Happy Halloween to all my Enemaniacs!
It’s been quite some time since I did an actual Halloween film from the franchise that gave us a guy in a spray-painted William Shatner mask. In 2016, I was watching Fear Fest on AMC and Halloween: Resurrection was on and I realized how really bad that movie was and I needed to put my thoughts to the world. And I did! Then, in 2017, I did it againwith my favorite of all the Halloween sequels, Halloween III: Season of the Witch.
But, much like it was on October 21, 1988, the wait is finally over. I’m back to covering the exploits of one Michael Myers with Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. This feels good. This feels like home. I’m back to talking about Halloween sequels that are either kind of oddballs or flat out bad. This one lands somewhere in between, but we’ll talk about that more in a bit.
I want people to think about the wealth of horror we had in 1988. We wouldn’t get the first of our spooky treats until the very end of the first quarter of the year with Beetlejuice getting released on March 30. But in April we got The Seventh Sign and Critters 2, and in May we got Killer Klowns from Outer Space. As the summer got going, so did horror (of all things). June was when Poltergeist III and Waxwork came out. July 8 was the release date for Phantasm II and Monkey Shines was out before the end of that month. The remake of The Blob and A Nightmare of Elm Street 4: The Dream Master got released in August. Just before the end of September, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark busted out. And in the final months of the year, Halloween 4 was joined by Night of the Demons, Child’s Play, and Hellbound: Hellraiser II.
Just look at that lineup! There were even a few I left out. But these had some recognizable entries and creatures. 1988 was, hands down, even with out Jason Voorhees getting in on the action, one of the very best years of horror in the entire decade. But yeah, much like what I said in the Phantasm II article, I got to see a lot of really cool stuff. I was very lucky to have older brothers and a very cool mom so I could see horror well ahead of any of my contemporaries and colleagues on the playground at school. My brothers would get Fangoria magazine and I’d get to look at all the neat and gory pictures in the mag. It would get me so excited for what was coming out.
And… Much like with Phantasm, this first Halloween film in six years was supposed to be a big deal. Michael Freakin’ Myers was coming back! IT WAS RIGHT THERE IN THE TITLE! He was RETURNING! I love the Halloween movies and I especially liked the first two when I was a kid. They played constantly on TV around Halloween time. It wasn’t until later that I got the appreciation I have today for Halloween III. What’s kind of funny is that I feel like Halloween 4 and Halloween 5 play more often than any of the movies, or at least at better times during AMC’s aforementioned Fear Fest. I see these movies ALL THE TIME.
Anyway, excitement was building because Michael Myers looks like what we might expect. Donald Pleasance was back. In fact, he was the star now. Jamie Lee Curtis wouldn’t return until another ten years. We’d find out that she had a daughter somewhere along the way. The little girl was played by Danielle Harris and I would quickly get a little crush on the little girl who was the same age as I was. This was one that had to be seen as soon as possible with my big brothers. We went and saw it, had a fun time, and we’ve since seen it at a local drive-in in the years since.
We’re going to get into this movie with the next paragraph. Allow me to say that I have a very good time watching this movie. This is one of the more nostalgic movies from my youth. However, let it be known that I abso-freakin’-lutely know this is a terribly flawed movie. We’re gonna peel back those layers that only sort of haphazardly cover this turd and see what we’ve got underneath to pick at…
While still loving the ever-livin’ shit out of this flick.
I think it’s best to kick things off in this review with a somewhat controversial statement. I LOVE the opening titles to this movie. There is no theme. There is no pumpkin next to the title or the cast and crew. There is just this eerie calm. This scenic landscape that looks kind of Midwesterny enough to pass. Interestingly, as a guy who lives in the Midwest, right fucking next door to the state that this series primarily exists in, I know this is NOT the Midwest that I know. It’s the other Midwest. Yeah, the Great Plains or possibly even further west than that. Still, shut up. I love this harvest, Halloween look of the whole damn thing.
All you hear is the wind and the sky is gray. Trees are dropping their leaves. It’s as if both nature is signaling death while another form of death is soon to arrive. Plus, the utter remoteness of this setting feels like nothing is even living in this region. But still, someone did at one point. There is farm equipment and sharp pitchforks and weathervanes made up to look like witches. Someone lived here if they don’t anymore. It’s a perfect eerie feeling to kick off a movie that is ultimately just going to be a relatively standard slasher.
