Review: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

Now that the con is over, let’s get back to the burning chart reviews that is the Halloween franchise. WARNING: This is going to be a lengthy read, even for these articles!

Today’s outing takes us into Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. This saw the departure of the idea to turn the franchise into an anthology after the abysmal Halloween III: The Season of the Witch, and back to the original concept of this masked killer on the prowl in Haddonfield, IL. While this movie boasted the return of it the slasher icon, it did not bring back John Carpenter who had decided that this was not going anywhere he wanted to take it. He had one idea left for this (leaving the writing of this to Dennis Etchison), which was to go back to the town 10 years after and see what the ghost of Michael Myers had left the condition of this town in. It wasn’t so much an actual ghost, but the idea that Michael had completely changed the feel of the town, and a bunch of teenagers would eventually try and bring the town out of its doldrums. While doing this it would have kicked back up the fears and deaths would ensue, but was it really the ghost of Michael or something else? The producer disagreed in the direction this story would take, feeling that this would be too “cerebral”. Carpenter and his partner; Debra Hill, sold their rights to the franchise to Moustapha Akkad (the producer). With Akkad in full control of the franchise, he wanted to return Halloween back to its basics. This is a move that failed, by my standpoint.

This movie not only saw Michael Myers return, but it also brought back Donald Pleasence as Dr. Sam Loomis, introduced Ellie Cornell as Rachel Carruthers, and 11 year old Danielle Harris as Jamie Lloyd. Jamie is the daughter of Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis’) character from the first two movies. It was directed by Dwight Little and hit theaters October of 1988.

The Plot: It’s been 10 years since Michael Myers last stalked the streets of Haddonfield. Since the explosion that severely burned both Michael and Loomis, the killer has laid in a coma in a large sanitarium. Two paramedics show up to transfer Myers back to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium (which he escaped from in the first movie), but Loomis is not there himself to see his patient off. As he lay there in the ambulance  the two paramedics fill us in on two key points that have gone on while we were away. The first is that Laurie Strode died in a horrible car accident and the second is that Myers has one living relative left. Laurie left behind a daughter; Jamie Lloyd who is 8 years old and not able to take custody of her psychopathic uncle. Upon learning this, Michael kills the transport team and the movie gets underway.

Danielle Harris as Jamie Lloyd

In Haddonfield: Jamie has been living with a foster family for the last 11 months, since her parents death. Rachel Carruthers, her foster sister, has been trying to help ease her fears and sorrows. Jamie’s been having nightmares about Michael, who she calls the “Nightmare Man.” It’s made fairly obvious that the Carruthers family is having a tough time dealing with Jamie’s dreams. It’s also quite apparent that none of the Haddonfield population have forgotten that her uncle is Michael Myers. Children at school taunt her about the fact that everyday is Halloween at her home, that her mother’s dead and especially that her uncle is the Boogeyman. She tries her best to console herself, deciding that she wants to go out trick or treating with Rachel. Rachel had been informed that morning that instead of going out on the date with her boyfriend, that instead she would have to babysit. Rachel has her friend Lindsey (who is supposedly the same Lindsey that Annie was babysitting in Halloween), take them to the drug store her boyfriend is working at to pick up the costume and has an excuse to talk to him about the night.

A little earlier: Loomis, having learned that Michael was transferred without his knowledge, confronts the head of the sanitarium about the matter. When the head receives a phone call about the ambulance, Loomis jumps into action and tracks down the wreck. Finding Michael not in the van, and everyone telling him that there’s no possibility that Myers could have been responsible  he jumps into a car and starts his trek to Haddonfield. He catches up with Myers at a gas station, where he’s killed the attendants and stolen another mechanic’s cover-alls. Loomis pleads with Michael to kill him and leave the people of Haddonfield alone. When it appears to Loomis that he’s not reaching his patient, he opens fire only to find that Michael has moved on. As Myers escapes the scene, he hits a gas pump with his get away vehicle, causing an explosion. Loomis survives, but is left to try and hitchhike. Eventually, he finds someone willing to take him to town.

