Sunday, 13 November 2016

Halloween Part 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) [Mini-Review]


Director: Dwight H. Little
Screenplay: Alan B. McElroy
Cast: Donald Pleasence (as Dr. Sam Loomis); Danielle Harris (as Jamie Lloyd); Ellie Cornell (as Rachel Carruthers); George P. Wilbur (as Michael Myers); Beau Starr (as Sheriff Ben Meeker)
A Night of a Thousand Horror (Movies) #63

After Part III Season of the Witch (1982), it took six years before Halloween returned to the silver screen, Michael Myers firmly back in its centre having been in a coma since the second film, awoke from his slumber in an institute when word of him having a niece is uttered in ear shot. The decision to write Laurie Strode off screen, as Jamie Lee Curtis was long past slasher films in her mainstream career, and switching to an adopted girl played by a young Danielle Harris is actually a smart move to have gone with. I may find the decision to make Strode related to Myers annoying, but if one is forced to continue the series, having the bogeyman plague other members of the family is far more practical, and meaningful, the random groups of teens in the first three Friday the 13th movies.

Particularly when you get to Part 5 as well, Harris as a child actor in the film is incredibly charismatic and likable, making the fact her two films in the franchise are about Myers threatening and trying to kill a young girl more disturbing. Particularly when her adoptive older sister Rachel, played by Ellie Cornell, is merely okay and Donald Pleasure is turning his Dr. Loomis into an Ahab character slowly losing his mind, Harris is an anchor for viewer sympathy greatly needed.

It's amazing as well how beautiful and moody the film looks. The Blu-Ray era has been an incredible godsend for cinema like this; once a luddite who had no interest in the technology, my sudden change to the medium over DVD over the last year has nothing to do with picture resolution but because it has lead to films being restored or at least, with this one, getting better visual quality for them. The orange hued yet cold autumn colours of Haddonfield adds to the creepiness of the premise, of scarecrows in the fields, Jack O' Lanterns everywhere and a small local town plague by memories of the bogeyman before he even returns. The slow, extremely glacial nature of the film, even next to the first two in the series, adds an atmosphere that can stand up to the prequels in having its own personality.

The real issue, with is subjective for each viewer, is that after Season of the Witch bombed The Return of Michael Myers is a very safe direction to have gone with the franchise. Beyond its supernatural twist ending, which leads to the precipice of the franchise's obsession with adding occult details, it's a very solid and easy to understand slasher film. In the long term, a franchise entirely about Michael Myers terrorising people could end up with what happened to Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees as staleness kicks in, which is up to my opinion of the next sequels after Part 4. In the short term, The Return of Michael Myers does a commendable job of being a solid, mood drenched horror film.

The sense of classiness I always viewed Halloween as a franchise in having is especially found here, a mostly bloodless chiller which is about tension, drawing things out and not falling into terrible late eighties perms or z-list glam metal songs. Aspects are up to question in logic - the most egregious being the subplot of the locals becoming an armed mob, with an unresolved event when they shot an innocent bystander by mistake - but the rest of Part 4 is entirely better on this re-visit than I originally thought of it.


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