Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

October 18, 2011

Having watched the continued success of those unstoppable villains, Jason of Friday the 13th and Freddy Krueger of Nightmare on Elm Street, the producers of the Halloween films must’ve realized their terrible mistake. The first two Halloweens told the story of the knife-wielding crazy, Michael Myers, who terrorized his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois, on a certain holiday.

But then Michael was placed on the inactive list. Halloween III was a game attempt to drop the unkillable character and begin a series of unrelated movies with Halloween themes. But III flopped, and the series stopped cold.

Until now. The title tells sit all, folks: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. Anything Jason and Freddy can do, Michael can do better—and, after all, he came first.

And Halloween 4 is decidedly superior to the previous sequels in this series. Perhaps this is because the movie is, in many ways, a virtual remake of the original Halloween. This is a pretty good strategy, since John Carpenter’s low-budget original is probably the best horror movie of the last 15 years, a gripping, suggestive, funny screamfest from a careful craftsman.

Halloween 4 uses the same opening tactic, with Michael getting free of his insane asylum and heading straight back to Haddonfield. And again, it’s a babysitter who is the focus of his attention, although his actual quarry seems to be the babysitter’s charge, a little girl named Jamie. Jamie’s supposed to be the daughter of the character played by Jamie Lee Curtis in the first two films.

This installment imitates the original, but without the clean logic of that film. Director Dwight H. Little errs in letting the police get in on the act early; part of the sense of menace in the first film was the feeling that Jamie Lee Curtis was completely alone against the demon. Curtis isn’t around anymore, though Halloween 4 does bring back Donald Pleasance, who reprises his role as the perpetually frazzled doctor who considers Michael Myers absolute evil. Nobody ever believes him when he says this, and so Michael keeps getting loose. (But then, would you believe Donald Pleasance?)

The movie does have a few jumpy moments, and it seems to exist primarily in order to spring its twist ending, which is genuinely creepy, especially if you remember how the original film began. It’s a good zinger, and it suggests a whole new direction for future sequels.

First published in the Herald, October 1988

I can’t say the future sequels found a new direction. There really aren’t many new directions in sequels to the horror franchises, let’s face it. Dwight Little chugs along in episodic television these days, but manages to make the occasional exploitation picture, and one trusts that Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid and Tekken are not his last ventures in that vein.