“HALLOWEEN” RETROSPECTIVE- 40 Years of Terror
This an an abbreviated version of a piece I wrote five years ago. With the release of the new Halloween and its 40th anniversary, I thought I’d re-share it and add in the new one among my ranking of the entire franchise. Please note, I review the movies going in reverse order starting with the newest one and ending with the original.
Director: David Gordon Green
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Nick Castle, James Jude Courtney, Rhian Rees, Jefferson Hall
It’s been forty years since serial killer Michael Myers stalked and killed a bunch of babysitters on Halloween night. Jamie Lee Curtis returns to her iconic role as Laurie Strode and she’s ready for Michael Myers one final time.
Here’s my review of “Halloween”
RATING: **** (4 out of 5 stars)
My Ranking of the Franchise
1. HALLOWEEN (1978)
2. HALLOWEEN (2018)
2. HALLOWEEN H20: 20 YEARS LATER (1998)
3. HALLOWEEN II (1981)
4. HALLOWEEN (2007)
5. HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1989)
6. HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS (1988)
7. HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (1982)
8. HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION (2002)
9. HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1995)
10. HALLOWEEN II (2009)
HALLOWEEN II (2009)
Director: Rob Zombie
Starring: Scout Taylor-Compton, Malcolm McDowell, Danielle Harris, Tyler Mane, Sheri Moon Zombie, Brad Dourif
Much like the original Halloween II, the story picks up the same night as the first film. Michael Myers’ (Mane) reign of terror was unleashed onto Haddonfield on Halloween night. Laurie Strode (Taylor-Compton), Annie Brackett (Harris), and Dr. Loomis (McDowell) have all survived and are being taken to the hospital. Michael escapes the ambulance escorting him and has a vision of his mother dressed in all white with a white horse standing next to her. It is not long before he makes his way to the hospital to find Laurie.
One year passes and Laurie continues having nightmares about Michael and the events of that night. She currently lives with Annie and her dad Sheriff Brackett (Dourif). Dr. Loomis is now a best-selling author leading talks, discussions, and book signings all on the tragic life and effects of Michael Myers. He has become a cocky arrogant prick. It is very evident that he is now using the Laurie Strode tragedy as a way to boost book sales and not as a lesson on psychology and mental illness. Laurie finally learns the truth about her past after reading a passage in his new book.
One of the biggest problems with this sequel comes down to the character development. Zombie has stated his wanted this characters to go through change after the events of the first one. Why did Zombie’s “change” have to make them so awful? The audience should feel and care about the two leading characters of Laurie Strode and Dr. Loomis. How is that possible when they both have become such despicable characters? I did not like Scout Taylor-Compton’s portrayal as Laurie in the first movie, and it gets even worse in this one. I think it was wise to have Laurie severely disturbed and mentally unstable as that seems quite normal for someone in this position, but I just do not care about Compton’s Laurie. McDowell’s Loomis is now left as an awful human being who does not seem to care about how exploitative he is being. There is no redeeming quality about him anymore. I personally think that Donald Pleasence would be appalled at the direction they’ve taken this character in. Who is to blame? Zombie? McDowell? Danielle Harris and Brad Dourif are both back again this time as Annie and Sheriff Brackett. You may notice pre-Oscar Octavia Spencer as one of the nurses in the opening sequence. Margo Kidder makes an all too brief appearance stars as Laurie’s therapist Dr. Barbara Collier. Chase Wright Vanek now plays Young Michael Myers in the flashback moments. Apparently original actor Daeg Faerch grew too much in between each movie and it was too noticeable for the scenes they needed for the flashbacks.
I saw the film when it first came out in theaters and hated it. I thought with some time and a better appreciation of the Zombie remake, I may come to an understanding with this sequel remake. I still stand by all of my original thoughts and views. The whole movie is an all-around mess. I am not even sure where it wants to go or what story it is trying to tell. What was the point in making this sequel outside of the Zombie fan base wanting another? Many of the kills are random and pointless. I felt like Zombie did not know what to do with Michael most of the time, so he is just killing these random people that no one really even cares about. I suppose you could say that about the majority of the films in the franchise. At one point, Michael slowly saws off a guy’s neck with his knife. It just felt gratuitous and unnecessary. We also hear Michael for the first time as he is grunting and moaning during each of his kills. I prefer the silent killer Michael used to be. We also have the bizarre Young Michael/Michael’s mother/white horse aspect to the mythology. Was this Zombie’s way of giving his wife more to do in the sequel?
I grew to have an understanding and appreciation of Zombie’s remake of the first Halloween. I understood more of his choices, concepts, and ideas behind it. I wish I could say the same about this one. It received a terrible response from the critics as well as the audience base. Halloween: Resurrection sure killed off the series the first time around. Unfortunatley, Rob Zombie’s Halloween II has killed it off again. There were talks of a Halloween 3D that was completely different and without the involvement of Zombie, but it never went into production. Part of me wants another film in the franchise just to end it on a high note, but that could also lead to more sequels and more unnecessary films in this franchise.
