Yup, its that time of year again. Its getting colder, the nights are drawing in, the clocks have gone back,the leaves are turning golden brown and falling from the trees and October is coming to an end. Halloween is just around the corner once more, so its time to watch some scary flicks. But what to write about this year? Well, it has been 40 years this year since one of the most influential horror films ever was released and right here for my 2018 Halloween celebrations, I’m going to take a look at the film that changed horror cinema forever…
Directed by Alfredo Zacarías in 1978, starring John Saxon and John Carradine. The Bees was a Mexican horror film about killer South American bees that have been imported to the U.S. where they wreak havoc. Yeah I don’t know why I’m even attempting to fool you either. You’ve read the title, you’ve seen the main image of the iconic Michael Myers. You know what this is all about. Halloween.
40 years ago this year and John Carpenter unleashed his now immortal and influential slasher picture, Halloween. It may not have been the first slasher horror film, but its the one that the sub-genre is held up to and the template many, many films would follow for four decades. Halloween changed cinema forever and its importance can not be overstated. Right here I’m going to take a look at every film in the franchise from the original up to the latest in the series. I’ll do a quick synopsis of each film and then offer my own views and opinions for each one. To paraphrase Dr. Loomis…
“I’ve been writing this article for fifteen days, sitting in a room, staring at my laptop, not seeing the laptop, looking past the laptop, looking at this night. Inhumanly patient, waiting for some secret, silent alarm to trigger me off. Death has come to this little blog. Now, you can either ignore it, or you can help me by reading and sharing it.”
Released in 1978 (happy 40th Halloween) from legendary writer/director John Carpenter. Halloween tells the story of Michael Myers. Beginning in 1963 when Myers was only six years old, dressed as a clown for Halloween. Michael grabs a kitchen knife and stabs his older sister, Judith to death. No rhyme or reason, he just murders his own sister with no remorse or explanation. Michael is then institutionalised in the Warren County’s Smith’s Grove Sanitarium.
Fifteen years pass and on the 30th of October, 1978. The now adult Michael Myers escapes the sanitarium, returns to his home town of Haddonfield to continue building his body count. Enter the shy and retiring Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her school friends who are preparing to celebrate Halloween.
Meanwhile, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) who is Michael’s psychiatrist, tries to track the deranged murderer down before he can kill again. Loomis attempts to get help from the local police, but they find his story a little unbelievable… until the bodies begin to show up. Laurie babysits one of his neighbours kids watching scary movies, carving pumpkins and the like. Michael sets about killing her friends one by one until Laurie is the only one left. All leading to a classic showdown between unstoppable killer and scared babysitter.
Halloween is an undisputed classic and I’ll happily argue against anyone that states other wise. John Carpenter is a genius for not just his minimalist writing, masterful direction but also THAT music score. Yup, the music of Halloween is just as much of a character as Michael Myers himself.
I respect Halloween, I fucking adore John Carpenter as an artist. He’s one of my favourite writer/directors ever. And yet, I’m not a huge fan of the film. Yeah this all sounds a little contradictory right now eh? Yes I think the film is a classic, yes I have the up most respect for it and yes I like the film… but I just don’t love it. Of the big three hitters of the classic slasher film genre, those three being Halloween, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, of those iconic trilogy of horror films – Halloween is my least favourite. Its just a tad boring. I don’t mind a slow paced film and this is slow paced. What John Carpenter does with the time in the film is commendable. There are times when its tense and suspenseful sure and the atmosphere created is still some of the best in any horror film even today. But overall, I feel the film unnecessarily drags on as if there is just not enough story for a full feature film. Perhaps this would have been better as a shorter 40-50 minute piece over a feature?
Yeah I know what I’m doing here. I’m saying that the all time classic Halloween is not all that classic. But hey, that’s how I feel. When it comes to John Carpenter films, I’d just rather watch They Live, Escape From New York, The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China and even the massively overlooked In the Mouth of Madness. Quite honestly, Halloween would struggle to make it into my list of truly great Carpenter classics. And as I previously said, I’d even choose other horror films over this one too.
Again, I respect Halloween, it is a classic but its just not an all time classic for me and I feel that John Carpenter made several other films that are far superior. Still with all that said, I’m more than happy to sit down and watch Halloween. I just did to do this whole retrospective and I have a lot more films to get through.
“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.”
