Saturday, August 1, 2015

Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) Review:

For obvious reasons, even for people who are not that familiar with the franchise, could understand fairly quickly why the title to this entry says  "The Return of Michael Myers". After Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) failed to impress critics and fans alike, the only way to make the series a lucrative franchise again would be to somehow bring back the silent, creepy stalker, kitchen knife wielding Michael Myers from Halloween (1978) and Halloween II (1981). It's really too bad actually. Although its writing contained bigger flaws than usual like weak characterizations and clear as day plotholes, it still had a respectable cast, acceptable special effects and haunting music. The idea of creating a new film revolving around the holiday of Halloween felt like a better way for filmmakers to be creative in their horror films. However, thanks to the poor marketing, the idea was scrapped and now filmmakers had to be even more creative on how to make Michael Myers continue to revolve around the holiday. There's only so much you can do before you start beating a dead horse.

Danielle Harris & Ellie Cornell
Ignoring the events of Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), this installment takes place identically as its release date - 10 years after the events of Halloween (1978) and Halloween II (1981). Initially being transferred to another location, burn victim Michael Myers (George P. Wilbur) escapes hospital custody and heads back to Haddonfield to kill Laurie Strode’s daughter Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris) who's being fostered by Rachel Carruthers (Ellie Cornell). Hoping the events from before does not happen again, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) who teams up with Sheriff Ben Meeker (Beau Starr) follow close behind. Considering the circumstances the premise isn't half-bad, but when questions begin to arise, fans will not get their entire fill. Throughout the film, several questions are asked but very few reasons of clarification are given. The best example is that Dr. Loomis knows that Myers wants to kill Jamie, but Meeker asks how is it possible if Jamie wasn't even born when the events of Halloween (1978) and Halloween II (1981) occurred? The answer is never given.

Another question is how'd Myers and Loomis survive the explosion of Halloween II (1981)? And didn't Myers have his eyes shot out? So how is it that he can see now? The screenplay by first time writer (at the time) Alan B. McElroy seems to lack the clarity of effective and coherent storytelling. Thankfully even with the sloppy writing, the acting and characters are still effective. All main actors on screen act the way they should for the predicaments they're put into. The best actor (of course) is Donald Pleasence for his persistence on attempting to take down Myers even while not being in the best of conditions. The second best actor goes to Danielle Harris for being so convincing in her role at such a young age. It's not easy to find a child actor who knows what to do for every scene and Harris nails it. As for the character of Michael Myers played by stunt man George P. Wilbur, it actually feels like there's less of a personality this time. As much as the title to this revisiting claims it is the "return" of Mike, Myers isn't on screen very much.

Believe it or not in fact his presence feels less used than that of the first two films. There's no head tilts or other subtle movements that help define Mike. Yet it's also confusing because as much as the audience doesn't always see Myers, for every scene it seems as if he's always around. How can he be in more than one place at the same time? If that's not the case, then how does he casually walk between destinations that feel miles apart with a couple minutes? Again, no explanations. Is the violence acceptable - yes. Does it entertain - ehhh,...its something to watch so yeah, but at most minimal level. There are some kills that are performed a tad differently from other films, which involves twisting but it's not that graphic or different in style from other kills. Director Dwight H. Little seemed like he went with the flow when it came to how he wanted certain things done. The execution works but doesn't have the same spine-tingling atmosphere the first two films had down so well.

"I'm getting too old for this"
Behind the camera was Peter Lyons Collister as the director of photography. Although not every scene had landscape shots and was instead used with several POV shots, there were a couple times Collister impressed. The most effective parts of Collister's work were when the camera actually focused in on Michael Myers. As much as zooming in can be distracting, Collister uses it just enough to give the viewer some goosebumps when Michael Myers steps into focus. It is a bit unsettling. The film score produced by returning composer Alan Howarth is rather disappointing. Taking into account that Howarth worked on the recognizable music since Halloween II (1981), it's jarring when nothing new is added to such a memorable score. Yes Howarth keeps the original Halloween (1978) theme and that's important but nothing else is done. There are no new motifs or creepy cues to hear in this score. A lot of it is either absent or atmospheric, which is okay to a point but not very memorable in most cases.

It has a decent cast that can act well, standard cinematography and violence but that doesn't make it much better than Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982). Its music feels underdeveloped, Michael Myers feels barely present and the continuation of the story doesn't exactly make a whole lot of sense when all the facts are laid out in plain sight.

Points Earned --> 5:10

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