RATING: 1/2* ( .5 out of 5 stars)
Director: Rob Zombie
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Scout Taylor-Compton, Danielle Harris, Sheri Moon Zombie, Daeg Faerch, Tyler Mane, Brad Dourif, Dee Wallace
Boy, the Myers family sure is dysfunctional. Ten year old Michael (Faerch) kills his pet mouse while his mom Deborah (Zombie) and her boyfriend Ronnie are having a massive fight in the kitchen. At school that day, Michael gets bullied in the bathroom and later gets his revenge by killing the boy in the park. The day doesn’t get any better for Michael. It is Halloween night and he has no one to go trick-or-treating with. His mother is at work at the strip club, the boyfriend is passed out on his chair, and his sister Judith is upstairs with her boyfriend. The body count for the day does not stop at the bully as he brutally kills Ronnie, Judith, and Judith’s boyfriend. His mother arrives home to find the massacre and that he spared the life of his baby sister “Boo.” Dr. Sam Loomis (McDowell) is appointed to his care as he spends time at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. He spends many years working with Michael who does not seem to be progressing. He remains silent and spends his time making masks.
Fifteen years pass and it is Halloween night in Haddonfield, and Laurie Strode is sent to drop something off at the old haunted Myers house for her father who is the realtor. What she doesn’t know is that Michael (Mane) has escaped after all these years and has returned home. Later that day after school, she and friends Annie (Harris) and Lynda discuss their plans for the evening which involve babysitting and screwing around. What they don’t know is that a bloodbath of epic proportions will change their lives forever.
What you will notice pretty quickly is that Zombie takes a VERY different approach to this story. For a horror remake, it takes what we know from the original contemporizes it, adds more back story, and retains the original story. The first hour is more of a prequel as we go back to see the psychological aspect behind Michael and how he became evil. The second half is the Laurie Strode story we all know and love. It is shocking, gruesome, edgy, and frightening in a very different way than the original. Zombie wanted each act to have very different camera shots, filmed with different styles and levels. When you watch it closely, you can watch the shifts in tone and feel the change between the acts.
Zombie tries to humanize Michael more than what we received in the original. His family life and time at Smith’s Grove delve deeper into his psyche and his fascination with masks is explored. The secret behind why Michael is after Laurie is revealed in this one. Zombie probably didn’t anticipate he would go on to make a sequel so he probably felt the need to tell the whole story in this one movie. Zombie is smart enough to know he needs to keep certain lines of dialogue, actions, and camera shots the same as the original to appease the fans. Some of it is a bit more subtle and may only be noticed by people that know the original backwards and forwards like I do. Much of the original John Carpenter score is kept as well with some additional music by composer Tyler Bates. I would have been livid if Zombie ignored that masterful score for a brand new track.
The casting and take on these iconic characters is important. Danielle Harris and Kristina Klebe excel at taking the characters of Annie and Lynda in a different direction to fit the teenage girls of this setting and time period. I do not appreciate Scout Taylor-Compton’s take on Laurie. She is not wholesome and innocent enough. She could have still kept those qualities while fitting her into a modern day Laurie. I have also overheard her in interviews talk about her approach to the character and try to claim her Laurie Strode is better than Jamie Lee Curtis’. Tisk Tisk Tisk. How dare she try to upstage the original Scream Queen. The overall casting of the supporting characters is pretty great with Malcolm McDowell, Dee Wallace, and Brad Dourif who are all legends in the genre. Mane and Zombie attempt to bring back who Michael is as a person and as a villain to make him scary again. Throughout the series, Michael lost the humanity and frightening aspect of himself. Most of the time he has just been an actor in a mask walking around with a butcher knife.
Can a die-hard fan of the original like this new take with a Rob Zombie twist? Possibly. I must admit that the first time I watched it, I was appalled. I thought Zombie was ruining what was so special and haunting about the original. One of the scary elements was that you had no context for why a six-year-old would kill his sister. The filmmaking was done on a very low budget, so there were no gory special effects or unrealistic kills. The camera work and lighting were executed precisely, oftentimes done minimally, adding to the suspense. Zombie basically throws all of that out the window. The majority of the movie is very rough, graphic, vulgar, and in your face. I have seen it a few times now and with each time I try to view it on its own merit without trying to compare it to the original. Shockingly enough, I have come to appreciate it. I do not love it, nor is it perfect. The film is way too long with some unneeded scenes and an ending that goes on for far too long. It has received some very harsh criticism which I completely understand. It is not a movie that will appeal to the masses nor will it appeal to everyone who loves the horror genre.
In regards to the concept of horror remakes, I really do not think there is ever a need. Many of these horror films are classics for a reason, so why bother remaking them? So many of them are horrible retreads where they just feel like a paint by numbers approach. I give Zombie some credit for actually doing something different with the story, while honoring the original by keeping some vital moments, lines, and camera work in tact. After watching the whole franchise, I actually think this Halloween is better than some of the other sequels and entries in the franchise.
