October Horrorshow: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

Halloween III was a big bust. A successful horror franchise ditched its most marketable characters because series creators John Carpenter and Debra Hill were tired of the idea. I suppose it was a laudable decision from a creative standpoint, but if you’re going to ditch Michael Myers and Laurie Strode, perhaps the greatest on screen villain/scream queen pairing in Hollywood history, it’s probably a bad idea to name your new film like it’s a sequel. Carpenter and Hill learned the hard way that the Halloween brand was in its characters, not its name. Halloween III is not a bad movie. It’s just not a Halloween film.

Of course, there was still money to be made. So, in 1988, six years after the debacle that was Halloween III, a new film was released. No Laurie Strode in this one, but the title of the film says it all. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. Such an unambiguous title was no accident. They wanted it to be clear to any potential viewers that the big scary guy in the white mask was back, and ready to slice up some teenagers.

Halloween 4 takes place ten years after the events in the first two films. Michael Myers has been in a catatonic state ever since, possibly owing to the massive explosion that he and Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) inexplicably survived at the climax of Halloween II. But, the top head shrinker at the hospital Michael is in decides it’s time to send the big fellow on his way. He couldn’t have picked a worse time. It’s the day before Halloween on the ten-year anniversary of Michael’s murderous rampage in Haddonfield, Illinois. After overhearing from one of the EMTs in the ambulance transporting him that he has a niece living in Haddonfield, Michael suddenly awakens and kills everyone in the ambulance. What? Yeah, it makes no sense. But that’s a common theme in this film. Potential viewers beware. If you value coherent plot over bloody murder, Halloween 4 is not for you.

A few examples: Michael has no idea what his niece looks like, how old she is, or where she lives, yet he is able to make a beeline to her home and terrorize the poor child (played ably by Danielle Harris, who also had substantial supporting roles in Rob Zombie’s Halloween remakes). At a further point, Michael decides to go to Haddonfield’s police station and slaughter every cop inside. Why does he do this? How does it advance the plot? Neither of these questions is answered. Still later in the film, Michael, having established himself as an unstoppable killing machine, is thwarted by the spray from a fire extinguisher shot into his face. The same face that’s wearing a mask. All this and more are typical in Halloween 4: The Return of Gaping Plot Holes and Unbelievable Escapes, but there really is no surprise there. Halloween 4 is high-stinking cheese, a cheap horror film made to cash in on a brand and put some money in the bank. It did that well enough, but in doing so, it is also the beginning of the bastardization of the Halloween brand. It wasn’t the misnamed third film that was the downfall of Halloween. Oh, no. It was this piece of garbage, because it began a string of awful films stretching to the series final death throes with Halloween: Resurrection.

Of final note, earlier this month I praised Donald Pleasence as being a reliable actor. No matter the project, he gave it his best, he was professional, and he was good. I guess by this point in his life he’d had enough. His Dr. Loomis was such a manic doomsayer, his performance so hammy, I couldn’t wait for him to get off the screen.

This one’s for Halloween fans only. Alien: Resurrection is better.