A 25th Anniversary Look Back At: HALLOWEEN 4!!
I wrote a “Look Back At” article on the deeply flawed, but still entertaining HALLOWEEN 5 back in Februrary (here), so I’ve been conscientiously trying to focus on different franchises or one-offs, and let Michael rest. Out of boredom though, I popped in what is in my opinion, the last good Myers rampage (the not perfect but fun as hell HALLOWEEN 4), and it dawned on me: the film turns 25 this year. So, we’re heading back to Haddonfield, a place filled with bad masks, superhuman strength, and a whole lot of craziness for A Look Back At HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS!
After the outcry of disappointment from fans over the lack of Michael in HALLOWEEN 3: SEASON OF THE WITCH, the producers decided to resurrect Myers for another sequel. The last time we were in Haddonfield, Michael had terrorized Laurie, followed her to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital and got his ass set on fire (and from the ending of HALLOWEEN 2, blown up) by Dr. Loomis, so chances for his return were slim. This is a horror film though, and well, even all of that couldn’t stop Michael.
The films opens with a couple of paramedics arriving at a sanitarium to pick up and transfer a patient: Michael Myers, who has been in a coma for ten years, following the explosion at the end of HALLOWEEN 2. The paramedics are told that Michael’s only living relative is his eight-year old niece, Jamie (daughter of Laurie Strode, who has died in a car crash in between 2 and 4). While nothing else was reason enough for Michael to snap out of his coma and instantly regain whatever strength he had (and from some of the events in this film, superhuman strength), the mention of Jamie does the trick. While transporting Michael, he pops up, bandages and all, and slaughters the paramedics and the ambulance driver.
We then cut to little Jamie, staring out of her foster family’s living room window, the ambulance parked outside for some odd reason (not even five minutes later, the ambulance is completely wrecked miles and miles away). Bummed about the loss of her mom, Jamie is comforted by her foster sister, Rachel, and soon after, heads to her bedroom. Jamie is soon attacked by Michael, from under her bed AND behind her bedroom door, which makes us obviously realize that this is all a dream. This is where the series began to stop caring so much about the tight (as in the real definition, not the the slang term) continuity that was established between the first and second films. A lot of this film, as fun as it is, just doesn’t make sense. 1.) Why would Jamie dream of the ambulance outside, when she had ZERO knowledge of Michael, or his escape and 2.) How would she dream of Michael trying to kill her when she had never seen the guy, let alone seen him wearing a newer, less developed mask? While it is a slasher film, and continuity and/or probability has never been the focal point of said films, even as a kid (I was eight when HALLOWEEN 4 came out), I thought it was a silly scene.
The next morning, Jamie’s foster parents inform Rachel that she needs to cancel her plans with her boyfriend, to watch Jamie on Halloween, against her will. Rachel throws a fit, and Jamie tells her something along the lines of that she’s sorry for always ruining things, before running off. While it seems silly, it’s actually an important scene. At first, the character of Rachel cares only about herself and trying to keep tabs on her boyfriend Brady, not realizing that Jamie is going through some heavy stuff, and the character of Rachel’s story arc is a good one. Throughout the film, everyone that Rachel focused on let her down, with the exception of Jamie, and her devotion to Jamie increases consistently, as Michael tried multiple times to dispatch them both.
One thing that later sequels didn’t realize (here’s looking at you H20 and HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION), is that every bad needs to be counterbalanced with good, and as great as Myers always is, the character of Dr. Loomis was one of the many ingredients that made the first two films so very enjoyable. The producers of HALLOWEEN 4 knew this, and with Michael being brought back, Dr. Loomis couldn’t be too far behind. While speaking to the head of the sanitarium, Loomis explains how haunted by the events in the first two films that he is, and how every time that he looks in the mirror, he’s reminded of that night (his face and hands are scared by the fire in HALLOWEEN 2). Donald Pleasence’s performance as Loomis is pretty top notch in HALLOWEEN 4, he plays the character much differently than he did in the first two films, with good reason. Loomis in this film is a broken, weathered man, who is plagued and damaged emotionally (and physically) by what happened in 1978. It’s so easy to forget about the little inconsistencies and flaws that are definitely in the film, when the character development is so well written. Each character in the film goes through their own arcs, and it’s great to see it unfold and play out in front of our eyes.
