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Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

Halloween 4Director: Dwight H Little
Writers: Alan B McElroy, Danny Lipsius, Larry Rattner Benjamin Ruffner
Starring: Donald Pleasance, Ellie Cornell, Danielle Harris, Sasha Jensen, Beau Starr, Michael Pataki
Certificate: 18
Running time: 84 minutes
Blu-ray release date: 15 October 2012

With the original Halloween John Carpenter created the slasher genre. Whether we should thank him or hang him rests entirely on whether we’re willing to assess the genre on its highs or lows.

The first film was so successful that a sequel was inevitable, and Carpenter and his co-producer Debra Hill returned to script and production duties with Rick Rosenthal taking the helm as director. The first two movies became a single story, the action of one taking over directly from the other.

For the third movie it was decided that the story of Michael Myers, disturbed child become raving adult, had reached its limit and Carpenter and Hill turned to Nigel Kneale and Tommy Lee Wallace to offer a completely fresh movie on a Halloween theme. While hindsight has been kind, consensus at the time was that it was a misfire and it wasn’t long before rubber-faced pumpkin-botherer Michael Myers was resurrected, along with his equally indestructible psychiatrist Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance).

You have to love Pleasance, and his presence in these movies offers some considerable relief. But all actors have to pay their mortgages and it would be a mistake to assume his presence implies any sign of quality.

Like the first two entries in the franchise, the fourth and fifth sequels form a pair.

Back in Haddonfield, Illinois, a town where the life expectancy of policemen is equal to that of flies, the sustained suspense of the earlier pictures has been replaced with clean, colourful, bland vacuousness. The believable characters are gone, to be replaced by hairspray, giggling and boys in thick foundation with teeth lifted from children’s pianos.

The Illinois Mental Health Department is suffering from a breakdown in intelligence, as they’ve decided to transport their star patient with no more security than a pair of candy-stripers and a following wind. The date chosen for the relocation of The Infamous Halloween Maniac? Halloween, obviously, because there’s nothing that local government likes to show more than pure stupidity.

Naturally he’s soon shuffling around, loitering in bushes and attempting to look menacing. He is savagely compromised in this by a new mask which is just like the original but without any of the rough, eerie menace.

By the time the film even thinks of doing something interesting, we’re within spitting distance of the end credits.

Danielle Harris at least gives good value, appearing as Myers’ niece and new obsession, turning in a performance that’s a good deal better than the film. She successfully offers us a portrayal that’s far deeper than simply ‘kid in peril’, a part she will develop further in the following picture.

The disc is in reasonable shape. It’s hardly a stunning restoration job, but it’s a passable one. The sound is a little flat and bizarrely quiet, prompting you to turn up the volume so high that it’s a certainty you’ll be terrifying the neighbours when the menu music suddenly kicks back in at weapon-grade sound levels.

There are two feature commentaries, as well as a recorded panel from a Halloween convention where the cast of this and the following movie talk earnestly about something that doesn’t altogether deserve it.


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1 comment

  1. After the misleading title of Halloween 3 Season of the Witch, ( which is a good film by itself), Michael Myers returns in this excellent second sequel after surviving the inferno at the local Haddonfield hospital in Halloween 2. This time his young, traumatised niece is the intended target. Halloween 4 relies upon suspense, a spine-tingling score and a hellish pursuit by the unstoppable force that is known as “the boogeyman”.
    Donald Pleasance returns as the ageing and courageous Sam Loomis, Haddonfield’s only chance of survival.
    This is an excellent film that I highly regard in the Halloween franchise.

    Lex Sinclair author of (Nobody Goes There, The Lord of Darkness, Killer Spiders & Neighbourhood Watch).

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