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film reel image

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers 1988 * * * Stars

Director: Dwight H. Little
Year: 1988
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Donald Pleasence, Ellie Cornell, Danielle Harris

As October 31st is steadily approaching, I have been quietly revisiting some of the random slasher flicks from the very popular series being the Halloween sequels and prequels. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, is a sequel that sort of stays faithful to the original, groundbreaking horror film from 1978. Although not as voyeuristic and shockingly effective as John Carpenter's low budget scream fest, "Return" has a similar look, a similar feel, and garners some of the same production values as well. It also has familiar types of set ups for the killer's dispatching of victims, and a cast of actors/actresses who are more charismatic (less paper thin) than in many other horror film knockoffs. Halloween 4 gets the job done and will satisfy a majority of the fans of this distance running series. It's a small hour and a half film with a B movie feel, but it doesn't try too hard to outdo anything that came before it. Honestly, this will never register as groundbreaking stuff. However, in its day, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers was a financial success and staked its claim as the last recommendable horror sequel in my most humbled opinion. The best reasons to see this 1988 release on video: Freshness in the way the script by Alan B. McElroy allows the film to make a smooth transaction from the previous installments, a plot that can hold the audience's attention without being too outlandish, and an ending that's surprising and ultimately terrifying (watch for another scene where murderous happenings are viewed through the eyes of the killer's mask). For my money, it has the same feeling of dread as the conclusion of Carpenter's pragmatic vision. The shame in all of the Halloween movies is that after no. 4, the series went steadily or should I say freakishly downhill. Rob Zombie tried to reintroduce everything with his startling new vision (Halloween in 2007 and H2: Halloween 2 in 2009) but then for me, it was too little too late.

Beginning with a quietly haunting opening credits sequence and appearing more as the first actual sequel as opposed to the 3rd one (Halloween II in 1981 took place in a hospital the whole time while Halloween III: Season of the Witch in 1983, had nothing to do with the Michael Myers character), "Return" eliminates the presence of heroine Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis as an actress, became a big star and didn't want to have anything to do with the series. In the film, they state that her character died in a car accident.) and concentrates heavily on masked killer Myers as he mysteriously comes out of a decade long coma (as in the original, Myers again escapes from a hospital and takes a long slog of a trip to get back to Haddonfield). When he decides to venture back to the small defenseless Illinois town (after a long hiatus), chaos ensures and the corpses pile up. His main target though is Strode's daughter being the shy, fragile Jamie Lloyd (played by then newcomer, Danielle Harris).Thankfully, there is doctor Samuel Loomis (the always reliable and likable Donald Pleasence who looks badly burned from the conclusion of the 1981 nightmare) and a hard nosed Sheriff (Sheriff Meeker played by Beau Starr) who join forces to try and eliminate the out of control sicko. Oh and I almost forgot, the addition of the townspeople comprising a lynch mob to stop Myers again adds a certain level of perkiness to the proceedings. And as I mentioned earlier, the characters are likable in "Return" and they have a tongue-in-cheek way about them (Sasha Jenson as the high school jock and selfish ladies man is a nonchalant hoot).

All in all, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers is admittedly not the most innovative horror film around. However, its almost similar second cousin feel to the original Halloween means that it has just enough spunk to deliver what the most ardent fans of the series want. I just think of this flick as a horror exercise equivalent to a James Bond movie (all the Bond films seem similar in structure, but just think the comparison of the superior Dr. No to the serviceable Live and Let Die). Now that everyone's favorite holiday (who doesn't like Halloween) is almost here, grab some candy corn, cut up your favorite jack o' lantern, and throw in a DVD copy (if you can find one) of this harmless bit of mild gore and rollicking suspense. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers is no masterpiece but it's a welcome "return" to horror sequel escapism.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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