At the drug store, Rachel talks with her boyfriend; Brady, while Jamie looks over the costumes. She finds a clown outfit and smiles that she’s found the perfect costume, when she’s suddenly startled by Michael, who has found his traditional style mask, and causes Jamie to scream. Brady, who is disappointed about the last minute change of plans, jumps at the chance to get a date with the new Sheriff’s daughter; Kelly. (Knowing this does come into play later.) That night, Jamie and Rachel go trick-or-treating and the night of terror starts.

Loomis arrives in town and tries to get the attention of the Sheriff. We meet Sheriff Ben Meeker, a tough as nails man who is a complete opposite from the man he replaced. Loomis tells him what’s going on, and Meeker tries to brush it off, but eventually decides to try and confirm the story. When he finds that he can’t reach anyone long distance (due to phone lines being blown up along with the gas station) he decides to put out a curfew and then go and check out the Carruthers house. They find that Michael’s already been and has been sifting through photos. He’s already killed the Golden Retriever that the Carruthers’ own. They start a town wide search for the two girls.

The curfew confuses the local tavern goers, who call the Sheriff’s office to confirm what they’ve heard. Receiving no answer,. they rally together and go in force to find out what’s happened. They run into Loomis and Meeker who too have arrived to find out why they haven’t had any responses. What they find is that anyone that was in the station was slaughtered by Michael. Loomis tells the mob that has gathered who was responsible  turning them into a lynching party out for revenge. Meeker is about to wring Loomis’ neck when it’s pointed out that he doesn’t have a police force. Meeker realizes that he has bigger things to worry about, but this was one more headache that he didn’t need. The next headache Michael deals them is the killing of the towns power after he goes to a station and throws the electrician at work into the sizzling coils. With no lights and not much in the way of law officials, the town is far worse off than it ever was in the ’78 attack.

Ellie Cornell as Rachel Carruthers and Danielle Harris as Jamie Lloyd

After having gone to the Meeker residence and seen Brady with Kelly, Rachel storms off and realizes that she’s lost Jamie somewhere in the craziness. Jamie, who had gone off with some kids from the school, had gone back to look for her foster sister. She got lost along the way and could feel something stalking after her. Rachel too was feeling the presence of something, and combined with not knowing where Jamie is, runs a gauntlet of backyards and alleys to find Jamie. As the two are reunited, Meeker’s car pulls up and grabs the two. Having no place else safe to take them, they end up back at the Meeker residence. There he meets with the one surviving deputy and locks them up into his house. He has a battery operated radio in his basement for such an emergency and gets word to the state police that he needs there help. After seeing that Jamie and Rachel are okay, Loomis takes off to try and find Michael. Meeker leaves Rachel in front of the radio to await word that the state cops are on the way and decides to leave as well. He wants to try and reign in the lynch party before too many innocents die by Myers hand, or theirs.

The inevitable happens; Michael gets inside the sheriff’s house. He kills the one deputy, the sheriff’s daughter, leaving Jamie, Rachel and Brady to run. In the only act of bravery (stupidity) on Brady’s part, he tries to block the path to Rachel and Jamie. After trying to load a shotgun to fire at Michael, the shots don’t go do plan and the Shape gets the first few blows. Brady quickly recovers and gets a few hits with the but of the gun, only to get his head crushed under the massive hands of his opponent.

The only way for the two survivors to escape is by knocking out the attic window and climb the roof. Of course, Michael is right behind them and slashes at Rachel with a kitchen knife. Eventually getting just enough distance, Rachel is able to lower Jamie to down far enough, but unfortunately she gets caught by the killer and ends up hanging off the side of a gutter, before falling to the ground below. Luckily she wasn’t killed, but it did leave Jamie to escape her uncle alone.

