A Cinefessions Series Review is a periodic column that sees one or more writers watching and reviewing an entire film series. Cinefessions considers any film franchise that has two or more films a series, and thus available for review in this column. This is a way to get a quick look at an entire collection of films in one column. Today, as a final celebration of our favorite horror film series during the 13 Days of Halloween, Chris revisits the man that terrifies him: Michael Myers and the Halloween series.
It’s that time of year where I like to settle in for the night and watch a scary movie. I have my own personal favorites I try and watch every year, like Scream and Rocky Horror Picture Show. Not only that, but I am more of a Friday the 13th fan than an Elm Street or Halloween guy. However, I just had to buy the Halloween Complete Blu-ray Collection from Scream Factory so I could see the much talked about Producer’s Cut of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. For my viewing pleasure, I made sure to watch every film in the order of release, and to watch and review both versions of Curse of Michael Myers because they feel like two different films. Without further adieu, let the bloodbath commence!
Halloween (1978, dir. John Carpenter)
Halloween isn’t my favorite of the Big Three™. I prefer Jason to Michael, but that doesn’t mean that Halloween isn’t the scarier film. Ever since I was a kid, Michael Myers has scared the living hell out of me. I couldn’t stand seeing his mask anywhere, and it always gave me nightmares. I remember seeing one of the middle films in the theatre with my mom and having to walk out and play The Simpsons arcade game because it scared me that badly. By today’s standards, these films aren’t really that scary, and the “jump scares” don’t exist.
Halloween works because the score is freaking fantastic. Michael’s theme is haunting, and the way Carpenter teases us for almost a full hour, with little bits and pieces, makes the film feel like a slow burn thriller. Then, the final thirty minutes come blazing in, and the calm and cold presence of Michael makes every shot haunting.
Everything that Carpenter is able to do here is amazing with the small budget he had, most of which went to the salary of Donald Pleasence. The script isn’t deep, but delivers likable characters, and gave us Jamie Lee Curtis, an instant Scream Queen. While Halloween isn’t the first film of its sub-genre, it’s the first to really give slashers a kick-start in the late ‘70s.
My favorite scene is the death in the car. I love how she realizes that the fog on the windows is on the inside, and then it’s all over from there. Such a subtle touch like that makes the film believable. There are other great scenes – ghost sheet, the closet, and a few others – but the car scene is also where things start to turn serious after so much teasing.
Halloween II (1981, dir. Rick Rosenthal)
Taking place directly after the first film, Halloween II opens with Laurie heading to the hospital to be checked out after the ordeal she went through in the first film. Too bad Michael isn’t really dead, but due to a red herring, both the police and Dr. Loomis are thrown off his trail, and think Laurie is safe.
I always liked the idea of Halloween II, and even after this viewing, I am going to have to say I prefer Zombie’s sequel. Both are drastically different, but I enjoy the broken Laurie over the drugged up, hospital Laurie. What really makes this film stand out is the final half hour. The sheer tension, slow walking, and fear. There’s a scene where Michael just walks through a glass door. It screams, “I’m a badass, and you are going to die!” However, it does get tiresome watching the drugged Laurie stumble around and somehow avoid Michael, while perfectly healthy people are killed in mere seconds.
There’s nudity and lots of gore, and my favorite kill is the first one. The look in Michael’s eyes as he plunges the knife in, and then the blood splatter, is fantastic. I also enjoy the score in this one as well. While not as strong as the original film, Halloween II is a solid follow-up, and has a pretty solid ending to Laurie’s story.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982, dir. Tommy Lee Wallace)
I haven’t seen this film in ages, but it’s obviously the one Halloween film I can watch and not get scared shitless by since Michael Myers isn’t in it. Wait, scratch that. There’s a scene where a trailer for Halloween plays, thus throwing Michael into this entry in a not-so-subtle way. Yeah, it broke the third wall for me a little, but after some thought, it was a nice throwback in what is otherwise not a Halloween film.
I grew up reading the Goosebumps book series by R.L. Stine. One of my favorites, and I’m sure it’s most people’s favorites, is The Haunted Mask. It tells the story of a girl who wants to scare her friends, so she finds a really scary mask. Sadly, the mask is alive, and takes control of her.
