5.11.2008

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

DIRECTED BY
Dwight H. Little

STARRINGDonald Pleasance - Dr. Sam Loomis
Danielle Harris - Jamie Lloyd
Ellie Cornell - Rachel Carruthers
Beau Starr - Sheriff Meeker
Sasha Jenson - Brady
Kathleen Kinmont - Kelly Meeker
George P. Wilbur - Michael Myers/The Shape

Year - 1988
Score - 3 Howls Outta 4


The 80s were a really interesting time when it came to horror films. Slashers were probably the biggest, most financially successful sub-genre of horror, where masked killers would murder uncharismatic characters in a variety of ways usually during holidays. Many credit 1978's classic HALLOWEEN for bringing the slasher film into the public consciousness [although it wasn't a slasher film, but a psychological thriller - and PSYCHO, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, SUSPIRIA, and BLACK CHRISTMAS had done it long before HALLOWEEN did]. HALLOWEEN's success led into the success of the more bloody and mindless slasher franchise, FRIDAY THE 13TH, creating a horror villain in the form of hockey-masked killer, Jason Voorhees. Later, Wes Craven would create a more supernatural aspect to the slasher in the form of 1984's A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, creating another horror icon in the knife-gloved killer, Freddy Kruger. Both franchises were successful financially, spawning a massive amount of sequels that enhance or tarnished the original's legacy [depends on who you ask]. But people had wondered: what about the guy who inspired these killers? What about Michael Myers? When is he gonna join these two guys in horror movie supremacy? While those were good questions, there was one big problem: Michael Myers was killed off in 1981's HALLOWEEN II. No way he could be brought back from the dead, right? Well like they say, "When money talks, bullshit walks."

HALLOWEEN creators John Carpenter and Debra Hill wanted nothing to do with Michael Myers ever again, wanting the HALLOWEEN franchise to become a sort of an anthology of films that would each have something to do with the macabre that's associated with the Halloween holiday. The beginning was HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH, released in 1982 to a horrible reaction. The idea of an Irish old man killing people with Silver Shamrock masks while that annoying song played constantly turned off a lot of people. While it was just a bad film period [but could have been a good one if made correctly], the fans wanted more Michael Myers. They just couldn't get enough of the guy. Due to fan demand and the horrible box office of HALLOWEEN III, it was decided that Michael Myers be brought back.

Executive producer Moustapha Akkad wanted John Carpenter's input for the sequel, since Carpenter owned the rights to the franchise. Carpenter planned on bringing Myers back to Haddonfield, not as a flesh-and-blood killer, but almost like a phantom brought about by the fear and memories of the people who lived in Haddonfield [sort of like what they did with Freddy Kruger in 2003's FREDDY VS. JASON]. That would have made an interesting entry in the franchise, but Akkad refused, wanting Myers back alive and doing what he does back in his hometown. Not wanting to rehash the same thing he did in the first two films, Carpenter gave all rights of the franchise to Akkad, washing his hands off of Michael Myers. So with Akkad owning the rights, a walking and breathing Michael Myers was back with a vengeance in 1988 [the 10th anniversary of the original film] in the no-mistaking-what-the-film-is-about title, HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS. Was it worth bringing The Shape back? Did people still care about Michael Myers? The film was number one at the box office for two straight weeks and did some good business for Akkad. I would take that as a yes. It also helped that HALLOWEEN 4 was a good film too.
PLOT
Somehow surviving the fiery explosion that engulfed him at the end of HALLOWEEN II, Michael Myers (George P. Wilbur) has been in a coma for the past 10 years. Since the State owns him, it's decided to transfer him to another facility for care. Unfortunately, the paramedics transferring Mikey talk about an only niece he's never known of, triggering his return to consciousness and murder. Now with new motivation to murder the daughter of Laurie Strode [the sister he didn't get to kill 10 years prior], Michael returns to Haddonfield to finish the job he started.

Speaking of Haddonfield, that's exactly where Michael's niece, 8-year old Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris), is living. After losing her parents in a car accident [which we learn isn't true in HALLOWEEN: H20], Jamie is adopted by the Carruthers family, forming a sisterly bond with teenager Rachel (Ellie Cornell). It seems Jamie is having nightmares and visions of Michael, even though she's never met him, and is freaked out by it. Rachel, forced to cancel a date with her boyfriend Brady (Sasha Jenson) to babysit Jamie, decides to take her new foster sister out trick-or-treating as a distraction. Unfortunately, the night becomes more trick than treat as Jamie's uncle returns to murder her.
When it's learned that Michael's transportation was interrupted, Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance), who was also saved by the explosion at the end of HALLOWEEN II, begins his manhunt for his favorite mental patient. Wanting to prevent a repeat of 1978, Loomis returns to Haddonfield and attempts to save Jamie and Rachel from Michael. Strangely enough, Michael Myers may not be their only threat, as murder seems to be a family trait in the Myers family.
REVIEW
While it should have never been made [HALLOWEEN II ended the whole Michael Myers story fine], I still really like HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS. Sure it's unnecessary, made for cash, and a pumped up rehash of the original - but it's a really good sequel and worthy of the HALLOWEEN title. I'm sometimes torn which film I like more: this one or HALLOWEEN II. I don't even consider this film a slasher film really [even though the aspects are there]. It's more of a horror/action film where we see car chases and massive explosions, as well as a badass killer not fucking around with his victims, killing them in really gruesome ways.