RATING: *** (3 out of 5 stars)
HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION (2002)
Director: Rick Rosenthal
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Busta Rhymes, Tyra Banks, Brad Loree, Bianca Kajlich, Sean Patrick Thomas, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Katee Sackhoff
Rick Rosenthal is back to the series after having directed Halloween II. The eighth film in the franchise picks up a couple years after the night Michael Myers was reunited with his sister Laurie Strode (Curtis). She is now staying in a psychiatric care facility. It turns out the man that Laurie beheaded at the end of Halloween H20 was not Michael. Laurie is now silent and only stares out the window. The orderlies believe she is a suicide risk. Michael (Loree) has tracked Laurie down at the facility and is now back to kill her off once and for all.
Back in Haddonfield, the old Myers house is now the subject of a new reality web event produced by Dangertainment. Its creator Freddie (Rhymes) and his assistant Nora (Banks) hope to unleash some new terror in the house, uncover some old secrets, and bring a new audience to the Myers legend. The web event is naturally being shown on Halloween night. Six college students are selected to be a part of the project. Smarty pants Sara (Kajlich) gets spooked quite easily and almost drops out. Her friend Jen (Sackhoff) is looking to become famous after this. There are numerous cameras planted throughout the house and each of the participants will wear head cameras to capture every move. The viewers can then decide which camera they want to watch. Michael comes back and I bet you can guess what happens next to the people using his old home for entertainment purposes. Sara’s cyber friend Deckard (Ryan Merriman) watches from a Halloween party and soon the whole party is watching and can’t figure out if what they are watching is all fake for the cameras or real.
The Myers house has definitely gone through inconsistencies throughout the series. The fifth film uses a completely different style for the house. In the sixth film, it is completely renovated and remodeled for the new Strode family who was living there. The production designers decided to go back to the run down idea for this film, which I prefer. The house hasn’t been lived in for decades and is covered dust, cobwebs, creeky wooden panels, dilapidated walls. The design team does a pretty decent job at recreating it based on the look and layout of the house used in the original.
One of the reasons why they are checking out the house is to find clues about why Michael went crazy. Apparently they are ignoring all of the Thorn/Man in Black storyline that was a part of the fifth and sixth entries. Outside of Laurie Strode and the house, there are no other connections to any other plotline or story from the series. Part of the main overarching concept was that Michael was always going after a family member and the people in their lives. After he kills Laurie, there are no more family members or relatives for him to attack. Her son John is not mentioned at all.
All of this just adds to the fact that this eighth entry feels very unnecessary. It does not really enhance the franchise or take it into a new direction. Halloween H20 could have been a great way to end the franchise if this film hadn’t been made. The film is only eleven years old is already feels very dated. We also learn that Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks should stick to other projects.
RATING: * (1 out of 5 stars)
HALLOWEEN H20: 20 YEARS LATER
Director: Steve Miner
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Josh Hartnett, Adam Arkin, Michelle Williams, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Adam Hann-Byrd, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, LL Cool J
Like the title suggests, twenty years have passed since that fateful night where masked killer Michael Myers went on a killing rampage involving some babysitters, nurses, doctors, and other innocent bystanders as he made his way toward Laurie Strode (Curtis). She has since survived and is now living under the new identity of Keri Tate, the headmistress of Hillcrest Academy High School in California. The nightmares haven’t stopped as she knows Michael is still out there. The only person that knows her past is her son, John (Hartnett). He is desperate for her to move on and not let the thought of Michael’s return ruin their lives any longer. Even her boyfriend Will (Arkin) is unaware of that night. To top it off, Laurie has been hitting the bottle and popping the pills. Can you blame her? I would be severely messed up if I was the target of someone’s butcher knife.
John, his girlfriend Molly (Williams), and their friends duck out of a trip to Yosemite National Park to roam the school grounds on Halloween night to fool around and have a night to themselves. Laurie believes they are on the trip after John begged and pleaded to go. What a sneaky move on his part. Leave it to maternal instincts for Laurie to realize John never made it to Yosemite. She and Will head to Hillcrest in order to find John and Molly only to come face to face with Michael for the first time in twenty years.
The horror genre was going through a resurgence at this time with the release of Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and The Faculty. Even though it was the twentieth anniversary of Halloween, this new found love of the genre must have played a part in the studio wanting to make another Halloween film after the sixth one bombed. Kevin Williamson was in high demand at the time and came in to write a treatment of the script. Some of his ideas were still used in the movie. His treatment is floating around the internet, but who knows if you can trust if it is his or not. He is a great writer and I am curious to see what his film would have turned out like.
I and many other fans rejoiced as Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis made her return to the role that made her famous. She has stated it was her idea originally to get the ball rolling on making this film a reality. She knew the anniversary was coming up and wanted to see what Laurie Strode was like after all these years. If you remember correctly from Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, it was stated that Laurie Strode died in car accident. That is justified here when she admits to faking her death to go into hiding. That is the only factoid and storyline from films 4, 5, and 6 that is referenced in H20. The writers purposefully chose to ignore that timeline, and there is no mention of Laurie’s daughter Jamie who was one of Michael’s previous targets. The film also marks the return of Nancy Stephens as Nurse Marion Chambers who also appeared in the first and second movies. She acts as the catalyst on how Michael was able to track Laurie down in hiding. Even though Donald Pleasance had passed away by the time they made this, there are newspaper and audio clips of his character Sam Loomis from the first film. Horror icon and Jamie Lee’s mom Janet Leigh appears in one of her last big screen roles as Norma who also works at Hillcrest. Miner and screenwriters Robert Zappia and Matt Greenberg have fun with this as they drop little odes to Psycho in regards to her character. You may also notice that Hartnett’s character was named after series creator John Carpenter.
