Movie Review: Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

Halloween 4 poster
Halloween 4 poster

[Editor’s Note: Halloween: The Ultimate Collection is now available and contains EVERY Halloween movie made! Check it out!-TMW]

Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers

Directed by Dwight H. Little. Starring Donald Pleasence; Danielle Harris

By1988, sequels to A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Phantasm, Friday the 13th and Hellraiser were scoring at the box office.  Producer Moustapha Akkad realized that the time was ripe to resurrect the slasher who had started it all.

Thus October 1988 saw the arrival of Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers, which picks up ten years after the events of Halloween II.

In the film, we’re introduced to young Jamie Lloyd, the recently adopted daughter of the Carruthers family and biological daughter of Michael Myers’ sister Laurie Strode (who, we learn, has apparently died in the interim, covering the fact that Jamie Lee Curtis wasn’t interested in returning to the role).

Michael- who survived the fiery blast at the end of part II – learns about his niece, discovering that she lives in his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois.  He violently escapes custody and attempts to find and kill the girl. As Michael returns home and subjects the town to another deadly rampage, little Jamie and her older step-sister Rachel (Ellie Cornell) find themselves struggling to stay one step ahead of the psychopath.

The entry that introduced Danielle Harris to the franchise!
The entry that introduced Danielle Harris to the franchise!

Once again pursing the unrelenting maniac is Dr. Sam Loomis ( the always entertaining Donald Pleasence), who also survived that terrible night in 1978, albeit worse for the wear. The characterization of Loomis in this sequel is one of the strongest aspects of the film. At times, the doctor seems almost as crazed as his most notorious patient as he ceaselessly pursues the killer. Pleasence really sells it, refusing to just phone it in.

 

Top marks as well to Danielle Harris, who delivers a remarkable performance as little Jamie. This kid ably holds her own with Pleasence and the rest of the cast. Playing off Harris directly for much of the running time,  Ellie Cornell is also terrific, with her character demonstrating incredible inner strength as the film progresses.

 

The mantle is passed?
The mantle is passed?

Dwight H. Little (who would go on to direct the excellent version of Phantom of the Opera starring Robert Englund the following year) directs the proceedings with a sure hand, while Alan B. McElroy’s tight screenplay gives us a film with a focus on suspense rather than gory shocks.  For a slasher sequel released in the late 80’s, Halloween IV is admirably restrained with the bloodletting. It also boasts better than average plotting.  Characters in this movie avoid the stupid mistakes abundant in most horror films, taking proper, logical precautions to protect themselves. Yet they still find themselves fighting for their lives.  That’s a lot more frightening than watching teen models stumble around in the woods making one idiotic decision after another.  Even the cliffhanger ending- by this time already an overused genre trope- is effectively staged.

Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers represents a welcome return to form, ranking as one of the best of the series.

****1/2 out of *****.

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