Halloween III is the clear basis of Stine’s plot. The Silver Shamrock Company is making lots of masks for kids to wear, but when the commercial airs on Halloween night, it synchs with the mask, and kills the child. It’s rather twisted, and we get a test subject scene that is really just gross (why did it have to be snakes?!).
It’s hard to imagine that a film I hated years ago, is now one I can find immensely enjoyable today. Season of the Witch hits all the right marks if you’re not looking for a typical Halloween film. The cast is rather campy, and the plot is silly in the only way the ‘80s knows.
If you change the title of the film you could easily have a cult classic here. It’s a bit cheesy, it’s definitely silly, and it has friggin’ robots! The ending feels a bit abrupt, but overall, I can’t help but find the film enjoyable on the B-movie scale. Oh, and the music is fantastic, which has become a staple for the Halloween series. That Silver Shamrock jingle is definitely an ear worm.
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988, dir. Dwight H. Little)
How does one recover from Halloween III, which was a flop and hated by fans? You bring Michael Meyers back into the picture, and make a little girl his next victim.
Instead of trying something new, they decide to rehash the original film’s plot, but use a six-year-old girl instead of a teenager. As the film starts, our young lass has a nightmare where multiple Michaels show up in her room. I uttered an “oh, hell no”, due mainly to how much he creeps me out.
From there, Dr. Loomis is clearly right on Michael’s tail, and we get this super cheesy scene at a gas station where the film’s entire budget is blown out the window for an explosion.
What I find interesting – and I’m not sure if it’s ever covered – but Michael is never close to killing Dr. Loomis. It’s as if Michael goes out of his way not to harm him. Yes, he has attacked him, and even tosses him out of a window in this, but it’s never life threatening, and the garage scene makes it even clearer as Michael runs from him.
This is more of a slasher than the other films, and there are some terrible plot points going on, from the rednecks to the scene where Michael pretends to be a cop. The cop scene is nicely done, but feels out of character for him. There’s also a scene with Michael on the roof where he’s doing this weird stance that seems unnatural for the character.
Thankfully Halloween 4 wasn’t as bad as I remembered, but so far, it’s my least favorite in the series. However, the following scene then happens, and I was roaring with laughter. It makes the film instantly worthwhile:
Brady and Rachel realize that Michael is in the house. Brady grabs a shotgun and fires at the locked door. It does nothing, and the following two lines are spoken with absolute sincerity:
Brady: “Metal! It’s metal!”
Rachel: “What does that even mean?”
Halloween 4 is not great, but the body count is high and there’s some super creepy scenes scattered throughout. Plus we get to meet a very young Danielle Harris, who will later appear in the reboots as a new character.
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989, dir. Dominique Othenin-Girard)
What the hell did I just watch? I always hear that part six is the mess of a film, but, man, Halloween 5 is just weird. It’s clearly the inspiration for Rob Zombie’s Halloween II. Jamie has grown a psychic connection with Michael after the events that happened in Halloween 4. She screams a lot, and Dr. Loomis berates her and those around her because he realizes Michael is still alive despite being shot down in the last film.
Meanwhile, Michael floats down stream and a hermit finds him, bringing him back to health. Michael thanks him the only way he knows how: by slaughtering him on the eve of Halloween.
The kills are lame, and the new mask, while it does fit the actor better, isn’t as intimidating as it once was. There are a few decent scenes sprinkled throughout, and this has one of the highest body counts in the series, but most kills happen off screen, only to have the victims found by other people, who then proceed to die.
The entire film falls apart in the final act when Jamie’s babysitter goes to a party at a farm. Jamie and her young male friend (please note: she and her friend are maybe 9 years old) arrive just in time to see Michael trying to run over the babysitter with his car.
Things become absurd as Jamie outruns Michael’s car…? Yeah. The film also has the most random ending, which sees the man in black introduced, and it has an utterly trashy “to be continued” flair to it.
Donald Pleasence is completely underutilized here. He yells a lot, and that’s about it. It’s also the first time Michael forcefully attacks him, which to this point, has been outside the realm of the series. It’s like they decided to jump the shark with Halloween 5, much like they did with the fifth Friday the 13th film.