Jamie runs as fast as she can from the scene, only to be found by Loomis who insists on taking her to the school. His plan was to wait there for help to arrive, and while the alarm is blaring, the only thing they get for their trouble is the killer right behind them. Loomis is put through his paces by Michael, leaving Jamie to find a way out. Just as he’s about to get her, Rachel steps in and uses a fire extinguisher to blind him and has Jamie run. The lynch party finds them outside and all are convinced that the best thing they can do is get the kids out of town and let the state cops handle the situation.

In the climax of the film, Michael has found a way to cling to the truck and gets into the bed. He kills the men standing inside it and manages to rip the neck of the driver open. This leave Rachel to drive the truck and avoid the same fate as her would-be savior. She swerves the truck several times trying to shake him off. Eventually hitting the brakes and making him fly off the top and into the street. The moment he gets up, she slams on the gas and hits him with the truck sending him into a wooded area. The cops show up with Meeker in tow. Jamie has gone to Michael’s side to see him closely. When Jamie is called, she turns to see and Michael slowly rises. She is told to hit the ground and the cops open fire. Multiple blasts hit the killer and send him down an abandoned mine shaft.

Back at the Carruthers’ house, power has been restored. Meeker, Loomis, the two girls and the parents are standing in the living room discussing the events of the night. Loomis is feeling assured that Michael is in Hell Mrs. Carruthers decides to give Jamie a bath to clean up the muddied and bloodied child. As the water starts to fill the tub, a reminiscent scene from the first film comes back. A mask is put over the camera and a pair of scissors are grabbed. A violent stabbing motion is made towards Mrs. Carruthers and she lets out the obvious scream. Loomis runs up the stairs and sees Jamie with fresh blood on her, holding the scissors and tries to shoot her. Meeker stops him, and the rest of the family stand on the staircase looking towards the terribly familiar scene as it goes to credits.

Donald Pleasence as Dr. Sam Loomis

The Good: While there were scenes that annoyed me with Rachel, for the most part I found her an enjoyable character. She and Jamie gave me someone to pull for. I don’t like rooting for the bad guy to kill everyone in sight. If this happened, the movie fails completely. It’s to be understood that this is slasher horror, which means that acting is not necessarily a prerequisite. It’s commendable, however, that some actually try to put forth something that doesn’t seem like a cardboard cut out. If someone’s about to die, then I want to see fear in their eyes as if it’s really about to happen.

I also commend them for the choice to make the sheriff a far tougher customer than Sheriff Brackett. Ben Meeker looks like a guy you don’t wanna mess with. My favorite line of the film comes between him and Brady while he’s arming him out of his gun cabinet. He asks Brady if he knows how to use a shotgun, to which Brady confirms that he does. As Brady starts to walk away, Meeker adds matter of fact-like:

“Oh yeah, if I catch you groping my daughter I’ll use that shotgun on you.”

As much as I liked the way that Brackett’s character was taken out of the second movie by the viewing of his daughter’s body, it seems as if Meeker almost turns the loss of his own into a reason to put Michael down.

I also enjoyed the certain amount of nostalgia this film has. It’s not back to basics outside a few shots here and there, but the familiarity of going back to Haddonfield and seeing Loomis again puts you immediately back into that world. Michael’s dangerous, and we need to stop him. We know that formula, and it’s a great palette cleanser after the abomination of Halloween III.

I’m also going to give a like to the creepiness of the movie. When things start happening, and you know Michael’s going to show up, it becomes a matter of “when is he going to make his presence known?”  Much like in the first two movies where you see him moving around in shadows, he happens to be skulking around and no one is looking into the right place or direction.  When he allows himself to be seen, he’s a force to be reckoned with. No sense of humor to him, just a sense of dread that he’s going to slaughter everyone around you.   It’s cliche to say the least, but its welcome to get back to the core of Halloween.

