Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers is a 1988 American slasher film directed by Dwight H. Little, written by Alan B. McElroy, and starring Donald Pleasence, Ellie Cornell, and Danielle Harris. The fourth installment in the Halloween franchise, it follows Michael Myers returning to Haddonfield after being in a coma to kill his niece Jamie Lloyd, the daughter of Laurie Strode, with his former psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis again pursuing him.
The Return of Michael Myers
|Directed by||Dwight H. Little|
|Screenplay by||Alan B. McElroy|
by John Carpenter
& Debra Hill
|Produced by||Paul Freeman|
|Cinematography||Peter Lyons Collister|
|Edited by||Curtiss Clayton|
|Music by||Alan Howarth|
|Distributed by||Galaxy International Releasing|
|Box office||$17.8 million (US)|
As its title suggests, the film marks the return of Michael Myers after his absence in Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982). It is a direct sequel to Halloween II (1981), ignoring the events of Season of the Witch, which took place in a different continuity from the first two films. Initially, John Carpenter and co-producer Debra Hill intended to create an anthology series, with only the first two films being connected. Halloween 4 was originally intended to be a ghost story, but after the poor reception of Halloween III due to not being a continuation of Michael's story, the film reintroduced him, and he has remained the main antagonist of the series ever since.
Released in the United States on October 21, 1988, Halloween 4 grossed $17.8 million domestically on a budget of $5 million, and received mostly negative reviews from critics. However, the film, much like the series in general, has developed a strong cult following since its release. The film begins the "Thorn Trilogy" story arc which would be continued in Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995).
On October 30, 1988, Michael Myers, who has been in a comatose state for ten years since the explosion at Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, is transferred to Smith's Grove Sanitarium by ambulance from his current residence in the Ridgemont Federal Sanitarium. Upon hearing that he has a niece, Michael awakens and kills the ambulance personnel, which causes the ambulance to lose control then crash into a river. Michael escapes and makes his way to Haddonfield. Michael's former psychiatrist, Samuel Loomis, learns of Michael's escape and gives chase. He follows Michael to a gas station and eatery, where he has killed a mechanic for his clothes, along with a female clerk. Michael then escapes in a tow truck hitting the gas pumps causing an explosion, destroying Loomis's car provided by Ridgemont in the process and disabling the phone lines. Loomis is then forced to catch a ride to Haddonfield to continue pursuing Michael.
Meanwhile, Jamie Lloyd, Laurie Strode's daughter and Michael's niece, is living in Haddonfield with her foster family, Richard and Darlene Carruthers, and their teenage daughter, Rachel. Although Jamie knows about Michael, she does not realize he is the man she has nightmares about. On Halloween night, Richard and Darlene head out to a party and leave Rachel to babysit, which forces her to cancel a date with her boyfriend Brady. After school, Rachel takes Jamie to buy ice cream and a Halloween costume. Michael arrives in Haddonfield and steals a mask from the same store where Jamie and Rachel happen to be; he almost attacks the former, but is forced to flee when Jamie screams and alerts Rachel.
That night, as Rachel takes Jamie trick-or-treating, Michael breaks into the house and find photos of Laurie in Jamie's bedroom. Then he goes to the power station and kills a worker by throwing him into a transformer, plunging the town into darkness. Meanwhile, Loomis arrives in Haddonfield and warns the new sheriff Ben Meeker that Michael has returned. Michael attacks the police station and kills all of the officers. A lynch mob is formed by the town's men to kill Michael once Loomis reveals Michael has returned. Rachel discovers Brady cheating on her with her friend and Meeker's daughter Kelly, and loses track of Jamie. After being chased by Michael, Rachel finds Jamie.
