Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

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Our rating: three lava lamps.

Information about this film in the Internet Movie Database.

"Welcome to hell."

Jamie selects the perfect costume.
By the time most movie franchises have made it to part four, the life has been sucked out of the concept and all that's left is to rehash the same old scenes. Most screenwriters and directors making these sequels feel little motivation to further the overall storyline or to break new ground for old characters. For this reason, fans of the original film tend to look down on all sequels and reject them as "not as good as the first one" once the end credits roll. Halloween 4 has seen its share of criticism at the hands of horror fans, but we feel that it deserves some credit for both maintaining the feel of the original film and for covering new territory with both new and old characters.

Because Halloween 3 did not take place within the Michael Myers storyline, the producers of Halloween 4 gave it a subtitle that leaves no room for misinterpretation: the inhuman killer with William Shatner's rubbery visage will indeed return to Haddonfield, The Small Town That Just Doesn't Learn. His favorite victim, however, is long gone.

Michael's sister Laurie Strode, played by Jamie Lee Curtis in the first two films, is nowhere to be found in part four. Instead, her daughter, Jamie Lloyd (so named in an obvious homage to Curtis), is still residing in Haddonfield after the death of her parents. (Awww man, you mean Laurie lived through all of that crap with Michael Myers only to die in a car accident or something?) Why anyone related to a psycho killer with a penchant for killing his own family would remain in the same town is beyond us, but there it is. Adopted by the Carruthers family, Jamie lives an insecure life, taunted by her classmates ("Your uncle's the boogeyman!") and unsure of her relationship with her foster sister, Rachel. Rachel, for her part, loves Jamie, but is a teenager and is subject to the normal behavior problems incurred by being a teenager in a horror film.

"We're talking about evil on two legs."

Pleasence as Loomis.
Meanwhile, back on the funny farm, Myers has escaped once again, this time by drilling his thumb into the skull of an ambulance attendant and slipping away in the resulting crash. Doctor Loomis, to the dismay of the asylum's director, departs in pursuit of the killer, because that's what he does. Loomis (the tireless Donald Pleasence) is looking pretty haggard ten years later, and his last run-in with Michael didn't help any. (Loomis sacrificed himself in order to kill Michael by blowing up a hospital operating room.) Myers, of course, is headed back to Haddonfield, to look up his niece and cut her throat. (Avon calling!)

Up to this point, the pacing and character development are fairly good. Loomis has a roadside run-in with Myers at a truck stop before making it to Haddonfield, the inevitable sex scene is set up, and the police are alerted just as Michael begins his killing spree. To their credit, the sherriff takes Loomis at his word and sends out an alert immediately. "There aren't many people in Haddonfield who can forget your name, Doctor," says Sherriff Meeker. "Especially the police."

"This is startin' to spook me, Doc."

Must... wear...
Shatner mask!
Unfortunately, the movie fizzles soon thereafter. After a brief chase by Michael, Rachel and Jamie hole up in the sherriff's house, which is a sensible thing to do, but not very exciting. There's a pointless romance subplot in which Rachel argues with the sherriff's daughter over a pointless male character (who, as we all can predict, is destined to die before the film ends anyway), and the sherriff leaves the house to reign in a posse that has started taking pot shots at the local populace in the name of hunting down Myers. Just when you're thinking to yourself, "Where the hell is Michael Myers?", he arrives at the house and the killing begins again.

To be fair, Halloween 4 has some genuine scares. One nice touch set up early in the film is Jamie's choice of Halloween costume -- it's a clown costume similar to the one Michael wears at the beginning of the first film. Also, there's a bewildering and frightening scene in which multiple Michaels appear, surrounding Loomis and the sherriff. The cinematography is clean and the production values are high. Nice little details like these make Halloween 4 more than the average underbudgeted slasher flick.

The best acting, of course, comes from Pleasence and, surprisingly, Danielle Harris as Jamie. This little girl can scream pretty well. The expected goofy teenager peformances are given by Ellie Cornell as Rachel and the other adolescent members of the cast, although Cornell is clearly the best of the bunch.

"You can't kill damnation, mister. It don't die like a man does."

Undoubtedly, the most important thing about Halloween 4 is its ending, which is probably the most creative and suprising ending ever filmed for the fourth film in a series. It's a development at which you could probably guess, but it's still darn creepy to see it on screen, especially with the reactions of Doctor Loomis.

While not the equal of the first Halloween, The Return of Michael Myers justifies its existence as a continuation of the Myers story. It's not at all innovative in terms of action, but it does further the plot and provides some satisfaction to those of us who are continually asking: "What happens next?"

Rent or Buy from Reel.

Review date: 12/4/97

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