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Theatrical release poster
Theatrical release poster

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (also known simply as Halloween 4 and Halloween IV: 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 film series, it focuses on Michael Myers returning to Haddonfield to kill his niece Jamie Lloyd, the daughter of Laurie Strode, with his former psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis once more pursuing him.

As its title suggests, the film marks the return of Michael Myers after his absence from the previous installment, Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Initially, John Carpenter and co-producer Debra Hill retired the Michael Myers storyline after the second installment of the series, intending to feature a new Halloween-season-related plot every sequel, of which Halloween III would be the first. Halloween 4 was originally intended to be a ghost story; however, due to the disappointing financial performance of the third film, Halloween 4 reintroduced Michael Myers, where he has stayed for the remainder of the series.

Released in the United States in October 1988, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers earned near $7 million during its opening weekend, and went on to gross a total of $17.8 million domestically. A sequel, Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, was released in 1989.

Plot


On October 30, 1988, Michael Myers, who has been in a comatose state for ten years since the explosion at Haddonfield Memorial Hospital. Two paramedics take in Myers from the Ridgemont Federal Sanitarium and prepare to transport him back to Smith's Grove Sanitarium by ambulance. En route, Michael awakens from his coma when he learns that his sister Laurie Strode has since died in a car accident but had a daughter, Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris). Killing the ambulance personnel, Michael (George P. Wilbur) makes his way to Haddonfield in search of his niece. Dr. Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasence) goes to Haddonfield after learning of Michael's escape from the transfer and gives chase. He arrives at a gas station, where he comes across Michael moments after he killed a mechanic for his clothes, along with a clerk. Michael escapes in a tow truck and causes an explosion, destroying Loomis's car in the process and disabling the phone lines by severing telephone wires in the blast. Alone, Loomis is then forced to catch a ride to Haddonfield.

Meanwhile, Jamie is living in Haddonfield with her foster family, Richard and Darlene Carruthers, and their daughter, Rachel (Ellie Cornell). Jamie, whom everyone in Haddonfield knows is Michael's niece, is taunted at school and has nightmares about her uncle. Richard and Darlene head out for the night, and leave Rachel to look after Jamie, causing her to miss her date with her boyfriend, Brady (Sasha Jenson). After school, Rachel takes Jamie to buy some ice cream and a Halloween costume. At the store, which Brady works at, he and Rachel discuss the canceled date which leads to an argument. The two attempt to reconcile, but Brady later begins favoring his co-worker, Kelly Meeker (Kathleen Kinmont). Meanwhile, Michael has already arrived in Haddonfield, and nearly attacks Jamie in the store, though he flees.

Later that night, as Rachel takes Jamie trick-or-treating, Michael goes to the electrical substation and kills an electrician, causing a citywide blackout. Loomis arrives in Haddonfield and warns Sheriff Ben Meeker (Beau Starr), Leigh Brackett's successor and Kelly's father, that Michael has returned. Michael single-handedly murders the town's police force, and a lynch mob is formed by a crew of the town's truckers to kill Michael once Loomis reveals his return. Rachel discovers Brady cheating on her with Kelly, who convinces Brady to rejoin her inside where they have sex. During this, Rachel loses track of Jamie but finds her after being chased briefly by Michael. Sheriff Meeker and Loomis arrive and take the girls to the sheriff's house with Brady, Kelly, and a deputy. Sheriff Meeker warns Brady to stay away from Kelly, who briefly clashes with Rachel. In spite of tensions, the group barricades the house, not knowing that Michael has already gotten inside by hiding in the back of the deputy's squad car. Fearing what Michael may do next, Loomis departs to look for him on his own.

With Sheriff Meeker in the basement awaiting the arrival of the state police, he too decides to go out and protect his town. Once he leaves, Michael appears and kills the deputy, then impales Kelly with his gun. Discovering the bodies, Rachel and Jamie flee to the attic while Brady attempts to stop Michael with a shotgun. When the weapon jams, Michael twists his head and throat, killing him. 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. Jamie manages to escape.

Pursued by Michael, Jamie runs down the street and finds Loomis. They take shelter in the school, but Michael appears and throws Loomis out of a window before chasing Jamie through the building. Before Michael can kill her, Rachel, who survived the fall, appears and subdues him with a fire extinguisher. Members of the lynch mob arrive at the school and agree to take Jamie and Rachel to the next town in a pickup truck, where they intend to meet up with the Illinois State Police en route to Haddonfield. The Police direct them to a substation just up the road where they will be safe. However, Michael climbs aboard the truck, and kills the men in the back before ripping open the driver's neck. Rachel takes the wheel, throwing Michael off of the truck and ramming into him, sending him flying into a ditch. Sheriff Meeker, surviving members of the lynch mob, and the state police arrive, and when Michael rises after Jamie touches his hand, they relentlessly shoot Michael before he falls down a mine shaft. Loomis and Sheriff Meeker take Rachel and Jamie back home. Darlene and Richard, who have arrived home, console the girls. As Darlene goes upstairs to run Jamie a bath, Jamie, possessed by Michael's rage, stabs her (though not fatally) with a pair of scissors. Loomis finds Jamie, dressed in a clown costume, similar to Michael when he killed his older sister Judith. Loomis, Sheriff Meeker, Mr. Carruthers, and Rachel watch in horror, realising that Jamie is following in Michael's footsteps.