– Dr. Loomis
This 1981 sequel saw the return of a lot of the cast and crew from the first film, sadly no John Carpenter in the director’s chair. Taking on the main role this time around is Rick Rosenthal. Though Carpenter did come up with the story and pen the screenplay, plus he was a producer on the film too. Picking up directly after the events of the first flick, Michael Myers is alive and well while Laurie Strode is taken to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital after her ordeal at the end of the previous film.
Dr. Loomis continues his search for Michael in Haddonfield until the governor orders Loomis to go back to the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. While on route back to the sanitarium, Loomis learns that Laurie Strode is the younger sister of Michael Myers and realises that Michael is heading to the hospital where Laurie is to kill her.
At the hospital, Michael has already begun pilling up the bodies in his search for his sister. Loomis turns up just in time to save Laurie as everything ends with a bang finally putting an end to Michael’s murderous ways.
John Carpenter himself has said that he didn’t want to make any sequel to the film as this interview with Deadline points out.
I didn’t think there was any more story, and I didn’t want to do it again. All of my ideas were for the first Halloween, there shouldn’t have been any more! However, I couldn’t stop them from making sequels. So my agents said, ‘Why don’t you become an executive producer and you can share the revenue?’ But I had to write the second movie, and every night I sat there and wrote with a six pack of beer trying to get through this thing. And I didn’t do a very good job, but that was it. I couldn’t do any more.
– John Carpenter
Carpenter has never made any secret about the fact that he really didn’t want to make this movie, that’s why he refused to return as director. But seeing as the studio were going to make the film with or without him, he thought he may as well write it and earn some cash regardless. The film is a bit of a mess and clearly hastily thrown together just to cash in on the massive success of the first film. It lacks the spark Carpenter brought to the table with the first film. Its not as atmospheric, not as scary, not as moody. Watch the two films back to back (as I just have) and you can really see a decline in the quality of direction. Where as the first film used atmosphere and suspense to great effect, this sequel negates all of that for a higher body count and more gory deaths. I don’t mean to rag on Rick Rosenthal but he’s clearly no John Carpenter. Oh and the wig they put on Jamie Lee Curtis (she cut her hair for another role) is terrible…
The plot is stupid, the characters are dull and the dialogue is terrible. Carpenter has admitted that he was drunk while writing this film and it shows too. Yet despite all of the troubles behind the scenes and the problems on screen, overall this is not a terrible film. Yeah its hokey, yeah its cheesy but for a sequel to a slasher film, its still watchable. Its nowhere near as good as the first film, not even close but its not a terrible sequel either. We’ll get plenty of those later.
I kind of like Halloween II. Its a stupid flick yeah, but its a good stupid flick.
“He was my patient for fifteen years. He became an obsession with me until I realized that there was nothing within him, neither conscious nor reason that was… even remotely human.”
– Dr. Loomis
Halloween III: Season of the Witch
So this is a major departure over the previous two films. Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace and released in 1982. Where as the first two films followed the story of Michael Myers, this sequel has nothing to do with him at all. Its a whole new story about Dr. Dan Challis (Tom Atkins) who turns detective when a patient is murdered on his ward while clutching a strange Halloween mask while ranting about people dying when he was admitted to the hospital.
The daughter of the victim, Ellie Grimbridge (Stacey Nelkin) joins Dan Challis in his investigation which leads them to a small town called Santa Mira where the Halloween mask originally came from. The masks are made by Silver Shamrock Novelties, a toy manufacturing company headed up by Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy).
As Dan and Ellie dig deeper into their investigation, they soon learn that Silver Shamrock and Conal Cochran may not be as sweet and innocent as they first appear to be and a strange plot involving Stonehenge and the killing of children emerges.
Okay so maybe a little backstory first. Halloween II was meant to be the end of Michael Myers, they killed him off, they killed him off good. But there was a problem, that problem was the fact that the Halloween name was a major draw to the box office, it made money and lots of it too. The studio wanted more Halloween films but they didn’t have Michael Myers anymore cos he dead. John Carpenter was approached and asked if he would return to the franchise, he declined so the studio offered him a fuck load of money. Carpenter agreed to come back as a producer but only if the film is not a direct sequel to the previous one. So the the idea came about to turn the Halloween films into an anthology thing with a new film every year, only the stories would be separate and that each subsequent film from this point on would be a new story and new characters. Halloween III: Season of the Witch was set to be the start of a whole new franchise concept… only that’s not how it all worked out.