While talking to the sanitarium head, who insists that Loomis is the one who needs mental help, they receive a phone call regarding the ambulance wreck, and Loomis heads out to chase to Michael down, before he can kill again. While this is happening, Michael arrives at a gas station (completely bandaged up head to toe) and kills a mechanic, stealing his work suit. Loomis soon arrives there, to fill his car with gas, and we get what is by FAR one of the best scenes in the entire series. Loomis makes his way inside, where the entire place is empty. He eventually finds the mechanic’s body, and runs to the nearest phone inside, which has been cut. As Loomis turns around, the camera quickly zooms into Michael standing in the hallway, wearing the jumpsuit and staring at Loomis. What Loomis says then, is pure gold in my opinion. “Michael?…why now? You’ve waited 10 years…I knew this day would come. Don’t go to Haddonfield…if you want another victim, take me…but leave those people in peace..please.” and as Michael just stand there, Loomis says “Michael..god damn you”, shooting at him four times. Loomis walks closer and sees that Michael is nowhere to be found. It’s a scene that tears at you to watch, as you can tell that Loomis has been dreading the moment that he would encounter Myers again, and in this scene, he does. His emotions in saying those words to Michael is heartbreaking, his voice shakes a bit, and you can tell that he’s 100% serious when he tells Michael to take him instead. Prior to this encounter, you haven’t really gotten this side of Loomis yet, and it’s sad to watch the character from the first two films so defeated by his time encountering Michael that he would do anything to just keep Michael away from Haddonfield.
After his heartfelt plea goes nowhere with Michael, Loomis heads outside and is almost mowed down, when Michael drives the mechanic’s tow truck at Loomis, who jumps out of the way as Michael drives off. Unfortunately for Loomis, a fire starts, which ends up blowing up the gas pumps, along with his car. Now on a mission to get to Haddonfield, Loomis begins attempting to hitch a ride, and after unsuccessfully doing so for a bit, he’s picked up by a crazy religious guy. Back in Haddonfield, Jamie gets taunted by school kids about her uncle being Michael Myers, and because of her mom being dead. As a kid, I was bullied quite frequently, but seriously, because of her mom being dead? These Haddonfield bullies seem to be some epic assholes. Rachel and her friend Lindsey (who was supposed to by little Lindsey Wallace from the first film all grown up), take Jamie to look for a Halloween costume at the story that Rachel’s boyfriend, Brady works at, and while Rachel tells Brady that she can’t go out with him that night due to babysitting Jamie, Michael appears and scares the hell out of Jamie before jacking the same mask he wore ten years ago and taking off.
Here’s where the series begins another really unfortunate trend: the changing of Michael’s mask. While the mask in the first two films were consistent for the most part, every film from HALLOWEEN 4 on, completely changed the mask from film to film, making quite a few fans mad as hell. The mask in HALLOWEEN 4 is completely blank, with zero facial features whatsoever, a decision that really takes away from the film in my opinion, and again, begins the trend of really dropping the ball from film to film.
After being spooked, Jamie decides on a clown costume that looks pretty similar to the one that young Michael wore when he killed his sister at the beginning of the first film, and heads on her way. From then on, for a little while, we get the typical HALLOWEEN series setups: Loomis telling the police that Michael’s coming home, them not believing him, and Michael stalking his potential prey. Rachel takes Jamie trick or treating, and when she comes to the sheriff’s house, she sees that Brady is there with the sheriff’s daughter, Kelly (soap opera time!). Michael shows up at an electric station, and though he was previously in a come for ten yeas, and would most likely barely have the strength to move, he grabs a worker and throws him through the air (and I mean THROUGH the air, the dude goes like 25 feet), into the electrical parts, causing a town-wide blackout.
