Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Halloweek: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

The failure of Halloween III: Season of the Witch may have killed the idea of the Halloween franchise as a sort of anthology series, but it eventually resurrected the idea of continuing the story of Michael Myers, albeit without original creators John Carpenter and Debra Hill, who bowed out and sold off their interest in the series after their idea for Halloween 4 was rejected. Instead the series continued under the guidance of producer Moustapha Akkad, who decided to go back to basics for the fourth installment: Michael Myers, killing a bunch of people on Halloween in Haddonfield.

Halloween 4 quickly goes about undoing the resolution of Halloween II: Despite being shot probably dozens of times and thoroughly immolated, Michael is alive but comatose, and has been held in a state hospital for the past decade. Dr. Loomis, too, is alive, the only signs of his own immolation being a limp and a scar on the side of his face that seems to change shape in every scene. Just as in the first Halloween, Michael escapes while being transferred between facilities, and he heads to Haddonfield to stalk and kill a relative of his. In this case, it's Jamie (Danielle Harris), daughter of original heroine Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), who is hastily written out as having died in a car accident along with Jamie's father. That means that teenage Laurie got married and had a daughter all within three years of the events of the first two films, since Jamie is seven years old in this movie.

So the continuity is shaky, but it's all just an excuse to get to the important stuff, which is Michael killing people and Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence, the only actor returning from the first two films) ranting and raving while chasing after him. In that sense, Halloween 4 delivers, but only in the most rudimentary fashion. Michael has become so invincible and unstoppable at this point (he kills a man in one scene by literally pressing his thumb into the guy's skull) that there's virtually no suspense to the plot, and Loomis is a cartoonish figure played campily by Pleasence. The heart of the movie is Harris as Jamie, whose connection to Michael is contrived but imbued with real sadness. The one clever touch is having Jamie dress up for Halloween in the same clown outfit that young Michael wore when he killed his sister, which gets an extra level of creepiness when the twist ending has Jamie committing the same kind of murder her uncle did at her age, carrying on his legacy of evil. It's sort of unmotivated by anything we've seen the character do up to that point, but it's still a nice gut punch in a movie that is otherwise a parade of nothing but the expected.

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