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers – Theatrical Cut (1985, dir. Joe Chappelle)
I first watched The Curse of Michael Myers in the theatre with my mom. I remember this only because Michael has always creeped me out, and I walked out and played The Simpson’s arcade game until she came out and said I could either go back in and finish, or go home. I reluctantly went back in and finished it.
Of course, none of that has anything to do with this review. The only things I remembered about the film was the baby, and someone being electrocuted. Now after watching the theatrical cut again, which I figured was the best way to judge it and the Producer’s cut fairly, I can say that I missed nothing back then, and I could have forever lived without seeing this film.
Here’s the crazy thing: besides the acting, the film has this incredible potential behind it. It’s an interesting idea of the boy from the original film being obsessed with Michael. Hell, even the cult plot adds a bit of mystery to it all and could have been really cool. But somewhere along the line, everything falls apart. Paul Rudd is good these days, but my God, his acting here is beyond bizarre.
My favorite part is easily when Michael is chasing Debra. She goes outside, and she falls, cracking her glasses. The glasses lay cracked on the ground, ala Velma from Scooby-Doo, as Michael does what he does best. Sadly, she doesn’t offer up any classic pre-death lines, but it’s still a great moment in an otherwise dreary film.
I almost forgot about the random ‘90s, techno-styled theme, which is so very, very bad. I understand techno was the thing back then, but this made it to theatres, unlike the Miramax/Dimension Films Children of the Corn sequels.
Oh, and watching Donald Pleasence give his last performance here is heartbreaking. You can see his health decline as the film heads towards its climax, from the breathing, to his ability to get the words out perfectly. It is a sad waste of talent on such a crappy film.
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers – Producer’s Cut (1995, dir. Joe Chappelle)
The general plot points are the same between these two cuts, but there are some key factors from this Producer’s cut that need to be talked about. Bringing the mythos to the forefront is fantastic, because if you’re going to be creating this, you can’t just toss it on the backburner.
Pleasence’s performance here is even more haunting and solid in this version. Rudd takes more of a back seat, so his craziness isn’t just slapping you in the face, and he’s better in the straight scenes.
This Producer’s cut feels like a completely different film. Yes, the basic bits are the same, but the structure and flow are drastically different. One of my favorite moments is the little girl singing about the rain being red. This is haunting in this version, and even though I watched these back to back, I don’t remember it hitting me in the same way with the theatrical cut.
Perhaps the thing that makes me the happiest is that the soundtrack is normal again. No more techno-style Halloween theme. Everything that didn’t work in the theatrical cut seems to magically work here, and the Rosemary’s Baby vibe is nice and strong in the finale. Somehow, the worst film in the series has a cut that makes it one of the best films in the series. This proves that the studios aren’t always right to force edits onto a film.
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998, dir. Steve Miner)
I remember my excitement for Halloween H2O as if it were yesterday. This was it, the final Halloween, and the return of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode to end it once and for all. It promised everything a fan could imagine in a finale to the trilogy, minus Donald Pleasence, who sadly passed away during The Curse of Michael Myers.
Scream revived the horror genre in 1996, and its sequel is even shown during a brief moment as we get to know the characters in this film. H20 does one thing right: it creates, for the most part, interesting and likable new characters. Laurie and Michael are, of course, fantastic, and Jamie Lee Curtis gives it her all. The moment when they literally come face to face for the first time in twenty years is one of the best scenes in the film.
Of all the ‘90s slashers released at this time, H2O has one of the best casts. H20 gives us one of the first serious roles for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who only has a bit part in the opening. Then we have Josh Hartnett and Michelle Williams who make a believable and likable couple. Their chemistry when they meet Michael is fantastic.
There are a few missteps with H20 that keep it from being a true classic. About 90% of the deaths take place off-screen, which is the film’s biggest shame. I would have loved to see the ice skate kill done on camera. However, we did get the sweet post-death hanging scene, which looks gruesome and crisp on the Blu-ray.
