Full spoilers to follow for the Halloween series.
Happy Halloween, everybody! Everyone’s decorated their homes with pumpkins and skeletons, they’re dressed up as their favorite monsters, and we’re all watching scary movies. I have chosen option #3 as I don’t have any skeletons or costumes, but that’s okay! On today’s spookiest of all days, we’re taking a look at the fourth film in the Halloween series (and the third featuring Michael Myers), Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers! This is part of my on-going project to watch and review every single film in the series until next year’s Halloween Kills.
Halloween 4 brings back the titular Myers, despite having been (SPOILER!) utterly blown to pieces in Halloween II, as well as Dr. Loomis, played by the venerable Donald Pleasence, also virtually unharmed from the same explosion. Myers is seeking out his niece, daughter of his (apparent) sister Laurie, who died off-screen in-between II and this film. Unlike the first two, the film has very little input from John Carpenter, and boy does it show. Without giving too much away fromt my final opinion, I think I can say that this is easily the worst film of the series so far. Let’s see why.
What Holds Up?
This film was never considered a classic, which makes it somewhat unique in the reviews I’ve done so far. Still, it has its seat at the table due to its connection to one of the most highly regarded horror films of all time – Halloween (2009). As a whole, the movie barely worked for me, with there being very little that I found particularly interesting or enjoyable.
I’m scraping at the bottle of the barrel here for compliments, but I will say that I appreciated how it tried to take itself seriously. The original Halloween is whose goal was to be creepy and atmospheric. II was more of a standard slasher, as that was clearly the popular aspect of the original. 4 feels somewhere in the middle between the two.
What else… Uh… I also appreciated the twist ending…. and Donald Pleasence absolutely goes for it. That’s about it.
What Doesn’t Hold Up?
This movie is a slog! I know that I’m a millennial and I am physically unable to concentrate on anything for more than 30 seconds without needing to check Twitter or Instagram, but I generally enjoy a good slow-moving horror film. With Halloween 4, however, I could not bring myself to be engaged at all. As I said in the previous section, this movie felt somewhat of a return to the original Halloween stylistically and pacing-wise, and while I appreciate the idea, it didn’t work for me.
The movie is a horror film, and the most damning thing I can say is that I didn’t find the film scary at all. The first two films had moments of genuine tension, but I felt none of that here. I don’t know if it comes down to the lack of connection to the film’s characters or the absence of any strong filmmaking style and atmosphere, but none of the horror aspects worked. Aside from a few passably interesting images here or there, I just didn’t find the movie to be particularly scary.
As an amateur editor and writer, I feel like I have a smidgen of authority to say that I thought those aspects of the film were noticeably worse than the first two, the writing especially. There was so much exposition early on and there was no attempt to hide it. The characters may as well have been sitting in an armchair next to a fireplace talking directly to camera about the events of the first two movies. I also found many general lapses in logic that kept taking me out of the film.
The movie’s representation of mental illness also stood out to me. This project is called “Does It Hold Up?”, of course, and that’s one aspect that certainly doesn’t. Halloween 4’s script was written at a time where mental illness was reduced to a slap on the head and being told to “be normal”, so anyone with a modern understanding of the subject will find its treatment here laughable.
The film was shot by Peter Lyons Collister, known for shooting other classics like Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Furry Vengeance, and the upcoming Clifford the Big Red Dog live-action film, and not a whole lot else of note – and it shows. There were some moments that I had to chuckle where they tried (tried) to make Myers scary and intimidating and it just comes across as comical. That’s not the reaction you want to have toward a movie monster that’s supposed to be menacing.
The film isn’t scary, it’s poorly written, and Michael Myers doesn’t come across as particularly intimidating. A crappy script, a nobody director, and a cinematographer whose greatest achievement is a weird Brendan Frasier furry comedy a good movie does not make.
Outside of a few good images and mildly spooky moments, some okay lighting, and an interesting twist ending, I found the movie to be mostly unengaging and, dare I say it, boring. Out of the first three Michael Myers films, this one is absolutely skippable in your Halloween series watch party. On to 5!