Sheriff Meeker and Loomis arrive and take the girls to the sheriff's house with Brady, Kelly, and a deputy. They barricade the house, and Loomis departs to look for Michael. With Sheriff Meeker in the basement awaiting the arrival of the state police before heading out to deal with the lynch mob, Michael sneaks in and kills the deputy and Kelly. Discovering the bodies, Rachel, Jamie, and Brady realize they are trapped in the house. Rachel and Jamie flee to the attic when Michael appears, but Brady stays to fend him off and is killed when Michael crushes his skull. The girls climb through a window onto the roof and Jamie is lowered down safely, but Michael attacks Rachel and knocks her off the roof and knocks her unconscious.
Pursued by Michael, Jamie runs down the street and finds Loomis. They take shelter in the school, but Michael appears and subdues Loomis by throwing him through a glass door, then chases Jamie through the building. Jamie trips and falls down a flight of stairs. Before Michael can kill her, Rachel reappears and subdues him with a fire extinguisher, and Michael vanishes. The lynch mob arrives at the school after hearing the alarm go off. Earl and three other mob members agree to take the girls to the next town in a pickup truck, meeting up with the state police as they head for Haddonfield to reinforce Sheriff Meeker.
A trooper tells them of a substation just up the road where they will be safe, but Michael, who hid underneath the truck, climbs aboard and kills all three men, including Earl. Rachel pushes Earl's body out to take the wheel, continuously attempting to throw Michael off. She succeeds in doing so and then rams him with the truck, sending him flying into a ditch near an abandoned mine. Sheriff Meeker, Loomis, the rest of the lynch mob, and the state police arrive, but when Jamie approaches Michael and touches his hand, he rises. Meeker, the state police, and the lynch mob relentlessly shoot Michael until he falls down the mine.
Loomis and Sheriff Meeker take the girls back home where Darlene and Richard console their traumatized children. As Darlene goes upstairs to run a bath for Jamie, she is suddenly attacked. When Loomis goes to see what happened, he finds an emotionless Jamie holding a pair of bloody scissors on the top of the stairs, reminiscent of Michael when he killed his own sister. Loomis screams "No!" repeatedly and attempts to shoot Jamie, but Sheriff Meeker stops him. Loomis sinks to the floor and begins sobbing, as Rachel, Richard, and Meeker stare in horror.
- Donald Pleasence as Dr. Sam Loomis
- Ellie Cornell as Rachel Carruthers
- Danielle Harris as Jamie Lloyd
- George P. Wilbur as Michael Myers
- Tom Morga as Michael Myers (ambulance & gas station scenes)
- Erik Preston as young Michael Myers (uncredited)
- Michael Pataki as Dr. Hoffman
- Beau Starr as Sheriff Ben Meeker
- Kathleen Kinmont as Kelly Meeker
- Sasha Jenson as Brady
- Leslie L. Rohland as Lindsey
- Gene Ross as Earl Ford
- Carmen Filpi as Rev. Jackson P. Sayer
- Raymond O'Connor as Security Guard
- Jeff Olson as Richard Carruthers
- Karen Alston as Darlene Carruthers
- Nancy Borgenicht as Woman Attendant
- David Jansen as Man Attendant
- George Sullivan as Deputy Logan
- Michael Ruud as Alan "Big Al" Gateway
- Eric Hart as Orrin Gateway
- Logan Field as Unger (as Walt Logan Field)
- Alan B. McElroy as State Trooper at ambulance crash site (uncredited)
- Danny Ray as Tommy
- Felix Mahan as Michael Myers Stuntman
Halloween was banned in Haddonfield and I think that the basic idea was that if you tried to suppress something, it would only rear its head more strongly. By the very [attempt] of trying to erase the memory of Michael Myers, [the teenagers] were going to ironically bring him back into existence.
—Dennis Etchison on his idea for Halloween 4
After Halloween III: Season of the Witch, executive producer Moustapha Akkad wanted to move further with the series, and bring back Michael Myers. Producer Paul Freeman, a friend of Akkad with a long list of credits to his name, explained to Fangoria magazine in 1988 that everybody came out of Halloween III saying, "Where's Michael?" John Carpenter was approached by Cannon Films, who had just finished 1986's release of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, to write and direct Halloween 4. Debra Hill planned to produce the film, while Carpenter teamed up with Dennis Etchison who, under the pseudonym Jack Martin, had written novelizations of both Halloween II (1981) and Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) to write a script to Halloween 4. Originally, Joe Dante was Carpenter's choice in mind of director for the project.
