Worst 2 Best: The HALLOWEEN Franchise
Part 1 of 2

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Birthing seven sequels and a remake (which spawned a sequel of its own), John Carpenter’s Halloween launched a franchise that became one of the most successful sagas in modern horror cinema. The story of boogeyman Michael Myers began simply, a tale of evil incarnate stalking babysitters on Halloween night, and over a series of both successful and unsuccessful sequels, spiraled into a mess of Paganism, red herrings, and Busta Rhymes. The storyline (or storylines – there are at least five different storylines to Michael Myers alone, and I can actually argue at least one more) became too confusing for even the most hardened horror-geek, and with remakes being the newest trend in Hollywood, a reboot was inevitable. The responsibility fell to horror auteur Rob Zombie (House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects), who delivered a story that focused more on the true(ish)-to-life journey of a serial killer than the usual tale of Evil personified. Though horror fans were split with their criticism in regards to Zombie’s version of Carpenter’s original, the film was successful enough to receive a sequel, which once again reunited Zombie with Haddonfield’s Myers. Critics and fans were again divided in their feelings on this sequel, while a third film seems to be looming in production. Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier (My Bloody Valentine 3-D, Drive Angry) have been attached to this for awhile, but nothing seems to be moving on the project as yet.

So, how do the films in this series stand up against each other? Is comparing such diverging storylines fair, or even worthwhile? Regardless of the answer, here is my take on the Halloween franchise, from Worst to First. (Here, there be spoilers).

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Trick or treat, motherfucker!

10. Halloween: Resurrection (2002, d. Rick Rosenthal, w. Larry Brand & Sean Hood)

Anyone who says that Rob Zombie ruined the Halloween franchise can suck my dick. Way before Haddonfield was re-envisioned as Zombie’s white-trash dystopia, Busta Rhymes was kung-fu-ing his way through a Halloween film. I shit you not. I went into Halloween: Resurrection cautiously in the first place – long-tormented Laurie Strode decapitated Michael Myers in the previous film, and unless there was a scene in which his head grew crab-legs à la John Carpenter’s The Thing, I kind of thought that pretty much put the kibosh on the whole Halloween enchilada. Oh, how soon we forget the lesson of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (and Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday, Child’s Play: Chucky Goes Calypso, etc…). So, anyway, it’s revealed that Strode accidentally chopped the head off of a paramedic instead of Myers, and now he’s back doing the Shape Shuffle. He kills Laurie off in the first ten minutes of the film, and for the rest of it, stalks kids on a internet reality show set in the Myers house – a reality show produced by Busta Rhymes.

This is a terrible, terrible movie. The acting is ridiculous, and the internet reality show concept seemed outdated at the time of its release (see the 100% better My Little Eye on how to do this correctly). The film offers no scares whatsoever; this is surprising, considering that Rick Rosenthal, director of Halloween II (1980), helmed the project. The most egregious of all errors committed by this film is definitely the aforementioned casting of Busta Rhymes. He smiles and laughs his way through what I’m only guessing was an opportunity for a paycheck. According to the late, great producer Moustapha Akkad, Busta Rhymes’ casting came from a direct suggestion from Akkad’s then-teenaged son (now Halloween producer), Malek. Malek’s suggestion almost single-handedly derailed the (at that point) failing franchise. So, haters, before you level that distain at Rob Zombie, you have a more accurate target on which to pin the degradation of Michael Myers.

By the way – Resurrection was directed by the director of the original Halloween II, Rick Rosenthal, so depending on your opinion of that film, it’s either par for the course, or a pretty substantial fall from grace.

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Curse? Yeah, I believe this film was cursed...

09. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995, d. Joe Chappelle, w. Daniel Farrands)

Ok, to be fair, there are some elements of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers that try to get the franchise back on track. Most of these positive elements, however, are only satisfactory in the much-bootlegged “Producer’s Cut,” which saves this sixth entry into the Halloween franchise from being totally nonsensical and inept. In a way, it’s hard for me to rag on this film; this was the first Halloween film I saw in the theatres, and a long-time fan of the series, Daniel Farrands, wrote the screenplay. This film features some nice performances, including the last performance of Donald Pleasence as Dr. Loomis.

This being said, it also furthers the ridiculous cult storyline, and attempts to flesh-out/explain the supremely stupid “man-in-black” subplot. Why Johnny Cash is stalking the Shape, I’ll never know. Instead of satisfactorily bringing closure to the Jamie Lloyd storyline, which began in Part 4, the filmmakers simply kill her off (maybe as a result of Danielle Harris not returning to the role?) and have Michael searching for her newborn baby. This “Michael searching for his family” plot was the EXACT SAME plot as 4 and 5, differentiated only by the switch with Michael’s niece to Michael’s grandnephew. Stupid. Stupid stupid stupid.

