Hello, valued readers! My name is Jason Burke. I’ve been tasked with doing a write-up on my favorite horror movie. It may come as no surprise to you that my favorite horror movie is Halloween. But, what can I honestly say about the ’78 Carpenter classic that hasn’t already been said? This synth soundtrack slasher helped to birth an entire genre of masked killers during the ’80s horror boom.
But, instead of regurgitating the same points about our beloved Halloween, I’d like to take this valuable space to spread awareness of Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers (1988), the greatest horror franchise sequel ever made (sorry, Dream Warriors). Coming off of Season of the Witch (read our retro review here) – which is an awesome movie, if you can get past a lack of Michael Myers – the brand was losing steam and was looking to re-establish the Shatner-masked stalker as the face of the franchise. Halloween 4 did just that.
Right from the opening shot, Halloween 4 gets it right where so many other sequels fail. So often, good horror is about atmosphere. Rather than skip the setup, this movie leads in with a bevy of fall cinematography, which sets the stage and feels like a love letter to the original films. Aside from the authentic feel, another important aspect is established early on: continuity. A seemingly comatose Myers gets wheeled into the sanitarium, and they use a 30 second exposition scene in an elevator to tell the story: Michael killed 10 years ago, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis: Prom Night 1980) died in a car accident, and her daughter, Jamie Lloyd (newcomer Danielle Harris – read our interview with her here) is in a foster home. With swift pacing, the previous movies get treated with respect, and we’re off to the next chapter of the Myers murders.
The acting in Halloween 4 is basic, but effective. As tough as child actors can sometimes be, Danielle Harris shines as our new protagonist. Having a young girl be the star ratchets up the tension and empathy even more as she runs through the well-decorated town of Haddonfield to avoid Uncle Boogeyman’s wrath. We can’t forget Donald Pleasence (Prince of Darkness 1987 – read our retro review here), who is the greatest soothsayer character to ever live. The seasoned Dr. Loomis runs around with foreboding quips, trying to stop Myers from coming home. The relationship between Lloyd and her foster sister, Rachel (Ellie Cornell: Married to the Mob 1988), is tender, and the two have great chemistry. The other characters may just be tropes (loose popular girl, horny teenage boy, new, unwitting sheriff), but they’re clearly defined and easy to follow. As the killer chases Lloyd, and Loomis chases Myers, the chaos that ensues is incredibly well paced.
The ending in Halloween 4 is also perhaps my favorite ever (yes, ever). The chilling symmetry of Lloyd beating Michael, only to don his childhood clown mask to kill her own family as Loomis watches on in terror, is a cliffhanger personified. That in and of itself could’ve taken the series in a million exciting directions. With Halloween 4, Director Dwight Little (Getting Even 1986) managed to pay homage to the Carpenter story with a movie that FEELS like Halloween, but offers a fresh take without compromising its integrity. So when I’m asked why I grew up to be a writer/director of horror films and novels, I say, “It was the boogeyman. As a matter of fact, it was.”