Week 32: “The HALLOWEEN Franchise”
There are many horror franchises that have a special place in the horror fan’s heart. This is not because of the protagonist of any given film but for the villain of that franchise. Where would the Texas Chainsaw Massacre be without Leatherface or A Nightmare on Elm Street without Freddy Krueger? Where would Child’s Play be without Chucky or Hellraiser without Pinhead? Friday the 13th without Jason or Saw without The Jigsaw Killer? What would the Halloween franchise be without the ultimate Boogeyman – Michael Myers? Since the Halloween franchise is one of my favorites I’ve decided to dedicate this week’s article on my thoughts on each of the films in the series.
In 1978 the original John Carpenter classic was released. I was but two years old at the time so I was completely unaware of the film and wouldn’t be until after the third film saw release. I ended up watching this film as part of a trilogy of the first three films in the franchise so this film ended up having a profound effect on me. I generally liked all the films but the first one was always a favorite. I always loved the Carpenter original because it was creepy and atmospheric. I also loved the mask. That mask was scary! And I can’t say enough about Carpenter’s iconic score! As a young pre-teen experiencing the Halloween franchise these were some of the most frightening horror films I had ever seen. Michael Myers WAS the Boogeyman, no question about it. This film would be a regular Halloween tradition with me for almost the next two decades.
Halloween II (1981) is an interesting film in that I used to really enjoy this film when I was younger. Since I originally watched it with the first and third films and because this film takes place directly after the events of the first film this was always a film I had to watch with the first film. I could enjoy the first film by itself but I could never enjoy this film without watching the first film. This was a more violent film but the thing that struck me the most growing up is that it starred Lance Guest, who starred in one of my favorite films The Last Starfighter (1984). I know I saw that film before Halloween II so every time I saw the latter film it reminded me of the former film. Unfortunately, I didn’t know who Jamie Lee Curtis or Donald Pleasence were at the time but Guest was someone I was very familiar with. In later years this film lost its luster with me. When subsequent sequels were released this film, unfortunately, ended up at the bottom of my list of films in the franchise. It still isn’t one of my favorites but it is certainly not the worst.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1984) was a film I hated growing up. I couldn’t understand why Michael Myers wasn’t in the film and if you were like me and you watched the first three films all at the same time then this film would be odd and strange and not even fit within the franchise. Despite my initial feelings about the film time has been extremely kind for this film. When I was young I didn’t understand the absence of Myers but when you get older you read more and you understand more about not only the intensions of the filmmakers but the themes and aesthetics of the film itself. I was finally able to view the film under its own merits and not those my young mind wanted it to be. This is one of my favorite of the sequels because of how creative the film is not just in terms of story and execution but also because of the amazing cast which is highlighted by the outstanding musical score. I now love this film because it’s so different from the rest.
When news of Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) arrived I was already a die-hard fan and if I had been old enough to see the film at the theater on opening night I would have (I was but twelve at the time but already a horror fan). Instead, I had to contend with the novelization of the film which my mother bought for me (after much pleading and begging). I loved the book! I was already a huge fan of Stephen King so this novelization was right up my alley. I was a horror fan who also loved reading about horror. When the film was released to VHS (Ahh, the good old days) my parents rented it the first week. I must have watched the film three or four times. Halloween IV was now my favorite of the franchise! For a while I considered it better than the first film. I had waited so long for a new film with Myers that it didn’t matter how good the film actually was it would be my favorite horror film of the year. The film itself does not disappoint. It’s a great film and one of the best sequels of the entire franchise. At this point in time I did know who Pleasence was and had seen him in everything from Escape From New York (1981) to Phenomena (aka Creepers, 1985) to The Devonsville Terror (1983), but he was most iconic to me as Dr. Loomis in the Halloween films.
I didn’t have to wait long before Halloween V: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) and for a long time I loved this film as well. As you get older to come to realize that films that you liked as a child actually aren’t as good as you remembered. That’s how this film has fared over the years. I used to really love this film. It’s dark and moody and atmospheric but it’s also confusing and odd and doesn’t make much sense. When I was young none of this mattered because it had Michael Myers and a lot of killings and was entertaining and that was enough for me at the time. Now, when I look back at this film I consider it one of the worst. It may not stand the test of time but it is entertaining and contains the basic elements for a Halloween film similar to that of Halloween II.
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995) was the first one in the franchise that I was (finally) old enough to see at the theater. The ‘90s unfortunately were filled with highly forgettable horror films and sequels didn’t fare any better. My tastes at this time had been refined and more sophisticated and this film had no chance with me. Despite the presence of Pleasence this film is a carbon copy of all the other forgettable horror films of the ‘90s. I always saw this as a hokey sequel with subpar acting, little gore, and one of the worst Myers masks of any of the previous films. This film’s only saving grace is the unlikely comic turn from a very young Paul Rudd. Everything else about this film is completely forgettable although I do enjoy the musical score by Alan Howarth and Paul Rabjohns.
