Halloween 4 & 5 Double Feature
Directed by Dwight Little and Dominique Othenin-Girard. US. 1988 and 1989. R. 184 minutes. Trancas. 35mm.
Fri., October 9, 2015
“The premise behind Halloween 4 was simple: ignore the ending of Halloween II, in which both Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) and Michael (George P. Wilbur) were undeniably, irrevocably killed off. Postulate instead that the inferno which consumed them wasn’t as bad as it looked – they both escaped with a little scarring. Now, ten years later, Michael is back on the hunt again, this time going after his orphaned niece, Jamie (Danielle Harris). The only things standing between the single-minded serial killer and his target are an ill-prepared local police department, the indefatigable Dr. Loomis, and Jamie’s foster sister, Rachel (Ellie Cornell) – not very daunting obstacles for a force of “pure evil” who can’t be killed by conventional means. So, one-by-one, Michael slices and dices his way through the men standing between him and his goal, with Loomis a step behind and Rachel, Jamie’s protector, a step ahead.
For the most part, there is nothing striking, interesting, or exceptionally memorable about Halloween 4 – until the ending (more on that later). The movie’s genesis was the result of financial, not artistic, impulses, and, as a result, it adheres religiously to the slasher film formula – a high body count, a little sex, a lot of gore, characters who consistently do stupid things to put themselves in potentially fatal situations, and a likable protagonist in danger. In this case, the imperiled individual is a little girl, which raises the stakes. Who wouldn’t root for a cute seven year-old being menaced by a homicidal psychopath?
Michael is about as menacing here as he was in Halloween II, which is to say, not very. He is awkward and plodding, and the only reason he successfully kills so many people is that his victims tend to suffer extreme brain cramps whenever he’s around. In the original Halloween, Carpenter used Michael’s slowness as a means to elevate the tension to almost unbearable levels (I’m thinking specifically of the scene where he approaches Jamie Lee Curtis as she bangs on a locked door to be admitted to a house). Since then, however, this characteristic has become a liability.
That being said, however, Halloween 4 is a better movie than Halloween II, if only because it opens up the setting rather than restricting the action to a dimly-lit, nearly empty hospital. Michael is more frightening when he’s on the loose in the outdoors. And there are some effectively chilling moments, such as an early dream sequence where Jamie comes face-to-mask with her uncle and the ending, which is, in a word, inspired – or at least as inspired as anything in any of the Halloween sequels.
Halloween 4 ends on a note of darkest irony – a bleak conclusion that works largely because it is as daring as it is unexpected. It also promises to take the franchise in an entirely new, unexplored direction. Unfortunately, when it came time to produce Halloween 5, the producers chickened out, ignoring the ending of Halloween 4 as effectively as Halloween 4 ignored the final sequence of Halloween II. Nevertheless, for those who choose not to subject themselves to the various indignities of Halloween 5, the final minute of Halloween 4 remains as unsettling today as it was during its 1988 theatrical run. The real reason to see this movie is not for the predictable build-up, but for the cliffhanger provided by director Dwight H. Little and screenwriter Alan B. McElroy. ” (James Berardinelli, Reel Views)