- Year: 1988
- Director: Dwight H. Little
- Starring: Donald Pleasence, Danielle Harris, Ellie Cornell
Despite making nearly six times its budget at the box office, Halloween 3: Season of the Witch was not a hit. The anthology series idea was dead in the water, and the Halloween series was put on the shelf through the mid-80s. However, producer Moustapha Akka decided to bring back the Halloween series and Michael Myers in 1988, ten years after the original was released.
The first draft was written by John Carpenter and author Dennis Etchison but was deemed… ugh, get this… “too cerebral.” Apparently, Myers was still dead in this version and would be a hallucination or ghost of some kind, but Akkad insisted he had to be alive in a physical form, so Carpenter left the franchise. Instead, Alan B. McElroy, writer of future classics like Left Behind: The Movie and Spawn, was brought on board.
Jamie Lee Curtis had no interest in returning to the series, so her character Laurie Strode is said to have died a few years prior in a car accident, and the film instead focuses on her niece Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris).
Jamie lives in Haddonfield, Illinois with her foster parents Richard and Darlene Carruthers (Jeff Olson and Karen Alston) and their teenage daughter Rachel (Ellie Cornell), and has nightmares of a man she does not yet know is her uncle, Michael Myers.
Over the credits, we’re treated to beautiful images of farms decorated for Halloween, as if the filmmakers were really desperate to apologize for Haddonfield looking so much like California before (the palm trees and California license plates were the dead giveaways).
For some reason, instead of the chilling Halloween theme, we get some generic synthesizer droning that doesn’t do much in the way of mood-setting. That said, if you play this scene with the classic theme in the background, it’s far more atmospheric than anything in the movie. Heck, it’s probably more atmospheric anyway.
On October 30, 1988, Michael Myers (George P. Wilbur) is being transferred from Smith’s Grove Sanitarium to a maximum security prison… because apparently he SURVIVED AN EXPLODING HOSPITAL ROOM!
He is in a coma, though, so that’s totally realistic. Of course, he wakes up from the coma on the ride over when he hears that Laurie Strode has a daughter who lives in Haddonfield. He kills everyone in the ambulance, because of course he does, and he’s off to track down his signature uniform.
Obviously, he has to wear the exact same uniform he wore 10 years ago to properly murder people. Michael never kills anyone without his killin’ clothes… except that time he killed his sister… and the people he kills to get the clothes… and the ambulance workers he kills to escape. Obviously the uniform has no special powers, so why does he keep donning it? I get that the mask is iconic, but would it make a difference if he wore a t-shirt or something? Why does this movie need to have a scene where he kills a mechanic just for his shirt and pants?
Meanwhile in Haddonfield, seven-year-old Jamie Lloyd is having a hard time sleeping and is comforted by her foster sister Rachel. Rachel is a nice girl of the Laurie Strode-type, but they’re by no means identical characters.
Plus, there’s just as much focus, if not more, on Jamie here instead of the high school age characters, and her bond with Rachel is really the film’s heart. Ellie Cornell makes Rachel incredibly likable without being a cookie-cutter character, and Danielle Harris is really good as Jamie, despite being an incredibly young actress in a film she would be too young to buy a ticket to. The only real character arc here belongs to Jamie as she struggles with visions of Michael Myers, and she really pulls it off without being overly cute or cheesy.
Donald Pleasence also returns as Dr. Loomis because apparently he SURVIVED AN EXPLODING HOSPITAL ROOM! What do the creators of this movie think fire really does to someone? OK, let’s just say in some magical world that clearly didn’t exist in Halloween II, a team of firemen came and immediately put out the fire, saving Loomis and Myers from the inferno. Loomis was still dying of his wounds, which is why he had no problem with the mutually assured destruction in the first place! Oh, but he has scars on his face, so trauma I guess. It would be like if someone tried to make a sequel to The Wicker Man where Sgt. Howie is rescued from the burning effigy at the very last moment…
So what? Am I saying this film would be better without the Shakespearean-level of committed performance that Donald Pleasence gives yet again? No, it would probably be more boring, but couldn’t they at least mention the lifesaving surgery he received, even just in passing? It’s like they don’t care about the audience’s suspension of disbelief.
