After the franchise suicide of Halloween III: Season of the Witch, the general consensus was that we had seen the last of Michael Myers, but luckily, this was not the case, and with Dwight H. Little's Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers, we were given the best of the Halloween sequels thus far.
Laurie Strode is dead. She and her husband were killed in a tragic car accident, leaving behind their young daughter, Jamie (Harris) in the care of the Carruthers family. Jamie is the sole survivor in the Myers bloodline, which, of course, prompts the "invalid" Michael Myers to spring back into action and head to Haddonfield to cut off the last branch of the family tree. As always, Dr. Sam Loomis (Pleasence) is hot on the trail and is all that stands between Myer's and the girl.
Halloween IV is a minor miracle. The film not only resuscitated the franchise by bringing Myers and Loomis back to Haddonfield, it did it with a brilliant visual style and polish that really gave the viewer a sense that they were in for something more than a run-of-the-mill sequel. A lot of that can be attributed to the fact that Halloween IV was actually filmed in the Midwest (Utah) as opposed to the Los Angeles-as-Illinois sets of the original. The downtown Haddonfield of H-4 is literally small town USA, and the isolation factor is HIGH!
The cast is top notch, with the unflappable Pleasence back as Loomis (albeit a limping, scarred, and mad as a hatter version). Danielle Harris as Jamie Lloyd is a revelation, and defies the "Kids in horror movies should all die" credo I have always maintained. Ellie Gottwald as Rachel, Jamie's foster sister, is not only easy on the eyes, but makes more than a suitable protagonist, showing the same kind of resilience that Curtis infused into her Laurie Strode. The remainder of the cast, whose soul purpose is to die gruesomely, are also quite effective in their roles. As a matter of fact, they are pretty well defined given the limited screen time allotted to them, which actually makes their respective demises all the more effective and sort of sad!
Another departure from the original's formula is the fact that Myer's return isn't just a personal battle between Loomis and the killer. The entire town, from its decimated police force, to a band of vigilante locals who had all felt the effects of Myer's last visit, take part in the pursuit, giving this Halloween a, (dare I say it?) slasher epic feel!
While I still have problems with the Myers/Strode relationship established in the lackluster Halloween II, the fact that it has already been established eases my reaction to young Jamie's familial ties to the killing machine, and is a pretty acceptable alternative to Myer's returning for no reason at all, given that they took away that mystique with the second film.
Anchor Bay's Region One release is a fairly mixed bag, however. While the film looks and sounds just plain wonderful, the extras are slim pickings. We get a 17 minute documentary short with interviews with Ellie (Gottwald) Cornell, and the grown up and gorgeous Danielle Harris, who both wax nostalgic on the film's production, but offer little about the elements that make the film so effective. We also get a trailer that looks a little worse for wear. Still, seeing my favorite masked psychopath on the prowl again in such great form more than makes up for the lack of extra goodies.