Halloween 4: or how I learned to stop worrying and hate the series
Halloween 3 made some money. This is fact. However, despite this, it was generally perceived as a failure for not making enough filthy moolah. The tragedy of this is that the idea of simply using the date as a launch point for a horror series of stand alone movies is a cracking one, and Halloween 4 was originally conceived as a ghost film. A large part of me wishes that they’d gone through with this idea, because if they had had the balls to do it, then there’s a high chance that the ghost installment of the franchise would have been far more interesting than this dull, unimaginative and frankly annoying piece of shit. But no, creativity lost the battle with the balance sheet, and instead we got the return of Michael fucking Myers that absolutely nobody was clamouring for.
Let me be absolutely up front about this now. Michael Myers is not an interesting villain to hang a film series on. As a menacing killer in the dark in ONE film, two at a stretch, then yes, he’s fantastic. As an unstoppable sister-seeking missile (although Jamie Lee Curtis wisely passed on this drivel) he’s less interesting than the Winter Olympics. Carpenter has to take a lot of the blame for this, as the whole Druid/ Samhain crap was entirely his fault in the second film, but there’s a series of intensely annoying ideas that begin to come to fruition in Halloween 4.
Not that every idea is wholly bad. There is, and I’m going to go out on a limb here, almost a good idea buried in this film. Sadly, it’s not that good an idea, and it’s one taken up by other long running franchises. However, to explain it, this is going to be a monumentally long and spoiler heavy review/ rant. Not that this matters, particularly, because I doubt anyone in the universe is interested in this film. I’m certainly not, and had I not boneheadedly decided to review all of them, then I’d have lived in blissful ignorance of the film.
Right, suppose I’d better bother with a plot summary of this exercise in murder porn. 10 years later and Michael Myers is still lying on a slab in some hospital somewhere. Except he’s developed magic thumbs of steel that can kill people by pressing through a forehead. Not joking, sadly. It’s fucking dumb, this film. Anyhoo, Loomis has a melty face from the end of Halloween 2, and looks much like a dirty mac wearing Freddie Kruger. He’s still obsessed with the comatose Myers, and low and fucking behold he’s proven right when the corpse gets up, again, and goes on a predictable and boring rampage around Haddonfield.
However, as Jamie Lee Curtis politely declined to return as Laurie Strode (if she’d stuck to her guns we might not have had Resurrection inflicted on us), and so the focus of the film is her daughter, Jamie- charmingly played by a very young Danielle Harris (who legitimately has a claim as the last of the screen queens. Either her or Briani Evigan, anyway). Incidentally, I bet this name is a reference to the first film.
Pointless digression aside, Jamie is being looked after by her foster family, the most important of which is Rachel (Ellie Cornell), the surrogate Laurie figure of the film. Despite wanting to go off and shag inexplicable-jacket wearing douchebag Brady (Sasha Jenson, and I did cheer when he gets offed) she decides to take little Jamie trick or treating. The rest of the film is a game of cat and mouse between The Shape and Loomis, Jamie and Rachel, with a load of shagging teenagers messily killed as a distraction. Until the end, which I utterly loathe, not least of which because the fucking film lazily telegraphs it from the moment Jamie puts on her Halloween costume. Seriously, if you’ve seen the first film, and everyone has, then you know precisely how this turd is going to end.
I honestly cannot believe this was the best idea they could come up with to bring Myers back. Not that I remotely think bringing him back is a good idea (it isn’t), but it’s all so fucking lazy with the added boredom of a kid in the central role. The golden rule of slasher films is that if you see a kid (and I mean an actual kid not a young teenager) in the lead, then the kid is going to survive. As such, it renders any tension utterly moot and all that’s left is the depressing inevitability of waiting for Myers to finish offing a series of identikit victims in monumentally boring ways (using his thumbs of steel, for example) until his inevitable defeat at the hands of a fucking 8 year old.
To be fair to the actors, Harris is charming as the kid, a warm and likable presence (as she is in practically every film I see her in, from the good (Stake Land), to the not so good (Blood Night), so credit there) that stands head and shoulders above the material. Cornell does a good job fighting the lazy continuity errors- watch out for her magically healing limp- but the script doesn’t help her, and Pleasance is doing something that he could probably do in his sleep. To say he’s phoning it in is an understatement. He even gets the best lines in the film, but still manages to come across as a slightly worrying melty face obsessive paedophile a lot of the time. I’m not joking about the melty face, by the way. It honestly looks like someone took a blow torch to a Wellington boot, and is some of the worst makeup that I’ve seen in ages.
There are so many issues with this film that I almost don’t know where to start. Carpenter and Hill had flogged the rights thereby setting up Big John for his future career of X-Box, weed and fried chicken while cheerfully flogging his seminal back catalogue to cretins. It drives me totally nuts to see Carpenter’s films despoiled for the amusement of the cretinous ADD generation who can barely drag their listless eyes from their fucking Twitter feed to see something as fantastic as The Thing treated in a fashion that would make a Bangkok hooker with self-esteem issues consider a change of career.