To be fair, though, The Curse of Michael Myers does what it can to rectify some to the mistakes in Part 5, and in some ways, it succeeds. The jokey tone of Part 5 is abandoned, and the town of Haddonfield “feels” right; the plotline regarding the banning of Halloween and the rise of the repressed holiday rings true, and some of the performances (especially Janice Knickrehm as “Mrs. Blankenship,”
 Bradford English as “John Strode,” and Marianne Hagan as the hero, “Kara Strode”) are pretty good for the sixth entry of the series. All in all, Part 6 is mostly disappointing, but at least there’s no kung fu.

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Not terrible, just majorly flawed.

8. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989, d. Dominique Othenin-Girard, w. Michael Jacobs, Shem Bitterman, and Dominique Othenin-Girard)

Oh, boy. This is where the Halloween franchise starts to take a major dip in quality. So, while it’s not as bad as the next two entries in the series, and there is much to like, Halloween 5 has some major problems.

Before I discuss what’s wrong, let’s take a look at what’s right: for the most part, the casting is great. Donald Pleasence’s performance in this entry is one of his most unhinged, and therefore, one of his most enjoyable. Danielle Harris and Ellie Cornell return as Jamie Lloyd and Rachel Carruthers, respectively, and it’s their performances that really make this film resonate as much as it does. In portraying Jamie as mute for much of the film, the filmmakers nearly derail it from the start, but the amazing performance by Harris turns a terrible idea into an remarkable turn for the young actress. The atmosphere is strong here (although not as strong as Part 4), and by the time the movie ends with Jamie in the tatters of her Halloween costume, the tension and dread built by the film is palpable.

The weaknesses of this film, however, are guilty of beginning a terrible trend seen in this and the following two entries of the series. The most glaring error of this particular sequel is the introduction of the “man in black” storyline. No explanation is given in this film regarding this red (black?) herring. He simply shows up on the periphery until they use him to bust Michael out of jail. Yes, a supernatural killer who has escaped from two different stints in a mental hospital, and has cheated death countless times, needs help getting out of a holding cell in the local police station – I mean, did the writers watch ANY of these films before putting this train wreck together? Also, Othenin-Girard’s attempt at injecting comedy into the film falls completely flat. I believe that this takes direct inspiration from Wes Craven’s ill-advised attempt at humor in The Last House on the Left. I also feel that the death of Rachel is handled quite poorly – I have no problem with the character dying, but for someone who single-handedly saved Jamie Lloyd to have a death with such little emotional resonance seems like a HUGE waste of a character, and a waste of a chance to have the audience actually give a shit about the death of a protagonist.

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Despite what critics say, the "look" is amazing.

7. Halloween (2007, d & w. Rob Zombie)

Ok, haters. Here’s where I will level my accusatory gaze at the most (unjustly) hated man in the Halloween franchise – Rob Zombie. Before I take a critical look at his remake, I’ve got a bit to say:

Rob Zombie’s Halloween has been subject to the most baffling barrage of hate and criticism of any of the Halloween films. When I saw Halloween: Resurrection in the theatre, I was, all kidding aside, enraged nearly to the point of tears, or to the point where I was about to travel to Hollywood and beat the shit out of some idiots. To continue this series, a reboot/remake was probably the only course of action to bring any iota of respect to the franchise. When Zombie, the director of the severely under-appreciated House of 1000 Corpses, and the grindhouse home run The Devil’s Rejects was reported to be attached to the remake, I breathed a sigh of relief – a man who knows horror and understands the fan perspective would be handling my favorite franchise. It just made sense. Zombie made no bones about how off-kilter the franchise had become, and stressed that his remake would go back to the center of the franchise, Michael Myers, and examine the birth of a boogeyman. Instead of making Michael a mysterious force of nature, the supernatural embodiment of evil, Zombie would turn him into a real-life serial killer, and follow a broken life through the carnage it left behind.

What Zombie ended up making was a hybrid of the white-trash world of The Devil’s Rejects and a beat-by-beat re-imagining of Carpenter’s original film. Fans decried the realistic depiction of Michael Myers. Why? I don’t know. Honestly, I’m pretty vehement against Zombie’s critics – he FLAT OUT STATED that this was what he was going to do in the first place. Zombie had no interest in following the “boogeyman” aspect of Michael Myers, and I applaud him for his decision 100%. While I don’t like the Hollywood trend of remaking my favorite genre flicks, it’s inevitable. Since this is the flavor of the day, I’d much rather a director put his own stamp on the film than crank out a shot-for-shot remake, à la Gus Van Sant’s Psycho.

