Halloween IV (1988)

“The Return of Michael Myers”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Director:  Dwight H. Little
Studio:  Trancas International Films
Starring:  Danielle Harris, Ellie Cornell, Donald Pleasence
Tagline:  Horror has Returned to Haddonfield
MPAA Rating:  R
Genre:  slasher, stalker, psychopath, serial killer, masked murderer
Scare score:  B+
Rating:  B+

Plot overview:  Ten years after the events of the first film, we learn that Michael Myers did, in fact, survive the events of Halloween II.  Upon learning that his sister Laurie – who has since died in a car accident – had a daughter, Michael’s evil is reawakened and he breaks free while being transferred to another hospital.  Meanwhile, it is Halloween in Haddonfield, Illinois, and the young Jamie Lloyd (Harris) is simultaneously dealing with her parents’ death as well as nightmarish images of a man in a mask.  When she and her “sister” through adoption, Rachel Carruthers (Cornell), go out for a simple night of trick or treating, they soon loon that Jamie’s uncle really is the boogeyman, and that he has come back to kill.

Out of all the Halloween movies, I think I have seen Halloween IV or Halloween V the most.  That being said, there is something special about them for me, and I really enjoy watching and re-watching them.

First of all, how can’t you love Danielle Harris?  She does a tremendous job as a child actress in such a crucial and demanding role.  Her screams never get annoying, and even her crying is believable.  From simple lines such as “Double scoops?” to more serious lines like “Please come alive!  Don’t be dead.  You can’t be dead!  Come alive…!”  How great is the script writing there?  The success of the movie is crucial on Miss Harris, and she delivers more than we could hope for an average child actor to do.

Also doing a great job is Ellie Cornell as Jamie’s adoptive sister Rachel.  She is a strong leading female who keeps her head and is able to protect Jamie even in times of panic.  Finally after the feminist critiques on the first several films I hope we have some approval here while following the plight of two fantastic leading ladies, who are both young.  Even Donald Pleasence doesn’t have as big of a role in this movie as he had in the first two.  I can never forget the final scene of this film when he [annoyingly] shouts “No!” at least 9 times.  I guess we’ve been expecting this since the first movie when he starts to go downhill in the sane house.  Which is funny, since he’s the only character who seems to know what he’s talking about when it comes to Michael.

Speaking of which, I like Michael (George P. Wilbur) in this film even though he seems somewhat more distant and shallow.  The mask seems to have changed a bit, and in this installment it looks even paler and plainer, making the killer more detached and absent from humanity and more intent on his evil deeds.  He is more bloodthirsty in this movie, no doubt do to the increasing popularity of basic slashers throughout the ’80s, leading him to kill various people along his way from the mental hospital to Haddonfield.  I don’t think we even seen any deaths by knife in this movie!  Instead, we enjoy death by sheer force of hand (particularly gruesome), crowbar-ish tool, rifle (though not via shooting, which would be too simple for a force such as Michael Myers), and more.  Unlike the first two films where Michael only killed whoever stood in his way, now he seems to be killing whoever crosses his path.  What is more, Michael himself is now older and more physically damaged; we constantly see his horribly burnt skin, making him seem more like a monster.

The original Halloween theme music has undergone an ’80s update in this synthesizer-full sequel, but in many ways I think that makes it even more urgent and frightening.  While the original piano piece is haunting and beautiful, the quicker tempo and sharper electronic notes in Halloween IV make it scary and annoying, therefore stressing us out whenever it plays (due to sound and not only the sights of Michael pursuing his next victim).

By this point in the series I’ve noticed the strange recurring theme of absent parents.  With horror movies we have the basic ‘idiot plot,’ where the events of the movie depend on every character acting like an idiot (“What was that noise?  Let me go check the scary basement,” etc), but in the Halloween series the characters’ parents always seem to be missing when things take a terrible turn in the homestead, which should be a place of peace and safety.  In the original Halloween, like where were the Doyle’s and the Wallace’s that they were out late enough for the children to be asleep but not for partying/ trick or treating hours to be over yet?  Likewise, in this movie, Rachel (and now Jamie)’s parents are out all night when Michael attacks.  Furthermore, Sheriff Meeker (Beau Starr) just leaves his house when Michael arrives, thereby leaving all the people inside to become victims.  Lastly and most generally, we are told that Laurie Strode (now Laurie Lloyd) and her husband are dead, leaving them obviously absent.  What critique might the filmmakers be making?

On the note of absent parents, how terrible is the scene where Jamie is teased at school?  It’s actually one of my favorites, as the mean children switch from “Jamie’s uncles the Boogeyman!” to “Jamies an orphan!  Orphan!”  It’s so awful it makes me laugh.  A penguin has never looked so mean.  Miss Harris does a wonderful job running out of school upset in slow-motion, acting like a little adult more than a child.

Another thing I like about this plot is the reaction of the citizens of Haddonfield.  Mob mentality is pretty much always an awful thing, especially when it is at the hands of gun-wielding old men who have been drinking.  It’s almost realistic that innocent people are killed in this film as pandemonium spreads.  Let’s hear it for Illinois and the Second Amendment.

Fun fact:  The character Jamie is named after Jamie Lee Curtis!

Final critique:  I really do like this film.  10 years after the original is an appropriate time for Michael to come back, and I like that his lineage has been extended to an adorable little girl.  Since it has been 7 years since the release of the last film centering around Michael, the horror world had been subjected to plenty wait and Halloween IV greets them with a great delivery.  Michael is back, and it seems that, once again, no one can stop him.  I recommend this movie to anybody looking for a good movie to watch around Halloween; it isn’t too scary or too gory, but it has its suspenseful and frightening moments making it sure to please.