Against all reasonable expectation – the derivative title, the fact it follows the nonsensical Halloween III: Season Of The Witch, the absence of any recurring cast members save a deeply bored and flabby Donald Pleasence – there’s a lot to admire in the third sequel and second true follow-up to John Carpenter’s genre-defining, 1978 slasher progenitor Halloween.
Way back in 1988, the young Danielle Harris, playing Michael Myers’ young niece Jamie, orphaned by Laurie Strode’s (Jamie Lee Curtis) death at the end of Halloween 2 (and then criminally forgotten when Curtis returned to the franchise with 1998’s smug, post-Scream effort Halloween: H20 with squinting girl school pin-up Josh Hartnett in tow as her offspring John Tate) is growing up with a nearby family, and although clearly traumatised by her past and bullied at school by little shitswell overdue a good slap, she just wants to do all the things that normal kids do – get double scoops of ice cream, and more crucially for the narrative, buy a Halloween costume and go trick or treating.
Resident psychopath Myers (George P Wilbur), meanwhile, catatonic since the fire that was supposed to have finished him off at the end of Halloween 2, is being transported to a new facility by a less than impressive doctor/nurse team, and in their infinite wisdom they’ve decided that a stormy night in the run up to Halloween is probably the best time for this administrative masterstroke. He’s as good as dead right?
Obviously not, and more than that, he’s borderline superhuman – evidence of the sort of giddy thinking that led to such franchise-smothering nonsense as Freddy Vs Jason. While the slasher villain is typically supposed to endure levels of damage that test even the seasoned horror hound’s suspension of disbelief, it sort of obliterates any hope, and therefore real tension or danger outright, if he’s strong enough to, among other things, force his thumb through the front of someone’s skull, crush a human head like a paper plate and drive a shotgun barrel right through someone’s mid-drift and lift her off the ground.
Similarly, he doesn’t glide ethereally into shot as he did the peerless original. Instead, this Michael Myers lurches out of the darkness like a mannequin in a seaside ghost train. Against this sort of nonsense, the script makes a late effort to up the stakes following its middling opening third and old testament slasher movie moralising – Jamie’s surrogate big sister, Rachel Carruthers (Ellie Cornell) is the virginal final girl in this scenario, just waiting for her boyfriend Brady (Sasha Jenson) to pop the question – but instead he’d rather feel up busty blonde Kelly Meeker (Kathleen Kinmont) from the perfume counter, who gets her boobs out with all the dry functionality of a bus driver checking a ticket. Spoiler alert: Kelly gets killed first, followed by Brady, but not before they dragging out their derivative love triangle well beyond its natural lifespan.
Sheriff Meeker (Beau Starr) breaks with horror tradition by believing the hooting old doom owl that is Dr Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) with only minimal, tokenistic movie authority figure scepticism, and barricades the hormonal trio, Jamie, the Doc, a deputy and himself in the Meeker home – which is a fairly sound strategy – except, of course, it all goes horribly wrong in the final third, and their efforts to keep Myers locked out instead ensures they’re locked in.
It’s a good effort to keep things interesting, but it’s all a little too late to claw back any real interest after nearly an hour spent dully plodding around over the remains of the first movie looking for the same magic, and by the time the shock ending kicks in – predictable from the second Jamie chooses a clown costume to those obsessively familiar with the first film, but nonethess chilling – you can’t help but feel it would have been better just keeping this bit and rewriting the entire film from the back.