Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

*. With Halloween 3: Season of the Witch John Carpenter and Debra Hill had tried to steer the franchise in a different direction, meaning away from cookie-cutter, slasher-killer sequels. That hadn’t worked, and when they were approached to do Halloween 4 Carpenter and co-writer Dennis Etchison had come up with an idea for Michael Myers being a sort of phantom presence in Haddonfield. Producer Moustapha Akkad was having none of that, insisting on the (drum roll) return of Michael Myers. Hill and Carpenter bailed, leaving Akkad to get what he wanted, which was a rehash of the first Halloween. Hence Halloween 4.
*. It’s a good thing Akkad was so undemanding. Because the Writers Guild was just about to go on strike Alan B. McElroy had to come up with a script, from concept to final draft, in eleven days. That didn’t leave a lot of room for originality. But originality was not the goal.
*. So Halloween 4 picks up ten years after the end of Halloween 2, with Michael reviving from a decade-long coma he was sent into as a result of being blown up and burned to a crisp at the end of that film. Upon awakening he decides to head back to Haddonfield to kill his niece, the daughter of the now deceased Laurie Strode.
*. If you’re a fan of this franchise you’ll realize that this doesn’t make sense, since Laurie Strode is very much alive in later movies. This is what I mean when I call the Halloween movies the most chaotic of all the horror franchises. The way these inconsistencies are explained is by way of “retconning,” a word I was previously unfamiliar with. It’s short for retroactive continuity, and refers to the adjustment of facts, or their flat contradiction, in movie sequels. I’m not sure such a term applies, or is necessary, in the case of the Halloween series, as there is no explanation attempted for any of the major discontinuities. They were just doing whatever they wanted.
*. There’s not much to say here, given that it’s just an attempt to do again what had already been done. Danielle Harris does a good turn as Michael’s niece. Some of the exterior photography is nice. I particularly like the scene where they discover the wrecked ambulance in the river. I also like the bait-and-switch where you think the man sitting in the chair with the shotgun will turn out to be the murdered deputy but it’s actually Michael.
*. Aside from this, it’s all pretty grim. Michael himself isn’t much of a presence (or “Shape,” as he’s affectionately known). He’s played by two different actors in a terrible mask that they tried desperately to make look like the one in the first film. This isn’t just trivia; it looks really bad.
*. Some carryovers are downright bizarre. Why does the sheriff’s sexy daughter refuse to put on some pants? Isn’t that weird? And again we have the bizarre house with doors that lock on the outside, so that everybody inside is trapped. What’s up with that?
*. I didn’t think there were any good kills. I think the girl being speared with a shotgun is considered the highlight, but the only interesting thing I found about that was Michael’s refusal to use a gun. Later he’ll take the shotgun he wrests from the useless boyfriend and casually toss it away. He likes to kill his victims the old-fashioned way.
*. It’s a movie that has its fans. Personally I didn’t find it nearly as interesting as Halloween 3, but the box office was back on track, proving Akkad right in his assumption that audiences just wanted more of the same. And that was just what they were going to get.

3 thoughts on “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

    1. Alex Good Post author

      That one drives me absolutely bananas! It makes no sense at all, and I take it that later directors kept copying it just as a sort of in-joke. It’s in the original Halloween, but even before that it’s done in Black Christmas, which may have inspired or influenced Carpenter (there seems to be a difference of opinion on that). I’m not sure if that’s where it got its start.


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