Movies We Like
Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers
After both the box office failure and predominantly negative (and unfair) critical reviews of Halloween III: Season Of The Witch, the future for the Halloween franchise seemed unsure. Original creators John Carpenter and Debra Hill never intended or wanted to do Halloween II. They would have preferred their Michael Myers story be a single film and instead they wanted to continue the franchise as a series of stand alone horror tales that all took place on Halloween. But when Halloween III failed to launch this version of the franchise, producer (and Godfather) of the Halloween franchise Moustapha Akkad decided it was time to go back to the basics and bring back Michael Myers.
The opening of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers is not only one of the most beautiful introductions of the entire series, but it perfectly captures the odd underlining uneasy feeling of the fall season. It’s a series of primarily landscape shots setting up Halloween, the holiday. Decorated pumpkins are set up at stoops, a gust of wind blows through the fields and the overall sense of dread that comes with the Halloween is palpable.
A group of doctors arrive at Smithsgrove Sanitarium to move the now comatose patient known as Michael Myers to a new facility. It’s 10 years after the events of Halloween II and the guard recounts the events of that fateful night when Michael went on a killing spree in Haddonfield which was ended by his doctor Sam Loomis blowing them both up. Despite the finality of that act, the guard clearly states, “both of them nearly burned to death.” (Ya gotta love horror sequel leniency.) It’s a rainy night (naturally) as they transport Michael and once they mention his next of kin, which happens to be a 9-year old girl named Jamie Lloyd (the daughter of Laurie Strode and played here by Danielle Harris), Michael suddenly springs to life and manages to escape, but not before plunging his thumb into the forehead of one of the doctors. (Ewww!)
Although Laurie Strode is long gone, her daughter Jamie Lloyd now lives with the Carruthers family and has a kinship with Rachel (fan favorite Ellie Cornell) who acts more or less as her older sister. Despite having no real knowledge of her “uncle,” she has nightmares that involve the white faced bogeyman chasing her and hiding under her bed and in her closet. Halloween day rolls around and although all Rachel wants to do is hang out with her boyfriend Brady, she is instead stuck babysitting Jamie for the night, which turns out not to be so bad once they get into the spirit of Halloween and pick up Jamie a cute little clown outfit. (Much like the one that 6-year old Michael Myers murdered his older sister in.)
Enter the late, great Donald Pleasence as Dr. Sam Loomis, the Ahab to Michael’s Moby Dick, the Van Helsing to his Dracula; the perfect arch nemesis and the heart and soul of this franchise, which has quite frankly never been the same since his death after the 6th entry. Loomis heads back to Haddonfield convinced that that’s where Michael is now headed. Since Michael failed to kill his sister 10 years earlier, he’ll inevitably go after his next of kin, in this case Jamie. There’s a great sequence where Loomis does catch up to Michael at a gas station. He stumbles upon the aftermath of Michael's arrival – phones smashed, dinner staff killed, etc. And although he tries his best to stop him, Loomis doesn’t succeed as Michael takes off in a truck leaving the old gas station burning in flames.
Back on the home front, once Rachel cancels her date with Brady, Kelly (the town umm… well, let’s just say she gets around) overhears the whole fight and sees it as an opportunity to make her move. Once the evening rolls around and Michael arrives in town, that’s when creepy things starts to go down. Sheriff Brackett has long since retired, but Sheriff Meeker (Kelly’s dad) teams up with Loomis to stop Michael this go round. After finding Rachel and Jamie (Michael’s intended target), they all hole up back at the Meeker’s house, completely unaware that Michael been hiding out in the back of the police car and is inside the house with them. When they arrive there, they also interrupt Brady’s make-out session with Kelly, which brings up a whole lot of background drama, both for Rachel and Brady, but also for Sheriff Meeker who isn’t exactly thrilled to find the boy there with his daughter considering all that’s going down around them that night.
From here on out, it’s a pretty thrilling game of cat and mouse as Michael ends up chasing Rachel and Jamie onto the roof of the house, then to the local school and finally, Michael is hiding under the truck that’s meant to take them out of town. (For a fella that spent 10 years in bed, he’s awfully agile, huh?) This all leads to a pretty terrific showdown between Michael and the state police who essentially blow him to kingdom come. (Don’t worry, there is a convenient escape route, but we won’t be made aware of that until the opening moments of Halloween 5!) Then there’s that shocking ending! I won’t spoil it here, but it involves somewhat of a transformation for the character of Jamie Lloyd and in an odd way, it homages the opening events of the original Halloween beautifully. It would’ve been interesting if the producers took this one little tease as the launching point for future sequels, but alas, I think they feared ever making another Halloween movie that didn’t directly involve the character of Michael Myers, so it’ll never be.
Look – Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers is pretty darned ridiculous. But if you can look past the fact that the two lead characters didn’t die in a hospital explosion 10 years earlier and are still chasing each other, then you can see the movie for what is it. A really, really fun time. Not many of the other Halloween movies before or after this quite capture the feeling of Halloween, the holiday, quite like this one did. And more than anything, I’m so, so thrilled that Donald Pleasence agreed to come back because he truly steals every scene he has in every Halloween movie. He jokingly said he’d come back until around Halloween 37 and then he’d retire the character of Sam Loomis, but sadly he only reprised the role two more times after this before passing away in 1995.
Halloween 4 acts as a fine sequel to the first two movies, but you also don’t have to have any previous knowledge of the Halloween movies to enjoy it thoroughly. The ones after this get a little complicated with continuity and over-explaining of mythology, but Halloween 4 is essentially a straightforward, fun and enjoyable Michael Myers flick. Put this one on your queue for the Halloween season!