Reviewing a Cult Franchise – Halloween IV – The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

After the utter catastrophe that was ‘Halloween III: Season of the Witch’, the audience and Halloween fans expressed their disapproval. So when the opportunity for Halloween 4 came around, there was only one way to go… Michael Myers had to make a comeback. As ever, it’s plot time.

10 years after his initial rampage, Michael Myers (George Wilbur) has been in a coma in Ridgemont Federal Sanatorium since the explosion caused by Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasence). Whilst he is being transferred, Michael escapes and makes his way back to Haddonfield to find his niece, Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris), the daughter of Laurie Strode who has supposedly been killed in a car crash.

With Dr Loomis on his tail with town’s new Sheriff, Sheriff Ben Meeker (Beau Starr), it’s a race against time to find little Jamie and get her to safety before Michael gets there first.

It’s no secret that a significant amount of time had passed between 3 & 4. Six years in the movie industry is a long time. Since ‘Halloween III’, there had been four sequels to Friday the 13th and A Nightmare of Elm Street had been released plus two sequels with the third sequel released in 1988. So there had been huge advancements in the world of horror movies since Halloween had been away. Different films had found different audiences and after the alienation of Halloween III, it was a brave move to bring it back. The plan was to go back to the basics but there was significant differences from the original.

First off, Jamie Lee Curtis had become a huge star since appearing in ‘Halloween (1978) and therefore was too expensive to hire so a new element had to be introduced. It was conceived that Laurie Strode had died in a car crash and was survived by her daughter, Jamie played by Danielle Harris who is officially the cutest little girl ever. Also, she’s a really good actress.

Jamie has been adopted by the ‘Carruthers’ family who consist of a mother, Darlene (Karen Alston), a father, Richard (Jeff Olson) and their teenage daughter, Rachel (Ellie Cornell). Even though she’s very much aware that the Carruthers are not her real family, the family do love her as if she was their own which is nice to see.

This film truly is a call back to the original. In fact of all of them, this is as close to the original as it gets. There are fewer characters so there is more time for them to be developed. For example, Rachel has a thing going with the hunky store clerk, Brady (Sasha Jenson). Brady wants to move their relationship forward to the next level in other words, sex but Ellie isn’t so sure. So Brady finds it elsewhere in the Sheriff’s daughter, Kelly (Kathleen Kinmont). When Rachel finds out, drama ensues. It gets worse when Rachel and Jamie are picked by the police and taken to the Sheriff’s house to wait for the state troopers.

One aspect of ‘Halloween’ that does change from film to film, is the mask. The first mask used was a customised ‘William Shatner’ mask and I have no idea what they used in Halloween II. An idea was banded around to re-use the mask from the first film in order to keep up with the idea Halloween IV would go back to the basics. However, that original mask was nowhere to be found so a new mask was requested. What they ended up with was this weird amalgamation of the first mask which was a weird shade of pink and had blonde hair. The mask was used for a few shots but was quickly scrapped for a sheer white mask with brown hair, just like the original but a lot more clean looking. Interestingly, a shot of the pink and blonde mask is still in the film. It’s in the school when Loomis is thrown through the window.

I mentioned during my ‘Halloween II’ review that although Michael Myers had been shot and survived, he had not gained any superhuman abilities. This film is a bit different. Now Michael is putting his fingers through peoples heads, throwing them into power lines and impaling people up on doors with shotguns. Michael has gotten strong in those ten years and is a bigger threat.

The bloodless style from ‘Halloween’ was not brought a long from the ride this time around, there are some pretty gory kills happening here. Not quite to ‘Friday the 13th‘ level but gory for Halloween. Again, I think it’s more of a case of pandering to the market. The bloodless thing went out after ‘Friday the 13th‘, that series made it cool. Audiences just demanded a lot more from their slasher movies but I don’t think it damaged Halloween’s credibility at all.

At the end, Michael has been blasted down a mine shaft by the police and the nightmare appears to be over. Rachel and Jamie are delivered to their parents and Dr Loomis is safe and sound. Mrs Carruthers takes Jamie upstairs to give her a bath but something sinister is stirring. When Michael was run over by Rachel, Jamie went over to her uncle’s unconscious body and holds his hand. Dr Loomis rushes to the terrified screams and is shocked himself to see a bloodied Jamie stood at the top of the stairs, holding a pair of scissors. The obvious implication with this ending is that Jamie has been influenced through the touch of Michael since he is considered to be pure evil. There has been rumours that this was supposed to kick start a new spin on the franchise where there would be more focus on Jamie as a killer. This as quashed in the next film as it was generally felt that Jamie should continue to be a sympathetic character.

With a budget of $5 Million, ‘Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers’ brought in a domestic box office taking of $17.7 Million. That’s only domestic, not worldwide. I can’t for the life of me find the worldwide figures.

To round this off, I like to think of ‘Halloween IV’ as being the start of a new trilogy. Obviously they didn’t know this at the time but 4, 5 and 6 are all linked together before H20 changed the formula. Alan B. McElroy did a great job with the script. He managed to keep the tone close to the original whilst keeping things up to date for the modern audiences. It was a tremendous effort by cast and crew and this film managed to bring back the lost audiences who hated ‘Halloween III’. If anything, this movie proved that the basics work. All the writers had to do was keep the same aspect going for Halloween V.

Did they do it?….

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