However, Akkad rejected the Etchison script, calling it "too cerebral" and insisting that any new Halloween sequel must feature Myers as a flesh and blood killer. In an interview, Etchison explained how he received the phone call informing him of the rejection of his script. Etchison said, "I received a call from Debra Hill and she said, 'Dennis, I just wanted you to know that John and I have sold our interest in the title 'Halloween' and unfortunately, your script was not part of the deal."
Carpenter and Hill had signed all of their rights away to Akkad, who gained ownership. Akkad said, "I just went back to the basics of Halloween on Halloween 4 and it was the most successful." As Carpenter refused to continue his involvement with the series, a new director was sought out. Dwight H. Little, a native of Ohio, replaced Carpenter. Little had previously directed episodes for Freddy's Nightmares and the film Bloodstone.
On February 25, 1988, writer Alan B. McElroy, a Cleveland, Ohio native, was brought in to the write the script for Halloween 4. The writer's strike was to begin on March 7 that year. This forced McElroy to develop a concept, pitch the story, and send in the final draft in under eleven days. McElroy came up with the idea of Brittany "Britti" Lloyd, Laurie Strode's daughter, to be chased by her uncle, who has escaped from Ridgemont after being in a coma for ten years. Dr. Samuel Loomis goes looking for Michael with Sheriff Meeker. The setting of the place was once again Haddonfield, Illinois. The character of Laurie Strode was revealed to have died, leaving Britti with the Carruthers family, which included Rachel, the family's seventeen-year-old daughter. Britti's name was later changed to Jamie, a homage to Laurie Strode actress Jamie Lee Curtis.
McElroy told Fangoria:
When I first saw the original, I was dating a girl and took her to a theater in Boston to see it. We were the only ones in the place, but she was climbing all over me. When Halloween II came out, I got completely blitzed and saw it, and I had the best time. So when the director, Dwight Little, asked me to write the script, I jumped at the chance. Here I was going to bring the Shape — Michael Myers — back to life. It's a piece of film history. He's truly an icon.
In the original draft, Sheriff Ben Meeker was to be killed during the Shape's attack on the Meeker house. A fire would have started in the basement and burnt down the entire house. The scene on top of the roof with the Shape, Rachel, and Jamie was supposed to be engulfed in flames. This idea was scrapped due to budget issues. Instead, a more "soap opera" feel was incorporated, which included a love triangle subplot between Rachel, Brady, and Kelly Meeker, the sheriff's daughter.
Director Dwight H. Little stated in 2006 that his interpretation of McElroy's screenplay had the Michael Myers character played as a literal escaped mental patient, not a supernatural figure. Little approached the screenplay as though Myers was pursuing Jamie as a means of "connecting with her", but that he had no social capacity to interact with her, and thus resorted to violence. The screenplay references the events of Halloween II (1981), in which a fire breaks out in Haddonfield Hospital, by having both Myers and Loomis display burn scars on their respective hands and faces.
The cast of Halloween 4 included only one actor from the first two films, Donald Pleasence, who reprised his role as Samuel Loomis, Michael Myers' psychiatrist. According to Little, Pleasence was "committed conceptually" to the role, but did not sign on to the project until having read a finished screenplay. Before McElroy's script was chosen, the producers asked Jamie Lee Curtis, another original cast member, to reprise her role as Laurie Strode, the original's heroine. Curtis had become a success in the film industry and had established a career with her roles in films like Trading Places (1983) and A Fish Called Wanda (1988). Curtis declined and did not want to continue her participation in the film, although she did return for the seventh Halloween film. As a result, her character was written out and died in a car accident, which is briefly explained in the film.