On a dark and stormy October 30, 1988, two members of Smith’s Grove staff are arriving at a maximum security asylum to pick up and transfer a patient. This patient? Michael Myers. Now, if you are someone who likes to think fairly logically about movies, you might remember that at the end of Halloween, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) saved Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) from Michael Myers. He plugged the killer six times with his revolver. Myers fell to the ground and disappeared.
Then, in Halloween II, Myers kept at it with chasing Laurie to the hospital where he killed some doctors and nurses and EMTs before both Loomis and Laurie teamed up to take down the killer. First, by Laurie shooting Michael in both eyes (or maybe not, it’s never quite established if she actually hit him in the eyes or not – only that he bled from the eyeholes of his mask), and, second, Loomis turning on gas and exploding the hospital. I guess fuck the rest of the patients at this hospital, but whatever. Michael Myers had to be stopped no matter the cost. The final shot of the movie is seeing flames engulfing the head of Michael Myers and apparently it melting his head and mask and body and stuff.
For the last 10 years, Michael has been in a coma in this maximum security asylum and just simply bandaged up. Cool.
The two Smith’s Grove people are taken to a sub-level in the facility. One of the duo reacts to a scream in the asylum by whispering, “Jesus.” The guard says the best line in the whole movie right here. He takes the guy by the arm and responds, “Jesus ain’t got nothing to do with this place.” Perfect set up. Anyway, the guy signs out Michael while the lady checks his vitals. The guy expected Loomis to be here for the transfer, but the head of the asylum says that Loomis doesn’t read memos, so he just hopes that with Michael gone, Loomis will either transfer, retire, or die.
As Michael is put into the ambulance, we finally get the theme song. However, the two transfer people make a mistake. They begin talking about how there is a niece who still survives Michael. This causes the previously inert patient to grip his blanket. They say that the niece is too young to be a legal guardian for the patient so I guess Michael belongs to the state. What a pity.
So anyway, Michael wakes up and crams his thumb into a guy’s forehead to kill him and ultimately commandeer the ambulance.
Cut to a dark living room where Jamie (Danielle Harris) is looking out the window because she can’t sleep. She is looking at a conspicuously parked ambulance. Jamie’s older sibling, Rachel (the endlessly cute Ellie Cornell), comes to comfort Jamie, but the little girl has big problems on the brain. She asks Rachel if she loves her like a real sister. Rachel says that while they are not “real” sisters (Rachel’s family adopted Jamie after Laurie, and whoever her husband or boyfriend was, died 11 months prior), that doesn’t mean she doesn’t love her any less. Oh, and the ambulance is no longer outside.
Rachel takes Jamie back to her room so she can go to sleep. Jamie’s bedroom window is open, so she closes it and goes to the closet where she can look at her shoebox of pictures of her mom. She goes to her bed and, as lightning strikes, we see Michael in her vanity mirror. As she says her prayers, her closet door opens. She goes to check it out and finds nothing but a doll that has fallen on the floor. She closes the door, and it opens again. This time, before she can go to the door, a hand grabs her from under the bed. Michael sits up and looks at her, but this just turns out to be a nightmare.
There are two things here to discuss. First, if this is a dream, how does Jamie know what this figure is? She would likely have not been told stories about Michael Myers by her mother, so she doesn’t know what he looks like. I like this scene because it does give us something more aside from the escape to focus on for a bit because things are going to slow down again soon. However, we do find out there is a familial connection that will play out over the course of the next two movies – for better or worse. That can definitely retroactively explain these sightings she has in the early stages of this movie.
However, there is the larger complaint that these new movies in the later 80s had. Michael Myers doesn’t really have the same look to him. One of the great things about his presence in the original movie was that he was just kind of going about his business in a kind of makeshift way. He found a mask he liked that could hide his face after escaping Smith’s Grove. He obtained his coveralls by killing a tow truck guy. Simultaneously, Michael created an iconic look while also just doing what he had to to get normal clothing and a way to cover his face. The whole covering of his face could also be explained away that his psychosis is directly linked to Halloween as that was the day he killed Judith, his sister.