Pointless digression number 2 aside, Carpenter and Hill had nothing to do with this. This would be OK, if the replacement writer/ director/ producers had an ounce of the talent and imagination of the original team. Needless to say, they don’t. The problem with a lot of late sequels and remakes, as Droid excellently noted in his Robocop review) is that they tend to go to great lengths to reference the original in a lame attempt to curry favour. As such, I find it nigh on impossible to review the later film without considering the influence of the earlier one. So, for example, when you see little Jamie in her FUCKING CLOWN COSTUME, it’s monumentally annoying because it means that either we’ve got a cack-handed and obnoxious reference to the original, or we now know the end of the film. In the worst case scenario, as we have here, it’s actually both.
I’ll talk more about the end in a minute, as it’s as close to a good idea as the film gets, but there are many, many more problems first. One of the most galling is that the original Halloween was actually a suspense movie not a slasher. We like Laurie and her friends and we want them to survive because the film allows us the time to get to know them. They all, usefully, have proper characters as well. Not the case here, where the tension and, er, suspense is totally absent and we have a series of cardboard characters inflicted on us instead. Case in point is Brady. What a one-note walking hormone douchebag he is. And that’s his whole character. However, someone took the decision to attempt to add depth to the film by injecting an insanely unnecessary soap-opera level love triangle into the film, where he’s porking the sherif’s daughter. She’s not a character, at all, just a life support system for a pair of tits, and I honestly couldn’t give less of a fuck when she is offed. I know that reads as misogynistic, but that’s the sum total of her character: she’s a slut. Halloween 4 really is a staggeringly simple and boring film.
Other issues: the inevitable “nobody believes me” crap from Loomis. Given that the Halloween slaughter was only 10 years ago, and Myers left 6 bodies in his wake on his way back to Haddonfield, you’d think the Police might take Loomis’ warning more seriously than they do. Eventually, everyone is simply-fucking-amazed when it turns out that he’s right. Lazy and insipid scriptwriting there, people.
I’ve put this off as long as I can, although I have referred to it repeatedly. It’s time to look at the end of the film. Myers is incapacitated for the untold time, and Rachel and Jamie are returned to the nest of their foster home. But what’s this, I hear nobody cry, that looks like a point of view shot. Oh, and is that a FUCKING MASK going over the camera? I wonder who could be wearing the mask, but luckily, we see a little hand in a clown costume reach out to grab a pair of scissors and advance on a bathroom…
Do I need to go on with this description? No, I didn’t think so either. I hate this end for three reasons- one of which is only apparent in hindsight. Firstly, this is so referential of the first film that I threw what can be best described as a massive tantrum at it. I honestly wish that references like this could be left out or at least shot a different fucking way. It’s almost plagiarism. Secondly, this is completely and utterly redundant in the context of the film. In the original, this sequence was at the fucking start of the film, and was genuinely horrifying. Here, watching a blood splashed little Jamie holding a pair of scissors while Loomis screams THE FUCKING BEES, NOT THE BEES (wait, wrong film, sorry), is an obvious attempt at a cheap Friday 13th style last scare/ twist and is insultingly stupid and pointless. Not to mention that it’s also a total betrayal of the character, which is aggravating seeing as we’ve spent all film (in theory) hoping the adorable little moppet escapes from her evil unstoppable/ supernatural serial killer uncle. Fuck that.
Now, the final irritant of the end is that this is actually not (despite execution) a totally awful idea. It’s palpably obvious to all and sundry that The Shape is played out, so this is actually an exercise in baton passing to the next generation of the Myers family. This is almost a good idea, but the lack of spine that resurrected The Shape for this film guaranteed that it was never going to be followed through in the next sequel. Therefore, the end that we have here, with little Jamie picking up the mantle is a TOTAL WASTE OF FUCKING TIME. Even Harris thought that she was going to be the killer in the next film (which would have been great, because she’d have been about 10, and that has serious horror potential). Why have a passable idea and not follow through with it- if you know you aren’t going to (and I think they blatantly know they weren’t going to) take it and run with it, then don’t do it. Find some other end that doesn’t insult the intelligence of the audience.
Overall, this is rank honk. This honks louder than a clown’s horn. I hate this film, but given what I have coming, and Harris fighting against the tide, I can’t legitimately go for the Orangutan. It’s a fucking terrible, bland, boring loaf of a movie that actively angered me on more than one occasion, but there are redeeming features, so as such it can have one spooky pumpkin out of a possible four.
Sorry about the length of this, but I do feel better now, so thanks for the free therapy if you’ve made it this far. The only question remaining is how low is this bloody series going to go?
PS- 2 minutes of cursory research shows that I’m alone in hating the end here. I’ve seen it described as one of the best scenes in the series. I don’t care, it’s fucking terrible.