It remains to be seen whether Rob Zombie’s eagerly anticipated remake of John Carpenter’s “Halloween” will be worth the trouble, but there are a least two things we know Zombie got right. One- he has gone out of his way to make Michael Myers, a reliable but overly familar, now campy boogeyman, scary again, and two, he went backwards in the narrative, rather than attempt to piece together the events of “Halloween II”- “Halloween Ressurection”. Although the original is a hair dated and tame in comparison to the ultra-violent ripoffs it spawned, Carpenter’s richly suspenseful, atmospheric and smart first entry is the best. Yet, the sequels, while a mixed bunch, aren’t all bad. As a fan of this series, I can say the best of the further installments are stylish, clever and well crafted thrillers, while the worst ones, well…aren’t. Let’s take a look…
THE GIST– Michael Myers, a murderer who has been institutionalized since childhood, escapes from imprisonment and returns to his hometown of Haddonfield. Among those who get in his way- the slightly crazy Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) and the lonely Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis).
STAR SIGHTINGS- Curtis, in a career-making performance (she was America’s “Scream Queen” for years before proving her considerable abilities in comedy and drama). B-movie staple Pleasance made a comeback, P.J. Soles, Miss Riff
Randell herself, plays one of Strodes’ best friends and future director Nick Castle plays Myers (aka, The Shape, though others don the mask in this as well).
SERIES STATUS- No question, this is not only the best in the series, but one of the finest thrillers ever made. The emphasis on Hitchcockian suspense and menace over graphic violence still works, as does Carpenter’s classic score,
the performances, cinematography, editing…everything.
BEST SCENES- Too many to pick, but the opener is still a knockout. If you’ve never seen it, don’t let anyone tell you- the punchline to the first scene is still a jaw-dropper.
AUDIENCE RESPONSE- Despite one review calling it “a turkey for Thanksgiving”, it had astonishing staying power, great word of mouth and created a sensation, and became (at the time) the top grossing independant film of all time (around $45 million).
“HALLOWEEN II” (1981)
THE GIST- Poster tagline: “More of the night he came home”, which pretty much sums it up. Myers stalks Strode in the Haddonfield hospital. Loomis reveals that Strode and Myers have a Luke/Vader connection (and, for fans, hints of the astrological subplot, from entry # 6, pop up in one scene).
STAR SIGHTINGS- Curtis (in a wig that sorta matches her hair from part 1) and Pleasance are back. Playing Curtis’ pseudo-love interest is Lance Guest (aka, The Last Starfighter!!).
SERIES STATUS- Not bad. Definately one of the better Killer in the Hospital movies and it accompanies the first film especially well. On the other hand, the film was clearly made in the aftermath of the popularity of Teen Slasher
Films, as the violence is graphic and, unlike in the first film, really tacky.
BEST SCENES- The introductory scenes efficiantly pick up the story moments after the first movie ended, with some good p.o.v. shots. The big showdown, when Strode, along with the getting-nuttier Loomis, have another chance to
take down Myers (or is it the other way around) really delivers.
AUDIENCE RESPONSE- It opened big, made a healthy profit (at $25 million) and is fairly well-liked among fans, but definately a sequel that (like many) pales in comparison with what came first.
“HALLOWEEN III- SEASON OF THE WITCH” (1983)
THE GIST- Michael Myers…is seen on a t.v. by Tom Atkins in a bar, before he goes and investigates the origins of the Silver Shamrock Halloween masks, coming out of Santa Mira, a town with bizarre secrets. Yes, this is the one
without Michael Myers.
STAR SIGHTINGS- Carpenter regular Atkins is the lead, internet cult fave Satcey Atkins is the love interest (check out her credits if you don’t believe me), Dan O’Herlihy of “Robocop” is the heavy and Jamie Lee Curtis makes a vocal cameo.
SERIES STATUS- Well, it’s reputation has gotten better, as Halloween websites and conventions have come to the film’s defense, following years of overwhelming animosity. With lowered expectations, the film is an enjoyable 80’s horror movie, with some cool touches. On the other hand, its gore galore and aloha to logic, in one of the dumbest, most laughable sequels ever made (instead of Myers, we get robots. MEAN robots!).
BEST SCENES- More like moments, with the eerie, catchy “Silver Shamrock” television ads, the montage showing kids on Halloween all over America and O’Herlihy’s dependably great, sinister performance being the big highlights.
AUDIENCE REPSONSE- It was famously booed in theaters and was the result of every snack food you can think of being thrown at the screen, so really, the ones who suffered more than audiences were the theater ushers, who had to clean up the hostility food thrown at “Halloween III”!
“HALLOWEEN 4- THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS” (1988)
THE GIST- Okay, let’s just forget the last one even happened! Back to the basics: Myers is back in Haddonfield and a scarred (physically and psychologically) Dr. Loomis is after him like a Doberman on a snausage!
STAR SIGHTINGS- Danielle Harris stars, in a breakout performance, while Pleasance returns as Loomis.
SERIES STATUS- This one set up a new story thread that lasted for two more sequels- the introduction of Jamie (nice tribute to Ms. Curtis), Myer’s niece, wonderfully played by Danielle Harris. While the basic conventions of a slasher movie are on hand, there is also real suspense and a couple of genuinely frightening scenes, making this one of the best sequels.
BEST SCENES- The final scene is horrifying, and ends the film on a bold, tragic, unforgetable note. Even jaded horror fans were knocked out by the shocker of a punchline this film delivers.