The script introduced Laurie Strode's seven-year-old daughter, Jamie Lloyd. Melissa Joan Hart had auditioned for the role, among various other girls. Up against her was Danielle Harris, who had previously starred in One Life to Live as Samantha Garretson; Harris was ultimately cast in the role after auditioning in New York. Rebecca Schaeffer had auditioned for the role of Rachel Carruthers, but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. Twenty-three-year-old Ellie Cornell had also auditioned. Cornell had chosen to audition for Halloween 4 and A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) as the role of Kristen Parker. Cornell chose Halloween 4 and successfully landed the role of Rachel. Beau Starr was cast as the new Sheriff, Ben Meeker, replacing Sheriff Lee Brackett (Charles Cyphers), and Kathleen Kinmont was cast as the Sheriff's daughter, Kelly. George P. Wilbur was cast to play Michael Myers.
Principal photography began on April 11, 1988. Instead of filming in Pasadena, California (the original filming location and stand in for Haddonfield) due to high-rising costs, filming took place in and around Salt Lake City, Utah. As filming was taking place in March, during springtime, the producers were forced to import leaves and big squash, which they would use to create pumpkins by painting them orange. "One of the obvious challenges in making a part four of anything is to interest a contemporary audience in old characters and themes," said director Dwight H. Little. "What I'm trying to do is capture the mood of the original Halloween and yet take a lot of new chances. What we're attempting to do is walk a fine line between horror and mystery. Halloween 4 will not be an ax-in-the-forehead kind of movie." Paul Freeman agreed. "This film does contain some humorous moments, but it's not of the spoof or send-up variety. It's humor that rises out of the film's situations and quickly turns back into terror."
George P. Wilbur, who was cast as Michael Myers, wore hockey pads under the costume to make himself look more physically imposing, and he was often filmed in mirror reflections or off-center so that the audience could witness him "in pieces" rather than have an encompassing view. During filming, the cast and crew made it a point to take it easy on Danielle Harris, as she was only a young child at the time, and made sure that she was not scared too badly and knew that none of it was real; to this end, Wilbur regularly removed the mask in front of her in order to remind her that it was just a movie and he was not going to hurt her.
The late night scenes caused issues with the cast. Garlan Wilde, a gaffer for the film, was injured during the scene between Brady and the Shape when he dropped a light and accidentally slit his wrists. He was rushed to the hospital. In addition, while filming the rooftop scene, Ellie Cornell cut her stomach open on a large nail while sliding down the roof, though she continued filming the scene despite losing a sizable amount of blood. During most of the night scenes, Donald Pleasence became so cold that he wore a hat for most of the scenes, unbeknownst to the crew. This caused over six hours of footage to be re-shot. The shoot lasted about 41 days and Ellie Cornell and Danielle Harris were required to be on set for 36 of those days.
During filming, it was considered that the customized 1975 Captain Kirk mask be reused for this film. However, the mask was long gone and a new one was purchased from a local costume shop. The producers wanted to test and see what it would look like without the edits. The school scene was filmed and when reviewing the producers did not like how the mask turned out. It was allegedly customized again but did not live up to the original, and the producers felt it was too old and went for a new mask. Some scenes had to be re-shot with the new mask. The only scene left in is when Loomis is thrown through a glass door; as Michael comes up behind him, the unaltered face and blonde hair is visible.
After viewing the film's rough cut, director Dwight H. Little and producer Moustapha Akkad decided that the film's violence was too soft, and so an extra day of "blood filming" commenced. Special effects make-up artist John Carl Buechler (director of Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood) was brought in to create the thumb in the forehead kill and neck-twisting of the redneck seen in the film's final cut.
The score was performed by Alan Howarth, who had assisted John Carpenter on Halloween II and Halloween III. Howarth gained approval from Dwight H. Little before he could accept the offer, creating a new score that referenced the original's but with a synthesizer twist. Howarth also included new tracks such as "Jamie's Nightmare", "Return of the Shape", and "Police Station". The soundtrack was released to Compact Disc, Vinyl Record, Cassette Tape on September 28, 1988.
