October Extras #30 - Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers (1988)

OCTOBER 30, 2007

LAST SEEN: 2005 (?) (DVD)

I remember it vividly... October 17, 1989. I was mad at my mom for renting Halloween 4 instead of The Great Outdoors. “I haven’t seen the first 3” I told her. She said it wouldn’t matter (now that I think about it – it’s kind of odd that a mother would make her kid watch an R rated horror movie instead of a PG comedy, but whatever), so I decided to give it a shot. On my way downstairs to watch it, I slipped and fell down the last 5 stairs, hitting my arm on the marble foyer (eerily – pretty much at the exact moment, the San Francisco earthquake occurred – and no that’s not a fat joke. I’m not even fat!). Assuming the sharp pain running up my arm would go away, I sat down and tried to watch the film. Right around the point where Loomis first appears, I asked my mom to take me to the hospital, which she wanted to do in the first place (I was afraid she’d be mad if it turned out to be nothing).

As it turns out, my arm was broken. I got a cast and went home, watching the rest of the film at my grandmother’s the next day. And while I liked the film, I had no idea that I was getting my first taste of a franchise that would come to pretty much be synonymous with my love of movies (not just horror). While I obviously would have loved to have seen the original without “knowing” that Laurie was Michael’s sister (then again, I am pretty sure the first time I saw the film, it was the TV version that pretty much said as much anyway), I think 4 is a great place to start, as it represents the best of both worlds. It works as a slasher movie; there are a number of deaths in the film, some of which are even a bit gory; but it also works as an homage to the benchmark that the original set. Many will disagree, but Halloween 4 has the most emphasis on suspense over “action” out of any of the sequels, and has decent character development to boot. Dwight Little is easily the best franchise director since Carpenter (and he wasn’t even matched in the ones that followed, let alone topped); the scenes of Rachel and Jamie running around Haddonfield looking for each other are fantastic, drenched with atmosphere (something sorely missing in the other films), not to mention an actual feeling that the film is on Halloween.

Loomis is even more batshit insane in this one (not as much as he is in the next film though), so there’s plenty to enjoy there. He’s seemingly learned from his mistakes (first thing he does is ask the cops to call the TV and radio, something he advised against in the first film), and he’s got a lot of his more memorable lines here (including the immortal “You talk about him as if he were a human being. That part of it died years ago.”). As Brackett’s replacement, Meeker (Beau Starr) is a perfectly good substitution, with little bits of dialogue and character action that help his scenes come to life (necessary, since he’s got to do a lot of the same things Brackett did, right down to finding a dead dog with Loomis).

And of course, the rednecks. Haddonfield seems to be a bit “too” Midwest in this film, as none of the others ever gave off the impression that the little town was populated with such types, but that’s OK. Red, Earl, Al, etc. are a blast, driving around town with their shotguns, half drunk and shooting poor Ted Hollister. Of course, seeing the film with a big crowd makes the scenes even more entertaining, as everyone cheers their fairly ridiculous actions (the scene where they “posse up” is pretty much the funniest thing in horror movie history. “S’go wake up the sheriff!”). And Bucky... well what else needs to be said about him?

You also gotta love the horribly mean little kids Jamie goes to school with. “How can she [make a costume], her mommy’s dead!” “Jamie’s an orphan!!”, etc. Christ! Then later, she even hangs out with one of the little bastards! I’d fucking curbstomp the little prick. Then again, their parents are obviously assholes as well, as they go around town picking up their kids, leaving poor Jamie all alone. Nice.

Some folks dislike the mask in this one, but I’m not sure why. I think it’s pretty creepy. The hair is maybe a bit too neat, but it’s far superior to the ones in the last 2 sequels at any rate, not to mention 5’s ridiculous one. Someone pointed out in one of my other reviews how insensitive it is that the town would carry the mask at all, which is something I never really thought about, but now that I am, I think it’s great. Also, in a brief note about the town’s history – Rachel has a friend named Lindsay and Brady’s buddy is named Tommy... could be Wallace and Doyle, respectively, right? I always think of them that way, anyway.

The DVD projection, as expected, looked pretty bad, and the sound was seemingly in stereo rather than 5.1 (or even faked surround sound), but that’s OK. It was a blast seeing the film projected larger than life, and even though the crowd was nowhere near as big as it was for Halloween III the other night (not to mention last year’s screening of the original), I’m still glad I chose it over some of the other local revival options tonight (such as Nightmare on Elm St 2!).

Of all the sequels, only two of them really felt like they got what made the original work (that would be this and H20), emphasizing suspense and character over kills and gore. And while H20 was dampened by two annoying characters and some now-dated “Scream” style attitude, 4 remains as effective to me today as it was when I first saw it as a kid. And it was pretty much all downhill from there. It’s not a flawless film (I still haven’t a fucking clue what is happening when Loomis shoots at Michael at the gas station) but the last thing you can accuse it of is being lazy. Little and writer Alan McElroy (and the other 3 guys who worked on the story, presumably) really put in the effort to make a film that lived up to the original, and I think they more or less succeeded.

What say you?


  1. Great review. I've always thought that Halloween 4 was the most suspenseful of all the sequels. Can you believe that suspense -- of all things! -- is what nearly all the sequels forgot about?
    Starting with Part 5 the series lost its mind and simultaneously got really lazy and stupid (though I enjoy them all in a weird way), but Part 4 really put forth the effort. I'm sure the producers were feeling the heat after the bombing of the Myers-less Halloween III, so they really worked hard to get things back on track. Only H20 would show a similar (though, I think, lesser) attention to what made the original so great. The year H20 came out, I spent a weekend watching the first six movies almost non-stop. It really brought to the surface what works and what doesn't about the whole series. And leaps in logic become so much more apparent if you've just seen the previous movie.
    In my mind, this is the second best Halloween movie.

  2. I agree, Halloween 4 was surprisingly good. A vast improvement over the mindless slashfest of Halloween II. The first one, this one, and H20 are the entries in the series worth a damn. Haven't seen the remake yet--I hear both good and bad things about it.

  3. I agree, Halloween 4 is a vast improvement over the mindless slashfest of Halloween II. The first one, the fourth one and H20 are the entries in the series worth a damn. Haven't seen the remake yet--I hear both good and bad things.

  4. Next to the first one, this is by far my favorite in the franchise. From the characters, to the cinematography, to the story, to the ending....it all worked perfectly.

  5. i agree this is a good film, but people complain that in the rob zombie halloween remake and sequel that michael myers is too powerful but mm stabs a guy in the head with his thumb! and why is he being transfered without any security? if he is a fed prisoner shouldn't the fbi be there. oh well

  6. Well, I expected this to be some mindless fun, like most other slasher sequels. So, I was very surprised to feel a significant amount of suspense. Awesome! I think your review was spot on. The little girl who played Jamie was quite good (a little melodramatic at times), and was a terrific screamer. I thought the ending was just perfect. I didn't see that coming and it was quite chilling.

    It was interesting that you mentioned the midwestern feeling because I believe a large portion was filmed in Utah (not exactly midwestern, but very redneck, nonetheless). When I was a kid, I had heard that a sequel to one of the slasher movies was filmed at the small gas station on the outskirts of my town (Tooele, Utah), I could only wonder which movie it was... until now. I've driven past that gas station a ton of times. I think it's still called Penny's now (when it's open. It really is in the middle of nowhere).

  7. The ending for this one really seals it for me- I sort of wish they'd never done another one.


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