Halloween is almost here, and with it comes another Halloween movie. 40 years after the original, Michael Myers is back and out for blood once more.
The new movie is a series retcon, intended as a direct sequel to the original John Carpenter classic and removing all connection to any of the other sequels and reboots. So before the new movie drops and resets the canon, we at Action A Go Go decided to revisit what’s good (but mostly bad) about some of the other movies within the franchise.
HALLOWEEN (1978) by Derek Scarzella
The pulsing music. The teenagers waiting to be culled. The camera angles that force you into the perspective of a serial killer. It’s all here in this slasher classic. While many people argue about what the first true “slasher” movie may be the original Halloween, which turns 40 (!) years old this year, still feels textbook in its execution. While some aspects may feel hokey by today’s standards that is only because movie after movie has ripped off been inspired by this classic, and like all true classics it’s just a great damn movie. The tight cinematography, fantastic acting from Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance, and the manic soundtrack are all icing on a well-baked cake. If you haven’t seen this movie do yourself a favor and turn the lights out, lock the doors, and get scared by this amazing little movie that changed horror movies forever.
HALLOWEEN II by BA Thompsonator
Released three years later in 1981, Halloween 2 is a more satisfying third act climax to the first unfortunately stretched over 90 minutes.
Picking up immediately where Halloween ended, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is rushed to the hospital, while Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) hunts for a “wounded” Michael Myers, waving his gun around and yelling at anyone who doesn’t grasp the gravity of evil afoot.
Like many of the sequels in this series, the second is flawed. Laurie is still the main protagonist, but she spends most of the movie in a hospital bed and even when she wakes up, she’s barely cognizant.
Telling the story from the angle of Laurie waking up disoriented, hurt, and alone in an understaffed hospital had much potential as it would have allowed the filmmakers to focus on building suspense as Laurie tries to escape her would be psycho killer. Instead this film takes two acts to get her up and moving.
Not a bad flick overall though, especially for slasher sequels, however a 20 minute version tacked onto the first would have been much better. Even the infamous twist at the end feels like a secret the first was missing.
If you loved the original and still haven’t seen this, I’d give it a shot.
HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH by Daniel Tayag
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (dir. Tommy Lee Wallace) is one weird little piece of cinematic schlock. It was originally conceived as the start of a new direction for the franchise after the death (heh) of Michael Myers in part II. However, a poor showing at the box office set the series back on the straight and narrow and relegated this movie to being singularly remembered as “The one without Michael Myers in it”.
But is it a bad film?
It is perhaps a bad entry in the series and I wouldn’t call it a good movie in the traditional sense owing to spotty writing and some hamtastic acting. That said, I can’t sit here and tell you that it isn’t entertaining. Witches, human sacrifices, evil corporations, deadly masks, subliminal messages, a murder mystery, robots – This movie throws a lot at the wall and some of it actually does stick. There are even a couple of decent slasher movie-style kills and in one particularly grotesque scene, a kids’ head dissolves into snakes and insects. If this is sounding like a pretty decent Halloween party flick in the same vein as Troll 2 or Killer Klowns from Outer Space, then we are in complete agreement.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch could possibly be the worst Halloween movie, but as a celebration of the holiday? You could do worse.
HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS by Sy Shackleford
I first viewed Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers in 1989 after seeing it repeatedly advertised on Pay-Per-View. Though it was the fourth entry in the Halloween series, it was the first one I viewed all the way through. At the age of six, I wasn’t entirely moved by the formulaic conventions of most of the horror films from the 1980s: Ominous music, teenage sexual promiscuity, cheesy special effects, a seemingly unstoppable evil, and copious amounts of gore and mutilation. Halloween 4 takes place a decade after the events of Halloween II (1981), revealing the mute, knife-wielding juggernaut that is Michael Myers to be alive and ready to return to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois and resume his familicidal killing spree. His new target? His own niece, ten-year-old Jamie Lloyd (played by Danielle Harris in her debut role), the daughter of Laurie Strode. Donald Pleasence reprises his role as Dr. Samuel Loomis, burned and crippled from the events in the second film and more determined than ever to take Michael Myers behind the woodshed and put him down for good.
