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Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Oh the Horror!: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
Halloween is one of the most atmospheric and suspenseful horror films ever made. Halloween II is actually a pretty good sequel that explores the aftermath of the original film. Halloween III: Season of the Witch is absolutely insane, has nothing to do with the first two films, and tried to take the series in a direction that I really liked as being unrelated stories taking place on Halloween night. Unfortunately, too many moviegoers were unhappy that Halloween III wasn't a Michael Myers slash-fest so the concept of unrelated stories was dropped and the fourth installment in the series brought back Michael Myers. Yes, in Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers we learn that ten years have passed since the events of the first two films and Michael Myers is still alive but comatose in a sanitarium. He's also being transferred back to Smith's Grove without the consent of Dr. Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasance), so you just know that some stabbings are inevitable. Oh, did I mention that the transfer is happening on October 30th? Yes, there is no way this will end well. Read more about the horror after the break...
While being transported in an ambulance, the slowly awakening Michael hears that he now has a niece (congratulations, by the way!) and that his sister, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis in the first two films, but she only appears here in pictures) and her husband have been killed in a car accident. This leads Michael on a another killing spree to find his niece Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris) and her new foster family. While it's a slightly implausible setup, as it requires us to accept the stupid decisions made by nearly everyone who has treated Michael Myers and is well aware of his previous murder spree, it also gets the movie and it's players exactly where they need to be: Michael Myers back in Haddonfield, Illinois on Halloween hunting down people to kill with Dr. Loomis on his trail. Once we get there, the movie is pretty exciting and definitely delivers. It's not in the same league as the original, but it's not a bad sequel, especially for a fourth sequel. It doesn't add much new to the formula, but it's fun and atmospheric. I loved some of the scenes of the town, especially Jamie's visit to a costume shop and the kids in their Halloween costumes (one kid was wearing a MASK Halloween costume!).
I think the biggest thing fans of the original film will notice (and even Halloween II, to an extent) is that the direction is very different. While John Carpenter used lots of long, static shots for the first film (a style which was utilized for the second film) this film features much more traditional direction. Overall, this works for most scenes except for those involving Michael Meyers. Part of the appeal of the character in the first two films was that he would suddenly appear on the periphery of the shots. Rarely was he the focus and rarely did we get a good look at him. In Halloween IV Michael Myers (played by George P. Wilbur) has quite a bit more screen time which lessens the scariness of the character. To make up for it, though, Michael Myers is much more brutal in this film (a trend we began to see in Halloween II). A few of Michael's kills, such as shoving his fingers through someone's forehead, impaling someone with a shotgun, and stealthily dispatching a truck full of townsmen, are expecially gruesome.
While most of the cast is solid for this type of film, I think Donald Pleasance as Dr. Loomis steals nearly every scene he's in. While he still speaks very cryptically about Michael Myers, he now has the scars left from his previous confrontation to show for his crusade against evil personified. The final scene of the film is a real shocker and features a fantastically horriffic reaction by Loomis to a truly tragic event. If you're interested in watching a film that will get you in the mood for Halloween and you've seen the first three films already, give Halloween IV a try. It doesn't tread new ground nor does it fully recapture the suspense of the first film, but it's got great atmosphere and is perfectly watchable.
Confirmed: Good and a 1/2