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Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

tn_halloween4These days we got that thing of the remaquel, where they try to get an old series going again with new characters but they’re kinda just tracing over the first movie, because they know we’d get scared and cry if we had to accept something new that we weren’t already comfortable with from having seen it a bunch of times before. That seems kinda natural in a pop culture landscape where people demand regurgitations of their favorite “properties” and  even the “new” things they like pay fetishistic tribute to old movies through retro style and nostalgic references. But it’s not a new trick.

Take, for example, 1988’s HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS. John Carpenter had not intended to turn his 1978 smash hit into a series of slasher sequels, nor had there been much of a precedent for that type of thing. After producing, scoring and reworking the direct continuation HALLOWEEN II (1981), he went to his preferred idea of producing HALLOWEEN III as an unrelated, Halloween-set horror story, turning it into an anthology series, causing confusion and disappointment at the time.

That was 1982. Next thing you know it’s 1988, ten years after the first one. Freddy is appearing in his fourth movie. Jason is appearing in his fifth (part 7 of a series that started after HALLOWEEN). John Carpenter is off making THEY LIVE and wants nothing to do with this slasher icon shit. But HALLOWEEN is financier Moustapha Akkad’s job now, so he’s gonna make another one no matter what and he’s gonna call it THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS just so everybody is clear.

mp_halloween4So, Michael Myers (George P. Wilbur, EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE) escapes the sanitarium again, steals a car and jumpsuit and white expressionless Halloween mask again, heads to Haddonfield on Halloween again, to kill a female relative again. Loomis gets mad again, makes dramatic declarations about how evil Michael is again, tries to find him again, teaming with the sheriff again (but it’s not Brackett again. He asks for him, but Brackett moved away. Either that or he told them to tell Loomis he moved away and he’s really hiding under a desk, which I think most of us would understand).

Laurie is dead now. I missed if they said how. But she had a daughter named Jamie (Danielle Harris in her big screen debut, before MARKED FOR DEATH and THE LAST BOY SCOUT), who lives in the same neighborhood, babysat by an adoptive older sister named Rachel (Ellie Cornell, HOUSE OF THE DEAD 1-2) who says she was babysat by Laurie. So everybody knows about Michael, and Jamie has visions of him coming to get her. In fact he is: he was catatonic and covered in burn bandages until some dipshit mentioned right in front of him that he has a niece. Then he sat up and poked a thumb through the guy’s forehead like it was made of Play-Doh.

Jamie is the target, but Rachel is more the Laurie character, a babysitter who yearns for a boy named Brady (Sasha Jenson, GHOULIES II, DAZED AND CONFUSED) and has a wilder friend, Kelly (Kathleen Kinmont, SNAKE EATER II, NIGHT OF THE WARRIOR), who’s the daughter of the sheriff (Beau Starr, ARMY OF ONE, DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS), but who’s a jerk who sleeps with Brady.

Loomis has an oft-changing lumpy burn on half of his face  due to miraculously surviving the suicide explosion of part 2. And Kelly is also friends with Lindsey Wallace (Leslie L. Rohland), who was the little girl Laurie was looking after the night he came. It’s a small world.

Instead of the scene where the kids at school tease Tommy Doyle about “the Boogie Man is coming!” they tease Jamie about “The Boogie Man is your uncle!” These little assholes also start a chant of “Jaaaaa-mie’s an orphan! Jaaaa-mie’s an orphan!” In my opinion the Haddonfield public schools are terrible.

softrockmichaeltn_michaelmyersesThe mask doesn’t look as good, but it’s supposed to be a new mask, he didn’t hold onto the same one from ten years ago. It makes sense, because it is easier to find a shitty knockoff Michael Myers mask than a legit one. He had to settle for what he could find.

Jamie knows about her killer uncle, but doesn’t know he’s the “nightmare man” she has visions of. Also she doesn’t know that the clown costume she picks out for Halloween is just like the one her uncle wore as a kid when he murdered his sister. Great minds think alike?

This is the first screenwriting credit for Alan B. McElroy, who would go on to write RAPID FIRE but also SPAWN and BALLISTIC: ECKS VS. SEVER and WRONG TURN and now I guess he’s a WWE Films guy so he did THE MARINE 4 and THE CONDEMNED 2.