Either way, there was this jagged edge to the look of Michael Myers. The mask would get dirty. The hair would get mussed. His hands would look like they were dirty. His coveralls, likely, were grimy. The oft-stated issue people have with this new movie was that Michael almost looked more like a Halloween costume that you’d buy at Spirit Halloween as opposed to his “just collect whatever I need to get the job done” sort of ingenuity. What’s more, the hair color is inconsistent too in this movie which is incredibly weird (more on that later). This came down to needing to recreate the mask from the original. Remember, the original was just a William Shatner mask spray-painted white. That was something that existed that got altered. These masks used in this movie were completely recreated for this production. It looks manufactured.
Either way, I understand the complaint people have. This is recognizably Michael Myers, but it doesn’t look as real world Michael Myers as you’d hope.
The next day, Rachel is asked to babysit Jamie because the original babysitter canceled on the family at the last second. Rachel’s parents have to go to a grown up thing (probably just a raging kegger at some client’s house or something). Rachel does not want to babysit her foster sister because she has a date with her boyfriend Brady. She thinks Brady is about to take their relationship to the next level and if she has to cancel, well, her mom can kiss all Rachel’s future, including grandkids for the mom, goodbye because babysitting is for dorks.
Jamie overhears this. Whoopsie doodle. Rachel’s dad tells her that all she does is think about herself so maybe she should change her plans with Brady. Rachel tells Jamie that she can go out with Brady tomorrow and, tonight, they can go trick or treating.
Elsewhere, Dr. Loomis is pissed to hear that “it” has been taken out of the maximum security hospital and transferred. The guy who runs the prison asylum says he had no real choice because Michael was a federal prisoner in a federal institution. They get the call that the ambulance didn’t make it back to Smith’s Grove. Loomis knows what’s up.
He and his boss go to the accident scene and boss man thinks all this was just an accident. I mean, right? There’s blood all over the outside of the ambulance. There’s no way to determine the number of bodies from the overturned ambulance because they were all “chewed up” too badly. So, yeah. All this sounds like a complete and total accident. Loomis says he will be heading to Haddonfield. It’s a four hour drive so if they don’t find Michael in that time, he says he likely will.
At a roadside gas station, Michael kills a mechanic to get his coveralls. It also just so happens to be where Loomis has to go to get a fill up on his car. After finding the dead mechanic, Loomis goes to the diner to find another dead body and a smashed up phone. He sees Michael in the coveralls and his face still bandaged. He begs Michael to not go to Haddonfield. Michael decides that, yeah, he will go to his hometown and check in with the folks.
He also steals the service station’s tow truck and blows up the gas station and Loomis’ car.
Jamie gets bullied at school for not wearing a Halloween costume and because her mom is dead because kids at school suck. Rachel and her friend Lindsey pick Jamie up from school. Lindsey, for what it’s worth, was the other girl being watched with Tommy Doyle by Laurie in the original. We don’t see her again in this timeline after this quick scene. Rachel and Jamie go to where Brady works so Rachel can tell him that she can’t go out with him. Jamie goes looking for a costume. It just so happens there is a Michael Myers mask there that gets picked up by burned up hand.
I do have a question about this town and this world. Assuming that the whole Michael Myers thing was a big story, why would they sell his actual mask? Wouldn’t that be disrespectful to the people who survived the massacre and the people related to those who didn’t? Why would they do that? Does this short ten years make people think that what happened wasn’t real or was exaggerated in some way?
Anyway, Jamie sees Michael again and she has another breakdown. Before then, Rachel tells Brady she can’t do the thing tonight. He gets mad that she knew that morning but didn’t tell him until 5pm. He checks out the hot coworker and then asks if he can come over after Jamie goes to bed. She more or less turns him down for that. I guess everyone needs to feel bad for Brady because his Halloween is now turned to shit. What a poor baby.
Loomis gets a ride from a particularly interesting old geezer. Loomis has a knack of running into the most interesting people. In the first movie, he goes to the cemetery where he tries to figure out where Judith Myers was buried. The undertaker tells this story that is utterly fascinating about a guy who hacked his family up. Now, he meets this man who calls Loomis a pilgrim and talks about hunting down the devil in all his forms. It’s a scene that could have been cut, but we’re graced with its presence because it unveils at least an attempt at a deeper meaning or concept to the movie.