Halloween: Resurrection (2002, dir. Rick Rosenthal)
I remember seeing Halloween: Resurrection on opening night in the theatre, and hating it. Not only that, but I just had to buy the DVD when it came out because I had to own everything horror related. Thankfully I’ve grown past that stage in my life. Sadly, Halloween: Resurrection is still a steaming pile of dung.
The film alters the ending of H20, having Michael fake his death and go all Friday the 13th: A New Beginning on us. Jamie Lee Curtis returns as Laurie only to be offed in the first fifteen minutes. I’m sure this was to shock us. Instead, it makes the whole thing feel like a big wasted effort, and is, frankly, insulting to the character. I’m sure Curtis didn’t mind, though, because it would mean that she wouldn’t have to return to these films again in the future.
If Resurrection does anything better than H20, it’s that it offers lots of kills, and some really decent gore throughout. It earns its “R” rating with the blood, and we even get some topless women in the film.
Sadly, everything else Resurrection strives for hurts my brain. It’s one part reality show, with a group of teens hanging out at Michael’s house on Halloween night with “Dangertainment” broadcasting it online. The other part of the film is like someone taking meth and writing the most clichéd, pop-culture-reference-filled script as humanly possible. It’s incredibly annoying.
The film should be scary, and the tension should be insane with the idea of the last girl being chased, receiving texts on Michael’s whereabouts, but instead, it comes off as corny.
Resurrection bounces back and forth between our “last girl” and the guy that has a crush on her who is watching the live feeds. As the film progresses, he sends her text messages that show up word by word, which just seems weird today. All things considered, I’m surprised this idea hasn’t been used again (although Scream 4 touches on the idea).
Did I mention that Halloween: Resurrection also showcases Tyra Bank’s amazing acting chops, and Busta Rhyme’s kung fu skills (in fact, Rhyme’s kicks Michael right out of a window)? Some things are so absurd that you just have to see it to believe it. That said – please – save yourself the trouble and just ignore this film entirely. Pretend that H20 finished off the original series, and you’ll be better off for it.
Halloween (2007, dir. Rob Zombie)
While I don’t condone the illegal viewing of films, I will admit that I “acquired” the workprint of Rob Zombie’s Halloween before it hit theaters back in 2007. Please note that I also paid to see the movie on opening day, and I bought the DVD for the director’s cut as well. All three versions of the film are different, and there are some big differences between who lives and who dies, and it’s interesting to think about why Zombie altered things in the final cut.
I intended to watch the theatrical cut for review, but Scream Factory’s Complete Collection only offers the director’s cut. This is a bit disappointing, but it is the version that the sequel follows more closely.
Halloween starts off drastically different than the original film. We meet Michael as a child, and it’s clear from the start that he isn’t your typical 10-year-old boy. He kills animals, his stepfather is verbally abuse, and he doesn’t fit in at school, where he is teased because his mother is a stripper.
One day, he kills his bully after school. Daryl Sabara (Juni Cortez from the Spy Kids films) gives a solid and dark performance as the bully. After, Michael returns home and kills most of his family (all except his baby sister and his mother, who is not at home).
From this point forward, we see Michael grow up in a mental hospital until his escape years later. This is where the film falls into the groove of the original. There are a number of changes, but the film still maintains the original’s basic ideas and highlights.
Rob Zombie is one crazy guy, and the performances he’s able to bring out of his casts are amazing. Daeg Faerch plays young Michael, and he is downright chilling in the role. Scout Taylor-Compton takes over the iconic role of Laurie from Jamie Lee Curtis, and she’s just the right amount of innocence and spunky. The first time she’s screaming and running from Michael is one of the best scenes in the movie; the wind blows the leaves around as the shaky cam follows along.
The one word that kept creeping into my head while watching was “unnerving”. Zombie’s shaky cam, mixed with his constant close-ups, makes every high-tension moment even more dreadful and terrifying. And while the finale seems to drag on a bit, it still wrecks my nerves, and this was my fourth or so viewing of the film.
