by Groovinator, The Cynical Cyborg
So Halloween is hitting the theaters on the 19th, and since it has been almost a decade since the last one released, I think it’s time for another visit to Haddonfield, and based on the trailers I have seen, I am genuinely looking forward to it.
To prepare for my upcoming review, I felt it was necessary, at least for me to watch all of the previous installments, so I am not caught off guard with a hidden Easter egg, or a reference of some sort. For this review, I purchased the Halloween 10 disc collection published by Anchor Bay, and Scream Factory in 2014. I will break down each movie in order of release. Also important to note, while I am a hopeless John Carpenter fan boy, and huge fan of the first film, I always enjoy other people’s interpretation of this story. The films will be judged on what they ARE, and what they are trying to achieve rather, than why it not as good as the original. I feel that is the unfair approach. Enough of that…let’s get to it!
John Carpenter’s Halloween:
First disc is listed as “John Carpenter’s Halloween”. This disc wile labeled as the original, contains the same content and menu screen as the 35th Anniversary disc. This is great, because that is my absolute favorite print of this film. Looks, and sounds like it was shot yesterday. The film is a classic, and I will not waste your time talking about why it is a classic. It was an independent film about an escaped mental patient, who stalks a babysitter on Halloween wearing a mask, and carrying a knife in broad daylight, and nobody cares…because it’s Halloween, it’s almost the perfect crime! It is a simple story that works, and ends on a classic cliff hanger ending. This was Jamie Lee Curtis’s first movie, and made her an instant star and early scream queen before breaking out in the 80’s and 90s with films like Trading Places, and True Lies. This is one that most people like to dust off, and watch on Halloween for dramatic affect.
Disc 2, is Halloween II, the direct sequel that picks up literally on the same night, just as our babysitter victim from the first movie, has been rushed to the hospital, our shapeless killer decides to finish what he started by stalking her in the hospital. There is nothing incredibly new here, other than…our killer is now impervious to multiple stabbings, and gunshot wounds. Also, it is revealed that our babysitter happens to be our killer’s estranged sister. Also, Doctor Loomis, has graduated from rambling on about psychopaths, to introducing us to some mumbo jumbo about “Samhain”, and “The Lord of the Death”. While at the time, I thought this was pretty cool, now I feel like introducing the supernatural elements into this formula kind of takes me out of it. I admit that while this one still looks and sounds, and feel’s like the first movie, the fact that the entire movie takes place within the confines of a hospital is a bit of a let down. It’s a competent sequel to an otherwise better movie that runs fine on simpler ideas.
Halloween III: The Season of The Witch
Disc 3, oh this is a fun one! I absolutely enjoy the hell out of this movie. And that is controversy in itself. This one decided that Michael Myers story was complete, so this story neither references, nor continues with any of the elements of the previous two movies. Rather, a separate story using Halloween only in name. If you have never seen Halloween III, the set up alone will make you drop your jaw to the floor. It involves killer robots, black magic, high tech Halloween masks, Stone Henge, killer robots, and Witchcraft. Are you still with me? So this movie takes place about a week before Halloween, when seriously injured man clutching a Jack-O-Lantern mask comes into the emergency room run by Dr. Daniel Challis (Tom Atkins) spouting off gibberish about the end times. Not long after admittance, a non descript man casually walks into the emergency room, kills the man with his bare hands, then casually walks out to a car while being chased by security, gets in the car, dumps a can of gasoline on his head, and lights himself on fire causing the car to explode in the hospital parking lot. This movie goes from weird, to bat shit crazy in a matter of minutes. Watching this movie, I am reminded why I admired the 80s. As long as you had money, and box office appeal, ANYTHING could get made! A dough eyed daughter of the man clutching the mask, comes in to investigate her father’s death. Tom Atkins decides to trace the origin of the mask. Turns out the mask is one of three must have hot items produced by Silver Shamrock. An annoying commercial is played on TVs, in between long moody slices of classic John Carpenter synthesizer scores. I don’t want to give away the plot of the movie, because it is so bizarre, you have to see it to believe it. As an 80’s horror movie…this movie is fun, as can be, but as a movie in a franchise about an escaped mental patient, this one is a bit of a head scratch. Also, Tom Atkins casually slaps his nurses on the bum, and beds, or has had some relation with literally every woman he has had contact with. Tom Atkins is a fantastic character actor who I admire, but the last one I would ever compare to a playboy, or a James Bond.
Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers
Obviously Halloween III: The Season of the Witch is a divisive film. It was a huge flop at the box office, and most franchise fans refuse to acknowledge that film’s existence. I however, walk a different path, as I embrace the totally weird like a religion. Disc 4 is the film that brought things back to where they started. Myers escapes again several years later to stalk Jamie, the daughter of the now diseased Laurie Strode. Jamie has a mysterious psychic link to Michael Myers, who appears to her in the form of nightmares, and visions. This film is very good. It has mostly new characters, but they are all pretty solid, and play it totally straight. Only Donald Pleasance reprises his role as Loomis, who is once again trying to prevent death from returning to Haddonfield. I found this one rather entertaining.
Halloween V: The Revenge of Michael Myers
Disc V, is where things take a turn for the worse I am afraid. See, in the 80’s sequels happened sometimes, but they were never planned in advance. Halloween IV, returned the franchise to its horror thriller roots, and was a huge success. Halloween V picks up by replaying the end of the part IV, and sort of picking up where that one left off, maybe a year or so later. My biggest problem with this is that anything that was enjoyable about the last one is totally discarded in this one. The characters in this movie are either cartoons, or so annoying, that you secretly want the death to happen sooner than later. Strong characters from the last movie are dispensed as kill fodder, and characters that are obnoxious and annoying linger for the duration of the film. Even Jamie has been reduced to annoying plot armor, either screaming, or recreating stabbing motions of The Shape. Also the supernatural crap comes back again stronger than ever, but not fully explained. It feels like it was written by an older person that has absolutely no grasp on American teenagers. So characters with names like “Sam, and Spitz”, are portrayed as borderline sociopaths. If they are not fucking each other’s brains out, they are yelling at each other, slapping each other, fucking again…then yelling at each other again. I felt like I was watching Reefer Madness, staring Michael Myers. Also, the cops are introduced with whimsical music and silly xylophone noises so that the audience knows these cops are the worst keystone cops since the days of silent film. Tonally and structurally this movie is hot garbage. It can’t decide if it wants to be funny….if it is trying to be funny…the jokes run on too long…and then when it decides to be serious, it acts as if we actually care about anyone getting dispatched. At this point, I am rooting for The Shape, just so I don’t have to sit through any of this painful dialogue again. Oh, and wait until Johnny Cash shows up… So far, out of this box set…this is the first film that actually offends me.
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
Disc 6 I know will get a lot of hate. Some of it is deserved. In this set, it is the theatrical cut. I know a director’s cut is floating around out there somewhere, and I will have to take a look at it, once I track one down. Curse is not as bad as I thought it would be, in fact, some aspects I rather enjoyed. In this one however, we are going in full blast with the supernatural mumbo jumbo again, and Myers is now the product of some ancient druid sacrifice. The film does have some genuine moments when a young Paul Rudd shows up as a now older Tommy Doyle (one of the babysitting kids from the Original) who seems committed to tracking down Michael Myers; whose body has never been found. Halloween is NOW been made illegal in the town of Haddonfield save for a few teenagers who secretly celebrate in protest. Characters in this movie are strong. Film quality looks good. This was Donald Pleasance’s last movie, and he died before it was released. It is not one of the stronger sequels in the series, but not offensive either. Some really great effects work, and some decent acting. It is at least worthy of a second look.
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later
Disc 7 is easily the absolute best sequel in the franchise. How this film ever got made is a miracle of science. Not only does it have a strong well written script, and screenplay, it has smart dialogue. It is full of stars like Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, L.L. Cool J, Josh Hartnett, Adam Arkin, Michelle Williams, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I remember seeing this in theaters on opening weekend, and I remember liking it, but had not watched it again since. I didn’t know if that was my young age, or my nostalgia goggles, or a combination of all of the above. Having watched it again with older, non biased eyes…I am still amazed at this movie. Halloween was never known for having a big budget, or big budget actors. This is Halloween with a big budget treatment, written and directed by people with a love for film, and knowledge of what made the classics work. This one thankfully, does not take place in Illinois, but that doesn’t stop Michael from road tripping to Summer Glenn, California where Laurie Strode has been teaching at a posh prep school under an assumed identity, where she can keep a watchful eye on her son played by Josh Hartnett. Laurie has buried her past in booze and lies. It is fun to see Jamie Lee Curtis reprise a very convincing older version of the character from the first movie. The teenagers do not annoy me in this movie. I enjoyed all of the characters in this movie, and was genuinely concerned for them.