Anyway of all the films that bear the Halloween name, this is my all time favourite. Yeah I just said that Halloween III: Season of the Witch is my favourite of the whole franchise. The film was slated when it was originally released and the fans hated it. No Michael Myers, no ticket sales and the film bombed. Due to the poor critical response and commercial failure the film ended up being, the idea to continue the whole anthology idea was scrapped and Michael Myers would be brought back for all future Halloween film form this point onward.
As I said, I love this one and the reasons I do love it is for all the reasons most people hate it. Its not about Michael Myers and I applaud the film for that as I was bored of him anyway. The plot is a more than a little stupid if you stop and think about it… so don’t think about it. Its a stupid film, a very stupid film but its also thoroughly entertaining. I never felt bored watching this one as I have with the previous two in palaces. Its just a damn shame the general public only wanted more of the same and more Michael Myers as I’d loved to have seen what this franchise could have become if it did turn into an anthology series.
There are some genuinely terrifying scenes in this one coupled with some stunning effects work. I mean, the scene with that woman at the motel messing around with the microchip found in the badge on the mask, or the bit where the kid wears the mask and Conal Cochran reveals his nefarious (and asinine) plan – pretty shocking stuff. Dan O’Herlihy as the main antagonist is brilliant, he’s charming but slimy, warm but twisted all at the same time. Tom Atkins playing the lead role hold the film together nicely and he has an awesome moustache too. The film has an eerie and unnerving feel about it especially when we get to Santa Mira and the Silver Shamrock factory. As I said, the plot is silly, but its a good silly and a bloody entertaining film from start to finish.
There’s also an interesting social commentary in regards to consumerism running through the film, but people don’t want subtle and clever satire, they just want to see Michael Myers slowly walking after stupid teenagers cos that’s much more interesting…
Its a damn shame this picture flopped as it did because the idea of expanding the franchise into an anthology series was great. Each year a new Halloween film with a new story? The idea was limitless, but people just wanted to see the same thing over and over instead. People are stupid. Halloween III: Season of the Witch is dark, moody, atmospheric and had some great scares in it too. Just judge it on the film it is and not the film Michael Myers fans wanted it to be. Oh and also be on the look out for a few Halloween cameos too inducing, Nancy Loomis who played Annie, Laurie’s friend in the first film, Jamie Lee Curtis has a voice cameo and yes even Michael Myers himself appears.
“Halloween… the festival of Samhain! The last great one took place three thousand years ago, when the hills ran red with the blood of animals and children.”
– Conal Cochran
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
Directed by Dwight H. Little in 1988. This one sees the return of Michael Myers (now there’s a title) after the box office bomb that was the previous flick. So Michael has been in a coma for a decade (which makes no sense) following the events of Halloween II. As he is being taken to his old haunt of Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, he wakes up. The now conscious Michael overhears that his sister, Laurie was killed in a car accident but had a daughter, Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris). Michael Myers now has a new target and heads back to Haddonfield in search of his niece.
When Dr. Loomis, who also survived the explosion from Halloween II (also doesn’t make sense) learns Michael has woken and gone to Haddonfield, he quickly follows. Jamie is living with foster family. The elder daughter of the family is left to babysit Jamie and that is when Michael turns up with Dr. Loomis not far behind him.
You know, just writing that synopsis up there just made me realise how pointless do so it is from this point on. See, pretty much all the Halloween films from now forward all follow the same basic plot. Everyone thinks Michael Myers is dead, turns out he’s not. Michael goes out looking for victims and Dr. Loomis follows. There you go, that’s pretty much all the films covered from this point onward.
