Halloween Review: ‘Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers’
In 1982, John Carpenter and Debra Hill, the masterminds behind the Halloween franchise took a massive chance on the series with Halloween III: Season of the Witch. While it is now a cult classic, the lack of anything related to Michael Myers, Laurie Strode, or Dr. Loomis caused it to be a flop. This meant the Hollywood suits wanted the knife-wielding maniac back and they did not care how it happened. After Carpenter and Hill’s pitch of Michael being a more supernatural-entity, they sold their share of the franchise to financier Mustafa Akkad who in 1988 gave then world the fittingly title Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers.
Despite being blown-up and burned to a char in his last appearance, Michael Myers has been in a comatose state for years. Despite this, the evil he is refuses to die and once he learned Laurie Strode left behind a daughter, Michael’s drive to kill his family is reignited. A battle-weary Dr. Loomis is drawn back into the fold to once again stop his most infamous patient. Back in Haddonfield, young Jamie is dealing with the inevitable issues of trying to integrate herself into her adoptive family trying to form a relationship with her new older sister Rachel. But when her deadly uncle returns the two young women must band together to survive this Halloween night.
The first takeaway from Halloween 4 is that the originator has seemingly become the imitator. In 1978, Carpenter and Hill completely changed the game in horror and in the years that followed countless others jumped on the slasher formula they crafted for best or worse. A decade later and Michael Myers now seems to be in the same troop as all the other masked boogeymen he inspired to begin with. Perhaps this was inevitable as the trail which was blazed had by now been well-travelled. Myers is no longer the eerie motive-less Shape striking from the shadows, but rather an unstoppable juggernaut like Jason, Maniac Cop, and others. Perhaps this was inevitable as this was his third cinematic outing and audiences had a certain familiarity with Michael forcing this shift. As a threat he needed to evolve and evolve he did, while still taking a single-minded approach to killing anyone who gets in his way. Given that the greatest objective of this film is to reestablish Michael as one of the scariest villains in cinema, Halloween 4 accomplishes this expertly. He is both merciless and creative with his kills proving why he is nothing short of a horror icon.
In a roll that an actor of his stature could have simply phoned in, Donald Pleasence, turned in a fantastic performance in his reprisal of Dr. Sam Loomis. With the events he had been through in both Halloween and Halloween II, the character had naturally evolved and screenwriter Alan B. McElroy gave the actor plenty to work with as an older and battle-hardened Loomis. He is physically weaker but mentally he has become even more dogmatic in his belief that Michael is a being of pure evil that needs to be wiped out. In one scene in particular we see him catch a ride with a religious zealot battling Satan and seems to have found a kindred spirit for a brief moment. It is easy to see any other actor ruining this film’s famed ending by going overboard, but Pleasence’s performance elevates it to a truly haunting moment as little Jamie is seemingly following her uncle’s footsteps. Speaking of Jamie, while delivering a standard “child actor” performance, Danielle Harris is great as the target of Michael’s violence. Her youth means she has no chance in a fight against the slasher leaving her solely reliant on others to stay alive raising the stakes to a new level in Halloween 4.
Overall Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers does what it set out to do and reestablished Michael as the “boogeyman”. Easily standing as one of the best sequels in the series proving there was plenty left in the Michael Myers tank. It adds new layers to the ongoing rivalry between Dr. Loomis and Michael while adding new layers to the mythos of the franchise.