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Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers - Anchor Bay UK Print E-mail
User Rating: / 3
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Written by Ed Fir   
Friday, 11 January 2008

Directed by: Dwight H. Little
Written by: Alan B. McElroy
Produced by: Paul Freeman
Cinematography by: Peter Lyons Collister
Editing by: Curtiss Clayton
Cast: Donald Pleasence, Ellie Cornell, Danielle Harris, Beau Starr, George P. Wilbur, Sasha Jenson
Year: 1988
Country: USA
Language: English
Color: Color
Runtime: 88 Minutes


Video: PAL R2
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Distributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment UK

http://severed-cinema.com/images/horizon.jpg

Alongside Jason from the long running “Friday the 13th” franchise, and Freddy from “Nightmare on Elm Street”, Michael Myers stands as one of the longest running monster movie characters. Enjoying a run of seven movies, Myers has been from mental institutions to the Internet and back again.

The subject of this review is “Halloween 4”, which comes with a secondary title of “The Return of Michael Myers”. This was apt, since "Halloween III", as we all know, took the strange step of eliminating Myers completely (along with the entire mythos). Regardless of the merits of "Halloween III" itself, undoubtedly it was a strange move for the development of the "Halloween" franchise. While some might argue that the idea behind a franchise built around the holiday – rather than the character of Myers – might have been a good idea, the movie public is too fickle for that. The movie Halloween was not about the holiday, it was about “The Shape”, that personification of evil, Michael Myers (along with his Shatner mask).

After the experiment of "Halloween III", producer Moustapha Akkad bought back all the rights to the franchise and decided to relaunch it. His idea was to have a fourth film, and in this film he would resurrect Myers. Hence the subtitle “The Return of Michael Myers”. This movie was to mark the celebration of a favorite movie monster, coming back to haunt us after having been lost and forgotten.

The first "Halloween" was released in 1978, with "Halloween II" following in 1981. The third film surfaced a year later in 1982, but hereafter it will be considered a part of an entirely different line. So by the time "Halloween 4" came to be in 1988, Myers had not been on the screen for seven full years, that’s a lot of lost time.

Baring this in mind, it is understandable that it made no sense to simply carry on as though nothing had happened. Myers and the franchise had to be re-established. This was achieved by having the film return back to the same basic framework of the original two films. In the big picture, "Halloween 4" is not very different story wise to the first and second films, which is evidenced by the many homage’s to be enjoyed during its relatively short 85 minute running time.

In this day of DVD, where we can sit and watch our franchise entries back to back, it is easy to dismiss these types of decisions as simply the result of uncreative minds, or even cynicism toward the audience. In 1988 though, with so much time having passed since Myers had graced the screen, it was clear that while "Halloween 4" might well attract fans of the first two films, it also had a job to do pulling in new customers (on its release, it spent two weeks as the top grossing movie in the US). When thinking about such things, context is everything.

The "Halloween" franchise isn’t just about Myers, though. Other characters are pivotal to the films, including Doctor Loomis played by Donald Pleasance, and Laurie Strode, played by Jamie Lee Curtis. Only Pleasance would return for "Halloween 4" (Strode would eventually come back too, but not until part 7). However, while Strode might be missing physically, she is in the film spiritually, through the character of Jamie Lloyd, played here by ten year old Danielle Harris (who has grown up to be quite the looker, by the way). Jamie Lloyd is, in fact, Laurie’s daughter. Without the participation of Curtis, this is the only mention of her character in this entry.

Finally, we also get to go back to Haddonfield, the place where the evil emanated, and returns time and time again. It’s now 1988, fully ten years since the setting of the first film. To be honest, nothing much seems to have changed. Haddonfield stood in to represent vulnerable suburbia once again, as Myers comes home.

Story

Ten years ago on October 31st, Michael Myers returned to Haddonfield to kill Laurie Strode. He was ultimately stopped by Dr. Loomis and has been in a coma ever since. But when he is being transferred from Richmond Mental Institute to Smith's Grove he wakes up when he hears he has a niece in Haddonfield. After killing the transfer crew he escapes and makes his way to Haddonfield. Dr. Loomis learns Michael is awake and follows him to Haddonfield. Meanwhile in Haddonfield, the niece Jamie Lloyd, who was adopted by the Carruthers family, keeps on having nightmares about the Boogieman. On Halloween night, Jamie goes out trick and treating, little knowing that Michael is out there, looking for her. On the same day, Dr. Loomis arr4es in Haddonfield to ask the local police for help. With the help of Sheriff Meeker, Dr. Loomis starts to search the town for Michael and to find Jamie. But is there any hope of stopping Michael this time? (Source: IMDB)

Commentary

"Halloween 4" is rarely mentioned as a worthy film within the "Halloween" franchise. Personally, while I wouldn’t claim it is a cinematic masterpiece by any means, I feel this is due to our ease of access to "Halloween" films. If indeed seven years had passed since you had seen a "Halloween" entry, "Halloween 4" might seem less of a simple copy of the first films, and be more welcome.