Shock of shocks, no other doctors take Dr. Loomis seriously, so he has to make his way to Haddonfield alone, where he hopes to reconnect with Sheriff Brackett from the first two films. However, he finds out that Brackett retired in 1981, and the new sheriff is Ben Meeker (Beau Starr). I could be overthinking this, but I really think that 1981 date is an error. It’s suggested that the death of Brackett’s daughter Annie at the hands of Michael Myers is what caused his early retirement, but Annie died in 1978, the year in which the first two films take place. However, Halloween II was released in 1981, and since it’s not until that film that Brackett discovers his daughter is dead, I really think the screenwriter accidentally wrote 1981 and no one caught it.
Anyway, I really like Sheriff Ben Meeker, and he might even be the best character in the film. Like Brackett before him, he is anything but the useless police officer that exists in so many horror films, and he actually makes smart decisions at every turn.
When Dr. Loomis warns him what Michael Myers is capable of, Meeker instills a curfew in the town. When every police officer at the station is massacred by Myers (off screen), he gets Jamie and Rachel to safety in his home, barricades the door and calls in the state police. When a bunch of rednecks want to hunt down Myers, he neither tells them it’s police business or lets them run wild, but rather leads them in the hunt. Beau Starr may be playing a side character in the 4th film in a slasher series, but he’s sure giving it his all. The only thing that confuses me is why this guy who has a thick Queens accent is sheriff of a middle-of-nowhere Illinois town. I mean, obviously he could have moved there, but the story seems to suggest he’s been there a while. Again, like with Loomis’s miraculous recovery, I just need one line to explain this, but rural Illinois seems to have everyone, from a New York sheriff to a British psychiatrist. I guess it’s the place to be.
Just like the original film, Halloween 4 doesn’t overload its cast with useless characters. There are a few characters who exist just to be killed off, but we don’t have to spend time with the mechanic Michael kills to get his clothes or the power worker he kills to shut off the power in Haddonfield. However, there are a few characters whose writing… leaves something to be desired. This is Rachel’s almost-boyfriend Brady.
And this is the girl he’s sleeping with, Holly… or Sally… or Kelly.
Kelly also happens to be Sheriff Meeker’s daughter, because why not force them all into one house? Brady and Kelly have a sex scene that is shot like some Cinemax knock-off and goes on for a painfully long time (in a barely-90 minute movie). It serves to create forced drama, because apparently a murderer returning to town to kill his niece and anyone in his way isn’t drama enough. After everyone is locked in the house, there is a painfully awkward scene where Kelly tries to explain to Rachel that men only want one thing, and it contains the most cliched, soap opera dialogue imaginable. Kelly even defends sleeping with Rachel’s boyfriend because “he’s not married.” In the original film, the teenagers talk like teenagers, because thought was put into the dialogue and characters. Here, they talk like they’re being written by an out-of-touch man, which I’ve no doubt the guy who wrote Left Behind: The Movie is.
Similarly, despite Danielle Harris’s great performance, Alan B. McElroy does have some issues writing kids. There’s a scene in which Jamie’s classmates bully her for being an orphan. It’s not just one kid with a mean streak, but a whole group of kids! Who does this? Kids aren’t so awful as to tease someone constantly for having dead parents. Kids teased Tommy Doyle in the original film for being scared of the Boogeyman, and while it was kind of silly, it wasn’t entirely unbelievable. Jamie being bullied for being an orphan completely takes you out of the movie.
For some reason, there is also a doomsday preacher that Loomis hitches a ride with on the way to Haddonfield. It really adds nothing to the plot, and it really doesn’t even add anything thematically except the fact that they’re both heading towards something evil. OK? It’s so encouraging that this movie doesn’t even have 90 minutes’ worth of screenplay that it has to toss in an entirely pointless character.
I’d be perfectly fine if he just showed up at the end, still rambling on after Myers is shot, but nope. He’s just there to kill time with Loomis. There are also more teenagers who dress up like Michael Myers (but at least it makes sense 10 years later), and Rachel is even friends with Adriana from The Sopranos. Who knew?
