Halloween: the Classic Series

This one is long, I apologize. Numerical ratings for each film are at the end.

 

Having covered Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th I will now movie onto the last of the big three, Halloween. Halloween is an interesting franchise in the sense that it goes through phases. The first two movies can be seen as ‘the beginning’ with the third one sitting as an odd cousin. The next three movies are the mythos phase, and then the return, and finally the reboot. It is in fact this viewpoint of phases that caused me to write these Halloween essays on the big three. Today I will discuss the first three phases of the Halloween saga, ending with part six.

Michael Myers is an interesting and effective horror figure; in a sense you could say he is the most effective. Freddy Kruger is scary because he looks scary, because he is distorted reality, and because he strikes when you are most vulnerable. But because he haunts your dreams we are always able to remember that there we have true control and he can be stopped. Jason Vorhees is scary because he is strong, and because he haunts the woods. It is natural for man to fear the woods; in the woods we are no better or worse than any of the creatures that live there. In a modern society we are out of our element, and the fact that a person who blends between both worlds so well lives there is terrifying. Michael Myers does not have these crutches. He looks very bland, wearing simple overalls and a near featureless white mask. He does not talk, or stalk, he just is. But what he does do, for no apparent reason, is invade suburbia and start killing random people. Even Jason and Freddy have rules, but Michael does not, he brings the terror to us, and he destroys the safe haven we have built, and he does it for no reason other than simple chaos.

In Halloween we begin in the past, witnesses to a savage murder of a young woman. It is soon revealed that the killer was a young boy, but it is not revealed why he did it. We have seen his house, and his parents and they all seem very normal, but this kid has just murdered someone, and right there the movie hits us with its utter wrongness. In present time we learn that the boy has become a mute, he is institutionalized, and has been watched over by Sam Loomis, the craziest hero ever. Loomis has decided that Michael is pure evil and his fears seem to be confirmed when Michael apparently orchestrates a type of jail break and heads back home. Loomis takes it upon himself to find Michael and do something once and for all.

Now here is where I want to make a point, one that will help you understand my view of these movies. According to nearly all literature I can find Michael Myers is supposed to be a version of the boogeyman, a shape of pure evil somehow made flesh. Because of this we are not supposed to question certain things, but for me there is one small nagging thing. When I was much younger than I am now I read an interview with John Carpenter; in this interview Carpenter spoke about some of the ideas behind Myers. One of these involved the idea that the character had a rare, but real, disease that stopped him from feeling pain. He suggested that the accumulated damage done in the film was working to stop Michael, but he kept going because he quite literally did not know he was hurt. He also made a point that the ending of the film was meant to be scary, but that realistically Myers probably just crawled into some bushes and died. I cannot remember where I read this, I no longer have the interview, and to be truthful while I remember reading it I can’t prove that it existed. However, I love this idea behind the character. It gives a different view of the movie and while I can’t confirm the story, it struck me so strongly that I cannot see the movie any other way. As such, my review of the film is colored by this info. I just felt I should warn you.

That Myers is evil is not in doubt. Something is wrong in his brain, and he has a disease that removes the normal human limits we deal with. He is psychotic and unstoppable, and our only heroes are an emotionally repressed teenager and a crazy psychiatrist. I love Loomis, he is an awesome character and I enjoy watching him all of these films, but I also see him as an unreliable narrator of sorts (In part two he tells an outright fabrication about the meaning of Samhain). He is a scientist, one who is meant to help people with mental problems, yet he is running around shouting about how this kid is pure evil made into the shape of a man. His plan is to buy a large gun and track down Myers himself because it’s his responsibility. And at the end when Myers disappears from view we realize that it only confirms Loomis’s theory. Loomis is insane, but he’s my kind of crazy, and he’s the only real hope we have.

So anyways, Myers begins stalking people through town finally stepping up when it gets dark to start killing them. Finally Laurie, played by Jamie Lee Curtis catches, on to what’s happening and promptly runs away. He follows and she manages to stun him with a knitting needle and then awesomely sends the children away (Saving kids is good) saving their lives (I’m assuming Myers would kill kids, he’s a psycho after all) and then locks herself in her house. Myers is not dead and he once again attacks her but she defends herself by jabbing him in the eye. Here I would point out that he has been stunned, but his only real reaction that might border on pain is this eye poke; I submit this as more proof for the diseased human angle of his character, he recoils not from pain but from the fact that he now can’t see and that’s shocking. Anyways, Loomis sees the kids running and goes into the house, gun at the ready, and opens fire shooting Myers several times and knocking him out the window. Loomis then checks on the body and finds it missing, which confirms his fears, and because crazy people love company he tells the young woman that the person who just tried to kill her is an unstoppable force of evil.

Halloween still works. It is a great film, made with care, and keeps things simple. We don’t have elaborate back story because we have a genuine psychopath. To skip ahead by a bit I’m going to suggest that Rob Zombie had a neat idea by trying to examine what made Myers tick, but he missed the mark on actually exploring the psychosis behind it all. Also, I would have liked to see a full on mental institution riot. Plus in his film Myers had a reason, here he just wants to kill people, and that’s pretty scary. Back to the point, Halloween did really well so you know what that means.