Jamie gets lost from Rachel, and Michael begins stalking Rachel, until Loomis and Sheriff Meeker show up and sees who they think is Michael. Out of nowhere, a few other people dressed like him show up, and Loomis doesn’t know which one is real, so he does what he what he usually would do: pull a gun on one of them. They prank-playing kids laugh and run off, and the group get into the cop car and drive off, and as they do, we see the real Michael Myers behind the car, standing in the street.
After discovering that Michael has killed the majority of the police force, a group of bloodthirsty locals show up and decided to go after Michael themselves, against the sheriff’s wishes. The group accidentally kills another local thinking it’s Myers, and head off to look for the real one. The sheriff, Loomis, Rachel and Jamie all head to the sheriff’s house, interrupting Brady from getting hot and heavy with Kelly, and adding some more teenage drama between Rachel and Kelly. Michael hides in a deputy’s car, and when the deputy arrives at the house to watch all of the kids while the sheriff and Loomis head out to look for Myers, Michael offs the deputy.
Being the hospital host that she is (she already tried to service Brady before getting busted), Kelly brings the deputy something to drink and as soon as she discovers the deputy’s body, Michael stands up and impales her through a door, with A SHOTGUN. Oh, that insanely super-human strength again. The rest of the gang walk down and discover the carnage, and Michael appears, ready to mess up everyone’s night even more than he already has. Brady hits Michael IN THE FACE with a shotgun, which does absolutely nothing, Michael throws the gun, picks Brady up and breaks the guy’s neck, before heading towards Jamie and Rachel. They find their way out through a window in the attack, and head onto the roof, where we get another pretty awesome sequence, in which Michael tries to kill them both on the roof. Jamie gets down, and Rachel falls, hurting herself and passing out. Michael appears and Jamie runs off, and is met by Loomis, who takes her to a local school. Michael shows up, injuring Loomis and nearly getting Jamie until Rachel and the locals show up and take both girls away from there in their trucks.
In another weird scene, Michael appears from under the truck (how did he get out of the school before the girls?, he’s as slow as a snail usually) and kills the locals in the back of the truck, and while on the roof of the truck, gruesomely rips into the driver’s face.
Rachel, tired of Michael’s crap, takes the driver’s wheel from the dead driver, and stomps on the brakes, sending Michael through the air. He gets up and just stands there, and Rachel darts towards him, hitting him, and sending his flying through the air again, into an area by a mine. The police show up, and as Rachel talks to them, Jamie gets out of the truck and walks up to Michael, grabbing his hand. He gets up, holding his knife, ready to kill Jamie, until the police unload enough bullets to rival the ED-209 kill in ROBOCOP. Michael falls into the mine, and just to make sure the job in done, the police throw dynamite into the hole, and seemingly blow Michael straight to hell.
We then cut to the police, Loomis, Rachel and everyone else at Jamie’s foster home, where all is well, until we get a POV sequence that feels similar to the original HALLOWEEN, this time, with someone putting on a mask and stabbing the foster mom with scissors. Loomis and the police run up the stairs, where Jamie, covered in blood and holding scissors is standing, Michael’s murderous rage now running through her. Loomis pulls out his gun, but is stopped by the sheriff, and we cut to black as we hear Loomis screaming. End Credits.
With all of its warts and problems, HALLOWEEN 4 is still a fun as hell movie, and like I said, the last truly GOOD sequel in the series. The ending alone shows how ballsy they were when making it, and I only wish that they would’ve followed it up with a film that did that ending justice. Jamie ending up just being mute, and psychically connected to Michael in HALLOWEEN 5?!, Plain ol’ craziness. This film however, isn’t perfect, but having such good character development and some of the best scenes in the whole series, makes it stand on its own as a really great slasher movie, and definitely a great time.