Jamie and Rachel leave to go trick or treating. Jamie has gotten a clown costume similar to Michael’s the night he killed Judith. Michael sneaks into their house and goes through Jamie’s pictures of her mother and father. Meanwhile, Loomis goes to the Haddonfield sheriff, Meeker, to tell him that Michael is coming. He has one of his deputies check on the story, and we learn that the long distance lines are down. Michael has come home.
Speaking of the Meekers, Rachel and Jamie go to their house and his hot ass daughter, Kelly, answers wearing only a big shirt that says “Cops Do It By The Book” and Rachel sees Brady there. Apparently Brady was so devastated by the sudden change in plans, he decided cozy up to the next warm body with tits he could find.
I do have a question: How many people have done this exact costume for Halloween in the last 30+ years since this was released?
Halloween is coming to a halt quickly. After a fight with Brady, Jamie and Rachel are separated. Then, the news tells of a curfew that has been put on Haddonfield and everyone must go home, lock themselves in their homes, and all businesses must close immediately. The owner of the bar finds this curious. He calls the police station to get an explanation, but the cops don’t answer. So he rounds up a posse and decides to go check out what’s going on.
Sheriff Meeker and Loomis go to the Carruthers house to see if Jamie is there. They find that Michael has been there because the family dog is dead. Michael kills both a power line worker and the power in the town by tossing said worker INTO the transformer and blowing out everything. Rachel goes looking for Jamie and sees a mysterious figure slowly creeping toward her.
Rachel and Jamie are reunited and Loomis and Meeker come to pick them up. They are soon surrounded by multiple Michael Myers. It’s just a prank, though. It’s not revealed as a prank until Loomis points his gun at one of them. Imagine if they shot first and then tried to figure out what was going on? Those dumb assholes would be dead!
The reason why there are no responses from the police station is because Michael has torn through the station and killed everyone. The mob of gun-totin’, Illinois hillbillies show up to find out what’s going on. Loomis lets slip that it is Michael Myers. The yokels are now a lynch mob. Meeker is pissed about this, but Loomis reminds him that he no longer has a police force to hunt Michael.
The deputy who was stationed at the Carruthers home is recalled to go to Sheriff Meeker’s because he’s basically the only other cop alive in town. Just after he leaves, Rachel’s mom and dad come home. We also see that the deputy has a passenger in the backseat that he doesn’t know about. But don’t worry! The gun-totin’ lynch mob is surely going to be as good as having trained police officers… right? Nope! The lynch mob thought they saw Michael Myers messing around at a gazebo and fire into a bush where they think he’s hiding. It’s only Ted Hollister – some poor, innocent jerkass.
At the Meeker house, Brady is now about to get totally laid by Kelly, but her dad is the only one who comes… home, that is. Oh and he’s got Rachel and Jamie with him too. As the deputy arrives, he’s going to give Michael access to the Meeker home. Sheriff Meeker gives Brady a shotgun and a toolbox. The toolbox is for him to go upstairs and start boarding the place up.
I love this idea that I hadn’t really ever thought that much about until now. These people are boarding themselves into the house WITH Michael. That’s kind of great. They are making it quite difficult to not only get out the house when Michael inevitably attacks, but they also can’t get help into the house either. I’m not sure why, in 34 years, I hadn’t thought about it in this way before.
Things seem to be calming down and the characters might just believe they will be able to survive all this. Meeker and Loomis try to radio for help from the state police. They are able to call in reinforcements and Loomis goes to the Carruthers saying that maybe nobody knows how to stop Michael Myers, but he’s gotta try.
Now, Michael’s pretty smart. You see, he’s waited in the shadows of the Meeker place until Loomis leaves trying to anticipate his moves and then Sheriff Meeker leaves to deal with the gun-totin’ yokels. Now that both of the incredibly capable adults are gone, he strikes. He first kills the deputy and then attacks Kelly by stabbing her with a shotgun. He’s not going to shoot her with that gun. That’s not his bag. He’s a stabby guy. He turns everything into a stabby device. Including shooty things.
Okay, so good news comes in the form of the state police have sent cars. They will arrive in about 30 minutes. Bad news is that Michael Myers is happening right now. Brady attempts to protect Rachel and Jamie from Michael who is slowly, but surely, making his way up the stairs while he reloads his shotgun. He makes short work of Brady.