No other film in this series could ever top the original, but Halloween H20: 20 Years Later is the next best one in the series. Yes, it is missing the John Carpenter/Debra Hill touch. Director Steve Miner has experience with horror having director Parts 2 and 3 of the Friday the 13th series. He is able to bring some good scares and shocking moments to the movie. I have yet to really talk about the infamous Michael Myers mask throughout the retrospective. The mask can sometimes make or break the character, and the mask here is pretty plain and simple. I wish they would have taken more time in developing the subtle nuances it can have. The film boasts a pretty great cast with series regulars like Curtis and Stephens, horror icon Janet Leigh, and young stars Michelle Williams, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Josh Hartnett. They are all smart actors that were actually given decent characters. No obnoxious whiny annoying teens in this one. This comes in as the shortest film in the franchise, which is somewhat of a bummer as the movie is pretty good. I would not have minded another ten or fifteen additional minutes. I oftentimes find myself going back and re-watching this one over any of the other sequels.
RATING: **** (4 out of 5 stars)
HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1995)
Director: Joe Chapelle
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Paul Rudd, Marianne Hagan, Bradford English, Mitchell Ryan, J.C. Brandy, George P. Wilbur
Michael Myers and his niece Jamie Lloyd (now played by J.C. Brandy) have disappeared after the events that ended the fifth film. She has been captured and impregnated by the Man in the Black and is being kept underground in his cultish layer. After giving birth, the baby is marked with the Thorn symbol that Michael and the Man in Black had on them. She is able to escape with her baby, and calls in to the radio station to get word out that Michael is still around. A retired Dr. Loomis (Pleasence) and Tommy Doyle (now played by Paul Rudd) hear her plea and know he is still out there. Tommy was the child Laurie Strode was babysitting in the first one. He is now living in a boarding house in Haddonfield and is obsessed with finding Michael. His bedroom walls are covered in newspaper clippings relating to all things about Michael’s reign of terror. Michael kills Jamie once and for all but her baby was kept hidden.
Relatives of Laurie are now living in the old Myers house. Dr. Loomis heads back to Haddonfield to warn the Strodes that he may be back looking for the baby. The eldest daughter Kara (Hagan) is now living back at the house with her parents and six year old son Danny. Danny seems to have a sixth sense about Michael and the curse of Thorn. Tommy informs Kara about the history of the Myers house and how he believes Michael’s spree of terror is all linked to the curse of Thorn, which is why he is back again tonight.
How does the Strode family not know the history of the house? Kara’s dad seems to be the only one who knows as his brother was Laurie’s dad who sold him the house, but none of the rest of the family are aware of the history. They all live in the Myers house and are relative of Laurie Strode, yet no neighbor or someone from the Haddonfield community never made reference to those tragic events all these years ago. I find that hard to believe.
The film delves deep into the history of the curse of Thorn and gives more insight into how the Man in Black is involved. We got introduced to this concept in the fifth film, but it was never fully explained. I understand the idea of taking the story in a new direction to keep the franchise going, but I have never been a fan of the Thorn/Man in Black/cult aspect to the history of Michael Myers.
The film brings back some familiar faces and characters. George P. Wilbur who played Michael in the fourth film is back to play him again. He is the only actor to play him twice which is unfortunate as he is also my least favorite actor to play him. This film also marks the last appearance of Donald Pleasence as Dr. Sam Loomis. He died shortly after principal photography wrapped. Even though the credits state “Introducing Paul Stephen Rudd”, this was his second movie he appeared in. Clueless was released earlier in 1995. He takes over the role of Tommy Doyle who was played Brian Andrews in the original movie. Danielle Harris decided to turn down the chance to appear as Jamie Lloyd again. Apparently, there was a money dispute.
The film is just a mess overall. It is widely known that there are various versions of the movie floating around. Most notable is a “Producer’s Cut” that is quite different than the theatrical cut and includes an alternate ending. That version is not available commercially, but recently there was a screening of it held in Los Angeles that received a positive response. I would love to see it some day, so I hope it gets a blu-ray release. I originally regarded Halloween III: Season of the Witch as the worst of the the series, but even Paul Rudd can’t save this dreck.
RATING: * (1 out of 5 stars)
HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1989)
Director: Dominique Othenin-Girard
Starring: Donald Pleasance, Danielle Harris, Ellie Cornell, Beau Starr, Wendy Kaplan
“I prayed that he would burn in hell, but I knew that hell would not have him.”
Much like how Halloween II picked up with the ending of the first one, the fifth entry in the series picks up toward the end of the fourth film as we see Michael Myers being shot down a mine shaft. Despite Dr. Loomis (Pleasance) telling everyone he was dead, we should all know better than that. He slips out another exit of the shaft and floats down the creek.
