31 Days of Horror: Tim Murr on ‘Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers’

It’s an old story now, but everyone except John Carpenter, Debra Hill, and Tommy Lee Wallace, were wrong about Halloween III: Season of the Witch and the concept of turning the fledgling franchise into an anthology series died. It was inevitable that Michael Myers would stalk once again, especially in the golden age of slashers that Halloween had nearly single-handedly birthed.

We’d seen The Shape, Michael Myers, and his burdened and driven caretaker, Doctor Loomis, go to their fiery deaths in Halloween 2. But by 1988, we’d seen Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger return from the dead a number of times in Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street respectively. Even Leatherface, who hadn’t been seen since 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre had re-emerged by then. Producer Moustapha Akkad was intent to bring his own masked madman back from the apparent grave.

Originally, Carpenter and Hill were on board for H4 and brought in Dennis Etchison, who had written the novelizations for parts 1 and 2 (and are required reading for any Halloween fans!) to write the script. But Akkad didn’t like the cerebral, supernatural approach and wanted the story to both return to its roots and up the body count and gore to compete with the Jasons and Freddys. So Carpenter, Hill, and Etchison were all out, but Etchison did stay on to write the novelization of 4.

The directing task went to Dwight H Little, while the story was developed by no less than four writers; Dhani Lipsius, Larry Rattner, Benjamin Ruffner, and Alan B McElroy. McElroy would go on to write the screenplay. The number one task would be to explain Myers’ return in a believable way. Easy; Myers and Loomis both survived the fire in the hospital. Loomis suffered major burns, but returned to work eventually, while Michael’s injuries were far more severe. He wound up in a coma, locked in the basement of a mental institution. For reasons that would only make sense after watching Part 6, Myers was scheduled to be transferred just before Halloween night, ten years after his brutal rampage through the quiet town of Haddonfield. During the trip in an ambulance, the attendants chat about Myers and mention his niece, the daughter of his now deceased sister, Laurie. It’s all the motivation Michael needs to wake up and kill the four-person ambulance crew and and head for home.

We find Michael’s niece, Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris,) an orphan living with a foster family and haunted by visions of her uncle even before he finds her. At school, all the kids know that Jamie’s uncle is the boogeyman and they torture her endlessly as Michael closes in on her, with Loomis in hot pursuit.

Overall, Return is successful as a sequel, if not occasionally silly. It has one of the absolute best opening sequence of the franchise and some genuinely tense moments. As a standalone film though, its hardly more than a retread of the first two films. However, it is strengthened in the context of the next two films, creating the Jamie Trilogy or the Thorn Saga. I’ll get into that when we look at The Revenge of Michael Myers and The Curse of Michael Myers.

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