In 1998, someone decided to dismiss the direction of the previous three films and start over thus was born Halloween: H20 (1998) which saw Jamie Lee Curtis return to the franchise that helped make her a household name. After the abysmal Curse I was ecstatic that someone was going to take the franchise seriously and craft an intelligent sequel. One that all Halloween fans had been asking for for years. I saw this film with friends on opening night and we were not disappointed. This was a chilling and atmospheric film with a very good young supporting cast but most importantly it had Curtis’ Laurie Strode returning to the franchise and becoming a bad-ass in the same vein as Ripley from the Aliens franchise or Sarah Connor from the Terminator films. THIS is what Halloween fans craved for and got! The film is amazing but the ending was the icing on the cake. When Strode chops off Myers’ head with an axe it was a defining moment not only in the franchise but in horror film history. Myers was not an un-killable force like Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees so when his head was cut off this signaled the end of a horror icon and film series.
Or so we all thought.
Halloween: H20 was a huge financial success and the logical result was Halloween: Resurrection (2002) and unfortunately they sold the idea to Curtis who would return for the opening sequence only. Strode was killed while in a mental hospital and then Myers goes home where a reality TV show is filming at the old Myers house, which would introduce a whole new cast of victims for Myers. There is so much wrong with this film that fans of the series consider this the worst film in the series beneath Curse and Revenge. I’m no fan of this film but I do love to watch Bianca Kajlich do battle with Myers and it is an early screen role for Katee Sackhoff, who I now absolutely love. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a good film but it’s more entertaining than Curse and less cryptic than Revenge but its reliance on the youth culture does date it worse than both of those films. This film was a critic and fan’s worst nightmare and spelled the end of the franchise despite doing well at the box office. It was going to be hard to recover from the public’s outcry over this film.
It would be five years until it was decided to start over from scratch. The ‘00s became the time of the remake and that was the solution with how to make the Halloween franchise relevant again. It was decided that what the franchise needed was a more realistic interpretation and therefore musician turned director Rob Zombie was handed the keys to do whatever he wanted to with the franchise in order to re-invent it for a new audience that had become jaded with the modern horror film. He took the highly stylized look and feel of his recent hit The Devil’s Rejects (2005) and applied that to the Halloween franchise by delving into the monster Michael Myers himself. I love Halloween (2007). I thought it was inspired to do an origin of Myers when he was a child for the first half of the film and then use the plot of the original film as a road map for the second half of the film. This is a brutal and unkind horror film. Gone is the Boogeyman of the John Carpenter era and what is presented is the story of an abused child from a broken home who snaps. Zombie’s film was a modern day fable about the making of a serial killer. This film had mixed reviews from both critics and horror fans. Die-hard fans hated the fact that the “Boogeyman” that they had grown up with had been turned into a serial killer while others just didn’t like Zombie’s “trailer park” style and thought it cheapened the franchise. Regardless of your opinion of the film it got people talking and it became a huge success.
I love this film for the same reason that I love the original Carpenter film. Carpenter’s Halloween is 100% the style of Carpenter of which no other director could adequately replicate in subsequent films. That’s not the biggest problem; the biggest problem is that none of the original sequels feel like they belong to any particular director but are trying to immolate Carpenter’s style. When Zombie put his hands on the franchise he made it his own. You may not like his style but there is no denying that this new Halloween is a Zombie film and I would have hated it more if Zombie had tried to make a Carpenter film.
Zombie would be asked back to the director’s chair for Halloween II (2009). This film I hated when I first saw it at theaters. I have to admit that I just didn’t get the film. I thought it was a rushed mess of a film and it very well might have been but when I watched it a second time on video I realized that there are a lot of original ideas in this film that allow it to stand on its own. Zombie is a musician and music plays an enormous part in the style and feeling of this film more so than in his original film. The visual themes and motifs are stronger and the cinematography is more refined. This film delves even deeper into serial killer territory and any sense that Zombie’s Michael Myers is the Boogeyman is erased. This is a dark and atmospheric film which is not something most fans of the franchise were expecting. This is a rare case for me where I enjoyed a film more the second time around. I can appreciate what Zombie was trying to do and I actually really enjoy his style therefore I can place his two films separate from the original franchise. Some other die-hard fans cannot.
I’m not just a fan of the Halloween franchise but I’m a fan of Michael Myers as well. I’ve seen all the films in the franchise numerous times no matter how much I may despise the actual film. I love watching Myers do his thing and even if some of the films are not as strong as the rest there is no reason to dismiss them out right. Halloween is the time of year were I get to re-watch and enjoy the entire franchise and I hope you do as well.