Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
Written by Alan B. McElroy
Directed by Dwight H. Little
After the box office failure of Halloween III, likely because audiences weren’t keen on the anthology angle, the producers decided to pivot back to Michael Myers. The franchise would be centered around him, causing the slasher to join the ranks of the constantly returning killers like Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhies. John Carpenter was pulled back in along with Debra Hill, but they wrote with horror author Dennis Etchison this time. Whatever was in that script was rejected as “too cerebral,” and the desire to just have a meat & potatoes slasher movie was reiterated. Finally, Carpenter & Hill were done with the series and sold away all their rights. They didn’t see anywhere else you could go with Myers other than a cheap by-the-numbers slasher. And that’s basically what the franchise became.
For ten years, Michael Myers has lain comatose in Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. An ambulance arrives on October 30th to transport Myers to a federal mental health facility, but he awakens and kills the entire group of people assigned to him. Then, of course, he begins making his way to Haddonfield, Illinois, where a lot has happened since he was last there. Laurie Strode got married and died, leaving behind a daughter, nine-year-old Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris). She’s raised by her foster parents, the kindly Carruthers, and tags along with her “big sister” Rachel. Michael arrives in town on Halloween night, breaking into the Carruthers’ home while everyone’s out, and discovers photos of his niece, his new target. He takes out the power in Haddonfield and goes about stalking the child while Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance). The good doctor is once again intent on stopping this living embodiment of evil and protecting the child.
Halloween IV unknowingly began what would become the Thorns Trilogy, the first offshoot reality of the franchise. Loomis would be the recurring presence alongside Michael from the first film. You would hope that Loomis would get some character development; after his last appearance in Halloween II, he seemed to have crossed a line and become dangerously obsessive. Instead, this fourth installment just keeps him in stasis, as he will be for the following two films as well. There’s never any further development of Loomis as a character that exists outside the Myers conflict. They don’t even follow through with the dangerous obsession he developed in the second movie.
What we end up with in Halloween IV is a very plodding story. It doesn’t veer too wildly from the original premise but fails to live up to the perfection of that first film. Jamie Lloyd is too young to be too compelling of a character, no ding to Danielle Harris. She is a great child actor, but the script just doesn’t seem to know what to do with this child other than put her in danger. It’s sort of what has happened with Myers. There’s no push to explain him a little more or show him become more brutal than usual. In this movie, he just sort of kills whoever is in his way and is ultimately “killed.”
There’s some excellent atmosphere building early on, but everything just becomes drained of momentum when Michael starts killing. Pleasance is doing his best with what they have given him as Loomis. His co-stars are perfectly adequate for a Friday the 13th style movie. It’s upsetting, but this has much more in common with that franchise than the previous or later entries in this one. But I guess if you are just chasing money, then in 1989, it makes sense to just ape the cheap, popular slasher movies of the day. It’s a shame to see Halloween slide into this avenue of filmmaking.
While Halloween IV is not memorable in any shape or form, it is certainly not the lowest point this movie series will reach. Instead, it marks the beginning of a rather bland, uninspired turn for the franchise. There are moments here that might have been better developed in a script with a few more drafts. Jamie seems to have a telepathic connection with her uncle, but that doesn’t really go anywhere. The ending of the film sets up a potentially exciting & dark turn for Halloween. Sadly, the number five will immediately retcon all of that exciting stuff to essentially remake this movie.