I want to give one last bit of love to the idea that Jamie did the horrible deed at the end of the film. Some people would’ve been confused by that, but I took this as meaning that this little girl, having grown up with this story and now living through this horrific deal has picked up the mantle for a possible sequel. After completely loving Jamie for who she was, and knowing she wasn’t in any real danger (read below for that), the idea of her becoming the next killer in line was a nice twist. It’s what they didn’t do with Laurie, and easily could have. Instead, this poor 8 year old was warped by the events of a worse massacre than her mother went through and snapped under its pressure. It’s a bold choice, but would it live up to that?:

The Bad: Oh, there’s a list here of bad. I do like this movie a lot. I enjoy the fact that they went back here, in spite of the fact that Michael should have died the way Carpenter intended. However, now that Michael has survived this fire and has been in a 10 year coma, they’ve decided that he’s got this insane super strength. During the ambulance ride, once he awakens he beats the male paramedic’s head against the door and then manages to push his thumb through the poor man’s skull. They don’t show the rest of the kills, but once Loomis arrives at the wreck it’s mentioned that the bodies were mutilated. They thought it might be swamp life, but Loomis assures them that it’s Michael’s handiwork and he’s gone to finish up what he’s started.

Jamie as a victim is another problem that I have. In Halloween III, I mentioned the scene that disturbed me most was when the kid was killed by his face erupting into snakes and bugs. I’m fairly certain that this was a horror that everyone shared in. The worst part is that this was going to happen to every kid in America if they couldn’t stop the commercial. Here we have the 8 year old Jamie Lloyd (the actress was 11, just in case you were confused by some of the above statements) and she’s being stalked by her serial killer uncle. After all that back there, it was a certain bet that Jamie was in no real danger. Why do I know this? I know it because the writers, the producers, and the director know full well that no one wants to see this hulking man in a mask kill his adorable young niece. This wasn’t going to be a good road to go down, and it’s been called almost immediately by putting Rachel as her teenage guardian. No matter the moments that they’re separated, we know that Rachel will find her way back and save the day.

I’m also fairly certain that this town wouldn’t want to celebrate Halloween after all that occurred the decade before. Yes, it might suck for the kids, but a guy in a Halloween mask shows up and butchers at least 13 people and it takes his psychiatrist blowing him up to stop him, which only puts him into a coma! Regardless of the idea that he might not come out of that coma, there’s no way in hell I’d want to celebrate knowing the history of the holiday in that town. Then, to add insult to injury, the mask that he’s wearing is still sold in stores?! What? If we’re not banning Halloween, then the fact that he’s killed people 15 years apart on two separate Halloween nights means I’m gonna pay attention what that guy was seen in on both occasions and take it off shelves. Jamie’s clown outfit was a classic call back, but I wouldn’t want the reminder left all over the place. I understand you can’t get rid of everything. Mechanics will still have jumpsuits and there will always be kitchen knives, but the ensemble was apparently known well enough to be worn by several people as a prank on the sheriff. He of all people, I would believe, wouldn’t want this to happen. He tells Loomis that people in the police department wouldn’t likely forget his face. Long memories like that run deep, and should have killed the holiday for that town.

Now this is my absolutely favorite gripe on this film, bar none. During the entire course we’ve had people who have dressed up as Michael and call backs that even the kids in Jamie’s class, who weren’t even alive during the killings, know who her uncle is. When Rachel and Jamie get taken to Meeker’s, Brady asks Rachel what’s going on. She tells him who’s stalking the town, and his response was a big puzzled look and asking who that is. I can accept an import into town, but really? This guy is THAT new that he doesn’t know who Michael Myers is? Did his parents try to hide that truth from him? Even if I accept the fact that they did, there’s no way he went through school and didn’t know about it. Lindsey Wallace, if it was actually her driving Rachel around, was a survivor of that night. I have no idea what happened to Tommy Doyle at this point, but safe to say that all these high school kids grew up hearing about the babysitter that was killed and the one who barely escaped. It’s minor in the grand scheme, but it’s that detail alone that instantly drew me out to ask how it was possible.

