Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
Directed by: Dwight H. Little
Written by: Alan B. McElroy, Benjamin Ruffner, Danny Lipsius, Larry Rattner
Starring: Danielle Harris, Donald Pleasence, Ellie Cornell
Reviewed By Ross Hughes
Loomis buys his clothes at the same shop that the Hulk buys his trousers!
No matter if you a fan of it or not, Halloween III is not what the Franchise needed. The massive making money franchise of both Jason and Freddy had made the Granddaddy of them all Michael seem impotent. For a character who virtually created the bogyman, he shot his bolt way too early what with his death at the end of Halloween II. Shot in both eyes, then burnt to a crisp along with his good doctor, there was no way back for the man in the Shatner mask. But then, that never stopped Jason from returning to his Camp Crystal Lake every summer, or Kruger to appear every night in children dreams, despite his apparent demise at the hands of the dream catcher and others. With this in mind, it was time for Myers to arrive back on Haddonfield and only one man could do that!
After producing Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Cannon Film studios approached both John Carpenter and Debra Hill to write and direct a fourth part of the much loved franchise. Carpenter teamed up with Dennis Etchinson, a man who wrote the novels of Halloween I and II, to write a story for the return of Myers. The story he came up with was dismissed by producer Moustapha Akkad who felt it was a bit to far removed from what made the original such a success. To makes things worse for Etchinson was that he then received a phone call from Hill who informed him that the rights that Carpenter owed was sold to Akkad and that Carpenter and herself would no longer be doing any more Halloween films. With that new development, Akkad turned to a newcomer Alan B. McElroy who came up with a script in only eleven days. With that in the bag, the producers turned to Jamie Lee Curtis to reprise her role has the heroine Laurie. But by now thanks to the success of Trading Days, the once former horror queen had already moved away from the genre that made her name and politely declined. Her only contribution was that of a photo which appears in the first half of the film. Her refusal though paved a way for a new Halloween icon to be born. A girl who would become more important to than franchise than maybe Curtis herself.
At only eleven years of age, Danielle Harris had beaten off Melissa Joan Hart for the role has Jamie Lloyd, a role that she will be forever linked with in horror circles. Her character name being a homage to Curtis herself, she would play the young daughter of Laurie who is left as an orphan after the death of Laurie in a tragic car accident. Before anyone reading this, shakes their head confused,well yes I know Laurie returns in Halloween H20 and yes, she has a son in the shape of Josh Harnett, and there is no mention of any daughter, but I will get more to that when I review H20, which does say she is in a witness protection act. Ok that does not really answer the many burning questions to that logic, but you should blame Kevin Williamson who wrote the concept for H20, has the makers here, probably thought that it was more likely that a Rock star in the year 2008 would remake the film in horrid fashion, than Jamie Lee Curtis ever coming back to the role. Hang on! Rock Star? remake!? horrid!…..ummmmmm!!!……
Anyway, so the basic concept of Halloween IV, is that Laurie’s daughter is living in Haddonfield with her adopted family, she has visions of a masked fiend, and she is bullied in school for having an uncle who murdered a few people ten years ago. If only her Uncle was still alive to sort her tormenters out. Well, Jamie, he is, and he is on his way! To explain the non apparent death, we are shown at the start, a mental asylum in which Myers is in a long deep coma in which he has no chance of waking up. How he survived that fireball is a mystery, but we know he is still badly burnt, because we see a glimpse of his arm, which has loads of scars over it. He, like in the original is being transferred to another place when it all goes wrong. The ambulance guys are discussing what he done many years ago, when one comments his only living relative is a niece, which somehow awakes the mad psycho, and an eyeball gorge later, the ambulance is crashed and Myers is gone!
If you think him being alive is a shock, wait until you see the next scene. Donald Pleasance keeps up with the links of the first two films and is back has Dr Loomis, even though he was supposed to have died in the climax of Halloween II. Amazingly, and this shocked me more, we also realise that Loomis buys his clothes at the same shop that the Hulk buys his trousers, because despite the fireball, Loomis has a few scars on his cheek, but his same jacket is untouched. Wow! Now that is money well spent.