Director Dwight Little finds some atmosphere in the quiet opening montage of wind blowing past Halloween decorations at dusk

and there’s a haunting image of Michael in the jumpsuit but with a bandage covered face instead of the mask. But mostly it’s repeating the kinds of things we saw in the first one, and (like Part II) it seems to be the wrong type of shoes trying to step in Carpenter’s footprints. For the first time in the series the music isn’t top grade (though it’s done by Carpenter’s musical cohort Alan Howarth). But Little is a director who probly hasn’t gotten enough credit – he did my favorite Brandon Lee vehicle (RAPID FIRE), one of Seagal’s beloved Golden Era classics (MARKED FOR DEATH) and a better-than-expected Wesley Snipes joint (MURDER AT 1600) – and it’s fun to see a few action movie flourishes in this one. There’s a scene where Michael drives over a gas pump and Loomis gets to do a slow-motion-jump-away-from-explosion. Brady tries to punch Michael, and has his fist caught in the air, then he’s picked up by the head. Michael gets ahold of a shotgun, but uses it as a stabbing tool. Showing off. Or not wanting to cheat.

(only a good guy with a shotgun to stab people with can stop a bad guy with a shotgun to stab people with)

And it turns into even more of an action movie at the climax, when some dudes are driving Rachel and Jamie out of town only to have Michael crawl up from under the truck like a wing-gremlin and kill them. There’s a big scene of Kelly driving fast and crazy, trying to dump Michael. And at the end instead of just Loomis shooting Michael and him falling out the window onto the lawn, they have a whole posse of cops shooting all kinds of rounds into him and he flies backwards and busts through a bunch of loose boards, collapsing into an abandoned mine.

In the final scene (SPOILER) Jamie fulfills the destiny of the clown suit by stabbing her stepmom, and they even re-create the POV mask shots and her standing holding up the bloody knife afterwards. It’s kind of cool that they took the opening of HALLOWEEN and moved it to the end of this one, so it would have a certain symmetry, a certain bookending feeling as it is the very end of the series, the way they wrap up the story in the very last Halloween movie.

Well, I don’t know if that’s what they really thought. Maybe they thought ending this way would really change things up for part 5 since now it would be little Jamie (or maybe Jamie grown up) as the killer. That’ll be different, right?

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 25th, 2016 at 11:34 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

24 Responses to “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers”

  1. This and part 5 is for my money basically scraping the bottom of the barrel as far as HALLOWEEN-movies go
    ( unless RESURRECTION is as shitty as folks say. Also they are not later-HELLRAISER-sequel-bad.)

    But they are just flat, one note and boring. Maybe it is my lack of interest in the genre these days, but I tried to go back to them and…ugh. Part six , as bad as that one was, at least had that weird, non-sensical cult stuff.

  2. Trust me Shoot McKay, Halloween Resurrection is far, far, far worse than Halloween 4 and 5!

  3. Fuck that, Halloween 4 a solid horror movie that is enjoyable.

  4. I don’t know if it was the movie or the novelization I read as a kid, but I’m pretty sure it’s said somewhere that Laurie died in a car crash, which makes it neat in H20 that she faked her death in a car crash…until you realize that means she totally abandoned her daughter (if this is canon)!

    This is meat and potatoes, solid horror filmmaking that hits its modest goals until it knocks it out of the park with a great ending, which of course was immediately negated and shat on by the next entry. (In the book, btw, they throw some dynamite in the mine shaft and it hints that Myers is definitely dead). I’ll actually rank this one as third best in the series behind H1 and H20, since 6 and 8 are unwatchable and 2 and 5 are pretty boring and tedious. (And I know everybody likes III now but man, is it not a good movie).

    Oh and I miss Dwight H. Little too – Rapid Fire and Marked for Death are absolute classics and I think i heard he was originally supposed to direct Broken Arrow. I wonder if his take, minus the Woo flourishes, would have been better or worse.

  5. The ending always felt like a ripoff of what the middle Friday the 13th movies, 4 and 5 specifically, teased with Tommy Jarvis–kind of funny, considering that Friday the 13th was largely a knockoff of Carpenter’s Halloween.

  6. The ending always felt like a ripoff of what the middle Friday the 13th movies, 4 and 5 specifically, teased with Tommy Jarvis–kind of funny, considering that Friday the 13th was largely a knockoff of Carpenter’s Halloween.

  7. Yeah, this one and part 2 are probably my favorites of the direct sequels. I find the characters pretty winning, the “soft reboot” feel of getting back to familiar Haddonfield, trick-or-treat haunts is nice, the characters are pretty winning, and I recall their being some decent tension.

    Last year I watched or re-watched: 6, 7 (H20), and 8 (Resurrection), and I thought they were wretched, okay, and crappy, respectively. I find H20 to be fairly overrated. It’s definitely great to have Jamie Lee Curtis back, and I enjoy her confrontation with Michael, so it gets a passing grade for delivering its core promise. However, for a sequel, it takes quite awhile to get down to business, and it’s sorely lacking in the atmosphere and scares department (the change of scenery to California detracts). It’s also very much a Teen Magazine / WB / UPN kind of vibe in its casting sensibilities.