Rob Zombie makes one of his best casting decisions with this film. By bringing in Danielle Harris, who played Michael’s niece in Halloween 4 and Halloween 5 when she was much younger, he pays the ultimate homage to the series. Annie is the strong-willed sheriff’s daughter, and best friend to Laurie. She’s completely likable and realistic. The scene where Michael is chasing her topless, an act a lot of actresses wouldn’t do, shows complete vulnerability. You don’t want her to die, and her being laid bare in such an obvious manner hits all the right notes.
Part of me wants to compare the original film to this remake, but this isn’t really a remake. It’s a retelling, and homage to a genre that lost its way. Sadly it didn’t rejuvenate horror like Scream was able to do. Rob Zombie’s Halloween is visceral and gory. It’s constantly in your face, and holds nothing back. It’s what I come to expect from Rob Zombie as a director.
Halloween II (2009, dir. Rob Zombie)
It’s clear from the start that Rob Zombie really didn’t want to do this movie, but I’m going to guess that his contract said otherwise. To remake the original sequel would have been a bad idea, and I’m glad that he handles Halloween II the way that he does.
The quick hospital section is brutal, and everything I’d expect. The rest of the film, though, is clearly not what anyone expected when sitting down for Halloween II.
Laurie is seriously messed up one year after killing Michael (or so she thinks). She’s no longer the sweet, fun girl, and instead is a bitter and angry woman. She drops the F-bomb like it’s a common verb.
Michael walks around all hooded and with a full beard. He’s slowly making his way back to Laurie, guided by his self as a child, and his mother’s ghostly presence. He also only dons the mask when he feels the need to kill, which is pretty often.
Halloween II opens with an explanation of what a white horse signifies. This leads up to a flashback where Michael gets a toy horse from his mom while in the institution. What plays out from there is some of the craziest, violent kills I’ve ever seen in a film. Most noticeable this time around is that Michael seems to hate woman, and the deaths they receive are overkill, no pun intended. He repeatedly bashes women’s faces into mirrors, and stabs them well past the point of their death.
This brutality sets us up for the gut-wrenching finale, and the moments where the viewer will decide if they love this film and claim it’s a masterpiece, or hate it entirely.
This film sums up what Laurie would be going through. Survivors remorse, and the horror of finding out that she isn’t just the sister of Michel Myers, but also the one who “killed” him in the last film. Those facts would shatter the very being of someone like her, and the fact that she also lost her adopted parents means she’s completely alone besides her friends. Clearly I fall into the camp that calls Halloween II a masterpiece.
Halloween II was nothing like I expected it to be, and I realized that I forgot a lot of important aspects. Yes, there are flaws, but this film does so much right, and far exceeds anything the other Halloween sequels were able to do.
The CSR Awards
(The Cinefessions’ Series Review Awards)
Best Picture: Halloween (1978)
Halloween might not have started the slasher subgenre, but it perfected the very idea for what we see in today’s horror films. Not only that, but it stands the test of time, and is beautifully shot, directed, and acted.
Worst Picture: Halloween: Resurrection
Why was this film even made? It wasn’t needed, and by golly, I can’t figure out how it was even green lit with its terrible script, and how final H20 was with the story of Michael and Laurie.
Favorite Scene/Moment in Series: Closet Scene (Halloween)
When I think of the Halloween series, the first scene I think of, and the one most often shown in clips, is that of Laurie hiding in the closet and Michael smashing his way in. It’s tightly shot, it’s frantic and let’s face it: she is completely screwed and has nowhere to go. A few other scenes are up there, but this one gets me everytime.
Best Actress: Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween)
Nothing beats the original. While I love the casting choices in Rob Zombie’s Halloween, and the young Danielle Harris in Halloween 4 and Halloween 5, JLC just brings her “A” game. You’ll never second-guess her Scream Queen status after seeing Halloween.
Best Actor: Donald Pleasence (Halloween)
There are no other male characters in these films except Michael himself, and Pleasence’s Dr. Loomis is fantastic. He brings him to life like no other actor would have been able to. I was torn between the original film and the Producer’s cut of The Curse of Michael Myers, but Halloween wins out because this is where he becomes the character and isn’t just the glue holding the film together. That said, Pleasence is fantastic in all of the films, except Halloween 5, where his role is reduced to screaming.
The average film rating for the Halloween film series is 2.64 stars.