Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

Ten Years Ago HE Changed The Face Of Halloween. Tonight HE’S BACK!

Ten years after attempting to kill his sister, Michael Myers is transferred from his high security mental institution but manages to escape during the journey after finding out that he has a niece. He heads back to Haddonfield to track down and kill his only surviving next of kin. But Dr Loomis is on his trail once again.

 

After the bomb that was Halloween III: The Season of the Witch (unfairly treated for trying to break the norm for sequels), the producers of the Halloween franchise decided to go back to basics. 1981 had been the last time Myers had appeared on the big screen and Moustapha Akkad, the producer, played on the fact that audiences wanted to see him back and would pay to do so. But it was a brave move for the late 80s, when the golden era of the slasher film had come and gone and all that was left were dreadful low budget efforts and continuous sequels for the other big slasher franchises: Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street. What we have in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers is sort of an apology from the franchise and attempt to get some good favour back from the fans.

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers is one of the better sequels though that’s hardly a badge of honour for some. Trying it’s hardest to create some sort of atmosphere and eerie underlying tone, the film looks and feels more like a run-of-the-mill slasher than the earlier films and, Michael Myers aside, it’s hardly distinctive from the rest of the genre. It’s grossly unnecessary but since when were most sequels essential? Full of plot holes, contrivances galore and with a raft of ideas simply recycled from the original, it can’t be said that it’s not without its problems. Weirdly enough for a 80s slasher, it tones down the sex and gore to almost non-existent levels. Yes, Michael Myers does kill a lot of people in this one but rarely are his efforts rewarded by pools of blood or decapitated limbs. The two scenes of brief gore were added post-production and the rest of the deaths are clean and rather effective it has to be said.

Considering that Myers butchers his way through two nurses, a power station worker, a group of rednecks and the entire Haddonfield police force amongst others, it’s one of the highest body counts of the franchise. He sticks to what he’s good at to and uses his knife and bare hands to brutal effect. Evidently he read the ‘How to Kill Teenagers in 101 Gruesome Ways’ book for the following sequels. Thankfully the film doesn’t dwell too much on the killing and instead focuses on more prolonged sequences which are designed to scare audiences and keep them in suspense. The rooftop chase is one of the best scenes from the entire series. It’s just a pity that Michael Myers is over-exposed throughout. Once a villain who hid in the shadows, lurked in backgrounds and popped up in front of the camera, director Dwight H. Little seems content to show as much of him in the centre of the camera as possible. He has become less of a boogeyman and more of a hulking killer like Jason.

The stars of the show are Danielle Harris and Ellie Cornell who play Jamie and her foster sister Rachael respectively. I’m not usually a fan of putting children in horror films as the main stars but Harris is able to do what few other little kids could have done and that is attract a lot of empathy. A child being stalked and traumatized by Michael Myers raises the stakes a lot higher than just having some 80s teenagers moping around waiting to die. It helps that Harris is actually a talented little actress and she highly appealing, right up until the shock ending. Ellie Cornell isn’t used as much as she should in the obligatory teenager lead role but has a good chemistry with Harris and the two play off each other well. Here you have a pair of likeable characters who are able to get the audience on their side early on in the film so that when Michael does show up, we’re not rooting for him to kill everyone in sight.

It’s also good to see Donald Pleasance back in this one, although the less said about how his character managed to survive the explosion at the end of Halloween II, the better. He plays the role with a more hammy and over-the-top approach this time around, befitting a character who has now become obsessed with stopping Michael and has become just as crazy and ruthless in what he’d do to stop him. By having this trio of sympathetic and identifiable characters in the lead roles, Michael Myers is still clearly established as the villain of the piece and has not been turned into an anti-hero like Freddy or Jason had by this time.

 

With a strong and engaging cast of characters, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers turns out a lot better than it should do. It’s a solid slasher which is entertaining, a little bit eerie at times and takes itself seriously. It’s obvious that the producers wanted to play it as safe as possible after the second sequel and that’s exactly what you get here – comfort zone city.

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 

 

 

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