time before running over to Rachel.
Spoiler: Although not directly relating to the teleporting it was also unrealistic that Michael was able to somehow stowaway beneath the truck near the end especially seeing that he managed to keep hold of his knife at the same time.
*My main criticism of the film is reserved for how it is strangely reticent when it comes to the deaths, gore and nudity. Not that it’s really needed but we don’t get a breast shot as we did in numbers 1 and 2 despite something being strongly teased at one point with Kelly. Though this didn’t matter too much what is annoying is that the deaths are mostly lacklustre, much of them are off camera and those we do see don’t provide much blood. Maybe they were trying to recapture the essence of the original and in some ways they succeeded but the lack of any memorable deaths or bloodshed was a mistake I think as this kind of stuff is a large part of the fun. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that every slasher needs to feature bloodshed like Hatchet but I expect more than what Halloween 4 delivers.
Verdict: For me this is a great entry into the Halloween franchise and easily one of the strongest outings for Myers. With the exception of the poor deaths and the lack of blood perhaps coupled with one or two unrealistic bits almost everything else is on point and done very well. The introduction of the child in peril in Jamie is a masterstroke as well with her scenes, in particular those together with Rachel being the best. I loved the ending as well so it’s a shame it wasn’t followed up on as much as it could have been in number 5.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1) Sanatorium attendant: Thumb through forehead.
2) Female sanatorium attendant: Either killed off camera or perished in the ambulance crash.
3) and 4) Paramedic/ambulance guy #1 and Paramedic/ambulance guy #2: same as number 2.
5) Mechanic: Found impaled with metal rod hanging up in chains.
6) Female café clerk: Found dead behind the counter.
7) Guy at power station: Electrocuted by being thrown into power lines.
8), 9) and 10) Anonymous cops numbers 1, 2 and 3: All found dead at the police station though I thought this bit was a bit unclear in showing us exactly who/how many had died. I only saw the one body clearly.
11) Ted Hollister: Shot by mistake by the lynch mob.
12) Deputy Logan: Body found by Kelly, killed off camera.
13) Kelly: Impaled up against the wall with shotgun.
14) Brady: Skull crushed and neck broken.
15) and 16) Truckers #1 and #2: Both attacked on the truck and are either stabbed or just thrown off to their deaths (Maybe both).
17) Earl: Has throat torn out.