Halloween 4's Rooftop Showdown Had The Entire Set On Pins And Needles

A decade after Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) set himself and Michael Myers ablaze at the end of "Halloween II," a comatose Michael Myers finally awakes during an ambulance transfer from Ridgemont Federal Sanitarium back to Smith's Grove Sanitarium in 1988's "Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers." The trigger: overhearing ambulance personnel reveal that he has a living relative. Jamie Lloyd, his niece and daughter of Laurie Strode (played by Jamie Lee Curtis in the first two films) lives with foster parents in Myers' hometown of Haddonfield Il. Consequentially, he returns to kill her. 

I'm that one hard-to-please "Halloween" fan who unfairly compares any sequel and remake to John Carpenter's 1978's masterpiece. My qualms with "Halloween 4" primarily lie with The Shape. The masked, mechanic suit-wearing Michael Myers played by George P. Wilber neither looked nor moved like Nick Castle's portrayal of the character from the original. Plus, the featureless white mask is a far cry from the iconic William Shatner mask.

The upside to the film is that it introduced us to 11-year-old Danielle Harris who plays Jamie and replaces Jamie Lee Curtis as the franchise's final girl. Popular slasher flicks of the era mainly centered mischievous teenagers who paid for their nights of partying, sex, and booze with their lives. So, as a kid, I found movies like "Halloween 4" and "Child's Play" more relatable, and therefore more terrifying. But having a child as the primary target of a butcher knife-wielding serial killer inherently poses real-life dangers, and a rooftop showdown in "Halloween 4" had the entire set on pins and needles.

'We had to be extra careful from every conceivable safety point'

In the film, Jamie and her teenage foster sister, Rachel (Ellie Cornell), take shelter at the fortified home of the sheriff. Of courses, Michael Myers shows up and dispatches the armed guards, leaving him alone with the sisters. He stalks them up the stairs, through a top window, and onto the slopped roof. Rachel slips and slides as she crawls to the top carrying Jamie on her back. Myers appears and stabs at them. In a panic, Rachel crafts a makeshift harness with a wire to rappel Jamie down to safety, but Myers again comes swinging his knife. Rachel drops Jamie; thanks to the harness, she stops short of hitting the ground. Rachel tumbles and clings on to the gutters, but knife swipes from Myers sends her crashing to the pavement. It's one of the most intense scenes in the movie.

"They were all troopers, but the key to that whole scene was that it combined a lot of fears," Dwight H. Little, the film's director, told Daily Dead in 2018. "There's the fear of Michael, but it's also a fear of heights and losing someone you love, so it's terrifying on a lot of different levels."

The actors were indeed troopers because filming the scene was as dangerous as it appeared on screen. The production crew built the rooftop in an open field in Utah where the movie was filmed. They shot the scene on a chilly March night; the rooftop tiles were icy and slippery. Everyone were rigged on a wire, and stunt people surrounded the roof below in case anyone fell. "We had to be extra careful from every conceivable safety point," Little said. Still, they weren't able to save one of their stars from injury.

A staple sliced Ellie Cornell's stomach

In the documentary "Back to the Basics: The Making of 'Halloween 4,' Ellie Cornell discussed one of the final takes of the scene where she slipped and slid down the roof with Harris on her back. A staple protruding out from the roof caught her stomach and sliced it open. "I didn't bleed out. There weren't intestines showing," She said. "It was not that –- you know. It was just a surface wound. But I think the set medic went bonkers just because we had more to shoot. So they patched me up, and we went back to work."

Working on "Halloween 4" must have been both a frightening and exhilarating experience for child actress Danielle Harris. Being a part of a risky stunt like that with Michael Myers chasing after me would have been a childhood dream come true, but I'm sure I would have needed some encouragement to get on that roof. According to screenwriter Alan B. McElroy, the original script called for an even more dangerous scene. He explained in the documentary:

In the original script, Sheriff Ben Meeker actually fought with Michael Myers in the basement of the house. And the fight between the two of them — that's when Ben Meeker dies fighting The Shape. The furnace gets knocked over; a fire starts in the basement. So, then the house becomes engulfed in flames, and this is actually what drives Rachael and Jamie toward the roof. So, you end up with this great sequence where the house is in flames, they're on the roof, and The Shape is on the roof with them. How are they going to survive that?"

A fire? Yeah, no one would have been able to convince me to do that.