“Halloween” Retrospective: HALLOWEEN 4 THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS (1988)

“Halloween” Retrospective: HALLOWEEN 4 THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS (1988)

Director: Dwight H. Little
Starring: Ellie Cornell, Danielle Harris, Donald Pleasance, Michael Patki, George P. Wilbur, Kathleen Kinmont

“Jesus ain’t got nothing to do with this place.”

Michael Myers has survived the explosion that happened ten years ago. As he is being transferred back to Smith’s Grove, he kills the medical personnel in the ambulance and escapes. Michael’s old psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis (Pleasance), is made aware of his escape and tries to warn the police of his return to Haddonfield. Why would they believe him? Michael’s been in a coma for years and Dr. Loomis is just a crazy old man.

Seven year old Jamie Lloyd (Harris) is his only surviving relative. Her mother Laurie Strode died in a car accident eleven months prior and has since been adopted by the Carruthers family. She cannot escape her mother’s past as she continually has visions and nightmares about Michael. Even the other kids at school poke fun and tease her about how the boogeyman is her uncle. On Halloween night, her older foster sister Rachel (Cornell) is stuck taking her babysitting when their parents leave for the night. Dr. Loomis has returned to Haddonfield and realizes that the evil has returned. His intuition is correct that Jamie is Michael’s next target.

Due to an impending writers strike producer Moustapha Akkad wanted the script to be finished in a quick time period. Director Dwight H. Little brought in his collaborator Alan B. McElroy to crank out a script quickly before the strike kicked in. Little and McElroy paid close attention to the continuity in the Michael Myers storyline and the time period. We see the effects of the ending of the second film on Dr. Loomis and Michael as well as the mention of what happens to the Laurie Strode character. It is fantastic to have Donald Pleasance back to the series. You just need to get passed the poor burn make-up job on his face. Yes, it may have been an easy choice to have Michael target another family member but that is part of the character. I wish more attention would have been given on the supporting characters. They come across a bit generic and obvious. The character of Rachel is similar to Laurie and she has the slutty friends just like Laurie did. Even the gang of bar patrons that want to take matters into their own hands are a bit laughable.

The film was not shot on the same Pasadena streets as the first film, but they were able to pull off the Midwestern neighborhood feel of Haddonfield quite well even though it was shot in Salt Lake City. I think the feel of the neighborhood is vital to the story, so the continuity in tone and feel continues there as well. The very ending is definitely an homage to the first film. I do not want to give too much away but the filming harkens back to the Dean Cundey camera work that sets up the first film and we get to hear the infamous John Carpenter score. I wish we could have used more of this style throughout the film. 

One of my biggest problems with the movie is the lighting. One of Michael’s victims is thrown into the power grid and the whole town loses its power. The majority of the film is very dark and in turn poorly lit. The majority of the interior shots are lit by fire places, candles, and kerosene lamps which do not provide ample lighting. It was obviously a specific choice as an attempt to make the film scarier. In turn, it just fizzles out as I find it just makes the action harder to see. 

Like the title suggests, the film provides a good return to the story of Michael Myers after the side step that was Halloween III: Season of the Witch which veered terribly off track. The overall concepts and focus on continuity help the film from being just your standard horror sequel schlock. To non-fans of the series, I am sure they still consider it pure crap. The main problem is that the film is just not that scary. There are some directorial choices that lack suspense. George P. Wilbur, who plays Michael Myers, is missing the physicality of giving the haunting and eerie feel of Myers. Even though he wears a mask and jumpsuit, there is still specific way to play that character. The actor has to be more than just this looming figure that kills people. True fans of the series, like me, can find an appreciation for this fourth entry, but it will not win over any newbies to the series.

RATING: ** 1/2 (2.5 out of 5 stars)

My Ranking of the Franchise
1. HALLOWEEN (1978)
2. HALLOWEEN II (1981)

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