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Waffleween - Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)


Directed by: Dwight H Little
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Danielle Harris, Ellie Cornell, George P Wilbur, Beau Starr, Kathleen Kinmont, Sasha Jenson

Ten years after committing the original massacre, Michael Myers returns to Haddonfield in search of his niece, Harris.
With audiences and critics reacting poorly to "Halloween 3", it was inevitable that a fourth movie would feature Michael Myers and a return to the slasher formula which made the original a hit. By the late eighties, slasher movies were more likely to be found on the shelves of video stores than playing in theaters. It was important that "Halloween 4" be a success so as to save the franchise from an exile in straight-to-video hell. It was indeed a success, at least financially, ensuring the survival of Myers for quite a while. Producer Moustapha Akkad, who had taken control of the rights, half-jokingly said he would make twenty-four sequels before he retired Myers.
A script had been penned by Dennis Etchison, writer of the novelizations of the first three movies, but Akkad rejected it as "too cerebral". From what's known of it, the rejected script had a post-modern twist, ironic given the massive success of the revisionist "Scream" a decade later. Alan B McElroy, a self-confessed "Halloween" nut, rushed out a script in eleven days which focused on Jamie Lloyd, the young daughter of Laurie Strode, (Jamie Lee Curtis), orphaned following her parents accidental death a year earlier. Thanks to the revelations of the second film, fans now knew that young Jamie (Danielle Harris) was of course the niece of none other than Myers himself. It's a well paced, punchy script which certainly feels like it was written by somehow who understands and appreciates the series.
With Curtis out of the picture, the film would be carried by Pleasence, now practically a household name thanks to the role of Dr. Loomis. As with the second film, he's given some great dialogue to chew on. A confrontation between Loomis and Myers in a gas station is one of the highlights not just of this film but the series as a whole. Loomis, replete with burn scars from "Halloween 2"'s finale, is now a tired old man who resorts to begging Myers to "leave those people alone". Few slasher flicks can boast of such a human moment. As the series' newly elected heroine, ten-year-old Harris is a revelation, a child actor who actually acts like a child rather than a miniature adult.
Director Little does some effective if not earth shattering work behind the camera. His two greatest contributions are the moody shots of farmland in the credit sequence and a "Vertigo" zoom in the aforementioned gas station set-piece. Compared to the hacks who would take over in subsequent sequels he does an admirable job. After collaborations with Carpenter, composer Alan Howarth strikes out on his own for this film's score. While the central themes remain, Carpenter's absence is notable and the music isn't nearly as effective as in previous films.
"Halloween 4" was met with scorn but, importantly, it won back the fans with a thrilling and snappy installment in the adventures of their favorite mass murderer. Sadly, the series was about to enter its wilderness years.
8/10

Eric Hillis