I’m a big fan of slasher movies. My all time favorite horror movie is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and my favorite horror franchise is far and away the Friday The 13th series. I’ve spent countless hours devouring B and C list slasher movies, as well as diving in to the satire-slashers of the last 20 or so years (Scream, The Final Girls, and Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon come to mind). The one slasher villain that has never fully captured my attention is Michael Myers of the Halloween franchise. I’m a really big fan of the original 1978 Halloween (I have a huge movie boner for John Carpenter, but let’s be honest, who doesn’t?), and I enjoyed Halloween II: Halloween Harder, so I figured I would finally get around to continuing my pursuit of The Shape and get down to watching Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers.
Yes, despite there being ten of these movies, this one is the Return of Michael Myers. I guess it’s like how the fourth and ninth Friday the 13th movies are titled The Final Chapter and The Final Friday respectively, when neither of those are actually the final movie in the series. Slasher franchises are not the pinnacle of forethought and planning. For those of you who don’t know: Halloween III: Season of the Witch was considered a huge disappointment for most Halloween fans, as it didn’t include Michael Myers, so when 1988 rolled around and it was time to pump out the first Halloween movie not to involve John Carpenter in the slightest, you can bet your bottom dollar that the studios made damn sure that everybody was certain that our friend Mr. Myers was showing up in this flick. I mean, how else would they fill those theater seats? Certainly not by making a great movie, that’s for sure.
Halloween 4 was directed by Dwight H. Little, who would go on to direct horror classics such as Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home and Steven Segal’s Marked for Death. On a serious note, he directed some of the ’80s horror anthology show Freddy’s Nightmares, which I’ve heard had decent reception, so I can understand why he was chosen for this installment of the Halloween franchise. The movie is set 10 years after the events of Halloween II, where a scarred and burnt Michael Myers returns to Haddonfield looking for his neice, Jamie (a tiny Danielle Harris) who is being taken care of my a foster family. Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) as always, is hunting down Michael and trying to protect the families and residents of Haddonfield from evil.
So, before I start off on this movie, I want to let you all know that this isn’t a bad movie. It isn’t Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes A Cruise, and it certainly isn’t the abomination that is Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (not the final movie in that franchise, either). This is a serviceable slasher worth seeing after a few beers, or a decent movie to throw on in the background at a get together or something. It’s not offensive, but it’s definitely bland.
There are really only a handful of good parts to this movie. Danielle Harris is a surprisingly good actress despite being 11 at the time, and Donald Pleasence is always a pleasure to watch. Other than that, the last 15-20 minutes are pretty fun (once Jamie and Rachel, played by Ellie Cornell, escape onto the roof of her house onwards). The movie seems adamant on hammering in to your brain that yes this is a Halloween sequel and yes Michael Myers is in it and yes things are back to normal audience, don’t worry, we remember how much you loved the first Halloween! Remember that amazing bit in the first Halloween where Michael Myers sits up slowly behind Laurie and scared the shit out of you? Don’t worry! Here it is again! Remember Dr. Loomis’ outfit? Don’t worry, here it is again! Remember the spooky drive to the sanitarium to transfer Michael Myers out and Michael escapes? Don’t you fucking worry because here it is again! There really isn’t too much going for this movie when it isn’t showing you scenes from the first Halloween. In my eyes, to make a good slasher movie, it needs to be at least one of these two things:
And Halloween 4 is neither of those. Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Scary! Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives? Fun! Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers? Boooooring. The first two Halloween movies built themselves on being creepy and atmospheric, not dopey gorefests like most slashers that came afterwards. I barely even remember if there’s any blood in the first Halloween. This one here follows suit with the lack of gore, but fails to deliver on the atmosphere and scares. I think this is where Myers is starting to expand into a supernatural force rather than just a crazy guy, and his constant natural 20 rolls on strength and stealth get a little tiresome as the movie goes on. Throwing a guy up into a massive electrical transformer? Hiding on the back of a pickup truck full with people? Escaping from the back of a police car? At least Jason was just a fucking huge dude, so it made sense when he picked a person up by the neck or smashed down a door. I will give credit where credit is due though. The sequences where Jamie is hallucinating that Michael is attacking her are pretty well handled, especially the first with Michael hiding in the reflection of the mirror. Like I said above, the last little stretch of the movie is pretty engaging, and while I definitely thought the very end was cheesy and uninspired, the more I think on it, the more I think I like it.
There are other, smaller problems with Halloween 4, but similar to the ending, the more I mull them over, the less they bother me. They lie namely in some really weird decisions made my some characters (even for an ’80s slasher movie), the shortly-used but mood-ruining child actors, and some less than stellar makeup effects for Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis (especially when looked head on by the camera in full daylight), but considering this is Halloween 4 and not some snooty arthouse film, I can forgive it.
All in all, Halloween 4 was alright. Just alright. I’m sure I’ll forget about most of it by tomorrow, but I’m not miffed about it. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it to somebody who isn’t into slasher flicks or at least a fan of the first Halloween, as it’s nothing more than another paint-by-numbers ’80s slasher. If you’re someone who digs dudes in masks stalking and killing people with sharp objects I would say to give it a shot, if only to have in on in the background during a board game night or something. If you’ve seen Halloween 4, let me know what you think of it! How do you think it stacks up to the rest of the Halloween franchise?