Let’s go back to Michael again. At this point, I have to assume he’s far more supernatural than there was ever any intention to make him. Yes, he’s been tough from the outset, and definitely tested at the end of part 1 and then all the way through part 2. However, not only has he gained super strength, he’s also getting around town with the fastest shuffle in the world. Add to this, he’s actually plotting and planning out a lot of stuff now. Before hand it was enough to kill Laurie, now that it’s Jamie that he’s after he’s decided to kill an entire police station full of cops?  Sure, it shows how menacing he’s become, but I’m assuming those cops didn’t have access to guns?  Come on, he’s a guy with a knife!  He should have been bullet riddled and sent straight to hell. It was a great idea to show how dangerous he was, but it made little sense to who Michael has been up to this point. He’s killed people who have directly gotten into his path. He just decided to take his aggression out on them first so he didn’t have to later?   This wasn’t just a little killing spree either, he wrecked the place badly!   I’m just not sure why all of a sudden he’s so worried about cop involvement.   She’s one little girl, and if he was focused on her, he would have been able to get to her fast.   Instead he’s shorting out electrical stations and wiping out squad rooms.

The other thing Michael now has going for him is his Spider-Man like ability to cling to objects!   When the hillbilly contingent is taking Rachel and Jamie out of town, they are stopped by the state police.  The guy driving the truck tells them he’s taking the two girls out of town and drives off.  The cop does not see Michael clinging to this truck in any way.   Once the truck is out of sight, Michael then climbs over the side and starts plowing through the rednecks in his bid to get Rachel and Jamie.    Okay, I’m already having to accept that he’s got this super strength and he’s planning out how he’s going to do all this, but now they’re asking me to believe a rather large man in a distinctive mask is clinging to the side and NOBODY notices this?   Uh-huh…  yeah, right.   I get that I’m suppose to shut my brain off on certain points, but this is an acrobatic feat, not to mention luck plus that the cops or rednecks didn’t just shoot him down right then and their when they saw him clinging on for dear life.

The last thing I will harp on is that particular drunken hillbilly lynch mob. I would have expected that from a lot of places, but not Haddonfield, IL. Hee Haw: the Revenge was not what I was hoping for in a force to track down Myers. It makes sense, because the rednecks were armed and ready to fight this beast, but it would’ve made just as much sense to get people who were affected by the previous killings and have them out for revenge. Better yet, avoid the whole damn thing and allow the cops to die slowly over the course of the film. I really didn’t want to see a bunch of uniformed officers die, but in place of these guys? Yeah, give me the cops.

The Overall: The movie’s biggest failings came from the fact they had to produce a script in 11 days before a writer’s strike. This was not the best conditions to write such a movie. Hours before the deadline, they got the finished script in and approved. For what they put together, it’s worth watching for popcorn value. It’s far better than its last predecessor, and gives a fun run through the town once more. This isn’t a love letter to the original film, this is a cousin that the original was close to. It has a lot to offer, but it’s got so many faults with it. I liked the fact that they didn’t try to throw it all back to the time frame and cast a new Laurie. They knew where their bread and butter was with that. No Jamie Lee Curtis, no Laurie. Wise decision, because I don’t know that I could have stomached a year later story with her and a new cast of friends who accept she’s been through a lot and will be used to stack the body count. Still, this movie makes you turn off your brain. Not as much as the third installment or even the next one, but we’ll get to that.

I give this one a 2.5 out of 5 stars. There’s enough here to make me care about the movie, but it makes me question a lot and wonder where they’re going with Michael more often than not. He’s not Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees. He has no sense of humor, he’s not undead, and he’s certainly not the superpowered individual that the two juggernauts above have been, at least not to the extent that this movie had made him from the outset.

I shall return with the next installment soon! In the meantime, if you love the series go to Michael’s home on the web!

Happy Halloween everyone!