In Praise Of 'Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers,' One Of The Better Films In The Franchise
Photo: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers / Galaxy International Releasing

In Praise Of 'Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers,' One Of The Better Films In The Franchise

When it was released in 1988, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers earned over $17 million in theatres after being made on a $5 million budget. Despite this success, Halloween 4's approach to reviving the story of Michael Myers polarized fans. Yet, with the benefit of hindsight, the film has proven to be not only one of the best sequels, but one of the best movies in the Halloween franchise.

Taking place 10 years after the events of the original, Halloween 4 picks up where Halloween II left off. It turns out that Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis, both presumed deceased, survived the major blast that ended the second film. The pair return to Haddonfield with different missions: Michael stalks his niece Jamie, taking out everyone in his wake, while Loomis stalks Michael, warning everyone he can. What makes Halloween 4 a strong horror film is its reliance on the "slow burn" style of movie-making, its commanding lead cast, and its use of atmospherics over gratuitous mayhem. Even though the film's body count is over two dozen, most of the carnage is implied or indicated through glimpses, hearkening back to the suggestive storytelling power of the original Halloween.

While many reviews have othered Halloween 4 because creators John Carpenter and Debra Hill are not associated with it, the producers and crew of this fourth installment knew what they were doing. Writer Alan H. McElroy - who wrote the script in 11 days - and director Dwight H. Little managed to create a movie that proves returning to genre basics pays off in the long run, even if some moviegoers don't appreciate it.

  • It Features One Of The Best Opening Title Sequences In Horror History

    The rural outskirts of Haddonfield on October 30, 1988, are depicted with eerie simplicity in Halloween 4 's opening sequence. Dilapidated farming structures and houses pop up on the screen, followed by a black, cut-out skull taped to the front of a dirt road mailbox. A silo lingers in the distance.

    The film cuts to another scene: a plastic skeleton on the side of an abandoned wooden shack. A gust of wind blows dirt and fall leaves around, as well as a homemade ghost dangling from a massive tree. One final Halloween decoration that would seem campy and kitschy in any other context works as an unsettling visual queue here: a pumpkin-headed scarecrow positioned on a tractor next to an axe.

    Without using actors or dialogue, this minute-long introductory montage - amplified by strange, breathy music - sets the tone flawlessly for the overall pace and mood of Halloween 4.

  • George P. Wilbur's Turn As The Shape Is Truly Terrifying

    Professional stuntman George P. Wilbur plays Michael Myers in Halloween 4, and he brings with him a looming, ghostly demeanor. After the failure of the anthology-styled Halloween III: Season of the Witch, fans were eager to see Michael Myers again, and Wilbur does not fail to deliver.

    Wilbur's Michael is slow and methodical, always lingering in the shadows, a step ahead of the rest. When he strikes, he uses so much force that at times it seems super human. In fact, when he's being transported in an ambulance at the beginning of the film, he uses his hands alone to take out his first target. This Michael is everything that makes a horror movie villain scary: strong, smart, evasive, and without emotions.

  • It Gets Lumped In With The 'Cult Of Thorn' Mythos, But The Cult Is Nowhere To Be Found

    Part of Halloween 4's sullied reputation can be attributed to its false association with the Cult of Thorn plot line that consumes and ruins Halloween 5 and 6. In those additions to the franchise, Michael's thirst for blood is linked to an ancient Celtic cult whose actions reach their height around Samhaim.

    Why is Halloween 4 considered by some to be part of the Cult of Thorn mythos? This is because Jamie Llyod, Michael's niece in Halloween 4, returns for Halloween 5 and 6 - both directed by Dominique Othenin-Girard, not Dwight H. Little.

    Little's intention with making Halloween 4 was to create a cinematic response to the original Halloween. "I didn't really want to be influenced by anything artistically other than Halloween one," he said in an interview. While he had no control over how his movie would be built upon after its release, it's clear Little was not interested in obscure, convoluted backstories.

  • Dr. Loomis Has Fantastic Dialogue

    Playing Dr. Loomis for the third time, Donald Pleasance is wonderful to watch in Halloween 4. The limping, scarred, and brutalized pyschologist will not stop until Michael Myers does. He pursues Michael like Ahab pursuing his white whale, his dedication bordering on obsession. He is the only character who understands what will transpire after Michael escapes from the ambulance at the beginning of the movie. He constantly reminds those around him what they are up against.

    "We are talking about evil on two legs," he tells his colleague Dr. Hoffman. "You're talking about him as if he were a human being," he quips in another scene.

    As the casualties pile up, Dr. Loomis's dialogue takes on a real prescience. He insists throughout the film that Michael "isn't a man," but rather a detached slaying machine intent upon taking out his young niece and "anyone who gets in his way."

  • Jamie Is A Great Protagonist And 'Final Girl'

    Jamie Lloyd, Michael's seven-year-old niece, is a tough but traumatized girl. The daughter of Laurie Stroud - played by Jamie Lee Curtis in the first two Halloween films - Jamie was orphaned after her parents perished in a car collision a year before Halloween 4 's events. Haunted by nightmares and visions of her uncle, whom she calls her "nightmare man," Jamie is one of the most compelling, heartbreaking characters in the entire franchise.

    Played with an intense vulnerability by child actress Danielle Harris, Jamie is the emotional core of the film. As an innocent young girl, she's a protagonist filmgoers root for. Despite her age and her past, Jamie tries her best to defend herself as Michael closes in on her. "Whoever you are, I've got a big dog with me, and he bites!" she screams in a memorable scene, running alone through the streets of Haddonfield on Halloween night.

  • The Film Does A Good Job Of Establishing Michael Myers As The Boogeyman

    Halloween 4 portrays Michael Myers as the ultimate boogeyman. The lurking ghost of Halloweens past, Myers lacks humanity. Little's choice to depict Michael this way recalls the style of the original Halloween.

    The imminent arrival of the boogeyman reaches its painful peak when Jamie's classmates taunt her by yelling, "Boogeyman! Boogeyman! Jamie's uncle's the boogeyman!"