This is not a good film and it still annoys me they dropped the anthology idea for this crap. Its just bland, predictable and lifeless. The only real saving grace is Donald Pleasence returning as Dr. Loomis. In fact he’s the only reason to watch any of the films in the franchise he was in from this point. Pleasence is just too damn good for a film this poor. They even almost tempted John Carpenter to return with this film. He was originally on board to write and direct. In fact Carpenter wrote a treatment to be turned into a script. His idea centered around a more psychological concept based on the idea of what effects the events of the first two films had on the residents of Haddonfield. It sounded pretty interesting and would’ve been a more cerebral flick. But the idea was rejected in favour of a standard slasher movie and so John Carpenter sold the rights to the franchise and walked from the project. This is the first film in the franchise that didn’t involve Carpenter in some way after serving as writer, director and producer from the first film to the third and it shows. You know things are bad when they mess up the iconic mask…
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers is a lazy and poor imitation of the first film and follows many of the exact same beats. Michael escapes and steals a mechanic’s overalls, Dr. Loomis spends a lot of time with the sheriff, the daughter of the sheriff is one of Michael’s victims, Michael kills and eats a dog, there’s a bullying subplot, etc. Honestly, this is a remake of the original with many of the same scenes repeated beat for beat. It even copies some of the dialogue directly form the original film too. And they dropped John Carpenter’s original more clever idea for this?
I read this film took eleven days to write and seeing as its a blatant rip-off of the first one, that seems like about ten days too many. Just watch the first film, its like this one only far, far better and the ending is not as stupid either.
“We’re not talking about any ordinary prisoner, Hoffman! We are talking about evil on two legs.”
– Dr. Loomis
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers
Yes he’s back (again). Released in 1989 and directed by Dominique Othenin-Girard. Not only is Michael Myers back but so are Donald Pleasence and Danielle Harris reprising their respective roles from the previous film. This one picks up a year after the events of the last one. So this time, Michael falls into a coma (again) after the ending of the last film. He is found by a hermit and nursed back to health. After killing the hermit, Michael returns to Haddonfield to kill his niece Jamie (again), who has been committed to a children’s hospital.
Of course Dr. Loomis turns up (again) to try and stop Michael Myers (again). Some strange man in back keeps popping up. There’s some telepathic link crap thrown in between Michael and Jamie because everybody knows that uncles and nieces are telepathically linked right? So Jamie begins to have visions of Michael and his murders and Loomis uses this link to lure Michael to his demise… of being locked up in prison. Yes Michael Myers is arrested in the film.
Well at least this works as direct sequel to the previous film and doesn’t just rip-off the original… though it also retcons a few things along the way. If I was asked to choose the worst film out of this one and Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, that would be next to impossible as they’re both equally shit. Both badly written, both unoriginal, both boring. Yeah Donald Pleasence is on top form again and the only real reason to watch the film too.
Its not scary, its not tense. Its a typical 80s slasher flick with very little effort put into it. The ending is stupid, Michael Myers arrested? Yeah cos after being shot multiple times, blown up, dropped down a mine shaft not to mention all the other damage he has received over the course of the films, I’m sure a pair of handcuffs will stop him. Also, why is is allowed to keep his mask while locked away?
It bad, its really bad. But you’d better get used to that because the age of good Halloween films is long over and things are not likely to improve soon either. Also, why is it called The Revenge of Michael Myers? What revenge, he’s the bad guy, he’s the one going around killing innocent babysitters. Is he getting revenge on Jamie because she’s done nothing wrong other than be his niece? I don’t know.
“I prayed that he would burn in Hell, but in my heart I knew that Hell would not have him.”
– Dr. Loomis
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
This one took a while to come out as the last film damaged the franchise so much, it was left dormant for six years until 1995 when Michael Myers was finally brought back. Directed by Joe Chappelle, this film marks the final film appearance of Donald Pleasence before his death in 1995. The niece of Michael Myers, Jamie Lloyd (J. C. Brandy) is now grown up and gives birth to her first child. She is held captive by a strange cult known as Thorn and her child is taken away by the mysterious man in back from the previous flick who is the leader of the cult.
They do some kind of ritual to the baby before a nurse grabs it, gives it back to Jamie and helps them escape the cult. As Jamie and baby escape, Michael turns up and kills the nurse. Jamie runs for her life only she is chased by uncle Michael. She does get away and calls a radio station to warn them that Michael Myers is back but they don’t believe her. The now retired Dr. Loomis hears Jamie’s call to the radio station and quickly heads to Haddonfield. Michael eventually tracks down Jamie and kills her, only to discover the baby is gone.
Meanwhile in Haddonfield, Tommy Doyle (Paul Rudd) who was the little boy being babysat by Laurie in the first film, finds Jamie’s baby and take it into his care can calls him Steven. Tommy meets up with Dr. Loomis and they team up to take care of Michael once and for all while trying to save baby Steven.
