Halloween 4 and 5: the Return and the Revenge of Michael Myers

I’m making my way through these Halloween films one at a time. Halfway there and only a few days to get them done by Halloween!

'Halloween 4' poster

Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) Directed by Dwight H. Little. Starring Danielle Harris, Ellie Cornell, Donald Pleasance, George P. Wilbur, Sasha Jenson, Michael Pataki, Beau Starr.

It’s been ten years since the end of the events in Halloween II. Michael Myers (George P. Wilbur) and Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) have survived the explosion and subsequent fire at the hospital. Laurie Strode, on the other hand, did Myers a favor by later dying in a car wreck, thanks to Jamie Lee Curtis’s lack of interest in starring in another Halloween film. But lucky for us Laurie left behind a daughter, Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris), who lives in Haddonfield with a foster family. When Michael overhears of her existence during a transfer to another hospital, he escapes and is off to continue severing his family ties. Dr. Loomis learns of Michael’s escape and rushes to save the residents of Haddonfield. Meanwhile, teenager Rachel Carruthers (Ellie Cornell) is bummed that she’ll miss a date with her boyfriend because she has to babysit her foster sister. But things are about to get a lot more dangerous for both girls now that Michael Myers is back in town.

If you watched the end of Halloween II and thought, “Yep. That dude Michael Myers is dead. He’s burnt to a crisp and he ain’t comin’ back,” then you were wrong, and you’ve probably never seen a slasher move before either. After the failure of Halloween III, with frantic fans clutching their hair and screaming out “Where is Michael???”, producer Moustapha Akkad brought The Shape back from the dead for yet another trip to Haddonfield.

Halloween 4 has its share of good and bad, but aided by performances from a pair of likable leads and a couple of decent kills, it’s one of the better entries in the franchise so far. It’s lower on the gore scale but there is a significant body count. Unfortunately a good portion of those kills take place off screen, including the slaughter of every officer in a police station. Michael Myers overpowering a station full of cops would have been a great set piece. I guess director Dwight Little wasn’t up for it. Too bad.

It can’t be a Halloween film (at least not yet) without Donald Pleasance running around town proclaiming things like “You’re talking about him as if he were a human being!” and “We are talking about evil on two legs!” Oh, Loomis, you goofball. Gotta love him, even if the scar on his face changes shape throughout the film.

Danielle Harris delivers an impressive performance as seven year old Jamie Loyd (Jamie! Get it?…). She carries a lot of the weight in the movie and she handles it well. She avoids acting cutesy and her fear is convincing enough that I felt concerned she might actually suffer emotional trauma as a result of pretending to be chased by a madman. With or without PTSD, she has gone on to become one of the most famous of the horror movie “scream queens”.

Impalement by shotgun (oh, why bother pulling the trigger?) and a throat ripped open top off some notable kills. The twist of the last couple of minutes is fantastic, even though anybody who’s been paying attention throughout the series will likely see it coming when Jamie picks out her costume in the local store. It’s too bad the next film undermines the ending’s traumatic bite completely…

'Halloween 5' poster

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) Directed by Dominique Othenin-Girard. Starring Danielle Harris, Donald Pleasance, Ellie Cornell, Wendy Kaplan, Don Shanks, Beau Starr, Tamara Glynn, Jeffrey Landman, Jonathan Chapin, Matthew Walker.

Rachel (sill played by Ellie Cornell) worries a lot about her stepsister Jamie Loyd (still played by Danielle Harris) who lives in a psychiatric ward as a result of the ordeal she endured during the last movie. The poor child is left mute and as a bonus now she has a psychic link with Michael Myers (Don Shanks). Having survived his third violent “death”, Michael heads out to continue his seemingly pointless mission of killing all of his living family members. Of course Dr. Loomis urgently tries to convince Sheriff Ben Meeker (Beau Starr) that his town in danger once more. And who is the mysterious man in the long coat and silver-tipped cowboy boots?

Halloween 5 is considered one of the worst of the franchise. It tanked at the box office and as a result there wouldn’t be another Halloween movie for six years. There’s a lot wrong with the movie but somehow none of it detracted from my enjoyment of the film. I lived in its moments only to muse over its problems after it was over.

And there are plenty of problems. Worst of all is the almost total reversal of the previous film’s shocking ending, though to be honest I’m not sure where they could have taken it from there to begin with. Also, how does Michael Myers manage to survive an entire year living with a hermit before suddenly deciding to kill the poor man? What were they doing during the year leading up to that fateful moment? Watching The Cosby Show, drinking tea and knitting? Or perhaps Myers was in a coma, in which case how did the hermit keep him alive? And why did he even bother? Well, as Loomis is fond of continually reminding us, Michael Myers is not human so we might as well chalk it up to that. No matter. We have to get Michael from point A to point Slash somehow.

Some of the film’s other sins include a pair of comic relief police officers whose presence is accompanied by clownish sound effects. It’s baffling that these characters made it to the script let alone the final cut. As brief as their appearances are, they are one of the worst things about the movie. What were they thinking?

Also problematic is Jamie’s mute condition, which seems to exist only to occasionally delay action in the plot, although it is the source of a couple of laughs when Danielle Harris is forced to frantically grunt in an effort to communicate with others. And then we almost completely lose sympathy for Dr. Loomis as he berates the poor girl, viciously demanding her to reveal the information she receives from Michael because of her… psychic link to him… yeah…

All of those ridiculous things, and more, aside… and that is a lot to set aside, I know… I still enjoyed it. I didn’t question several of the Halloween 5‘s issues until after it ended. Some of the kills and the final chase sequence worked well for me. Danielle Harris is great as Jamie, once more carrying almost the entire film. The scene where she is trapped in the laundry chute I found as tense as nearly any other sequence in the entire series up to this point, although the minutes following contain one of the more ridiculous moments in the series so far (“You’re just like me!”).

And who is the mysterious man in black and why do he and Michael share the same mark tattooed on their wrists? You won’t find the answers to those questions in Halloween 5… Stay tuned to find out in the next installment!

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