To say the opening half is relentless and fantastic for the franchise is an understatement. Realising they could not top the original for style, the makers and new director Dwight H. Little knew that they had to start with all guns blazing, and to their credit they pull it off. By the time Myers reaches a gas station in his invisible man style outfit and kill all those who work there, you be gasping for air. When Loomis tracks him down straight away and they have their first confrontation, in which the camera zooms into a now familiar looking bogyman, all Halloween fans will rejoice. It is such a strong set piece that you long for the film to continue in this vein. The fact it doesn’t is simply because it was impossible. The set up for the film is brilliant, but by the time we get to Haddonfield the film slips into Jason mode, and becomes just the usual standard slasher.
Its here that we get the first hints of what Jamie has with Michael. I will not spoil it for those who have not seen this, but the visions of what Jamie has is a plot thread that got carried over in the already planned Halloween 5. The one aspect I will say this that this developing plot was not what was originally intended. But I get to that later on….
After the mayhem of the first half, we spend time with Jamie who in another wonderful imagery set-piece, has to pick out a Halloween costume for the night! She walks around the shop until her eyes glance over to an outfit that will bring a chill to all fans of the franchise. She picks it out and rests it on her body, smiling at the mirror she looks in, unknown to her but to all the fans that the costume she has picked, is exactly the same one her young uncle wore when he slaughtered his sister, many years ago!
Of course while she is shopping, Loomis turns up, and in a surprise plot development unheard of in horror films, his insane ramblings to the police that Myers has returned to Haddonfield, is actually believed straight away. So there is no scenes being wasted of the police telling him to go, and Loomis wanders around on his own until its all too late! Its a real refreshing change and keeps with the frenetic plot that the IV tries to stick with.
Soon, the police and some towns folk are all out looking for Myers, and we are treated to one surreal scene where Loomis and the helpers are greeted by four Michael’s! Its a take your breath away moment that is wonderfully done and quite ingenious, especially if you are watching it for the first time. While everyone is looking for him, Myers is too busy keeping an eye on his niece and when the police grab Jamie and take her back to Sheriff’s house, its here that the film stages its main set piece.
Its here, that the film kicks in even more. They lock the doors but Myers is already inside, and soon there are chase scenes around roof tops, many more killings and poor old Jamie screaming for help!
Keeping up with the original, Myers is often seen in the background while people talk, and also Carpenter’s music theme is remixed and used to full effect. My only gripe is that at times the film loses itself. In between the quite wonderful moments where you can tell a lot of thought was put it, we also treated to some real poor visuals. The “kill in the Power Plant!” is an awful cheap and daft touch, and the false endings are a touch too many!
Harris is simply wonderful has Jamie, a performance that did not go unnoticed and one of the reasons why she not only starred in the fifth film, but also in the two Rob Zombie remakes. Pleasance is just has important to the franchise as Myers, and again delivers in the role. His usual lines of doom and gloom are delivered with relish, even though he goes missing towards the end.
Little fails to have the deft touch of Carpenter, but to his credit, knew what the fans wanted and delivers in spades, even though for some strange reason he fills the film colour with everything blue. He also delivers an unexpected downbeat ending that will thrill all horror fanatics. It really is a bolt out of the (blue). This is where the plot thread of Jamie came to its head, and while it serves this film really well, and it still shocking now, 22 years later, (just look at the reaction of poor Loomis), it was a twist that was supposed to carry the film into the fifth, but with different makers and writers, they dropped the idea, and with it a last chance for Halloween the Franchise to have been something really special, and not a Friday 13th clone, which for a franchise that invented the formula, should have tried really desperately to have avoided……
OVERALL: Contender for the best sequel in all the franchise. The relentless pace covers the plot flaws, and in Harris, the franchise has a new scream queen to root for, Myers returns all right, but never to be this good again…
[pt-filmtitle]Halloween 4 The Return of Michael Myers[/pt-filmtitle]