There are a lot of things to like about this film. For one, Michael Myers is really awesome in this film. While the mask is something to be desired [although it's ALOT better than the one used in HALOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS], The Shape has never been this good since the original. He's stealthy, clever, and is not afraid to kill anyone in his way. George P. Wilbur, who would reprise the role in the much maligned HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS, is bigger and bulkier than the other Michael Myers in the franchise, making him very intimidating [especially when he breathes heavy - looks like someone's pissed off]. Unlike in HALLOWEEN II where he just seemed to enjoy killing people for whatever reason, all his kills here are thought out and actually enhance the story and move it along. The fact that he's smart when it comes to his murders makes him a force to be reckoned with and puts the main characters on edge, as this dude can be anywhere watching them and just waiting for the right time to pounce. That's what stands him apart from Jason Voorhees, who's just a lumbering retard who kills for no reason other than that it's the only thing he really knows how to do. Michael Myers is a thinking man's killer, taking his time and waiting for the right moments to make his presence known. Too bad this was ruined in the later sequels [where he really does act like Jason], but a cold and emotionless George P. Wilbur performance and the script do the character justice. Probably the last good Michael Myers until the remake.
Another awesome thing is Donald Pleasance as Sam Loomis. I'm sure it's been said before but watching Loomis chase after Michael is like Ahab chasing after Moby Dick. They're interchangable and cannot really live without the other [probably why the last two HALLOWEEN sequels didn't really feel right after Pleasance's death in 1995]. Pleasance does an excellent job bringing Loomis back after 7 years, displaying the scars he suffered in HALLOWEEN II's ending and showing how obsessed he still is with making sure Michael doesn't hurt anyone else. His monologues describing how he sees Michael are always worth listening to, as Loomis doesn't even see Michael as human anymore, but as just pure evil that must be stopped. I also like the scene where he meets up with that old man who preaches on about the apocalypse that he had been chasing for over 30 years. The smile on Pleasance's face during the scene gives us a lot about Loomis' character, as if he's finally found someone who understands him and his quest to stop Michael. While he's doing a heroic thing by saving people from being butchered, Michael is his life's work and he must see it until completion. Another good look at the Loomis character is when Michael is believed to have died at the end [yeah, like that's ever gonna happen]. Pleasance states Michael's demise as if he's sad about it, realizing his life is pretty much done without having to obsess over his patient. Loomis needs Michael as a junkie needs a drug. And his reactions to what happens at the end of the film show that he may never be able to get rid of this curse. Just a great performance by Donald Pleasance.
And the rest of the actors and characters are decent too. Ellie Cornell as Rachel is great as the normal looking girl everyone can relate to. She's not a blonde bimbo who needs saving. She's smart, resourceful, and heroic. Even when she knows she'll be in danger staying near Jamie after learning who Jamie is related to, Rachel sticks by her "sister" from beginning to end. Cornell plays the part very down-to-earth and she's a pleasure to watch onscreen. Nice to see someone act like a human in these kind of films. Sasha Jenson as Brady was the typical cheating boyfriend who tried to make it up to his girlfriend by defending her honor to the death. Jenson did okay as he didn't annoy me enough to warrant his demise. He had a pretty cool fight scene with Michael inside of Meeker's house, showing how strong Michael is and how Brady never had a chance to survive to begin with. Remember, sex equals death. Same applies to Kathleen Kinmont, who played the sheriff's daughter, Kelly. She was a bitch [meaning she was smokin' hot!] with a great ass and a beautiful rack. Man, I could look at those all day. Oh, her acting performance? She was okay. Her death scene is pretty memorable too. Just never give a shotgun to Michael Myers, that's for sure. And Beau Starr as Sheriff Meeker was pretty good too. He was tough and actually listened to Loomis, instead of dismissing the old man for what could have been a Halloween prank. Funny how both sheriffs lost their daughters on Halloween? Man, I hate to get that promotion in the Haddonfield Police Force!
But the real star was young Danielle Harris as Jamie Lloyd, the main target for Michael Myers. At 10 years old, she carries the film flawlessly and screams a lot better than most horror actresses I've seen in these kind of films. She's also very human, as we feel sorry for her when she grieves over her parents' deaths and when her classmates make fun of her over it and over the fact that Michael Myers is her uncle. Her dialogue is sometimes cliched and cheesy, but the way she conveys that dialogue is infectious and it works quite well for the film. Jamie Lloyd would become a favorite character amongst HALLOWEEN fans due to Danielle Harris [which makes the way how the character is gotten rid of in HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS that much more painful]. Danielle Harris was a worthy successor to Jamie Lee Curtis and I'm glad Danielle is back in the remake [the only actor from any HALLOWEEN film to be in Rob Zombie's remake]. Let's hope this leads to more stuff from her. And I know this has nothing to do with the film, but Ms. Harris has grown into quite the beauty. Damn, she looks good!
