Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

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“Both of them nearly burned to death”.

I want you to keep that line in mind when you watch the ending of “Halloween 2”. The room that Michael Myers and Dr Loomis are in EXPLODES. Loomis never leaves, and the last we see of Michael is him staggering out of the room, on fire, then collapsing, and the end credits playing over a shot of his burning corpse.

But that’s not all. The first ten minutes of this film is when it – and the series – stops attempting the remotest link to reality and just becomes a consequence-free slash-fest. For no reason whatsoever, Michael Myers, still alive, is due to be transferred from the hospital basement he’s been left in for the last ten years, and of course the only time they can possibly do it is the rainy night of the 30th of October. Oh, and Dr Loomis is still his doctor, for even less reason – he’s already shot him twice. When Myers, travelling in the ambulance, sticks his thumb through the skull of one of the paramedics, all bets are off! I can sense you asking questions, but don’t. Relax and enjoy.

The film, amazingly, isn’t done piling on the “boy, we ought to have hired a better scriptwriter or director for this” fun. Jamie Lee Curtis had the good sense to not come back for part 4, so her character Laurie Strode apparently died at some point in the last ten years. Before she did, she had the time to get married and have a kid, called Jamie, who looks 10 years old or so by the time of this one (so it must have happened pretty quickly after the trauma of having her brother kill dozens of people trying to get to her). But we’re still not done! All Laurie’s family are dead, so the poor kid is put into foster care. The only town they could possibly find with a willing foster family? Haddonfield, the site of the mass murders committed by her Uncle!

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Michael luckily finds a mechanic to kill and steal some overalls from, so he can keep the same look he had in the first two films; also luckily, those white William Shatner masks are now big business thanks to his exploits a decade ago, so he grabs another one. Loomis, his only visible injury being a bit of a scar on his cheek, pursues Michael back to Haddonfield, and it’s on for another Halloween night of slaughter.

Even if you can accept all this, the film has a bit more for you! For some completely unknown reason, the two paramedics mention in Michael’s presence that he has a niece, and they know where she lives, which activates his family-killing superpowers. Also, would you know where the power station that supplied your town was? It’s not the sort of thing that gets advertised, but Michael finds it immediately and blows it up, which combined with long-distance phone lines being down, isolates Haddonfield from the rest of the world. What a mastermind Myers is!

Of course, we need some teenagers to be cannon fodder, and this film has Rachel, Jamie’s much older foster-sister. She does normal teenager stuff, but her treatment is so appallingly sexist that it’s like they’re going for some sort of “Anti-Feminism In Cinema” Award. During a car ride near the beginning, she and her friend (supposedly the same character that Laurie baby-sat in part 1, fact fans) are discussing boys, and they end with “don’t be too pushy, boys don’t like that”. At the end, Rachel’s almost-boyfriend has slept with another woman, and she tells Rachel that if she doesn’t understand what boys really want, he won’t be the last boyfriend she loses to a girl like her. Wow! The film gives zero indication that these statements are wrong, and it’s not like either of them really play into the plot at all, so it feels like someone with a very skewed perspective on relationships crowbarred these parts in.

Amazingly, after all this, the film itself is rather good. If you take the first ten minutes as a “well, the producers want a film, here’s the least stupid way we can resurrect the killer and his only antagonist who’s prepared to come back” and the ending as “holy crap did we have to go that dark?”, then the film itself is a tight and decent enough thriller. If you ignore the rotten sexual politics, then Rachel is a smart and resourceful heroine who behaves in ways you don’t normally get from slasher ladies, and apart from a weird 20 minute lull (where the only two cops left in town lock themselves in a house and wait for Myers to show up) it keeps up the pace, and Pleasence is always good to watch.

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Myers gets his first kill which I’d call “playful” (well, my wife coined the phrase) where he pretends to be the cop sat in the dark who he just killed. It’s way out of place for the implacable force of evil which the film wishes it had the brains to portray him as, but it’s quite good fun. The kids at Jamie’s school are legitimately horrible like kids actually are in real life, but sadly Myers doesn’t kill any of them.

So, streets ahead of part 3, and more fun to watch than part 2. We’ve got some fun ahead of us, ISCFC readers. There’s a couple more films left in the “original” run, then there’s part 7 which retcons parts 4-6 out of existence and a part 8 with Busta Rhymes in it. YES! Then there’s fan films and two Rob Zombie reboot films…we’ll still be reviewing Halloween movies next October 31st.

Rating: thumbs up

PS. Perhaps an example of how lazy these sequels had gotten is the fetishisation of hiding Michael’s face. He’s got full-face bandages the only time we see him without his mask on, and a later film in the series made a point in its advertising of “Michael Myers unmasked!” This ignored the fact that in part 1 – the only really good one, the horror classic that everyone will remember long after the sequels are dust – you see his face, clearly. It’s just not important, until you become desperate to make a few more dollars any way you can.

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2 thoughts on “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

  1. Pingback: Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998) |

  2. Pingback: The ISCFC vs. Horror Franchises |

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