I think this one gets a lot of hate, because it came out a few years AFTER Scream, which pretty much reduced the 80’s Slasher genre to a meme. The movie is often acted and paced like one of those movies. The official movie poster even resembles The Scream poster. I still very much enjoyed the movies. It didn’t shit on the original; it works in the same universe as the previous films, and surprisingly did NOT try to set up any kind of a sequel. However, Hollywood loves money…
Halloween: Resurrection (AKA How to kill a franchise in 1 hour, and 34 minutes)
Disc 8 is the epitome of sadness and desperation. This one is going to be filled with spoilers, because I feel it is my duty to explain to the masses why nobody should waste their time on this diaper stain of a film. Remember everything that you loved about the H20, Halloween, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Myers, or anything about horror films in general? Well FUCK ALL OF THAT!!! Welcome to Resurrection, a film that treats its characters like road kill, its audience like marketing data research, and movies like disposable vending machines. The film opens with Jamie Lee Curtis in a California Sanitarium looking like John Wayne Gacy’s girlfriend hooked on Oxycodone, only she’s not REALLY crazy…she’s been waiting for Michael Myers to show up…only he kills her…in 15 minutes….? She’s featured on the poster of the movie and has been reduced to one horrible cameo. Thanks movie. Fuck you movie! Very next scene we are introduced to some college kids that have no relation to any characters in the franchise. They are all excited because they have been chosen by Busta Rhymes, to be in an “internet reality show” where they play ghost hunter in the Michael Myers house. The wacky Hijinks ensue, as we are treated to a bunch of well planned jump scares secretly placed by the crew in order to boost viewer ratings. However, Michael Myers eventually shows up, and we are treated to continuous shots of The Shape coming and going through artificially low tech camera work meant to simulate body cams. This movie was directed by the same guy that directed the original Halloween II. This movie shits on it the sequel that precedes it; the franchise that contains it, and people in general that might have any attachment to these movies. I don’t know if this is a con job, a comedy, or a secret plot to destroy the Halloween franchise, but it succeeds at all of those things, and fails at everything that it was marketed to be. However it had Halloween in the name…so it made money. Even Katee Sackhoff, an actress I admire and respect, cannot save this shit movie. In fact her name is misspelled in the credits. Again, Fuck you, movie! This one is even more offensive than Halloween V. That movie was just a series of accidents; this one is a series of insults. Let’s just remember that scene where Busta Rhymes bustas some kung fu on Michael Myers because he likes the Kung Fu movies. This is now an internet meme, kind of like this movie.
Halloween (Enter Rob Zombie)
No thanks to that abomination that is Resurrection, the only logical thing to do at this point is reboot, or remake. Disc 9 is The Rob Zombie Remake of Halloween. Depending about how you may, or may not feel about Rob Zombie as an “artist” your mileage may very. Hot off the (financial, not critical) success of “House of 1000 Corpses”, and “The Devil’s Rejects”, marketing research CLEARLY indicated that Rob Zombie must be what the kids want. This may sound like a direct jab, it’s not. This version does have some things that I like, but that doesn’t mean that they all necessarily work. I won’t dispute that Zombie is a big fan of the original Halloween, and possibly Halloween II, as there are elements from both in this re-imagining. However, I think he went off on one tangent too far, and forgot what the purpose of the original was. In this film, the protagonist is The Shape. Michael Myers. We are introduced to him as a young kid, growing up in 70’s or 80’s Haddonfield…film doesn’t specify other than music playing in the background, and some longer hair styles. Myers has a pretty shitty life with a drunken step dad, and slut for a sister, and a stripper mother. (Enter our obligatory Sherry Moon Zombie appearance.) We are introduced to a kid that is one bad day short of serial murder. Oh yeah, and he likes to mutilate animals as a hobby. After murdering a local bully, and most of his circus of a family, we fast forward to the budding relationship between Doctor Loomis (brilliantly played by Malcolm McDowell). As time progresses Myers makes a hobby out of making masks, as he slowly deteriorates, and becomes detached from any kind of communication, or affection, Myers is eventually released from Loomis’s care, and Myers becomes a masked recluse. Now here is the problem I have with this movie. And Carpenter has already pointed this out…but it’s important to mention it again. While this development is extremely interesting, and well executed, it is the first hour of the film. Michael is the protagonist of our horror film. We see him go from troubled youth, to oversized maniac, escape from institution and travel to modern day Haddonfield. So NOW the original character from the first film