Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers Movie Review

I was always much less familiar with the Halloween sequels growing up probably for a combination of two reasons: they weren't as popular and so didn't play on TV as often and they scared me a lot more so I avoided them.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

A writer’s strike was responsible for the production of the horror movie spoof Student Bodies in 1981 as well as Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers in 1988. The differences are astounding. Whereas the earlier film was already written and given production backing by a major studio looking for non-union projects, the latter was written slapdash by Alan B. McElroy and a team of story writers in a matter of days to get it finished before the impending strike was to begin. Believe me, it feels rushed.

The story follows ten years after Halloween II (part 3 is not related to the story as the idea was to start a compendium of Halloween-centered stories, but Michael Myers had to be brought back by popular demand). Jamie Lee Curtis’s character Laurie Strode has been killed in a car accident, leaving her 8-year old daughter Jamie (Danielle Harris) in the care of a foster family. She has nightmarish visions of her uncle Michael, not knowing who he is. And she has a big sister now, Rachel (Ellie Cornell) whom she looks up to.

McElroy doesn’t bother to provide any explanation for how Michael or Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) survived the explosion at the end of Halloween II even though we saw Michael burning on the hospital floor. Nevertheless, there’s Michael in an institution about to be transferred. Ten years has not been enough time to quench his thirst for blood and he takes the opportunity (just like the transfer he exploited in the beginning of the original) to escape to Haddonfield once again. Michael, otherwise referred to as “It” or “The Evil” by Loomis, has a single-minded determination to eliminate his family members and he’s after young Jamie now.

By 1988, Friday the13th cornered the market, along with A Nightmare on Elm Street, for slasher films. Those series came to be partially defined by the inventive use of found objects and weapons to kill victims in new ways. Director Dwight H. Little eschews the defining traits of the first two Halloween films (atmosphere and terror created by excellent use of the camera) in favor of bloodier deaths brought about by different tools. He essentially cheapened the series and watered down Michael Myers, who was previously one of the most terrifying villains in movie history, to a cartoonish cult hero. Granted, there is some aspect of inevitability in a killer’s loss of reputation that is the result of too much exposure in film after film.

If it has anything going strongly in its favor, it’s that it doesn’t resort to the cliché of the police department that refuses to believe the seemingly manic character issuing warnings. Loomis meets some initial resistance, but Sheriff Meeker (Beau Starr) is a pragmatist and doesn’t want a repeat of what occurred ten years earlier. Halloween 4 also ends with a twist that is well above and beyond the final scare conjured up by Brian De Palma at the end of Carrie. It’s an ending that suggests interesting possibilities for the next installment and also speaks to the futility of trying to stop pure evil from wreaking havoc on the world.

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