The film does take its time in Michael Myers actually getting to the house, and even though there are some deaths on his way there, it’s not excessive. It’s also genuinely creepy seeing Jamie pick out the exact same clown costume Michael Myers wore years ago when he killed his sister, although I’m pretty sure after some commotion in the store, she just leaves without paying.
On paper, The Return of Michael Myers reads a good bit like the original Halloween, but in execution, it’s nothing like it. This movie doesn’t have any of the atmospheric horror of the first film, or even of Halloween II. There are one or two moments that will make you jump, but it’s just not even a little bit scary (until one part I’m getting to). Michael Myers kills all the characters you expect him to kill (Brady, Kelly, etc.), which would be fine if Michael Myers hid in the shadows like in the original film. Instead, he just kind of walks in and kills, fully lit and without any buildup. Like Halloween II, it thinks that gore replaces genuine terror. In one of the dumbest horror movie kills, Kelly is impaled with a shotgun. Yeah cool, Michael Myers just has a shotgun now.
The lack of true horror aside, the climax of this film is rewarding. After Rachel is hurt escaping Myers in a rooftop chase, Jamie meets up with Dr. Loomis, who suggests she go to the schoolhouse where he pulls the alarm. The bond that Loomis forms with her is really sweet, trying to save a child from a monster he tried to save as a child.
Dr. Loomis monologues a lot less in this movie, opting instead for terser, but still dramatic lines, which is a nice change, because the monologues were really getting silly in Halloween II. Plus, he is understandably older and more tired.
The redneck lynch mob shows up and tries to drive Rachel and Jamie to safety, but Michael Myers jumps on top of the car and attacks again, killing some of the mob. Eventually, Sheriff Meeker and the state police show up, and everyone fires away, apparently killing Michael Myers.
They don’t bury the body or anything though, or even make sure he’s dead, because there has to be another sequel.
For some reason, Dr. Loomis is even convinced that Myers is dead even though in the last film he SURVIVED AN EXPLODING HOSPITAL ROOM! Everything seems to be winding down, and Jamie’s foster mother goes upstairs to take a bath. Hold on.. we’re not done yet. Jamie, still clad in the clown costume, goes into the bathroom and murders her! We even see the buildup to it through the eyes of the mask, just like in Halloween‘s opening scene. We don’t see the actual murder, but rather Loomis walking up the stairs and reacting to Jamie walking out with the bloody scissors, but we hear the scream and it is effective.
Unfortunately, Loomis lets out a ridiculous scream of “No, no, no!” that sounds more like Emperor Palpatine than Donald Pleasence, but it doesn’t completely ruin the scene.
This twist ending would be ridiculous if it came out of nowhere, but it was foreshadowed early in the movie with Jamie’s nightmares about Michael Myers, even before she knew who he was. The viewer may have forgotten these once the killing started, but I’m glad they went all in with this ending. It’s the lone moment in the entire film that’s unexpected, and it’s a pretty scary place to end.
Story (10/25 Points)
It tries to be the bare-bones thriller that the original was, but it just comes off as being pretty uninspired. Jamie being haunted by Michael, and ultimately becoming a killer herself at the end, saves it a bit.
Characters (20/25 Points)
Honestly, all of the main characters are great here, from Rachel and Jamie to Loomis and Sheriff Meeker. There are only a couple of dumb moments between them, and all of the actors give strong performances. The supporting characters are given so little to work with, and they don’t really make an impression (minus the nutty preacher, and that’s not really for a good reason).
Experience (9/25 Points)
I like the opening shots of farms decorated for Halloween. It really sets the mood for… a far more atmospheric film than this one.
Originality (6/25 Points)
We have a child instead of a teenager as the protagonist, and it leads to a chilling final scene. Beyond that, I guess we never saw Michael Myers with a shotgun before, but that’s not working in the film’s favor. It’s pretty much just copying the formula here.
FINAL SCORE: 45%
Halloween 4: The Revenge of Michael Myers is a perfectly watchable film with enjoyable characters and some nice chase scenes. I blame most of its faults on poor directing, but the writing isn’t exactly brilliant either. At least the actors are trying.