I was looking forward to writing my thoughts about Halloween 4 on the Nightmare Shift. I have talked about some of the Halloween films over the years, but I have barely scratched the surface overall.
I’ve talked about how much I enjoyed the Rob Zombie remake as a flawed, but enjoyable reinterpretation of the source material, and how satiable I thought the 2018 Halloween reboot was, in spite retreading largely familiar territory. Although I found both Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends largely disappointing, I still am grateful to have had a new trilogy to the fabled franchise that helped entice a new era of slasher films. With that in mind, it will likely be awhile until we receive a new Halloween film (although, nothing stays dead forever in horror), and so, I thought I would start playing catch up and share my thoughts on other films in the series.
Released in 1988, Halloween 4 is a return to form (shape?) for the series in some respects. Or, at least, a return to form in the sense that it sees the return of its main-antagonist Michael Myers. The original plan for the Halloween series was for it to be an anthology. Michael was dead come Halloween II, which is why Halloween III saw the infamous Silver Shamrock story. Since then, Halloween III has been reappraised by many and even has a small cult following, but, at the time, it was seen a little like shooting the golden William Shatner mask-wearing goose. Thus, six years later, Michael Myers has hereby been resurrected.
Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for Jamie Lee Curtis or director John Carpenter. Instead, Dwight Little is at the reins (director of that Phantom of the Opera flick with Robert Englund) and actor Danielle Harris portrays Jamie Lloyd, daughter of the deceased (in this timeline) Laurie Strode. As you might surmise, Halloween 4 sees Michael Myers return, having evidently survived the aftermath of Halloween II, and target Laurie’s daughter Jamie. It is a simple, straightforward slasher film, and, at the end of the day, that’s likely what the Halloween series is best at (the waters muddy when they become too concerned in the specifics and finer details behind it all).
As a budding horror fan, once upon a time, I loved this fourth film. In fact, I would even say I had a deeper nostalgic attachment to it than the original Carpenter film, simply because I had seen it as many times as I had.
As an adult, I don’t think about it the same way I once did. For starters, I realize now that Danielle Harris’ Jamie Lloyd character isn’t the main character of the film. I mean, she is, but she isn’t. She certainly doesn’t have the most character development or the largest on-screen presence of the film. The character is more like the object of Michael Myers’ obsession, but, not, in fact, a new Laurie Strode. The film is more like what would have happened if, in the original Halloween, Michael Myers was after Tommy Doyle and Laurie Strode was trying to keep him from being killed.
Ellie Cornell, as Rachel Carruthers, is more appropriately the final girl of this film. She is Jamie’s watchful protector, meanwhile Donald Pleasance is back once again as Dr. Sam Loomis.
In retrospect, Halloween 4 is decent enough as a film.
A lot of what I recalled fondly about the film before, as an adult, I no longer appreciate in the same way I did. Every now and again, Jamie will make callbacks to the original film, like donning a clown outfit, or feeling Michael’s presence over her, but, as an adult, it comes off less nuanced or subtle than I remembered. It is less an intelligent depiction of the circle of violence and more a fan-serviced, cheesy way of reminding us of a better film.
The editing is peculiar, like how you’ll have children teasing Jamie for having a dead mother (I know children can be cruel, but the scene feels inauthentic), and then, immediately after, having a flashback of that moment we’d only just witnessed. (Oh, and blond Michael Myers….)
Donald Pleasance is good in the film. In fact, as far as I am concerned, everyone is good in the film, acting-wise. Harris’ portrayal is decent for a child actor and Carruthers makes for a solid enough female lead. However, the film itself simply doesn’t have a lot to say for itself. Pleasance remains good as Dr. Loomis, but, even he feels like he has lost some a lot of his shine since the original duology. He feels more cartoony, like a caricature of what he was. The type of person who wants to keep away bloodshed – but, then, will incite a mob in spite knowing full well that teenagers are roaming the streets donning Michael Myers getups.
I think a lot of ones’ enjoyment of Halloween 4 depends on your suspension of disbelief and your willingness to check your brain at the door. In ways, it can feel like a direct-to-video sequel of the original film. A high-quality direct-to-video sequel, but a direct-to-video sequel, nonetheless. Oh, this one’s her daughter! Oh, she wearing the … just like Michael wore that! Oh, they have the doctor in it! And, it feels like it plays the hits, but doesn’t really offer anything else beyond that.
All that in mind, it isn’t all bad and I don’t want to harp on it too much as I do retain a special place in my heart for the film. It is Halloween, for all intents and purposes, benefited by its distinct sound and the allure the series had (especially up to 1988).
Still, as a film, pound for pound, Halloween 4 is only an alright slasher film with alright slasher film moments in it. And sometimes that’s enough.