  8. All this talk about Dwight H. Little and no mention of TEKKEN. Am I the only one who can lower his standards enough to enjoy that one? (yes) I mean it doesn’t have bears and kangaroos jumping into the arena like the games (and it wastes CHT like most movies do) but I thought it was a passable enough tournament based on a video game movie.

    It’s been a while since I’ve watched the ‘Thorn trilogy’ of the HALLOWEEN movies. I remember not caring for them but I’ve been meaning to rewatch them for a bit now anyway.

  9. I can never keep 4 and 5 straight in my head. Was this the one where Jamie has to climb up the laundry chute or whatever while Michael is stabbing through it? I liked that scene.

  10. I’ve got some minor nostalgic warmth for H4: THE NIGHT HE CAME TO SOME OTHER PERSON’S HOME on account of it always seeming to be on cable late Friday nights when I was a youngish teen, but to adult eyes it’s pretty weak. The whole thing gives off the vibe of dudes who wanted to keep it “classy” and “suspenseful” in the style of the Carpenter film but just didn’t have the talent or resources to do it right so you end up with something self-consciously dodging almost everything fun and unique about 80’s slashers and filling that gap with the po-faced journeyman competence of a basically alright TV-movie. NIGHTMARE 4 came out the same year and is also stupid as fuck, but at least it had a girl turning into a wet, quivering rubber Screaming Mad George cockroach and a general “let’s go for it” attitude. H4, and really all the Halloween sequels, look pretty lame in comparison, leading me to conclude that Halloween franchise fans are the lukewarm tapioca of the slasher aficionado community.

    Also, every Shape between Halloween II and the remake is terrible, but George P. Wilbur is the worst.

  11. I do think we can admit that Jason probably wires the floor with Michael Myers in a fight.

  12. Keeping in mind that Michael had the idea of turning a William Shatner mask inside-out to make it look lifeless and scary (one can’t help thinking it would look just that worn the right way, but…), it’s a bit disappointing that he isn’t just as creative in this one and goes for something similar. If he was a trekkie all along, maybe a Nimoy mask would create the same effect? But we must remember that by 1988 there were a lot of Michael Myers masks sold before Halloween…

  13. Halloween 4 was basically The Force Awakens of its day. The original creator did things the fans didn’t like in the previous installment so he sold his interest and new people came in and rehashed the first movie with a young cast portraying the next generation of characters.

    Like The Force Awakens I like it. It’s a competent genre flick that hits the right notes. However, it’s just missing that magic that makes the original so special.

  14. geoffreyjar- I saw TEKKEN a few years ago, don’t remember a thing about but I know I found it perfectly watchable. Might help that I never played the games (although I did watch others play it)

    zero-mentality- I too have a certain nostalgic fondness for this one, I’d seen a few horrors, buy I believe it was the first actual slasher film I saw, picking it up on one of a cheapie 4-pack DVD which included this, the fifth film, Uli Lommel’s BOOGIEMAN (underated from what I recall) and a very weird and genuinely unwatchable updated version of Lommel’s apparently already very weird and pretty much unwatchable BOOGIEMAN 2. At the time I didn’t really get why fans considered V such a big step-down from IV (besides maybe the goofy cops with their Otisesque wacky tuba theme music), but given that it appears the director of V never directed anything outside of TV in contrast to the relatively accomplished Dwight here, maybe I might pick up a few things now.

    I agree that the weakest ELMs are far more fun and interesting than the later ‘WEENs (indeed I’m particularly fond of FREDDY’S DEAD these days for really going for broke), but I do prefer the ‘WEENs to the earlier FRIDAY THE 13ths; I enjoy what I believe Mr Majestyk coined as “Spandex Jason” (JASON LIVES especially), but I find three of the first four utterly banal (Part III being the exception).

  15. Jack Burton, yeah, you pretty much nail it w/ the TFA comparison. On the one hand, I share Vern’s and Majestyk’s admiration for the creative, risk-taking, auteur spirit that pushes a person to experiment with new things even if they don’t always work out. “Interesting failures.” On the other hand, my baser, escapist interests incline me to prefer a competent recycling of established characters, motifs, or even plot points over something messier where the narrative, dialogue, or visuals completely subvert my attempts to care about the characters or get lost in the narrative. Then again, suspension of disbelief is a funny thing. For some people it’s plot plausibility, for others it’s cheesy effects, for other’s it’s bad dialogue or inscrutable or “unearned” character behaviors or motivations. H4 has a kind of (admittedly white, Midwestern) “everyman” quality, while, say, H20 feels a little too contrived and focus group easy-bake-oven’d (Jamie Lee going into witness protection then teaching at posh California private school where LL Cool J is the security guard and Josh “Hot”nett is the heartthrob is a bit too panderingly “high-concept” for my tastes). And then Resurrection just doubles down on the high-concept, gimmicky excesses that were relatively more restrained in H20.