Halloween 4 opened in 1,679 theaters on October 21, 1988 and grossed $6,831,250 in its opening weekend, ranking number one at the box office. It held the top spot in its second weekend, and achieved a total domestic gross of $17,768,757 in the United States, becoming the sixth best performing film in the Halloween series.
The film received a negative critical reception. It currently has a 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 28 reviews, with an average rating of 4.06 out of 10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers may bring the series' masked killer back into the fold, but fails to offer the visceral scares and inventiveness of the original." On Metacritic it has a score of 34 out of 100 based on reviews from 10 critics, which indicates "generally unfavorable reviews".
Caryn James of The New York Times criticized the film for abandoning the original film's strengths saying "suspense and psychological horror have given way to superhuman strength and resilience." Variety found the film to be "a no-frills, workmanlike picture." Richard Harrington of The Washington Post declared the film "very much the cheap knockoff of its prototype, but not half as visceral." Kim Newman for Empire said "It's incredible that a film could be so closely patterned on Carpenter's still-thrilling original movie and yet be so stupid, unscary and plodding as Halloween 4 is."
However, the film received a more positive reception from later reviews. JoBlo.com said, "The movie is tight, has good murders and a kicked my butt ending. The Shape is back and in good form; this is my favorite Halloween next to the first one." IGN declared "Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers stands out as the second best film in the entire series." Dread Central said, "Halloween 4 is a strong sequel, horror film and Halloween movie." DVD Talk said "Despite its flaws, Halloween 4 is one of the best slashers from the late 1980s, standing out in an era when the subgenre was in steep decline."
The film was first released on VHS in May 1989 as a rental title by CBS/FOX home entertainment. It was made available for sell-through in October 1989 to coincide with the theatrical release of Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers. In 2006, Anchor Bay Entertainment released special editions of this film and its sequel on DVD. Supplements include the Halloween 4/5 panel at the Return to Haddonfield convention, theatrical trailer, Halloween 4 Final Cut – a "behind-the-scenes" documentary, a commentary with Danielle Harris and Ellie Cornell, and another commentary by Alan B. McElroy and Anthony Masi. Halloween 4, Halloween 5, and a Blu-ray, standard DVD and extended edition of Halloween was released with the documentary Halloween: 25 Years of Terror, and The Shape's mask in a limited 30th anniversary box set of the first film. The film was released on Blu-ray in Germany on May 4, 2012, and in the US on August 21, 2012.
In the United Kingdom, Halloween 4 was originally released on VHS format by Braveworld in the early 1990s, and then, Legend distribution. On June 17, 2002, Digital Entertainment released the film on VHS, while a second version from the company containing a "Widescreen Presentation" was released on September 5, 2002. Anchor Bay Entertainment released the film for the first time on DVD in a "Special Edition" on January 28, 2002, while Digital Entertainment released the film several months later on September 5, 2002 to coincide with their newest VHS release. Hollywood released the film individually on October 27, 2003, and released a set containing the film with Ulli Lommel's The Boogeyman, Boogeyman II, and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers. Hollywood also released a double feature containing the film alongside Mario Bava's A Bay of Blood. Anchor Bay then acquired rights to all subsequent home video releases, and released Halloween 4 with the 1986 film House in another double feature on February 6, 2006. Anchor Bay re-issued the DVD on October 11, 2010, which features the theatrical trailer and the featurette, "Inside Halloween 4". Anchor Bay released the film again as part of a DVD set, which contains the first five films in the franchise, on October 15, 2012. This release contains new special features: audio commentary with actors Ellie Cornell and Danielle Harris, audio commentary with director Dwight H. Little and author Justin Beahm, Halloween 4/5 discussion panel, and theatrical trailer. Shout! Factory also released the first ten films on Blu-ray in a limited edition box set.
The film was also released on Blu-ray in Australia on October 2, 2013.
To tie in with the film's release, a novelization by Nicholas Grabowsky was published, containing 224 pages. The novel closely follows the film's events, with a few alterations. In 2003, the novel was re-issued with new material and cover art, titled Halloween IV: The Special Limited Edition.
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