Six years after the Myers-less Halloween 3 failed to turn the franchice into a annual event featuring a new story every October and seven years after Michael went up in smoke while stalking through one of the emptiest hospitals in cinema history, John Carpenter’s enigmatic Shape finally returned to cinemas in a soft reboot that really doesn’t get the credit it deserves.
After 7 years in a coma thanks to the medical condition known as “getting blown up in Halloween 2”, multiple murderer and part time boiler suit enthusiast Michael Myers snaps awake during a patient transfer days before Halloween to resume his quest to expunge every member of his extended family. In hot pursuit is his increasingly deranged psychiatrist Dr Loomis (the always good value for money Donald Pleasence), the Van Helsing to Michael’s Dracula, who also survived the explosion than put Myers on his back in the first place. Setting his lethal sights on his niece Jaime (Laurie Strode has passed on thanks to Jamie Lee Curtis not wanting to resume the cat and mouse shenanigans), Michael lays siege to the entire town of Haddonfield, whose residents either cower in fear or form horribly ineffective drunken lynch mobs. Taking refuge in the sheriff’s house after Myers helps the local police take the night off early, Jaime, her adopted sister and a random group of other people seeking shelter they to hold out until help arrives but it already may be too late as the inscrutable killer may have already snuck into the house like a spider in autumn. So the race is on to stay ahead of the one man slaughterhouse and keep his young target out of range of his stabbing arm but maybe the most heinous damage he is trying to inflict to his would be victim isn’t on the outside…
Halloween 4 and it’s decidedly on the nose subtitle may not be the best sequel in the long running horror saga (it barely scrapes the top 3) but it IS a quaint little slasher, slickly made and smartly shot which acts like a much needed boost of franchise viagra after fans rejected the perfectly respectable part 3.
However, while H4:TROMM jump started the babysitter exterminator’s career back into life, it’s populist nature also opened the door to the atrocities that called themselves Halloween 5 & 6.
Good news, bad news… am I right?
Michael is now less of a silent, shadowy assassin and more of a Jason Voorhees’ type swashbuckling serial slasher who openly shrugs off bullets and has declined his usually modus operandi of stabbing and strangling in favour of more outlandish methods of slaughter such as crushing skulls with his bare hands, stabbing brains with his thumb and impaling people with rifles because I’m assuming he’s too much of a murder snob to simply pull a fucking trigger.
This presents the movie with an odd, catch-22 situation as watching Michael (now built like a linebacker thanks to stuntman George P. Wilbur being cast in the role) scramble across roof tops and cling to moving vehicles in order to snare his prey may be very exciting and pretty damn cool, but it progressively takes us miles away from the artfully staged sense of mounting dread of the original into a more traditional rollercoaster ride that relies more on stunts and jump scares than it does establishing mood.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing as the result is a hugely entertaining (if not exactly challenging) movie experience but on the flip side it does open up a large amount of silly plot holes like how on earth can Michael identify his niece from a photo and kill a fuck-ton of slack-jawed yokels when he had his eyes shot out in the second movie; and why the hell didn’t someone spot that in one shot Michael’s mask inexplicably has blonde hair?
The characters aren’t what you’d call rocket scientists and do irresponsible things like stand stock still and fiddle with loading an empty rifle while Michael walks slowly towards them in plain sight instead of testing the world land speed record and getting the fuck out of there. But then, what else would you expect from a libidinous 80’s teen called Brady who has one continuous eyebrow? Yes, it’s a cheap trick to pump up excitement, and yes it works, but it makes a lot of the citizens of Haddonfield mere Myers-fodder and not really worth investing our time in. Give thanks then for Danielle Harris as little Jaime Lloyd, giving a remarkably memorable performance which forces you to engage emotionally with all the killing malarkey that’s going on (in fact Harris is still a genre actress of note with such projects as Urban Legend, Stakeland and Rob Zombie’s Halloween remakes under her belt).
Halloween 4 ain’t art and there are at least a couple of better Halloween movies out there; but then it isn’t the worst by a long shot either and probably is the most casually watchable entry of the entire series.