The good? Michael’s look is fucking pimp-tastic. He hasn’t looked as scary since the original Halloween II, and Tyler Mane’s behemoth size makes Myers look especially frightening when compared to the small, petite girls that he stalks. The rotting mask is a great touch (latex masks age – thanks for finally acknowledging this), and all of the scenes featuring grown-up Michael Myers look like they could have leapt off the pages of some amazing graphic novel. When Zombie’s Halloween goes into full-force Carpenter mode, the lighting and scenic design is absolutely breathtaking. Some of the performances are pretty enjoyable, with kudos going to Brad Dourif as Sherriff Bracket, and Danielle Harris as his daughter, Annie. Harris is especially amazing – her return to the franchise as a different character isn’t distracting in the slightest, and both Dourif and Harris add some much-needed emotional weight to the proceedings (which carries into the sequel).

The bad? I really don’t know. I guess much of the bad press is directly correlated to the differences in story and direction that Zombie imprints onto the franchise. I, for one, applaud his decisions. Not every decision he makes is great for the series, but I enjoy a different take on these characters. Yes, some of these decisions take some magic away from the original story. All three of the girls (Laurie, Annie, and Lynda) have personalities much closer to each other than the three diverse personalities in the original Halloween, but this actually feels more realistic (would the cynical smartass Annie and popular cheerleader Lynda REALLY be friends with the bookish Laurie?). I also agree, to a point, with the dismay around Zombie injecting his love of white-trash culture into the proceedings, but given the fact that he was trying to create a realistic origin story for Myers, I see what he was attempting (and, I’m sorry folks, I’m from the Midwest – trashy folks are the rule, not the exception).

So yes, this isn’t the Halloween that we all know and love, but the point is this: neither was Resurrection, or, arguably, the three films that preceded it. You might not like Zombie’s take on the franchise, but he’s a much more talented director than Othenin-Girard, Chappelle, and Rosenthal combined. I won’t criticize anyone’s personal tastes; if you don’t like Zombie’s take on the series, you don’t have to justify it – but I will argue on this fact: Rob Zombie’s riffs on Carpenter’s oeuvre are not the worst in the series by a long shot. You might not like the specific stories or the changes in characters/plots/etc, but as motion pictures in general go, they are better films than the aforementioned entries in the series.

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Hiya, sis!

6. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998, d. Steve Miner, w. Robert Zappia & Greenberg, based on a treatment by Kevin Williamson)

H20 is a film that, despite its flaws, really had a chance to be an amazing entry into the Halloween canon; however, as a result of producer tampering and a sequel that rendered it impotent, it remains a middle-of the road chapter of the Michael Myers saga.

On one hand, H20 is a damn sight better than some of the other Halloween films. Michael is, once again, stalking Laurie Strode… and let’s be real here, folks: Jamie Lee Curtis is pretty much the ONLY reason this film kicks as much ass as it does. Curtis is back in fine form as Laurie; it is terribly exciting to see an actress return to a role like this. The Scream-esque aspects of this film actually work; the gags with Janet Leigh’s character, echoing Psycho, is a delight, and the way the action (especially at the end) mirrors the end of the original Halloween are great meta-aspects, and enhance, rather than distract, from the proceedings.

On the other hand, much of John Ottman’s original score is substituted with a mash-up of Marco Beltrami’s scores for Scream, Scream 2, and Mimic – and this deals the film a terrible blow. For a franchise that has hinged SO LONG on iconic music, it’s sad to see Ottman’s lush score (available on Ottman’s own CDs) replaced with such ill-fitting fare as Beltrami’s previous output (Beltrami’s music works amazingly in the Scream films, but feels generic in a Halloween film).

Also, having the end of this film rendered null and void in the next sequel results in a film that has its resonance stripped away. I’m sorry that it would have resulted in the “death” of Michael Myers, but to have Laurie Strode’s final victory turned into a bait-and-switch “dues ex machina” is so fucking insulting. I hate that the producers really believed that fans would rather have seen Michael live and be relegated to another shitty sequel, rather than leave it with an ending befitting the characters, even if it would be the end of the franchise.

Still, at the end of it all, Halloween H20, on its own, feel like more of a hit than a miss. I attribute all of this to Jamie Lee Curtis, whose passion for the project made it possible, and whose contributions as an actress lifted the seventh entry of a franchise to a level that many wouldn’t think possible (even considering how badass the seventh Friday the 13th film turned out).


Well, that’s it for part one of the list; I’m sure you add up which films are on part 2, but you may be surprised at the order I put them in! Thanks for reading, and feel free to debate below!

See Part 2 of this article HERE.

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About Nathan_E

Nathan Erdel is a screenwriter. He wrote Headless and some other stuff. He likes beer, metal, pizza, and horror. He has three cats and one wife.

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