Director Dwight H. Little does a good job taking helm of this film. We get alot of first person shots, great scenes full of tension and suspense, and the lighting tricks [like the fade-in and fade-out of The Shape's mask in the dark] and blue hue of the film works really well to increase the creep factor. Plus, Halloween has never looked this good in Haddonfield as it does here. Really crisp direction, especially during the chase scenes [which are really well done and choregraphed - kudos to the stunt people], the scene with the multiple Myers [creepy and funny at the same time], and great pacing through the 88 minute film [felt just right]. Plus the use of fog in this film worked really really well, as it makes Michael Myers more evil and mysterious as he stalks his victims during Halloween night. And the use of the modified score is done well and really gives the film the kick that it needs. A really beautiful looking film [especially if you own the Divimax DVD - great DVD for the film with great features and remastered picture and audio]. Just really great direction by Little.
And I can't stop the review without mentioning the ending of the film. I'm not sure how many of you have actually seen this sequel, but the ending to HALLOWEEN 4 is brilliant. Just the perfect way to end this film and could have led to much better sequels than we were given if the producers didn't pussy out of pushing HALLOWEEN into a different direction. When I first saw this in the theater back in '88, the ending scared the crap out of me. While it doesn't have that effect now, I still love it and it makes perfect sense. Too bad HALLOWEEN 5 cheated me out a continuation to a great horror ending. Grrrr...
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE WATCHING THIS FILM
1) Michael Myers pierced his thumb into that paramedic's forehead. If only he had done that to anyone involved in the making of HALLOWEEN III. You're six years too late there, Mikey!
2) Any problem can be solved over a double scoop of ice cream. If only George W. Bush was willing to treat Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein to some, alot of things would have been so different.
3) If your town was terrified by a pretty famous serial killer, why would you sell a likeness of his mask for Halloween? I think that's in bad taste. At least it's better than selling Silver Shamrock masks. That would be in worst taste on so many levels.
4) If you ever confront Michael Myers and threaten him with talk about calling the police, don't ever turn your back on him like a dumbass. You'll probably receive the shock of your life. Literally.
5) Michael Myers took out the entire Haddonfield back-up police force. I guess he was in the mood for bacon.
6) If you don't have a police force, rednecks made a good substitute. Not only do they know how to handle weapons and kill innocent people [like some cops], they won't steal your wives or husbands unless they're blood related.
7) The hot police sheriff's daughter's shirt reads "Cops Do It By The Book." In her case, I'm hoping it's the Kama Sutra.
8) Michael's hair went from dark brown to bleach blonde during the schoolhouse scene. He must have went to Victoria Beckham's stylist. Nice to see you going Hollywood there, Mikey.
9) Michael has been shot multiple times, ran over by a car, stabbed, poked in the eye with a hanger, shot in both eyes, and burnt to a crisp. Yet he can still see, walk, and breathe. Someone give me Michael's health plan, quick!
10) Michael killed a whole truck of rednecks without a care. Hey Mikey, can you do the same to Larry The Cable Guy? I can't stand him. Git 'er done!
THE FINAL HOWL
HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS is a very worthy sequel in the HALLOWEEN franchise and definitely worth watching and maybe even owning if you're a fan. This is the film where Michael Myers finally joined in the commercial success along with Jason and Freddy, and it was well deserved. Of course, it's nowhere the level of John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN. But for an 80s horror film, it's really well-made and it's fun to watch Michael Myers return to what he does best. Good performances, great direction, decent kills, a sort of creepy atmosphere, and a kick-ass ending, HALLOWEEN 4 is a good film to sit back and watch while eating popcorn in the dark. It's such a shame that the franchise would go downhill from here...

1 comment:

  1. The Halloween franchise is the best horror franchise ever, although the original is my favourite, i like Halloween 2 and Halloween 4 as my favourite sequels, the opening sequence on 4 has to be the creepiest out of them all, even though Michael is still in the coma at this stage, it's like he or something else is out there, but i do also like 5, 6 and H20 (i don's count 3 as a Halloween film anyway) they are good too, but i really hate Resurrection, that was a really really bad movie, and also hate the remakes, i'm not a fan of remakes.

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