Halloween 4 ranks as one of my least favorite entries in the franchise. Like most ’80s horror sequels, it attempts to emulate the suspense and mystery of the original, only to fall flat. The best part of the film was Danielle Harris. She earned her scream queen title in her debut role and the film’s final image of her dressed in a clown Halloween costume holding a bloody sharp object (mirroring Michael Myers’ six-year-old self in the original film) is the most memorable and haunting part.
HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS by Zak Santucci
1989’s Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers is so transparently a cash-in that it’s upsetting right off the bat. Halloween 4 has a kind of dumb, but admirably dark ending that could have been a really cool end to the series. But the filmmakers here (despite the returning actors, none of the creative minds behind the scenes returned) throw all that away. Apparently after riddling Myers with bullets and watching him fall down a mine shaft, nobody thought to look for the body of a hulking force who has cheated death twice already. And after watching her foster sister stab their mother a year prior, Rachel (Ellie Cornell) is skipping around like Mary Poppins in the beginning of this film. Director Dominique Othenin-Girard’s idea of adding tension is a camera that feels like it’s tied to a skateboard, 6 consecutive fake scares, and some guy in a hat lurking in the background of a couple scenes. Sure, Halloween 4 isn’t good, but at least it feels like someone aping a Halloween movie.
The year before Halloween 5 came out was the beginning of the end of the formulaic slasher horror subgenre. Supernatural movies like Child’s Play and The Serpent and the Rainbow had easily outgrossed Myers. Freddy was eating souls as pizza toppings and Jason was fighting a telekinetic teen. In fact, almost directly in response to Friday the 13th: The New Blood, Halloween 5 features a barely relevant psychic connection between Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris) and Myers. Hell, while Myers was artlessly retreading slasher tropes, Freddy and Jason were taking their last gasps of relevance with freaking Nintendo games.
HALLOWEEN H20: 20 YEARS LATER by Angela Night
HALLOWEEN (2007) by Troy-Jeffrey Allen
There are certain rules to horror films. At least, that’s what Kevin Williamson’s Scream indoctrinated an entire generation into believing. So why is it that Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake of Halloween is so disinterested in the “rules?” Because it opts to be cruel instead of clever. Because it uses a narrative chainsaw instead of a kitchen knife. In the process, it screws up what used to be the horror genre’s most essential rule: The scariest thing a movie audience can experience is what they don’t see, even in the splatter-happy slasher subgenre.
In this Halloween, we get an explanation for EVERYTHING that makes Michael Myers MICHAEL MYERS. We receive a backstory for why he kills babysitters, we see the exact moment that he opts to don that repurposed William Shatner mask, we are forced to sit through a clumsily directed rape scene that explains how Myers escaped the mental hospital…we even get the origin story for Dr. Loomis’ pistol. It’s all given additional, needless detail here. Which only proves how much more resourceful and effective the 1978 film was with its limited budget, greater sense of urgency, and shorter runtime.
This is not a complete list. Missing entries include the sixth sequel in the original franchise Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, notable only for being the first starring role of Paul Rudd and the last movie that Donald Pleasence made before he passed away. There’s also Halloween: Resurrection, the sequel to H20, which you should only watch if you’ve ever wondered what Busta Rhymes shouting obscenities at Micheal Myers while badly executing kung fu moves would look like (answer? confusing) Last but not least there’s Halloween II (2009) the sequel to the Rob Zombie 2007 remake, which takes all the things you’d expect from a Rob Zombie movie and dumps them into a My Chemical Romance music video. Even the presence of Malcolm McDowell and Brad Dourif can’t save it.
It’s a testament to John Carpenter as a storyteller that a relatively simple story about an escaped mental patient who stalks and murders some babysitters has been such an enduring presence in pop culture. Slasher movies are a trashy subgenre of horror, crude and inelegant cousin to the more intellectual psychological horror of movies like The Shining and The Silence Of The Lambs. And yet, the concept of the slasher movie endures, periodically resurrected to return to the forefront of public consciousness. Perhaps this is because good slasher movies are just so much fun to watch, consisting of the same build up of tension and subsequent adrenaline release as riding a roller coaster. Halloween, and Halloween, approaches. Are we once again ready to embrace Michael Myers? Is 2018 the year to make slasher movies great again? Maybe not, but one thing is for sure. Jamie Lee Curtis on our screens and ready to kick ass is ALWAYS welcome.