  16. This one has grown on me over the years. I wasn’t ready to accept a boilerplate cheeseball slasher sequel from Michael at the time, but the Band-Aid has been long since ripped off that particular wound and I can more or less appreciate the movie for it’s handful of good ideas.

    I will say that, as a connoisseur of shitty Michael Myers masks, that this one has the shittiest in the series, even worse than the Part V one with the huge trapezius flaps. It’s too doll-like, too precious-looking, and the molded facial expression looks embarrassed instead of eerily blank. I believe I once described this version of Michael as looking “like a mime who just got caught jerking off.”

    Also there’s that one shot where Michael turns blond for no reason. This movie has mask issues is what I’m saying.

  17. The HALLOWEEN wiki page can tell us all about the blonde hair in the school scenes; They hadn’t gotten around to painting the extra mask they used. Still, it could be worse, just think about the masks they considered using in the first movie; Mr Spock, Nixon and a clown!

  18. Very good point, Jack Burton. I wish I had thought of that.

  19. Watching this one now. Love how this security guard at the prison hospital serves as our “previously on…” exposition guy.

    Also, I’m pretty sure this Dr. Hoffman who’s discharging Myers was the Russian “Comrade Bigmouth” guy from Rocky IV.

  20. Not only does this film have Comrade Bigmouth, but I’m pretty sure that Rev. Sayers, with whom Loomis gets a ride, is the Jimmy Crack Corn Boxcar dude from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, playing essentially the same role in this. Some great Easter eggs in this one. Also, Brady’s pinstripe jacket, tho. Dude was pimpin.

  21. Having just given it another watch, I think this holds up as a decent sequel. It is definitely a product of its times and feels very much like something churned out by the mid-late-80s slasher sequel mill. But grading it against that curve of other slasher flicks of its time (vs. against Halloween 1), it’s got solid, basic craftsmanship to it. It looks good (except for Michael, damn it!), it’s pretty well-cast, the performances are solid, Jamie and Ellie are compelling final girls, Loomis is on point, the Myers escape and confrontation at the auto shop are pretty effective, as is the battening down the hatches at the Sheriff’s house piece. It doesn’t do anything remarkable, but I think it does a decent job justifying its existence. I enjoyed it.

    Now, if we grade it against Halloween 1, it’s clearly a couple of tiers down. I happened to finally catch part 1 in the theaters for the first time a couple days ago (have seen it several times on video, of course). Of course, Part 4 can’t touch Carpenter’s original in terms of characters, atmosphere, genuine scares, or iconography. Carpenter knew how to put the visuals and the sound together, when to slow-burn it, when to have Michael abruptly pounce, and all kinds of other little flourishes. Once the sun goes down in Part 1, it gets pretty crazy, fast, and every kill is beautifully staged and shot, and is pretty disturbing. Carpenter really uses the shadow and light for maximum creepiness in terms of the shape’s look, appearance, and movement. Part 4 lacks any of these flourishes and is merely serviceable. Competent but uninspired.

    I also agree that Michael is kind of off in Part 4. George Wilbur is not a good Michael. His build, gait, and general body language are stiff and weird, nothing like Michel from Part 1. There’s a weird, middle-aged man kind of lumbering quality that was not a feature of the original Myers. Michael in Part 1 has the ability to slink around and lie in wait, but we don’t really get any of that here. This Michael seems a bit more hamfisted and awkward. The mask also sucks. Worse, the Shape is almost always well-lit, and that only draws your attention to how both Wilbur’s look and the mask are so far off the mark. So, yeah, the film kind of screws the pooch with Michael.

    Still, I think Part 4 is a decent ride, there are some moments of good tension, some decent kills, and I’m looking forward to popping in part 5.

  22. I gotta say, though, I think the Part 5 mask is even worse. This one still looks like a dim, knock-offy reflection of the original mask, whereas the Part 5 mask is just on a whole other planet, having nothing in common with any of the previous masks except being white and having hair. The hair is too long, a different shad, and the facial features are more pointy and ghoulish. Continuity with Part 4 clearly dictates that this is the exact same mask, when it looks nothing like it. Either the director really wanted to go in a different direction for Part 5, or else this is a major prop fail.

    Part 5 may be a better mask in some context-less aesthetic vacuum, but it’s inexplicably further removed from any previous Shape mask. It just smacks of inattention to what may be the most important aesthetic detail in the Shape-verse.

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