Monday, 31 October 2016

Happy Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers is a 1988 slasher film. Directed by Dwight H. Little (Bloodstone) starring Donald Pleasence (Halloween, Phenomena), Danielle Harris (Hatchet II) and Ellie Cornell (House of the Dead). The film was the first Halloween movie in 6 years and the first to be produced without co-creators John Carpenter and Deborah Hill.

Halloween 4 is set ten years after the events of the original film. Once again, the psychotic Michael Myers has escaped from a lunatic asylum and is on his way back to Haddonfield to kill his niece Jamie (Harris), daughter of Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) who has moved into a foster home. Pursued once again by Dr Loomis (Pleasence), Michael starts ruining the town’s Halloween celebrations and ripping through the locals as the inept local law enforcement are organised by Loomis. Jamie’s stepsister Rachel (Cornell) is left to protect Jamie as Michael continues his rampage, despite the efforts of a vigilante mob, and a final showdown ensues in the Sheriff’s house.

As many people know, after the wild success of the first film, and it’s slightly disappointing sequel, John Carpenter and Deborah Hill conceived of a new vision for the franchise where every sequel would focus on a different Halloween story. This resulted in the cult classic Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) which, despite lacking  Michael Myers, weaved a spooky and clever story around Halloween masks that possessed children. However, come 1988, executive producer Moustapha Akkad wanted to revive the franchise and this meant bringing back the Icon himself, prompting Carpenter and Hill to promptly leave the franchise. You would think that the lack of the creative geniuses who spawned the franchise would harm the film, however, the film still works remarkably well and, as good as Halloween III is, Michael Myers is too effective a villain not to bring back.

Taking inspiration from the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises, which had already ballooned into parody by this point, Halloween 4 certainly cranks the volume up on the more nuanced atmospherics of the previous films. But still, the plot makes a remarkable amount of sense. Ten years have passed, a new generation of Myers is around, Haddonfield have almost forgotten about 1978. Aside from the old escaped lunatic thing, the plot elements fit really well in the updated setting and Danielle Harris is one of the better child actors to appear in an 80s horror film. Donald Pleasence is always a welcome presence on the screen, however, he looks like he’s starting to get a little sick of the franchise and his whispered/yelled dialogue does get a little annoying after a while. Although the film is pretty over the top in terms of its violence and dripping in the 80s, there is still a great deal of atmosphere retained from the original film and Carpenter’s creeping dolly shots live on. 

Stronger than most horror franchises by its fourth entry, The Return of Michael Myers delivers what it promises and there are certainly many franchises of the day that would’ve benefited from a 6 year gap and a break for their antagonist. A surprisingly inventive plot with a great shock ending and some excellent reworkings of the iconic theme music. Halloween 4 is a lot better than you remember.

What do you think of Halloween 4? Were you glad to see Michael Myers back?


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