31 Days Of Horror: Halloween 4

Halloween 4 (1988) returns to the Michael Myers storyline (well, the first of them!) and swaps the Roman numerals for Arabic ones.  This is the first of a trilogy that delves deeper into Michael’s backstory.

Halloween 4
The mask on the DVD cover is typical of the contemporary advertising for the film – they were very keen to emphasise that they were going back to the Michael Myers story.

Donald Pleasence gets top billing, and is definitely the star here!  His portrayal of Dr Loomis with ten added years of paranoia and stress is fantastic.

The film is set ten years after Halloween/Halloween II, which keeps the setting contemporary.  We’re firmly into the late ’80s here, which adds a lot of fun and colour to proceedings.

We start off with Michael Myers about to be transferred from the sanatorium in which he’s been kept for ten years back to Smith’s Grove, which is the place he escaped from back in 1978.  Why are they taking him back to Smith’s Grove when he’s already proven he can escape from there?

In case you’ve not been keeping up, the backstory is delivered by a helpfully chatty sanatorium staff member.  ‘Both of them nearly burnt to death,’ he says of Myers and Loomis, letting us know that the fire in Halloween II wasn’t fatal for either character.

While one of the doctors is checking Michael’s blood pressure, his arm falls down from the bed, so he clearly wasn’t very well restrained in the first place.  The Smith’s Grove doctors get him in the back of the ambulance and on the road, and start talking about his living relatives. As soon as he hears he’s got a niece, Michael gets his strength back, and off he goes on his killing spree!

We’re introduced to seven-year-old Jamie Lloyd here.  The backstory is that Jamie’s parents (Laurie and an unknown other) died eleven months ago, and Jamie is being fostered by the Carruthers family, including teenager Rachel and Sunday the dog.  Jamie has a picture of Laurie that is clearly a publicity still from the first film!  She’s also having dreams/hallucinations about Michael Myers, which doesn’t make sense given that she doesn’t know anything about him yet.

It’s still the case that nobody else in the Illinois medical system is listening to Dr Loomis, which is nice and nostalgic!

There are lots of beats matched from the first film as Michael makes his way to Haddonfield – including him killing a mechanic just because he needs a new pair of overalls.

The school bullies at Jamie’s school are really vile!  Mocking her for being an orphan, yikes.

We get a good introduction to Kelly, the sheriff’s daughter, who works in the drugstore with Brady, Rachel’s boyfriend – it’s clear early on that she’s a romantic threat to Rachel, especially as Brady is frustrated by Rachel having to cancel their date to babysit Jamie.

Jamie chooses a pierrot costume for her Hallowe’en outfit, just like the one Michael was wearing when he killed his older sister as a child.  I don’t know why kids were ever into those pierrot costumes – they’re really creepy!

As Michael has destroyed his car, Loomis has to go hitchiking.  I quite like the invocation of the ‘crazy drunk evangelical who happily picks up hitchhikers’ trope here!

Haddonfield is beautifully decorated for Hallowe’en – an absolutely picture-perfect American small town.  I never know how people manage to put pumpkin lanterns outside on their porches and not have the wind blow the candles out.  Maybe there’s no wind in Illinois.

While escorting Jamie for trick-or-treating, Rachel catches Brady at Kelly’s house.  ‘So you just hop onto the next best thing?’ Rachel says angrily.  Brady tries to make excuses, but yes, that is exactly what he’s doing.  What a dick!  He only holds Rachel up for about twenty seconds, but it’s still long enough for Rachel to lose sight of Jamie, who has clearly never been schooled sufficiently about how children shouldn’t go running off.

At least Sheriff Meeker is sensible enough to believe Loomis!  Haddonfield cops apparently never forget.  We also get some nice backstory about how Sheriff Brackett retired to Pennsylvania in 1981.

I like the rednecks from the bar who decide to go vigilante as soon as they hear Michael Myers is back in town, even though it’s pretty clear that it’s all going to go horribly wrong.

Loomis and Meeker investigate the Carruthers house to discover that Michael is back to his dog-killing habits again.  Poor Sunday!

Michael also comes up with a rather spectacular way of taking the whole town’s power out, by chucking some poor power plant worker into the electrical grid!

The redneck riot mob naturally kill the wrong person.  Poor Ted Hollister joins Ben Tramer from Halloween II on the list of characters who die in Halloween films without the assistance of Michael.

The lock-in, with all the characters holing up in the Meeker house, is quite an interesting setup for the penultimate sequence – everyone is in the same place and on high alert (except for Kelly, who’s still thinking about sex – this is a very good indication in a slasher film that someone’s not going to survive for long).

We conveniently lose all the competent characters when Loomis goes off to hunt Michael at the Carruthers house and Meeker goes off to stop the rednecks, meaning that everyone at the Meeker house is now doomed.

‘Wish they’d fix the power.  At least we’d have some MTV while we wait for the cavalry,’ says Kelly to the dead deputy, approximately five seconds before she realises he’s dead and then gets killed by Michael herself.  Are these the most ’80s last words ever?  I will pay attention for the rest of this month and keep you posted.

Brady idiotically traps the surviving characters in the house by not checking whether the door lock’s made of metal before shooting it, and then finds that he’s run out of ammo and is too clumsy to reload the gun before Michael catches up with him, but at least he dies heroically and thus sort-of-redeems himself (punching Michael Myers in the face is pretty fruitless but also pretty brave!).

The rooftop sequence, with Rachel and Jamie trying to escape Michael by finding a way down, is fab!  Really tense and well shot.

The rednecks see sense at last, deciding to let the state troopers handle it, but are sadly not long for this world – Michael quickly dispatches them in his last-ditch attempt to reach Jamie.

The cops arrive in time to load several clips of bullets into Michael, but there’s some convenient unstable ground for him to fall into at the end, so he’s clearly not dead yet!  ‘Michael Myers is in hell,’ says Loomis, but without a body to prove it, he should know that you can’t be sure about that.

Having been sent insane by Michael (which is not explained in the slightest), Jamie puts a mask on and stabs her mother, providing a great chilling moment, bringing Loomis to utter terrified hysteria, and nicely setting up the next film.

Speaking of which, we’ll move onto Halloween 5 tomorrow!

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