One year passes for our characters; Jamie Lloyd (Harris) is now spending time in the Children’s Clinic in Haddonfield due to the incidence that occurred at the end of the fourth film. The psychological effects Michael (Shanks) has had on her had left her mute as well as possessing some sort of psychic connection to him. She has her bad days as she suffers from the continual nightmares, shakes, and sweats, but she does have her good days full of huge smiles. Her only way of communicating is by minimal sign language and leaving messages and drawings. Dr. Loomis has overseen her recovery and knows due to her recent attacks that Michael must be back.
This film also marks the first appearance of The Man in Black. He is a mysterious stranger that arrives in Haddonfield that has some connection to Myers. He has a symbol tattooed on his arm and heads to the old Myers house. Fans of the franchise will notice they use a completely different house that looks nothing like the Myers house used in previous films. The concept and introduction of The Man in Black is poorly executed here. He makes a brief appearance in the middle of the movie and then comes back at the very ending. There is no real thorough explanation or reason why he appears in this movie. It really makes no sense until you watch the sixth movie. What would have happened if that never got made?
I criticized the second and fourth movies for having poor character development compared to the first movie. Maybe I should have considered myself lucky. We are introduced to more of Rachel’s (Cornell) friends including Tina (Kaplan) and some other truly obnoxious and annoying friends. Rachel is a smart character, so why is she friends with these idiots? You actually look forward and hope the Michael kills them off. Is that wrong of me to say?
Kudos to the make-up department for making Donald Pleasance burn make-up look far better than it did in the fourth movie. His character Dr. Loomis is getting more and more gruff and cranky with each movie. I actually think he gets a bit too rough with Jamie when he pleads for information out of her. He later goes so far as to use her as bait to trap him.
This is the only movie in the franchise that I have mixed feelings about. For being the fifth in a series, it really has some positive aspects to it. Don Shanks is one of the better actors to don the Myers mask and jumpsuit. The death scenes are getting far more gruesome and violent with each passing movie which makes it a bit more frightening at times. According Don Shanks in the audio commentary, the movie originally received an X-Rating due to the graphic nature of the kills. The stakes are higher for Dr. Loomis and Jamie which elevates the desperation and fear they each have of Michael. The camera work and over all film making is better here than in the fourth movie. My focus starts to veer and my patience wears thin with The Man in Black twist. They were probably trying to think of ways to continue the story or take it in a new direction, but they were not quite sure how to carry it out. The idea of a traumatized Jamie Lloyd in the hospital is all too reminiscent of Halloween II which feels like a cop out. You really need to watch 4 and 5 together, but 5 is the better movie.
RATING: ** 1/2 (2.5 out of 5 stars)
HALLOWEEN 4 THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS (1988)
Director: Dwight H. Little
Starring: Ellie Cornell, Danielle Harris, Donald Pleasance, Michael Patki, George P. Wilbur, Kathleen Kinmont
“Jesus ain’t got nothing to do with this place.”
Michael Myers has survived the explosion that happened ten years ago. As he is being transferred back to Smith’s Grove, he kills the medical personnel in the ambulance and escapes. Michael’s old psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis (Pleasance), is made aware of his escape and tries to warn the police of his return to Haddonfield. Why would they believe him? Michael’s been in a coma for years and Dr. Loomis is just a crazy old man.
Seven year old Jamie Lloyd (Harris) is his only surviving relative. Her mother Laurie Strode died in a car accident eleven months prior and has since been adopted by the Carruthers family. She cannot escape her mother’s past as she continually has visions and nightmares about Michael. Even the other kids at school poke fun and tease her about how the boogeyman is her uncle. On Halloween night, her older foster sister Rachel (Cornell) is stuck taking her babysitting when their parents leave for the night. Dr. Loomis has returned to Haddonfield and realizes that the evil has returned. His intuition is correct that Jamie is Michael’s next target.
Due to an impending writers strike producer Moustapha Akkad wanted the script to be finished in a quick time period. Director Dwight H. Little brought in his collaborator Alan B. McElroy to crank out a script quickly before the strike kicked in. Little and McElroy paid close attention to the continuity in the Michael Myers storyline and the time period. We see the effects of the ending of the second film on Dr. Loomis and Michael as well as the mention of what happens to the Laurie Strode character. It is fantastic to have Donald Pleasance back to the series. You just need to get passed the poor burn make-up job on his face. Yes, it may have been an easy choice to have Michael target another family member but that is part of the character. I wish more attention would have been given on the supporting characters. They come across a bit generic and obvious. The character of Rachel is similar to Laurie and she has the slutty friends just like Laurie did. Even the gang of bar patrons that want to take matters into their own hands are a bit laughable.
The film was not shot on the same Pasadena streets as the first film, but they were able to pull off the Midwestern neighborhood feel of Haddonfield quite well even though it was shot in Salt Lake City. I think the feel of the neighborhood is vital to the story, so the continuity in tone and feel continues there as well. The very ending is definitely an homage to the first film. I do not want to give too much away but the filming harkens back to the Dean Cundey camera work that sets up the first film and we get to hear the infamous John Carpenter score. I wish we could have used more of this style throughout the film.