AUDIENCE RESPONSE- A hit at the box office (at $18 million), this one rejuvinated a dead franchise, brought back old fans, attracted new ones and made longtime producer Moustapha Akkad giddy with sequelitus (and why not- he loved this series as much as the fans did!).
“HALLOWEEN 5- THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS” (1989)
THE GIST- A rushed sequel that ignored the bold finale of part 4 and instead does a repeat of the previous entry’s plot: Jamie screams, Michael stalks, Loomis goes looney, lots of teen eat it.
STAR SIGHTINGS- Danielle Harris and Ellie Cornell return from part 4, as does Pleasance (who really overdoes it in this entry) and cult favorite Don Shanks plays Myers.
SERIES STATUS- Not one of the better sequels. Made by a French director with a love for quirky, even goofy touches, the mix of raw intensity and whimsy doesn’t mix. Though it furthers the Jamie/Michael plotline, it introduces The Man in Black, a dialogue-free character who stalks around in the shadows and wouldn’t get an explanation until the next sequel!
BEST SCENES- Though the film is a dud, there are some cool parts- the pumpkin carving opening credits, the down-the-laundry-chute escape (has a great p.o.v. shot) and the pseudo-apocalyptic ending, an interesting touch.
AUDIENCE RESPONSE- After a sizable opening, fans left with a shrug. Little did they know they’d have to wait years before the film’s open-ended plotlines would get explained in a belated sequel.
“Halloween- The Curse of Michael Myers” (1995)
THE GIST- Whatever became of Jamie, The Man in Black, and the Thorn cult hinted at in part 2? They’re all here, as is Loomis, wackier than ever (and still talking about Myers the way Col. Trautman talks about Rambo).
STAR SIGHTINGS- Pleasance, who passed away the year this came out, plays Loomis one last time. In the lead, we have, in his film debut…Paul Rudd!!!
SERIES STATUS- Another bad sequel, this one was famously re-shot, with a pirated original version (titled “Halloween 6- The Producer’s Cut”) that has a different, better beginning, but not improving things very much overall. Even the big reveal of The Man in Black doesn’t impress, as some menacing atmosphere is all this one has to offer.
BEST SCENES- A chase through an empty bus station and a group of surgeons who foolishly try to give Myers a tune-up are well done set pieces, but not enough to make the film reccomendable.
AUDIENCE RESPONSE- Like the prior entry, it opened strong, then vanished from theaters. Its really saying something when a movie with “Halloween” in the title opens on September 29th but can’t even last until October 31st in theaters!
“HALLOWEEN H20- TWENTY YEARS LATER” (1998)
THE GIST- Whatever happened to Laurie Strode? Turns out she changed her name, is working at a private school and has trouble sleeping. Guess who pays her a visit?
STAR SIGHTINGS- In addition to Jamie Lee Curtis, we also have Josh Hartnett, Michelle Williams, LL Cool J and Joseph Gordan Levitt!
SERIES STATUS- Some series fans don’t like the “Scream” feel of this one, but this is undeniably one of the best “Halloween” films and for a very big reason: Jamie Lee Curtis. She suggested the film, as a tribute to the motion picture that launched her career, and, rather than giving a paycheck performance, she gives a terrific, layered portrayal that is one of her finest.
BEST SCENES- The moment Strode and Myers are face-to-face for the first time is goose-bump worthy, but this one has alot of little gems. For fans, the last 20 minutes are top notch, but film buffs get a fun cameo from the great Janet Leigh. All of the character scenes where Curtis gets to show you what has become of this woman give this real bite, while the final showdown between Strode and Myers piles on the thrills.
AUDIENCE RESPONSE- Despite opening against Brian De Palma’s widely hyped “Snake Eyes”, this one beat it at the box office and became one of the biggest sleeper hits of the summer and the top grossing “Halloween” film yet (at $55 million). The reviews were great and longtime fans felt what a labor of love the film was for Curtis.
“HALLOWEEN: RESSURECTION” (2002)
THE GIST- Turns out the perfect closing scene in “H20” didn’t happen (yeah, right!). Laurie Strode faces Myers, one last time (we think), before Bustah Rhymes takes over the movie with a different plot, involving “Danger-Tainment”, a live internet show that Myers crashes and slashes.
STAR SIGHTINGS- Jamie Lee Curtis in a cameo (and the film’s best performance), Bustah Rhymes in the lead (an appealing presence but not an actor) and, for some reason, Tyra Banks is in this.
SERIES STATUS- The first 15 minutes is great, with Curtis returning as Strode and taking on Myers in an implausible but still exciting sequence. When the REAL story takes over, the film takes a huge swan dive. The film was re-shot and pushed back ALOT, as the movie-camera-capturing-screaming-teens angle was “Blair Witch”-fresh when this was shot (under the title “Halloween- The Homecoming”) but not when it finally got released years later.
BEST SCENES- Once Curtis exits the film (not a spoiler, as her final moment is ambiguous), you can hit the STOP button. However, I’m sure there are a few who just have to hear Bustah Rhymes tell Micheal Myers “Trick or Treat,
AUDIENCE RESPONSE- Like “H20”, this one was a late-summer release and was a surprise hit. The fans made this gross an undeserved $30 million.
For those who have never seen a “Halloween” movie, I’d say go with the first film (a classic all the way) and if you want to look at the sequels, watch parts 7 (“H20”), 4 (“The Return of Michael Myers”) and 2. Whether the new “Halloween” (that opens on August 31st and hardens the image of Michael Myers) will be a big hit or a regretable flop, this much is certain: Michael Myers will return. He always does.