The only way out of the house for Rachel and Jamie will be through the attic window. To give them enough time to get out the window, Rachel and Jamie throw a bunch of crap down the stairs to slow Michael. Lucky for him, he gets through that AND finds a butcher knife. Rachel and Jamie make their way out the window and onto the roof. Michael is not far behind. Rachel starts to lower Jamie down, but Michael attacks before he can send her all the way down and Rachel falls off the roof. Jamie thinks Rachel might be dead, but it’s not long before Michael gets to the ground too and chases Jamie off.
Good news! Right after Jamie and Michael take off from the Meeker place, Rachel stirs and comes to because she needs to live to have a really dumb death in the next movie. Loomis finds Jamie and asks her where the schoolhouse is. He can’t let her go back home.
Now, you might think we’re headed for the final confrontation. Loomis has Jamie. They’ve made their way to the school to, assumably, barricade themselves against Michael. It just feels like we’re in the endgame of this movie. Maybe Rachel will come back and do away with Michael right there in the same classroom he once broke into in Halloween II and scribbled “Sister” on the chalkboard.
However, this scene kind of serves a far more dubious role than to wrap this movie up. This is where the infamous “Blonde Hair Mask” shows up. So, as I said, the crew behind Halloween 4 had to make their own masks for the movie. The masks used in the first two had long since bitten the dust. They asked for a new mask to be made from the William Shatner Captain Kirk mold that made the original. That’s fine. It did. But then it showed up to set with pink skin and blonde hair. That’s a far fuckin’ cry from the expected white skin and brown hair. The only way it could have been more wrong is if it was a mask spray painted black with the blonde hair.
It’s said that a tired crewmember (this was shot late at night in this school) just plumb picked up the wrong mask and rushed it to set. Yet, not a single other member of the crew realized they had the pink and blonde mask? Anyway, it got left in because they didn’t have time to fix it with a reshoot, so… Yeah. It turned the dumb mistake into one of the most obvious and atrocious continuity errors ever – at least it is the most atrocious one in the Halloween franchise.
Jamie is chased by Michael but Rachel arrives and hits Michael with the fire extinguisher. She comes outside and the yokels show up. Now that I think about it, we’ve got a mob of gun-totin’, likely drunk, yokels who are driving around and trying to do their own form of justice to stop a boogeyman none of them have laid eyes on in a physical sense, and they pull up to a school with the intent to protect a child from said perceived boogeyman, and goddammit, they are gonna blow that motherfucker away with their guns… in the school.
Kind of hits differently in 2022.
Rachel convinces the yokels to leave and let the state troopers who are inbound handle it. The mob relents to logic and reason and they take Rachel and Jamie out of town. As they head out of town, the state troopers are riding into town. One of the troopers tell the yokels where to go to shelter the two girls. They don’t realize that Michael Myers has apparently hitched a ride on the truck… somehow. Michael kills all the yokels and Rachel takes the wheel.
She eventually manages to force Michael off the truck by slamming on the brakes. She then decides she’s gonna run that motherfucker down. She hits him with the truck and knocks him off the road and into this maybe graveyard or some sort of other place. Sheriff Meeker shows with the rest of the yokels who I think are driving the Haddonfield sheriff cars or maybe this is another really bad continuity error where it’s supposed to be the state troopers but they only had yokel actors that day. Anyway, Jamie goes to Michael, despite Rachel saying not to, and when he gets up to kill his niece, They blow his ass so far away that he falls down some sort of well or ravine or something.
Problem probably solved. Don’t worry about not recovering a body. I’m sure it’s all okay.
That night, back at the Carruthers’ home, Meeker and Loomis wrap things up saying it’s all over. I don’t think Sheriff Meeker knows that his daughter is mega dead, though. But whatever. It’s fine. Rachel and Jamie are doing great.
The girls’ mother goes upstairs to run a bath for Jamie. But uh oh… Someone with a domino mask picks up a pair of scissors and kills Mrs. Carruthers. It’s Jamie looking very similarly to how her uncle did 25 years prior. The evil is reborn and Loomis is freaking out. He even wants to shoot and kill Jamie but is restrained by Meeker.