One of my biggest problems with the movie is the lighting. One of Michael’s victims is thrown into the power grid and the whole town loses its power. The majority of the film is very dark and in turn poorly lit. The majority of the interior shots are lit by fire places, candles, and kerosene lamps which do not provide ample lighting. It was obviously a specific choice as an attempt to make the film scarier. In turn, it just fizzles out as I find it just makes the action harder to see.
Like the title suggests, the film provides a good return to the story of Michael Myers after the side step that was Halloween III: Season of the Witch which veered terribly off track. The overall concepts and focus on continuity help the film from being just your standard horror sequel schlock. To non-fans of the series, I am sure they still consider it pure crap. The main problem is that the film is just not that scary. There are some directorial choices that lack suspense. George P. Wilbur, who plays Michael Myers, is missing the physicality of giving the haunting and eerie feel of Myers. Even though he wears a mask and jumpsuit, there is still specific way to play that character. The actor has to be more than just this looming figure that kills people. True fans of the series, like me, can find an appreciation for this fourth entry, but it will not win over any newbies to the series.
RATING: ** 1/2 (2.5 out of 5 stars)
HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (1982)
Director/Writer: Tommy Lee Wallace
Starring: Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O’Herlihy, Nancy Kyes
A.K.A. The Halloween movie without Michael Myers. WHAAAAAATTTTTTT??? I’ll get to that in a bit.
A deranged man clutching a Halloween mask announces “They’re coming. They’re coming” as he collapses into a gas station. The mask is from Silver Shamrock Novelties shop whose ads are running nonstop on television as a countdown to Halloween. They are quite creepy and disturbing. He is brought to the hospital where he is placed under the care of Dr. Andrew Challis (Atkins). The next string of events involving the patient put Dr. Challis on high alert.
He can’t seem to shake what happened to his patient and is also being bombarded by the Silver Shamrock masks everywhere he turns. He teams up with the man’s daughter Ellie (Nelkin) to trace the steps leading up to his death. This brings them to Santa Mira, California where the masks are manufactured. The town has that eerie feeling where everyone seems to look a bit odd, they stare at you when you arrive, and believe you are up to no good. He finds out the town and the factory are under the control of Conal Cochran (O’Herlihy). They grow even more suspicious after the death of a hotel guest. What they don’t know is that her death was caused by one of the masks. A group of Cochran’s men pick her body up and take her to the Silver Shamrock factory. Inside the factory lies a nightmare that Challis and Ellie could not have imagined.
Like I previously mentioned, this is not a continuation of the Michael Myers storyline. No Michael, Laurie Strode, or Dr. Loomis will be found. John Carptener and Debra Hill thought a different type of story/nightmare involving Halloween night would be fun. They thought if the movie did well they would release a different type of Halloween themed movie each year. Hill envisioned something involving witchcraft and the computer era would be an interesting concept. She brought in Tommy Lee Wallace who was involved with the first film to direct the movie. Wallace is credited as the sole screenwriter but that is only partially accurate. Writer Nigel Kneale wrote the first draft of the script but wanted his name taken off of the film. Carpenter and Wallace went on to do numerous rewrites. Many others behind the first two films decided to come back as well. Dean Cundey returned as director of photography. Irwin Yablans and Moustapha Akkad are credited as executive producers. Yablans acknowledges he had no involvement in the movie despite his name being in the credits. He thought it was a terrible choice to deviate from the Michael Myers storyline. You may notice a few other connections to the first movie. Nancy Kyes who plays the wife to Dr. Challis played Annie in the first one. Halloween can be seen on TV when Dr. Challis is at the bar flipping channels as well as later in the movie.
The story has some interesting concepts that give it some potential. Like how we saw with Michael Myers, masks can be creepy. Movies with small town conspiracies can be frightening. However, I am not sure if I would claim that this is overly scary. It does have its cringe worthy moments and gruesome deaths. I was definitely squirming in my seat at one point. I’m warning you now if you have a fear of snakes like I do. Ick. The overall execution of the story and some of the reveals take it to a hokey and silly level, which really bring down the quality of the film. The Silver Shamrock commercial set to the tune of “London Bridge is Falling Down” will get stuck in your head and you may forever think of this when you hear that melody.
Many disregard this film and do not typically associate it with the franchise as it is missing the Michael Myers storyline. I do wonder if it were to have dropped “Halloween” from its title if it would have faired better or even worse. I think many people probably saw this picture in the first place due to the Halloween name. Would as many people have seen it at all if it had been named “Season of the Witch”? Would people enjoy it better if it wasn’t associated with the franchise? Does the lack of Michael completely kill this movie from any sort of warm response? I think it would take numerous viewings and a very clear mental disconnect to the franchise in order to really appreciate this third one.
RATING: * 1/2 (1.5 out of 5 stars)
Director: Rick Rosenthal
Written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance, Charles Cyphers, Pamela Susan Shoop, Dick Warlock
Even though it was released three years after the first film, the story picks up toward the ending of the first film when Laurie Strode tells Lindsay and Tommy to go get help at the McKenzie’s house. Despite being shot numerous times by Dr. Sam Loomis (Pleasance), Michael Myers (Warlock) has survived and is “on the loose”. The infamous John Carpenter score takes over as the opening credits roll. Laurie has survived the horror after being stabbed in the chest by Michael and is being taken to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital. Try not to roll your eyes too much at the very obvious wig Jamie Lee Curtis is now wearing.
