Halloween 4 signals the return of the boogeyman and is a “refreshingly” old-fashioned slasher film that doesn’t insult its audience nearly as much as its blood-drenched brethren. Don’t think for a minute that there aren’t plot holes and lapses of logic, as there certainly are a few, including the improbable return of Dr. Loomis who somehow managed to escape the raging hospital inferno and explosion in Part 2 with a few nasty scars and some bad memories. Of course, it wouldn’t really be a Michael Myers film without good old Donald Pleasence, who gives another great emotional rollercoaster of a performance as the doctor who will not rest until his evil patient does permanently.
Beginning exactly 10 years after Part 2 , the plot is simple and straightforward, with the seemingly invalid Michael Myers being unwisely transported from his bed in Ridgemont Sanitarium the night before Halloween and springing back to bloody life for another round of murderous Halloween mayhem. But this one also adds a sinister new concept to the mix: This time, he’s in deadly pursuit of his adorable 8-year-old niece Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris, who’s terrific in her film debut), the daughter of supposedly recently deceased Laurie Strode. (Note: The film never explains how Laurie dies but implies it was an accident of some kind that took the lives of both her and Jamie’s father, leaving Jamie to be adopted by the Carruthers family, and her character is generally forgotten throughout 4 , 5 and 6 until H20 reveals otherwise.) The concept of a movie slasher directly targeting innocent children hadn’t been done much before and has hardly been seen since Halloween 4 and 5 in mainstream cinema, and it’s an undeniably sinister concept that breathes some new life into the formula.
The film begins with a breathtaking title sequence that features the appropriately orange-tinged movie credits rolling over several familiar and unmistakable Halloween images (like cloth ghosts hanging in autumn trees, scarecrows, pumpkins, pitchforks, barns and weathervanes) juxtaposed together before launching into Michael’s new reign of terror, which brutally starts with the paramedics in the ambulance transporting him (this is, of course, the much talked about thumb-through-the-forehead scene which demonstrates that the supposedly invalid Michael is still one strong, vicious motherfucker.) After this unnerving sequence, there’s yet another classic fright scene wherein young Jamie is terrorized in her bedroom by her evil and ubiquitous masked uncle, which turns out to be a pseudo-psychic dream but is exciting, effective and stylishly directed nonetheless.
After this exhilirating 10-minute beginning, the film gives the viewer a chance to breathe and transforms into a slow-burner that rewards in mostly subtle but effective ways, slowly building tension with a minimum of gore but an abundance of tension and overall ghoulish Halloween atmosphere in a style similar to the original , then letting loose full blast around the 60-minute mark. There’s a taut rooftop sequence with Myers pursuing Jamie and Rachel (Jamie’s protective foster sister, played with warmth and sincerity by Ellie Cornell) on top of a two-story house; a creepy chase scene in an empty schoolhouse which concludes with a heroic fire-extinguisher-wielding Rachel saving Jamie’s life; a bizarre, perhaps illogical, but damn sure exciting and crowd-pleasing truck attack which depicts Michael, in three seconds or less, offing all the passengers (and driver) of a truck speeding its way from Haddonfield, leaving only Rachel and Jamie in the front seat to fend for themselves against Michael on the rooftop, the vehicle still speeding and swerving down the highway; and last but not least, a show-stopping surprise climax which reveals that Jamie has somehow psychically inherited her deranged uncle’s evil.
All in all, I consider The Return of Michael Myers to be tied with Part 2 as the best sequel in the series, not especially gory but very atmospheric and suspenseful, and enthusiastically give it an 8 of 10.