Okay so this is just a complete mess of a film. My synopsis my seem a little all over the place, but that is only because that film is all over the place. The story is bat-shit insane and the editing is horrendous with all these quick jump cuts and flashing images making scenes extremely hard to watch. Honestly, watching this film gave me a headache. I don’t really know what is going on. The story is nonsensical, I think Michael Myers is part of this Thorn cult and he’s the father of his won niece’s baby… or something. I have no idea what the aim or point of the Thorn cult is, they just do bad things as far as I can tell. Nor do I know why Michael is part of it, he just is.
You know, people have said that Rob Zombie ruined the Halloween franchise with his remake (I’ll get to that later). No, no he didn’t. The franchise has been ruined from Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and this film is just another twist of the knife. I have problems with the last two films – they’re not very good… but at the very least they were semi-competent films. This, this picture is a car crash of terrible story, awful acting and vomit enduing editing.
Of course it goes without saying that Donald Pleasence is once more the only saving grace of the film and its a sad note that this was his final film as he died before it was released. But there is a kick in the balls to the whole Donald Pleasence thing. See he originally had a bigger role in the movie, only the studio decided to cut him out of most of it. How about that for paying respects to a recently deceased legendary actor? But I’ll get onto all of that next…
Honestly, I given the legend that is Donald Pleasence much more respect in this article by using his character’s quotes from the previous films than this film does in its entirety.
“I knew what he was, but I never knew why.”
– Dr. Loomis
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers: The Producer’s Cut
Okay so I don’t think I really need to do a synopsis of this one as its the same film, only a different cut. Yes there are some changes between the theatrical cut and this version and I’ll cover those in my view. But by and large, the plot is pretty much the same between both films.
So lets crack on with the story of the butchering of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.
The story goes that this version of the film was tested for an audience and they hated it. So the film was cut, re-edited as well as having to go through some re-shoots. The final result was the complete mess that is Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. But do you happen to know why they audience hated this cut of the film? Because the test audience was full of 14 year olds and of course 14 year olds know all about making a good film right? So yeah, the studio fucked up the film because some spotty teenagers didn’t like it.
Well I’m more than happy to say that this cut of the film is better then the released theatrical cut, but to be honest its still got a good film – just a better one. As I said, the plot is still pretty much the same but I’ll take a look at a few of the differences here.
I guess the first difference should be the title, see the film was originally called Halloween 6: The Origin of Michael Myers as this teaser trailer shows.
The biggest differences worth noting are the fact that Jamie doesn’t die… well at least not in the same way as as in the theatrical cut. Her death comes later in this cut and you know what? I actually makes sense within the plot. There’s more detail on the whole Thorn cult and explains what they are. Then editing is much better and gone are all the jump cuts and flashing images, it now looks like a film.
The opening narration in the theatrical cut was provided by Paul Rudd’s Tommy Doyle character, even though he had not been introduced to the film yet. In this version, its Dr. Loomis covering the backstory – which make so much more sense. The overall style and atmosphere of the film is also much better and there’s actually some pretty tense scenes.
As for Donald Pleasence? He has a hell of a lot more screen time, more scenes and more dialogue that fills in backstory and even covers plot holes that exist in the theatrical cut due to his part being edited down. Then there’s the ending. The theatrical cut’s ending make no sense. Dr. Loomis says he has business to take care of and the film then cuts to Michael Myers’ mask with Loomis screaming in the background. The ending here actually wraps things up and resolves the whole Thorn cult thing too. Its still not a great ending, but it makes coherent sense at least.
The film just has better pacing despite it being longer than the other version. There’s more story, more suspense and more atmosphere. In every way, this cut is far, far superior and why the studio decided to cut the shit out of it I do not know. As I said, I can’t say that this is a good film but it most definitely is better. If you really want to watch Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers then get hold of the producers cut. You’ll thank me for it later.
This is a fitting tribute to Donald Pleasence and shows respect to a masterful actor who dedicated seventeen years of his life playing the character of Dr. Loomis. A man who died before his final film was released and had his part massively cut in the theatrical version and was disrespected for all he had done. This film is bad, but at least you can watch Donald Pleasence acting and acting well.
“I feel great! I had surgery, plastic surgery. Skin grafts. It cost a fortune, but at least I don’t frighten people anymore.”
– Dr. Loomis
I think I’ll split this one up into two parts and seeing as the next film marks an anniversary, this seems like a good place to take a break. See you in Part II.