Cast


Production


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?"[6] 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.[7]

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.[8] 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."[5]

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."[9] 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.

The ending of Halloween II is retconned in the film and both Michael and Loomis would return for the film.

On February 25, 1988, writer Alan B. McElroy, a Cleveland, Ohio native, was brought in to the write the script for Halloween 4.[10] 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.[11][12] 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 in a car accident, 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:

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.[13] 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.[14] 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.[15] 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.[16]

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.[17] According to Little, Pleasance was "committed conceptually" to the role, but did not sign on to the project until having read a finished screenplay.[18] Before McElroy's script was chosen, the producers asked Jamie Lee Curtis 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.[19] 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.[20] Rebecca Schaeffer had auditioned for the role of Rachel Carruthers, but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts.[21] Twenty-three-year-old Ellie Cornell had also auditioned.[22] 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, after Patricia Arquette had declined to return as Kristen.[19] 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.[23]

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.[24] As filming was taking place in March,[10] during springtime, the producers were forced to import leaves and big squash, which they would use to create pumpkins by painting them orange.[25] "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."[6]

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.[26] 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.[27]

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.[28]

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 on September 28, 1988.

Release


Halloween 4 opened in 1,679 theaters on October 21, 1988 and grossed $6,831,250 in its opening weekend, achieving a total domestic gross of $17,768,757 in the United States, becoming the fifth best performing film in the Halloween series.[29]

The film received negative critical reception. On Metacritic it has a score of 34 out of 100 based on reviews from 10 critics, which indicates "generally unfavorable reviews".[30] On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a score of 30% based on 27 reviews, with an average rating of 3.9/10.[31]

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."[32] Variety found the film to be "a no-frills, workmanlike picture."[33] Richard Harrington of The Washington Post declared the film "very much the cheap knockoff of its prototype, but not half as visceral."[34] 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."[35]

Time has been relatively kind to the film with many modern reviews being more positive. 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."[36] IGN declared "Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers stands out as the second best film in the entire series."[37] Dread Central said, "Halloween 4 is a strong sequel, horror film and Halloween movie."[38] 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."[39]

The film was first released on VHS in May 1989 as a rental title by CBS/FOX home entertainment.[40] 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 for DVD.[2] 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, along with Halloween 5, and a Blu-ray, standard DVD and extended edition of Halloween, was released with the first disc of the documentary, Halloween: 25 Years of Terror, and The Shape's mask in 2008 in a limited 30th anniversary box set of the first film. The film was released on Blu-ray in Germany on May 4, 2012,[41] in the US on August 21, 2012.[42]

In the United Kingdom, Halloween 4 was originally released on VHS format, where distribution rights were initially held by Braveworld in the early 1990s, and then, Legend distribution. On June 17, 2002, Digital Entertainment released the film on VHS,[43] while a second version from the company containing a "Widescreen Presentation" on September 5, 2002.[44] Anchor Bay Entertainment released the film for the first time on DVD in "Special Edition" on January 28, 2002, while Digital Entertainment did release the film to DVD several months later on September 5, 2002 to coincide with their newest VHS release,[45] and an additional release via distribution company, Hollywood on October 27, 2003, which also released a set containing Ulli Lommel's The Boogeyman and Boogeyman II, and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers,[46] and another set containing the film alongside Mario Bava's A Bay of Blood.[47] After which, Anchor Bay acquired rights to all subsequent home video releases, and again released Halloween 4 with the 1986 film House in a "Double Disc Box Set" on February 6, 2006.[48] A re-issued DVD was made available once again courtesy of Anchor Bay on October 11, 2010 which features the theatrical trailer and the featurette, "Inside Halloween 4".[49] Anchor Bay released the film as part of a DVD set, "Halloween Collection" on October 15, 2012, which contained the first five Halloween films.[50] Halloween 4 was released on Blu-ray on October 15, 2012, which contains new Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio and special features consisting of 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.[51]

The film was released on Blu-ray in Germany on May 4, 2012,[52] in the US on August 21, 2012,[42] and in the Australia on October 2, 2013.[53]

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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