Horror Movie Month: "Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers" Review

Photo Credit: Galaxy International Releasing

Horror Movie Month: "Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers" Review

Length: 88 minutes
Release Date: Oct. 21, 1988
Directed by: Dwight H. Little
Genre: Horror/Suspense/Thriller

Loyal fans of the "Halloween" franchise finally got what they were looking for in the "Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers" release: the return of the main draw, Michael himself. Much to the chagrin of fans, "Halloween III: Season of the Witch" strayed from the original formula that made the first two movies a success—the scary pale-faced slasher who set hearts racing and legs running (albeit ever so slowly in that classic slasher-movie style). With "Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers," the series revisited the storyline that very well may boil down to one thing: the longest-running sibling rivalry in horror movie history.

When "Halloween" (1978) was first released, sequels were never envisioned until it proved to be box office gold. With the follow-up film, "Halloween II" (1981), lacking a real following among fans of the original, the creators decided to stray from the formula a bit. The intention of the series creators was to bring out a new "Halloween" installment each year, beginning with "Halloween III," and Michael's character was shelved. That proved to be a bad move, and the third film received a lackluster reception among moviegoers and critics. The series went into hibernation following the third segment, and it wasn't until the fourth film's release that it would really find its niche in the horror market, although the first films in the series are widely recognized for their contribution to the development of the slasher movie phenomenon.

The movie opens ten years after Michael's bloody killing spree in Haddonfield. The explosion that should have killed Michael at the end of "Halloween II" left him in a catatonic state and housed at a federal sanitarium. An ambulance arrives to pick him up for his transfer to another facility, leading up to Michael's escape after his sedation unexpectedly wears off during the ride. He kills the two attendants and starts on his quest to find his niece, Jamie, who is the daughter of his sister Laurie Strode (played by Danielle Harris). In this film, Laurie is believed to be dead, although she'll resurface in the seventh film in the series, leaving Michael to pursue his niece instead.

Although the film is an edge-of-your-seat thriller, it is nonetheless pretty predictable from there on out; although, a returning actor from the series original two entries does a great job of keeping it fresh. Dr. Loomis, played by Donald Pleasance, does basically the same thing in movie four that he did in previous releases—stop Michael—but he doesn't make it seem like he's reliving his previous performances. Dr. Loomis quickly gives chase to Haddonfield where the fall Halloween festival is well under way. After a few promiscuous teens are slashed to bits and several kids are terrorized, Loomis aids the police in a manhunt that ends with Michael's demise.

Fans of the first three movies were disappointed to find that Laurie's character, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, was not on board for the fourth film. At this point in time, Curtis had moved beyond her stint as a scream queen to pursue other films. Still, her obvious absence was noticed by fans of her steely performances in the original films.

Most fans of the "Halloween" series will agree that the fourth installment has moments that make it a souped-up version of films one and two—if only for the improved scenery. For example, the second film was set in the restrictive environment of a hospital. There's something more menacing about Michael when he is left to torture, maim, and kill in the wide-open spaces of the outdoors. The fourth film also has scenes that were not the norm in its predecessors, such as the dream sequence where Jamie and her uncle meet face to face.

It was that meeting that lead up to the film's shocking conclusion, which allowed for the easy transition for the franchise into film five without a whole lot of effort. Without spoiling the end, suffice it to say that the evil force that is Michael Myers doesn't fall far from the proverbial tree, but the effort put into the conclusion led to pent-up excitement for a plot twist that never surfaced with "Halloween 5," leaving fans scratching their heads in bewilderment.

The film was only a small blip on the radar as far as box office numbers go, but it is remembered as a standout from "Halloween III," which is usually referred to as an unwatchable film. The formula behind "Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers" is one that works—it provides around ninety minutes of slasher entertainment with a whirlwind of scares and shocks and a touch of campy humor that makes it pretty fun to watch, but it is not scary enough to make you want to sleep with the lights on.

Rated: 3 of 5