The Night He Came Home (Again) (Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, 1988)

halloween-4-returnI doubt most people cared, outside of the producers…but the failure of Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (a movie without a single witch) certainly killed interest in another Halloween film. It certainly killed the plan to make each film a separate entity.

In 1987 or so, the producers decided it was safe or a good idea or something to revive Halloween. And they apparently felt that # 3 was far enough away that they could try it again. But this time, they returned to the well that started it all.  They got the future director of Free Willy 2, Dwight H. Little, to direct.

Jason had been brought back from the dead already, and Freddy was enjoying success. And yet, the producers decided not to bring Michael Myers back from the dead. Spa-lars follow.

Instead of returning Michael from the dead, they simply had him in a coma in the ten years since the end of Halloween 2(which, although it was released in 1981, took place in 1978). They were not likely to get Jamie Lee Curtis back, as she had become a household name, and in the 80’s, horror was something you did at the start of your career and then disavowed later. But since Halloween 2 had created the importance of family ties for Michael, they felt they had to have a relative. So the writers and producers came up with Laurie Strode’s daughter Jamie and killed Laurie off in a car crash.

Like her mother, Jamie was growing up with an adoptive family, none of whom seemed aware of the dark family member from her past. They did get Donald Pleasence back as Dr. Loomis. This gave the film some legitimacy. Sure, the cynical part of me presumes Pleasence was collecting a check. But honestly, he seemed to genuinely want to be a part of the series. And he certainly tried. Loomis came off creepier and more devoted than ever.

When Loomis learns Michael has awakened from his ten year coma, he knows what this means and heads for Haddonfield. He ends up walking most of the way, as he catches up to Michael at a gas station. Michael blows it up and leaves Loomis stranded.

Michael gets to town and starts stalking his niece as she gets ready for the Halloween festivities. She keeps seeing the boogey man, but no one really believes her until it is to late. Loomis gets to town and convinces the Sheriff that Myers is back. The town goes on high alert (people were skittish, as the power has gone out) and a posse forms to hunt Michael down.

They end up chasing him to a school, and then the posse take Jamie and her older adopted sister Rachel (Ellie Cornell) with them to keep the girls safe from Michael. But if it were that easy, well, it would not be a Halloween movie, silly duck. No, Michael manages to kill every member of the posse. Rachel takes over the truck and crashes it, launching Michael a few hundred feet. The police arrive just in time. as Michael lumbers closer The cops unload a hail of bullets into him and he falls down an abandoned mine shaft to his death (who am I kiddin’?).

Probably one of the strongest moments of the film is at the end, when the camera gives us a “killer’s eye view”-reminiscent of the original Halloween in which we see a person getting stabbed, everyone runs over to the stairs when they hear the scream, and Donald Pleasence just starts screaming “NO! NO! NO!” over and over, finally the camera pans to the top of the stairs where Jamie stands, a blank look on her face and a bloody pair of scissors in her hand. It evokes this idea that Michael lives on, that Loomis cannot beat the evil that resides in Myers. It’s particularly effective. There are also some really nice visual uses of shadow and reveals of Michael that cause genuine jump moments.

Director Dwight H. Little shows a lot of promise, and this was his fourth feature. He has gone on to direct a lot of action/suspense based television. The dialog is a bit stiff, but the characters over come it for the most part. The character of Rachel is especially pleasing, because she is confident and strong. It’s interesting that the Halloween films seemed devoted to a small town look and aesthetic. The prettiest girl in town doesn’t look like a California blond pin-up. While attractive, Rachel seems real, both in personality and appearance.

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