is introduced to us an hour after the credits roll. And at this point…we basically repeat all of the same beats from the original movie. This is a remake of a movie that clearly needed no remake. However, I am not opposed to a modern day telling. However, you need to make it your own thing. Entire lines of dialogue, and even some of the kills, are recreations of the first movie, and it feels cheap. The characters we are supposed to care about…we barely know them….we spent most of the movie talking about Michael, are we supposed to care about Michael, or Laurie? Part of what makes a horror movie work, is when you can relate to an average everyday character as yourself, which puts you into that feeling of fear, and panic. And even though, I do LIKE Scout Taylor-Compton as Laurie Strode…we barely knew her? I think at this point Zombie expected the music, and the original nostalgia goggles to carry us through, but that is not fair. If you are helming a remake, then you better remake something original. I feel like this one only scratched on the surface, and then gave up during the last act. Also, this is a minor nitpick, but it has bugged me since I first saw this movie. This is supposed to take place in modern middle class Illinois. This movie goes WAY OUT OF its WAY to prove to you that this is not your parent’s Halloween movie. This is Rob fucking Zombie’s Halloween! Dialogue is reduced to sex jokes, and the word fuck is used at a rate of 720 fucks per minute. Also, the stripper, the drunk, the slut, and the mental patient live in the same neighborhood as the middle class real estate agent? I am not buying it. Part of this is I lived in Illinois for most of my life. I am sure other people have lived in Illinois, and probably still live there today. Other than the set itself, nothing feels Illinois about this movie. It feels more like Southern California Trailer Park. I am not trying to be a prude, it’s just that part of making your movie work, is being faithful to the setting your fictional characters claim they were from. Clearly Zombie never lived in Illinois. I know I said I was not going to do this…but it is necessary to prove a point. The original movie was not shot in Illinois either, but it at least looked and felt like Illinois, and people talked like normal people did in 1978 Illinois. In this one, all of the transitional dialogue is reduced to a series of crass jokes, and innuendoes that become exhausting by the end of this movie. The violence does not bother me; it’s visceral, and updated for the times. The feeling of victims dread is convincingly portrayed, but every female babysitter in this movie WILL be topless, and everyone who works in an institution or paramedical field is a little too rapey in this movie for my tastes. I doubt anyone will give a shit about this movie ten years from now.
Halloween II (yes, THIS shit again)
What the fuck is this? Disc 10 is a whole lot of what the fuck ever. Like the last movie, I want to like it…and every time I think I might find something about it to lash onto, it strays off course and smashes into a brick wall at every turn. It opens up looking like the original movie of the same name, when Laurie is rushed into the ER. And just when you think you are going to get a more visceral repeat of the original, you flash forward two years later, as Laurie Strode is waking from a bad nightmare. Now Laurie lives with her other friend Annie, who apparently survived the attacks from the previous movie. Both these girls are a hot chocolate mess. I like that aspect of it…anyone would have a next to impossible time trying to re-enter any kind of normal life after that ordeal, however…in this movie, things for these girls go from bad to absolute fuck. Also, we see Michael again looking like a cross between Grisly Addams, and John Rambo from First Blood, hiking across the land, and living on dog meat. No, really. Loomis returns, but this time he is an asshole who decided to get rich by publishing books based on the Haddonfield ordeal. Way to honor Donald Pleasance’s memory Rob… Anyways, if I give this movie any credit at all, it will be for having more Laurie Strode, even if her character is a train wreck, and it DOES at least try to be different from the other movies, however parts of it come off like a promo shot for some “Hellbilly” rock groups, and a bad homage to Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me. Michael is having visions of white horses, and Sherry Moon Zombie dressed up like Gandalf The White, and of course a new young Michael Myers. The ending made me face palm. It’s a horrible way to end a franchise with so much potential. I know that some people are very upset that this new Halloween movie RET Cons some of these sequels, but some of these are very much not worth saving at all.
Most of these sequels were mediocre, one was weird fun, one was amazing, but none of them hold a candle to the original that worked so well. I hate to judge a movie, or a sequel based on movie budgets, but Blumhouse is not known for budgets. I mean the trailers look good, but my expectations are extremely low. I guess my biggest fear is that it will be painfully boring and mediocre. We’ll see what happens in the upcoming review!