Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
I intended to finish my recap of the Halloween series on Halloween day. I also intended to be rich and handsome; that didn’t work out either. Even though the holiday itself is over, it lives on in the hearts of each of us, whether those hearts still beat in our chest or sit in a jar on the desk of the local serial killer. So, we continue on with Project Halloween. No more Roman numerals!
Ten years have passed since the night Michael Myers “came home” in the original Halloween. Contrary to what we saw at the end of Halloween II, neither Myers nor Dr. Loomis died in the fiery climax, they just picked up some interesting new scars. Michael is in an apparent coma at an insane asylum, while Loomis continues his new career of telling everyone that Michael is going to wake up and kill them all. He is the Cassandra of this series. Naturally, he is proven right when Michael wakes up, kills a few attendants, and hits the road back home to see his family.
Meanwhile back in Haddonfield, life has gone on. Laurie Strode grew up, got married, had a child and was killed in a car wreck along with her husband. (Don’t worry, in about three movies she’ll get much better.) Her daughter, Jamie (Danielle Harris), is now Michael Myers only living relative, and therefore his principle target. Jamie lives with her foster family, including Rachel (Ellie Cornell). Jamie is getting ready for Halloween by picking out her costume – a clown costume nearly identical to the one l’il Michael Myers wore at the beginning of the first one. This won’t end well. Donald Pleasance, who plays Dr. Loomis, is the only cast member to return from the first two movies.
A brief digression: I mentioned the incompetence of everyone in my review of Halloween II, but in this movie I was really struck by what a miserable place Haddonfield is to live, even if you discount the periodic spree killings. Jamie is teased mercilessly for having a dead mother; a group of teenagers taunt an old man trying to get a ride, and a bunch of local rednecks grab their guns and take off after hearing word of Myers’ escape, managing to shoot innocent bystanders in the process. The police are as clueless as in the rest of the series. In short, if I lived in Haddonfield, I’d move.
Once MM reaches Haddonfield, he goes on the usual massacre, including killing the only teenager who has sex, as is the custom. After being thwarted for several movies by the fact that Michael is impervious to being shot, the townspeople find the way to kill him: shooting him a lot. It seems the not-so-good people of Haddonfield can get back to the lives they lead between bloody massacres. After being suspiciously absent during the chaos, Jamie’s foster family picks her up and carries her home. All is well until we hear Jamie’s mother give a blood-curdling off-camera scream, and Jamie emerges in her clown costume, holding a bloody knife. It looks like Halloween 5 is going to be a nine-year-old girl on a rampage.
After the semi-failure of Halloween III, the Halloween franchise set dormant for a few years, while Michael Myers’ “offspring” such as Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger went on regular, money-grabbing, killing sprees. This inspired the studio, led by Moustapha Akkad to revive the series and get it back to its roots. John Carpenter and Debra Hill were contacted, and, with noted horror author Dennis Etchison, produced a treatment that dealt with the psychological aspects of a town such as Haddonfield dealing with the aftermath of tragedy. Supposedly, Akkad read it, pronounced it too cerebral, and said he wanted a guy in a mask running around stabbing people with a knife. Carpenter and Hill sold their rights to the franchise, Etchison was canned, and the series re-started. I’d love to know what Carpenter and Etchison intended for the movie, but that dwells in the realm of Things That Were Not Meant To Be.
Supposedly, the producers felt there was too little gore in the completed cut, and the bloody scenes were re-shoots, added later. One of the things that have surprised me in re-watching this series is how relatively bloodless it is, and Halloween 4 isn’t that gory even with the new scenes. The franchise was at its best when it suggested bloody horror, not when it was shown.
So, how is Halloween 4, after all that? Surprisingly decent, in my opinion. It is very low on originality, but as a by-the-numbers slasher film, it is well put together. The cast does a good job, the clothing and hairstyles have as little 80s embarrassments as possible, and the script and direction are solid. If you like slasher films, you should like this one.