Director – Dwight H. Little
Cast – Donald Pleasence, Ellie Cornell, Danielle Harris, George P. Wilbur, Michael Pataki, Beau Starr, Kathleen Kinmont, Sasha Jensen, Gene Ross, Carmen Filpi
Release Year – 1988
Reviewed by John of the Dead
It took a while, but 9 years after the horror realm got it’s second dose of Michael Myers in 1981’s “Halloween II”, Michael was brought back into the franchise with the fourth installment, 1988’s “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers”. This film is my next favorite under the infamous original because it gives us so much tension and great Michael action we don’t see nearly enough of in the other installments. A brash and fast-moving installment, this one lays it on thick, and in the best of ways.
This flick takes place 10 years after Michael’s initial onslaught in Haddonfield. While being transported from hospital to another, Michael awakes from his coma after hearing a niece of his was born during his incarceration. He escapes, and makes his way to Haddonfield. What is his business this time? To kill his 7 year old niece. When news breaks out that Michael was being transferred, Dr. Loomis rushes to the institution to stop the transfer, but he is too late. Dr. Loomis must now head to Haddonfield and try once again to put an end to the evil monster he has devoted his life to stopping. Michael’s niece, Jamie Lloyd, has been adopted by the Carruthers family due to the death of both her parents, at the hands of her uncle Michael. It is Halloween night, and her step-sister Rachel takes Jamie out for a night of trick-or-treating. Their lives are turned upside down when they come face to face with a vengeful Michael. While Dr. Loomis has managed to roundup the local sheriff and all available officers, there is little they can do to stop the evil is Michael Myers, a being that lost his humanity over a decade prior.
After the disappointing(only because it abandons Michael) third installment to the franchise, “Halloween III: Season of the Witch”, I was glad to see that “The Shape” was brought back to the big screen. This flick is one of my absolute favorites of the series because it uses Michael so well, thanks much to the excellent portrayal of The Shape by George P. Wilbur, the only actor to portray Michael more than once. He also donned the mask in “Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers”, which has some of the coolest Michael action out there. I don’t know what it is about this guy, but Mr. Wilbur nailed this role perfectly.
Director Dwight H. Little, who gave us the 1989 Robert Englund starring version of “The Phantom of the Opera”, did a fine job with this film’s direction. The mood and atmosphere was perfect, providing great tension with or without Michael in the scene. It was this great atmosphere that really helped the pacing of the film because it keeps you glued to the screen anticipating the next development. I really enjoyed that Mr. Little did not shy away from the gore, especially after the original cut was lacking a bit. Effects guru John Carl Buechler(the guy behind “Hatchet”s awesome gore!) was called on during post-production to add a few more gore scenes to the film, a tactic that never hurts, heh. We get quite a few kills spaced at just the right moments, which also helps with the film’s pacing. There have been a few times during this series(“Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers”) where we were given great kills, but not paced right which in the end forced the film to drag a bit. That is not the case with this film, thankfully.
The storyline for this one is an interesting one, especially because it once again focuses on Michael trying to kill off his family lineage. I loved that the only thing to wake him from his decade long coma was the mention that he had a single family member alive, a young niece at that. There are several elements to the story that seem to disregard certain events that took place in the first two installments, and honestly, I am fine with that because it allows this film to stand on it’s own and still make sense to those who have seen the first two installments. The character use between Rachel and Jamie was nicely done. At first Rachel seems resentful of her time-consuming younger step-sister, but seeing the pain she has been through knowing her parents were killed by a psychopath, whom she still has nightmares of, is enough to get her to relent. This is only complimented even more when Jamie comes face to face with Michael, forcing Rachel to step in line to protect someone not even truly related to her. Not the most genius of ideas, but it works for this film.
Definitely the most defining moment of this film is it’s climax. Wow. Definitely more shocking and powerful than the climax of the first installment, this ending sequence is one of the coolest horror climaxes I have ever seen. Yes, it is that great/enjoyable.
Overall, this is an awesome installment to one of horror’s most notable franchises to date. In my opinion the second-best of the series, this is one I will highly recommend to horror fans and fans of the franchise. We get great Michael action, an interesting story, and one of the best horror climaxes of all time. Give this one a watch.