Sick of Freddy and Jason getting all the attention, the producers of the “Halloween” series decided to return Michael Myers to the big screen in 1988. Apparently, they also decided to be ambitious and create a film on par with the original. They came close, succeeding in giving us a quality horror film that is worthy of the “Halloween” moniker.
As it turns out, Michael Myers didn’t die in the inferno at the end of “Halloween II”, he’s just been spending the last several years in a coma at the Richmond Mental Institute. One dark and stormy Halloween night, Myers uses the opportunity of being transported to a new hospital to escape. Getting back his trademark white mask and overalls, he returns to Haddonfield intent on killing his young niece. Hot on his trail is Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence), the obsessed psychiatrist sporting obvious burns from his last encounter with Myers.
With “Halloween 4”, Helmer Dwight H. Little (the upcoming “Anacondas”) emphasizes suspense and atmosphere. Under his direction, the film has a creepy and dark feel that underlines the scary scenes. That, combined with the shadowy cinematography of Peter Lyons Collier, makes “Halloween 4” look a lot more expensive than its paltry $5 million budget. And Alan Holwarth’s music, while not as effective as John Carpenter’s, is still eerie enough to set audiences on edge.
The script by Alan McElroy (“Wrong Turn”) is excellent but problematic in some regards. It features plenty of kills, a lynch mob that goes hunting for Myers, and even a chilling final shot that sets up “Halloween 5”. The idea of Myers wiping out Haddonfield’s police force and blacking out the town single-handedly, as well as the creation of a niece for Myers, are some of the script’s nicer touches. They also make McElroy’s script one of the strongest in the “Halloween” series.
There are some weak points, however, as logic seeps in to destroy the suspension of disbelief on more than one occasion. How does Myers know he has a young niece if he’s been in a coma for a decade? Why is he so unearthly strong when he’s been lying in a hospital bed, inert, for so long? And why didn’t Dr. Loomis call Dr. Kevorkian to perform a house call on Myers while he was behaving himself, and thus prevent all this from happening in the first place?
As for the cast, the main standout is legend Donald Pleasence. Portraying Myer’s obsessed doctor, Pleasence commands the audience’s attention and respect. He throws himself into the role, showing his love for the character that he’s played so many times. Young Danielle Harris is also good as the imperiled niece Jamie Lloyd, projecting a vulnerability that makes you want to jump into the film and shepherd her away from Myers. As for everyone else, they do well in their respective roles, but no one really transcends the limits of their characters.
For the return of the character that started the “slasher” genre, Michael Myers is back in fine style. While not perfect, “Halloween 4” is a well-made film that stretches the bucks it was allotted. It’s certainly better than the anemic “Halloween III”, or the many sequels that followed. It’s nice to view this installment and remember a time when the “Halloween” series returned to near greatness — before falling right back to mediocrity.
Dwight H. Little (director)
CAST: Donald Pleasence …. Dr. Samuel ‘Sam’ J. Loomis
Ellie Cornell …. Rachel Carruthers
Danielle Harris …. Jamie Lloyd
Beau Starr …. Sheriff Ben Meeker