Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers Ending Explained: 'Evil Dies Tonight,' In 1988

This franchise has been through a lot. For all of their talk on doing away with the lore of its sequels, the makers of "Halloween Kills" sure are digging in the crates for inspiration on the follow-up to David Gordon Green's 2018 effort, "Halloween," itself a sequel to John Carpenter's 1978 original. 

"Halloween" (1978) has since gotten eleven sequels and two retcons in 1998 and 2018, so there's a lot of continuity gumbo happening — it's enough to turn any new "Halloween" fan off from delving into the previous films. Each of the twelve titles that make up the franchise has something unique to offer, but Dwight H. Little's "Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers" might scratch a few itches if you dug either of Green's iterations of the Myers journey.

Back in the Saddle Again

"Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers" started off on shaky ground. Both John Carpenter and Debra Hill had aspirations to make "Halloween" into an anthology franchise. But the slasher-less "Halloween III: Season of the Witch," which did make a profit but failed to perform as well as Paramount's third "Friday the 13th" sequel, signaled that moviegoers wanted blood with their frights. Carpenter and Hill, frustrated with the story they were being pressured to tell, sold their franchise stake to "Halloween" producer and de-facto franchise custodian Moustapha Akkad in 1987, according to Dustin McNeill and Travis Mullins' comprehensive book "Taking Shape: Developing Halloween From Script To Scream." Akkad's expanded creative hold on all new Michael Myers offerings enabled him to do what he's long desired: use new sequels to correct course on a film series that's grown too bloody for its own good. 

This time, when Michael came home, it would be a successful night.

Screenwriter Alan B. McElroy (who hangs around Blumhouse these days) was on board with the Akkad vision. It was no picnic; McElroy was hired just before the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike, giving him an impossible eleven days to submit a final draft. But as a fan of the original "Halloween," he infuses the fourth sequel with that old Carpenter-Hill simplicity. In both films, Michael escapes from custody and steals a tow truck. He kills a dog, steals a mask, stalks teens, and eventually kills the daughter of the town sheriff. Nostalgia callbacks can be a roll of the dice in horror, but "The Return of Michael Myers" cleaned up nicely at the box office, making just under $18 million on its $5 million dollar budget.

Wherever She is, That Little Child is in Mortal Danger.

"The Return of Michael Myers" begins with a bombshell: Michael has been in a coma following the events of "Halloween II." The film begins on the night before Samhain when, according to Curtis Richards' novelization of the '78 original, "it would stir, and if the lust were powerful enough, it would rise to fulfill the curse invoked so many Samhains before." On that day in 1988, the sister killer interrupts his transfer back to Smith's Grove Sanitarium and slaughters the medics after overhearing them mention the daughter and the death of Laurie Strode, played by Jamie Lee Curtis throughout the franchise. Her daughter, Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris), lives with a foster family, gets bullied at school, and has night terrors involving her creepy uncle. Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) has also survived the explosive climax of "Halloween II," going full Captain Ahab in his quest to stamp out the evil of Haddonfield. Having been Michael's psychiatrist since childhood, he understands the threat Michael presents, warning "Wherever she is, that little child (Jamie) is in mortal danger."

It's not just Loomis who wants to put a stop to Michael's seasonal rampages. Sheriff Meeker (Beau Starr) has struck an uneasy alliance with Michael's former psychiatrist, but their failure to protect the town (or even the police station) lays the groundwork for frustrated Haddonfield citizens to put together an old fashioned posse to round up the menace. That's right, "Halloween Kills" isn't the first time the people of Haddonfield demanded that "Evil dies tonight." 

That said, Michael tears through the mob like tissue paper in the film's third act. He makes his way to the Meeker home, where young Jamie is holed up with her foster sister, Rachel (Ellie Cornell), a few teens, and one lone deputy. After a lengthy struggle, Michael hitches a ride on a fleeing truck and winds up thrown in a ditch. Jamie approaches and touches her uncle's hand, stirring him to kill once again. As he rises, Meeker and his troopers light him up in a hail of bullets and he collapses into an old mineshaft. Jamie has survived the night, but the apple doesn't fall far from the tree; wearing her clown costume, she grabs a kitchen knife and cuts down her foster mother in an echo of Michael's killing of his sister, ten years before.

Evil Dies Tonight

The fourth "Halloween" film has some interesting nuggets, and it's more in line with Moustapha Akkad's return-to-roots vision for the franchise. At its core, the story entails Michael Myers breaking out of custody and returning home for a girl. Dr. Loomis is once again warning anyone who will listen that this dude is no joke, and it all ends with a Halloween night massacre. Jamie Lloyd's clown costume resembles that of young Michael in the original film's prologue, where he stabs his older sister ("In the tit!" as Little John describes it to kids in "Halloween Kills"). Even the name Jamie — who do you think the writers are nodding to? Just for funsies, both films also feature scenes in which Michael kills someone with a firearm without pulling the trigger.

"The Return of Michael Myers" signals a pre-"Halloween Kills" look beyond Myers and Strode, into the town of Haddonfield and how its people are reckoning with the threat. The cops try, they really do: they instill a town-wide curfew which, as anyone who's been in North America during Covid will tell you, doesn't sit well with its freedom-loving bar patrons. The local men decide that if the cops can't handle the armed threat, then some street justice is needed. They do return home as the authorities insist, but only to grab their guns. They even kill an innocent person in a case of mistaken identity. The posse adds chaos to the whole night, something that Green and co-writers Scott Teems and Danny McBride would lean into for Green's 2021 update on the Strode saga. While it's hard to definitively assert that Green & Co. watched the sequel and took notes, in regards to the posse, you could say that "Halloween 4" walked so that "Halloween Kills" could run.

The "Halloween" franchise is so malleable that each of its entries stands in stark contrast to the one that comes before or after. "Halloween 4" is enjoying a second life as one of the better sequels (if not the one with the worst Myers mask), on pace to get the full "It was good, actually" treatment that genre critics are now applying towards its predecessor "Halloween III: Season of the Witch." 

Will "Halloween Kills," with its back-to-basics attitude and exploration of mob rule, get some of the love that "Halloween 4" is getting? Only time will tell.