The F*ckin Black Sheep: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
Directed by Dwight H. Little

“I don’t recall ever seeing the shotgun-barrel-shoved-through-stomach-and-impaled-into-a-door gag.”

Well, in case you never look at a calendar, a phone, or go outside, it shouldn’t be a shock that fall, or more specifically October, has arrived. Yep, that time of year where folks put pumpkins outside, kids go around begging for crappy candy that I have to buy, and of course…horror. Your pals here at Arrow in the Head live for this month, so let’s start things off right with the franchise that owns the title holiday: HALLOWEEN.

Now it should go without saying that HALLOWEEN remains a true, revolutionary classic. HALLOWEEN II, though not as good, still is effectively entertaining and is a true sequel. Part 3, SEASON OF THE WITCH, decided to ditch the whole Michael Myers formula and do its own thing. Although I dig that one, the box office (it made about $14 million) showed fans did not. So what did producer Moustapha Akkad do when he needed to make more money? Just like Coke, if you changed something, go back to what worked before. HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS doesn’t have John Carpenter or Jamie Lee Curtis (well minus those catching photos of her), but the movie still has good old Donald Pleasence as Dr. Loomis, the town of Haddonfield, and everyone’s favorite silent killing machine, Mr. Michael Myers (given away in that subtitle title).

It has been years since I revisited HALLOWEEN 4, and for whatever reason, I remember it being…cheap…looking cheap, feeling cheap, playing cheap. Which is partially true still. In a lot of ways it’s all cheap with no elaborate sets, no major action sequences (many ideas were cut due to budget limitations), and no major stars outside of Pleasence. That’s all to be expected based on the genre, but the little things that Carpenter insisted on (like aspect ratio and a consistent mask hair coloring) were gone this time around.

With that said, there’s something right about HALLOWEEN 4. Made for around $5 million (double that of SEASON OF THE WITCH), there’s something right about Myers returning back to Haddonfield seeking death for another member of the Myers/Strode family. Hell, I’d be pissed too to learn my sister was suddenly dead and she had a kid named Jamie (when did all this happen?). Regardless, it’s all back to the basics. Myers kills more townsfolk and teenagers. Dr. Loomis, now scarred and worn, remains on the hunt and is quick to draw his gun. Laurie Strode might be gone, but now we get two for the price of one with Jamie and her adopted sister Rachel. They don’t do much more than run, scream, run, but they’re better than the mostly useless men in this movie.

Speaking of men, somehow I feel bad for Donald Pleasence. He had a long, distinguished career (dude was freakin’ Blofeld!) and though things had started to fade, I hate seeing older actors still trying to make a buck. Pleasence wasn’t even 70 yet when HALLOWEEN 4 was released, but he looks about 80 here.

Both FRIDAY the 13TH and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET get more props for being “inventive” with gore and general mayhem. Myers, however, usually plays things straight with stabbings or skull crushings. This movie doesn’t alter that perspective much, but I don’t recall ever seeing the shotgun-barrel-shoved-through-stomach-and-impaled-into-a-door gag. That’s a first.

While no HALLOWEEN film can duplicate Myers’s intensity when in the hands of Carpenter, director Dwight H. Little (in his first true name project) gives fans a solid effort even though he should have given Myers a few more moments alone. I don’t think we needed to see him take a shit in the woods, but something more than just walking and stalking and slashing. Reportedly, Carpenter and his producing partner Deborah Hill wrote a draft for Part 4 trying to explore the psychological effects on the town and the paranormal reasons behind Myers, but they were turned down. Which is a shame because by expanding the story just a little more, perhaps HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS could have been better than just entertaining.





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