News breaks that numerous teens have been murdered in Haddonfield, and the town goes on high alert. Dr. Loomis and Sheriff Brackett (Cyphers) take to the streets to continue their search for Michael. Blame is quickly put on Dr. Loomis as Michael was his patient and is now missing. No one knows what Michael looks like and with his mask on, he blends in with every other person walking the streets. You would think his creepy head tilts and slow walk would scare some people. Michael heads toward the hospital to continue his attack on Laurie.
These first two Halloween films are not just about Laurie Strode as a victim, but also focuses on Dr. Loomis and his relationship with Michael. Both the first film and now the sequel pay close attention to the relationship Michael has with both of these people. If you have never seen the first one, it accomplishes the obligatory recapping of the events and details of who Michael Myers is and what happened when he was a little boy. Horror sequels sometimes become origin stories and sometimes hidden truths about a killer get revealed. Halloween II takes a deeper look into history of Michael Myers and answers the question of why he is after Laurie Strode. I am obviously not going to reveal that here!
Director Rick Rosenthal, with help of Hill and Carpenter, tries to make the sequel have the style and feel of the first Halloween. Some of that attempt works well while some of the other approaches to the sequel really miss the boat and ignore what made the first film so eerie and haunting. Some of the earlier scenes are shot through the eyes of Michael Myers, which is how the first film starts and gives us the unique “through the killers eyes” perspective. The deaths are far more gruesome as he uses more than just his butcher knife on his victims. Michael adds hospital tools to his repertoire of killing devices. I personally think he should just stick to his large kitchen knife. It’s his signature weapon!
The script just is not up to par with the original. Debra Hill wrote some fantastic dialogue in the first film for all of the supporting players making those characters memorable. Much of that is missing here and we are reduced down to numerous hospital workers as supporting players which makes each death less personal. Even Jamie Lee Curtis is left mostly mute and traumatized without much to do except hobble around the hospital. She does a fantastic job, don’t get me wrong.
I remember watching Halloween II first before seeing any of the other movies in the franchise. I think I was around twelve or thirteen years old at the time. My parents never let me watch rated-R movies, let alone horror movies, at that age. I was spending the weekend at my friends Brad and Brett’s house, and they were allowed to watch those types of movies. Needless to say, I took full advantage of the situation. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do at a slumber party? We went to a haunted mansion earlier in the evening and then rented Halloween II from the video store. I cannot remember the circumstances of why we got the second one over the first one. Maybe the first one was checked out at the time. This started my never-ending love of the Halloween series. A couple of years later, I rented the first one which then cemented my continual fascination of Michael Myers.
RATING: *** (3 out of 5 stars)
Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance, P.J. Soles, Nancy Loomis, Kyle Richards, Brian Andrews, Nick Castle
“I met this six-year-old child, with this blank, pale, emotionless face and, the blackest eyes… the devil’s eyes.”
A simple score of just a couple of notes plays as the opening credits roll. The audience can start to feel the tension for the movie that is about the start. Don’t let a simple score fool you. The John Carpenter penned theme perfectly sets the mood for the opening sequence. The camera is eye level for someone’s point of view, but we do not see who this character is. He watches two teenagers run upstairs giggling as they are about to have sex. We see a hand reach into a kitchen drawer and pull out a big butcher knife. The figure continues to walk around the house and picks up a clown mask. He puts it on and now the audience has the limited vision of our figure. He proceeds to stab the teenage girl numerous times as she yells, “Michael!”. After the figure is outside and sees the parents, they lift up the mask. It is revealed that our figure is a six year old boy named Michael Myers who has just killed his sister, Judith. The night was October 31, 1963.
Fifteen years pass and on October 30, 1978 Dr. Sam Loomis (Pleasance) pulls up to check in on his patient, Michael Myers, at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. He has not spoken in these fifteen years. This night will forever change history for our tragic characters as Michael escapes Smith’s Grove. Dr. Loomis watches him escape but cannot catch him in time. He knows Michael all too well and knows he is headed back to his home of Haddonfield. Dr. Loomis tries to convince the deputies of Haddonfield that Michael is a force that cannot be taken lightly.
“You’ve got to believe me, Officer, he is coming to Haddonfield… Because I know him! I’m his doctor! You must be ready for him… If you don’t, it’s your funeral.”
The infamous Myers house has now been vacant and is on the market by Strode Realty. The realtor’s daughter, Laurie Strode (Curtis), is our heroine. Laurie and her friends Annie (Loomis) and Lynda (Soles) walk home after school on Halloween and discuss their evening plans. Laurie must spend the evening babysitting little Tommy Doyle (Andrews). Annie is babysitting across the street from the Doyle’s for Lindsay Wallace (Richards). Lynda is the lucky one that gets to screw around with her boyfriend. The evening starts off a little eerie for Laurie. She is convinced she sees someone by the bushes and standing in her backyard. Annie simply tells her she’s a “wacko”. There is a break-in at the hardware store and Annie’s dad, Sheriff Bracket, tells the girls that it is probably a bunch of kids screwing around on Halloween night. Laurie passes the majority of evening entertaining Tommy by carving Jack-O-Lanterns and watching scary movies on TV. As the night progresses, Tommy is determined that he sees the Boogeyman outside. Laurie tells him there is no such thing as the Boogeyman. After Annie and Lynda go missing in action, she knows someone is definitely lurking around the neighborhood.