What a twist! I’m sure this will totally play out awesomely in Halloween 5: The Revenge of Jamie Lloyd and it will totally revive the Halloween franchise in all the best possible ways!
Ha. Ha. Motherfuckin’ ha. Nope. There was a great idea for the end of this movie. I suspect there was no intention for a fifth film and this was just meant to end the series having it come full circle. Thus, it would prove that the evil that was Michael Myers has no end.
Well, that last part is true. The evil that is Michael Myers is never-ending because they don’t decide to take the new idea with Jamie anywhere. Instead, they will rush a fifth movie right into production. Michael survived. Jamie is in a home for messed up kids. There’s no appearance made by her and Rachel’s father. I… I don’t even think it’s said for sure if she killed her foster mother or not. I mean, she totally did. Right? I mean it is definitely implied she killed her foster mother… right?
Anyway, the further adventures of Michael Myers will be explored another time. Maybe in 365 days’ time. Meanwhile, let’s talk about how I feel about this movie. I like the Halloween movies in general as a franchise. Yeah, there are bad ones. I can’t deny that. I don’t count the third as part of the actual franchise because it is the only one that doesn’t have ol’ Mikey boy doing the things. I think that is a great movie on its own merits completely independent of its title. I don’t necessarily even mind the Rob Zombie attempts. They aren’t for me, but I appreciate the attempt to actually do something different with the same property. All that is to simply say that the Halloween franchise offers up a ton of nostalgia for me. Their constant screenings in October in theaters, at drive-ins, on cable, etc. are things I actually do like. It’s like when they show A Christmas Story all day on Christmas. They do that because it means something to people to do that. Halloween has that for, well, Halloween.
But Halloween 4 represents something else to me. There are exactly two times in which I was genuinely hyped beyond hype for a Halloween movie. And, no, not 2018, even though I like that movie more than this one (hey! who threw that tomato at me???). I was genuinely hyped for more Michael Myers in 1988 and 1998. 1998 was for H2O and the return of Jamie Lee Curtis to try to solve for some bad stuff in the sixth film. But in 1988, 11 year old Geoff was loving almost any slasher film he could see on HBO, Showtime, or from the video store. I watched USA’s Saturday Nightmares. I rented Friday the 13th movies all the time. I was a horror junkie.
So when Phantasm returned and then, only four months later, so did Halloween? I was jazzed. I felt like this was kind of a golden age of sorts. It wasn’t until later that I realized this was kind of the end of that slasher era and those were two fan favorites that hadn’t yet been squeezed completely like Freddy and Jason were. And, for a looooong time, I loved this movie. I watched it as much as I could. Along with the next entry, I felt like I was being rewarded with Halloween lore about Michael Myers and things that could have happened beyond those first two movies in the series. This was before trying to undo anything in order to properly put Jamie Lee Curtis back into the franchise again.
So, yeah, this movie has a very special place in my heart. It’s not got the quality of the original. It’s not quite the same, almost exploitation level of cashing in, meanness the second one has. It’s a cash-in to be sure, but it’s kind of generically good for a relaxing flick to watch during the best month of the year. I always like revisiting this movie from Danielle Harris who I would crush on for being in my age group to appreciating Ellie Cornell and her genuine cuteness and her toughness to just liking to see Michael Myers slashing through Haddonfield once again.
So, there you go. Happy Halloween, my dear Enemaniacs. I always love doing these extra ones and I want to make sure I keep doing them with this kind of level of nostalgia. So that means there are a few more Halloween movies I can cover that will give me that nostalgia. But it’s time to put October to bed and look forward into November. What I have planned for this upcoming Friday is one of those diamonds in the rough from Vinegar Syndrome. Naturally, there’s a rape revenge plot here, but they promise it’s an original take on it. With that said, join me for 1991’s Steel and Lace!
To find out when that article drops, scroll up to the top of the page, and look to the right where you will find all those little icons of places to follow and subscribe to B-Movie Enema. So, do me a favor, you sexy Enemaniacs, you… Grab your big bowl of Halloween candy. Shut that front porch light off so you can keep all those fun size Snickers to yourselves. Pop in some horror movies, and enjoy the day.
Besides, it’s Halloween. Everyone is entitled to one good scare.