I'm as surprised as the next man to find myself saying that Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers is my favourite entry in the franchise to date.
Admittedly part of this is because of the very dark denouement, which was actually foreshadowed but I'd just taken it as a clever Easter Egg.
Halloween IV, currently on Netflix in the UK, also had more of the pulpy feel of some of the later Friday The Thirteenth entries and put more energy into the action than trying to tell a credible story.
It's 10 years since that fateful Halloween in Haddonfield. Both Michael (George P Wilbur) and trigger-happy shrink Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) miraculously survived the inferno they were trapped in at the end of Halloween II, although inexplicably Jamie Lee Curtis's Laurie Strode has died (don't worry she gets better in a couple of the alternate timelines of the sprawling franchise).
However, Laurie had a daughter, Jamie (Danielle Harris), who has been adopted by the Carruthers family of Haddonfield.
After apparently a decade in a coma, Michael is being moved from a secure facility on a rainy October 30 night... and, of course, he wakes, escapes, and starts to make his way towards Haddonfield. For a family reunion.
The heavily-scarred Loomis chases after Michael - and after a brief encounter at a truck stop, where Michael has killed everyone - the doctor arrives in town and immediately alerts the new sheriff, Ben Meeker (Beau Starr), to the impending arrival of the unstoppable killer.
In trying to get the sheriff to shut Haddonfield down on Halloween night, Loomis has instead driven a horde of boozed-up, heavily-armed, good ol' boys onto the streets on a disorganised manhunt.
Matters are further complicated when Michael cuts power to the town, plunging it into darkness, and stops along the way to (off-camera) kill all the officers still at the police station.
The converging plotlines seemingly come to a head with an excellent siege sequence, when Michael homes in on the house where his young niece, her babysitter Rachel (Ellie Cornell), the sheriff, Loomis, and a couple of others are holed up.
The action then migrates briefly to the nearby school, but quickly shifts to a getaway when the last of the good ol' boys decide to leave Michael to the incoming state troopers and whisk Rachel and Jamie away to safety... only to discover that Michael has Cape Feared his way onto their truck!
The pacing, tension, and overall verisimilitude of Halloween IV really works, and while we still don't get a coherent explanation of Michael's seeming "superpowers", Alan B McElroy's script does a good job of balancing the antagonist between being a grounded, but powerful, human and a possibly supernatural (possessed?) entity.
I was really expecting the absence of John Carpenter's involvement (beyond the signature theme tune) and Laurie Strode to hurt this entry, but surprisingly it didn't, with Rachel Carruthers - Jamie's adopted sister and reluctant babysitter - making a very competent Final Girl.
I still don't find Michael Myers anywhere near as interesting as Freddy or Jason, but I'm starting to get invested in his twisted story at last.
However, his backstory - and mythology - is further complicated by the multiple timelines that have sprung up as the franchise progressed.
Like the original run of Doctor Who, I've learned there was no continuity bible for the franchise, so the sequels have a Wild West gonzo feeling about them as writers and directors threw in whatever twists they desired, pretty much regardless of what had gone down earlier.
Confused by the death of Laurie Strode at the start of Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers? Especially as she's now front-and-centre in the current big budget Halloween movies (the second of the new trilogy, Halloween Kills, being due out next week).
Well, you're not alone.
Back in 2018, before we even knew about Halloween Kills, Paste did a comprehensive breakdown on the multiple timelines of the Halloween franchise, and how Laurie Strode was Schrödinger's Cat: both alive and dead.
|The Halloween Continuity Guide: Which Halloween Movies Are Connected?|
FILMS WATCHED: 11
NEW TO ME: 8