Of course, it’s not a perfect film. The Director Dwight Little ("Marked for Death", "Free Willy 2", and "Deep Blue") simply doesn’t have the chops of Carpenter (or Rick Rosenthal who directed "Halloween II" for that matter). Sometimes the film can seem a little flat.

An example of this is the disappointing opening sequence, where Myers is being transferred between hospitals and manages to escape. The build up is very well done, mimicking as it does the opening sequence of the original film, with an ambulance driving through pouring rain, lightning flashing overhead. However, the punch line (as it were) is telegraphed way ahead of time, and just lacks impact.

Along with this, there are many other homage’s to the original film on show, and some have seen this as detrimental (which is a bit weird, since no-one criticizes the "F13" franchise, where the first three films are virtually identical). Similar themes include: The basic story is centered on a girl who is baby sitting a young child who must be protected from Myers, this echoes Laurie Strode and her wards. We also have the police chief’s daughter, who is promiscuous (and meets an untimely end), a replay of the school bully scene (this time over Halloween costumes, rather than pumpkins), the theft by Myers of a haulage truck from a garage, and the choice of Halloween costume (a red and white clowns outfit) by Strode’s daughter. There are more too, this is just scratching the surface. The film also, famously, concludes at the very point that the original film begins.

If all this is too much for you, then "Halloween 4" might be something you want to forget. However, there are two things worth remembering. The first is the point I have already made several times, this film is about the “Return” of Myers – and – the franchise. Because we live in times when we can play these films back to back does not negate the fact that "Halloween" franchise entries were made so far apart. The second point is that in 1987 when this film was being organized, Hollywood suffered from a writer’s strike. The deadline for the strike had been agreed, and no writers could work after the specified date. This meant that the screenplay had to be written, from top to bottom, in 11 days. Flat. Given these conditions, it’s amazing it turned out as good as it did.

Much criticism is also made of Myer’s due to uneventful kills (this is a slasher film, and the body count is a key element – although unlike "F13", the back story is quite important). In this film we have the required stabbings (Myers is known for his knife work), but he also uses shotguns (impaling a girl to a door with it, rather than firing), neck breaking, fingers pressed through the forehead, electrocution (in one of the larger staged scenes at a power station), arms chopped off and a good head beating. Myers isn’t confined by the silver blade in his hand this time around.

While it might sound like more of the same, "Halloween 4" definitely achieves what it sets out to do. Along the way, there are hints of other things too. We are reminded that Myers and Laurie Strode are brother and sister (making the young girl in this film – his intended victim – his niece). It is also worth noting that while "Halloween 4" might not be the strongest film standing on its own; it’s much stronger when taken into context with "Halloween 5", which followed just one year later.

The suggestion at the conclusion to "Halloween 4" is that either a) Michael Myers murderous actions can be transmitted between people (the ending here is a classic example of innocence corrupted). Or b) the Myers actions are a genetic disease, and can be passed down through generations.

In "Halloween 5" (you’ll find a review of that on this very site) the story picks up a year removed from "Halloween 4", with a reprise of the Jamie character, and a play on the psychic bond between the girl and her uncle, Michael Myers. It’s a neat plot turn that leads to some interesting conclusions.

In the end then, "Halloween 4" doesn’t try to reinvent the "Halloween" franchise, rather it simply resurrects it. Compared frame by frame with the original film, it inevitably fails. But why should we do that? This might not be a huge leap forward in story telling, but it is a film with a vibe of its own. The slasher genre has never been known for its strong storylines, so it seems fickle to bash Halloween 4 simply for that. And why should we choose sides between which movie monsters and franchises we like and dislike, they’re just too few to be really critical. Slashers as a genre is too generic, it seems petty to really pit them against each other.

Coupled with "Halloween 5" then, the fourth entry is actually a nice little double feature. I’m certainly not saying it’s going to blow you back in your seat, but if you’re a slasher fan, or more to point, a fan of "Halloween" and/or "Halloween II", it’s a fun little diversion that is sure not to disappoint. Missing out on it would be a mistake.

"Halloween 4" has enough for it to stand on its own, and taken as part of the "Halloween" franchise, does nothing to embarrass itself and make us want to forget it. Check it out.

THE DVD

VIDEO:
1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
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AUDIO:
Dolby Digital 5.1
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SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIAL:
- Optional Newly Created Dolby Digital 5.1 Soundtrack
- Inside "Halloween 4" Featurette
- Theatrical Trailer

The DVD is from Anchor Bay, who gives us a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. It looks good clarity wise, even if the colors are a little muted. It sports a flashy new 5.1 surround track. Extras include a 16 minute documentary on the making of the film, and a really good theatrical trailer.

 

Comments
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Ray Crowe  - Great review!     |68.109.111.xxx |2011-09-16 09:42:36
Very thoughtful and well-written review! Halloween 4 is my third fave in the
series after 1 and 2 despite its flaws and one I revisit often.
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