John Carpenter was a young filmmaker right out of USC film school when he made the movie. He had his hand in every aspect of the film. Not only did he direct the movie and compose it, he co-wrote the screenplay with his then girlfriend and producing partner Debra Hill. They originally titled the screenplay “The Babysitter Murders”. He said he would make the movie with an insanely small budget of $300,000 which was actually considered too small of a budget for the time. Many actors wore their old clothing in the movie to help keep within that modest price tag. He fashioned himself like many of his heroes like Howard Hawks and Billy Wilder, so he wanted his name above the credits to prove himself to the industry. It was a pretty risky thing to ask from someone so young and inexperienced. The movie originally opened to fairly bad reviews, but audiences flocked to it. The fan base grew and grew with each week it was in theaters.
Halloween was groundbreaking for the time period and for independent movies. It paved the way for future slasher movies like Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Scream. Kevin Williamson wrote many references in his Scream screenplay to Halloween going so far as to have the characters watch the movie and the action of the movie mirror the action in Halloween. His character Billy Loomis is named after Donald Pleasance’s character. Seven sequels and two remakes came to follow over the years following Laurie Strode or her daughter Jamie Lloyd. Donald Pleasance would continue to play Dr. Loomis for Halloween II, 4, 5, and 6. Jamie Lee Curtis would return for the sequel Halloween II as well as reviving the character 20 years later in Halloween H20 and finally killing her off in Halloween: Resurrection. Rob Zombie wrote and directed both remakes that focused on the back story of Michael Myers and how he became a six-year-old killer. Don’t look for Michael in Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Carpenter and Hill wanted to tell a different type of story. The film was widely panned and Michael was brought back for each sequel after that.
I think the movie is a perfect example of the idea where “less is more” in regards to how you go about scaring the audience. Nick Castle, who plays Michael, moves very slowly and typically just tilts his head giving him very minimal emotion. You do not know why he kills his sister or why he is after Laurie. Those reasons come in the sequel. He is just this mysterious force lurking around. Laurie seems to be the only one that sees him throughout the beginning of the movie. Take notice of how little blood is actually used in the movie. Current slasher movies, including the Halloween remakes, use copious amounts of blood thinking that idea makes the movies scarier. I disagree. The movie is lit perfectly giving off the eeriness that is Michael Myers. His dark presence is always felt no matter if he is in the background or in fore front of shot especially during the nighttime sequences. Sometimes you can only see his mask or the outline of his frame. Carpenter’s minimalist score elevates the thrills. Between the opening theme or the slow tones used as he is approaching, it makes the movie even scarier. The score is one of the best horror scores since Bernard Hermann’s Psycho theme. You cannot help but think of Michael Myers whenever you hear the score.
No matter how many times I have watched Halloween, it never gets old. I am pretty sure I have watched it every Halloween season as well as numerous times throughout the year ever since I was a teenager. Along with Hocus Pocus, it is a staple and must be watched. I will even sit down and watch the many sequels. There have been numerous behind-the-scenes retrospectives made over the years when the 20th, 25th, and 30th anniversaries happened. I have seen all of those as well. The movie was restored and shown in theaters again for one night only on October 30, 2012. It was great to finally see it on the big screen for the first time. There were little touches that I hadn’t picked up on before. I was still a little tense during moments despite knowing every line of dialogue and knowing exactly when and how the kills happen.
Laurie: Was it the boogeyman?
Dr. Sam Loomis: As a matter of fact, it was.
2013 Updates regarding the 35th Anniversary Blu-Ray release:
-All new HD transfer supervised and approved by cinematographer Dean Cundey. The picture quality looks better than ever. I am so used it looking a bit grainy, so it is quite stunning in its HD state.
-Brand New Audio Commentary from John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis. Curtis and Carpenter go into quite lengthy detail about a lot of the filming process. Fans will get a kick out of the them discussing how they shot the whole beginning sequence. Curtis seems to remember so many minute details and Carpenter can really only remember the bigger aspects or things specifically related to his involvement.
-The Night She Came Home!! documentary follows Jamie Lee Curtis and other cast members as they attend a Horror Hound Halloween convention. Curtis never attends conventions but agreed to do this one as all proceeds went to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
-On Location: 25 years Later is a behind the scenes look at the making of the film and the shooting locations of many of the infamous scenes. John Carpenter and Debra Hill wanted a very natural realistic feel to the neighbor so everything was shot in real neighborhoods. Actress P.J. Soles (Linda) goes to back to these original filming locations to see what the houses, store fronts, and neighborhood look like today.
-TV Version Spots: scenes only used in the televised version of the movie. One of them is an extensive scene of Sam Loomis at Smith’s Grove Penitentiary, visiting Michael in his room, and seeing the destruction Michael had on the hospital.
-Trailer, TV & Radio Spots
RATING: ***** (5 out of 5 stars)