Carpenter felt the series should go in an anthology direction, but the studio knew fans would want more Myers so they asked Carpenter to make a second movie featuring Myers. In an interview Carpenter mentions that he had the idea for Halloween 2 at two a.m. while drinking a six pack; the good point is that this film occurs on the same night, the bad point is that it introduces a lot more gore and some really odd back story.

In this film Jamie Lee Curtis is mostly stuck in a hospital bed, she has been severely wounded and is probably on her way to crazy town, so she spends much of the movie doped up in a hospital bed. Why her parents never show up always struck me as odd. Loomis is still crazy, and is now searching town with the Sheriff looking for Michael. Midway through the sheriff hears that his daughter has died and leaves, which is a bad turn for the movie. I really feel that the sheriff should have been the hero here, taking down Myers in response for his daughter’s death. As it is we get half a movie of development and then the character leaves. I do like the first part of this movie, it pulls back a bit and centers on the chaos that surrounds looking for an escaped psychopath. I like the blending of the small town vibe with the building manhunt. But then we get some new information, apparently Laurie is Michael’s sister, and she is the true cause for his rampage. This creates unnecessary background and a over complicated plot. For my money if they wanted Myers to go to a hospital and kill people they should have just done that, hand waving it by having him try to kill the one that got away. But as I pointed out this was done at two a.m. while drinking so I guess Carpenter get’s a pass. Loomis gets to the hospital and there is a showdown and in the end Laurie is saved and Loomis and Myers both die in a big ball of fire.

As sequels this one is decent. It strains plausibility but it could still work with my theory that he is a normal human, though by this film he should be dying from the gunshots. The real problems here are the increased level of gore and the random plot direction. The first film had very little red sauce, and while a slasher film it handed the deaths almost tastefully, allowing the audience’s mind to fill in the gaps. In the second film blood coats the floors, and the violence is amped up. And again, the brother sister plot element was really random, but it has become a driving force of the series, which really means we can just assume that there was only the first Halloween movie and be happy.

But then they made a third film, subtitled Season of the Witch. It did not feature Michael Myers or Sam Loomis, probably because they exploded. Instead it went for the anthology route, featuring an unrelated plot connected only due to it occurring on Halloween. The plot is actually somewhat cool, incorporating mass murder via evil masks. Unfortunately it tried to incorporate technology into the mix and it just doesn’t sit well. The film is decent, but not overly enthralling. It doesn’t deserve the bum rap it gets, but neither is it overly good.

And since the third film was met with annoyance at fans, fans upset that it featured no Michael Myers, we were treated to the return of Michael Myers in the Return of Michael Myers. We learn here that both Myers and Loomis survived the large fiery explosion ten years ago, which only helps out Loomis in the bad ass department. Loomis is still crazy, but having been exploded it feels justified. We also learn that Laurie had a daughter and then helpfully died in a car crash which means they didn’t have to pay Jamie Lee Curtis to come back. Myers wakes up and learns that he has a niece, he then steals a mask of himself and sets about trying to kill her. The plot here feels like a retread of the first movie, not a direct rip off but enough familiar elements that it gets a bit predictable. What really hurts the movie is the editing and poor cinematography; we cut away from shots too soon, or we are supposed to be freaked out by Myers standing in the bushes except that the shot is not set up so our eyes are drawn to him. These things are important, but sadly lacking here.

In the end he gets shot several times, falling into an old mine and everyone is happy. Except that Michael’s niece has now become unhinged and in the final moments of the film murders someone just as Michael did as a boy. Upon witnessing this Loomis attempts to shoot her, which is awesome and probably a good idea, but it stopped by the sheriff. This is the film that begins the second arc in the Michael Myers plot line. We don’t see much of it here, but he is on the way to becoming a true supernatural villain. We begin to see less plausible survivals and increasingly occult elements.

So on that note, Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers. Having gone insane at the end of the last film, Michael’s niece is now a crazy mute; it is not readily obvious if the final moments of part four happened or if they were a dream. For the record, little Jamie did stab her adopt-o-mom but did not kill her, but having to piece this together by watching the entire film looking for clues is annoying. Little Jamie also has a new, and annoying, trick: she is psychically linked to Michael. A chunk of the movie features Michael very slowly stalking someone, we cut to his niece who is convulsing and trying very hard to speak, and then we just keep flipping. There is also a young kid who apparently likes little Jamie and he’s really annoying, his contribution to the film is to repeat what she says except that he does so for each syllable meaning we have two small kids stuttering their hearts out while we are trying to watch a horrific murder.

And then there is Tina, the most annoying and terrible character ever. In one scene she carefully enters a house, and then she apparently sees something, and she stalks it, but then she lays on a bed, but then she sits up, and crawls to a mirror, and then a bell rings and she runs down the stairs. Someone put this on paper, they felt it was a good idea and even worse she seems to be the focus of the film. The other main survivor from the last film gets about ten or fifteen minutes screen time and then is killed…at least I assumed she was killed, it was pretty vague there for a while. Helping to balance this is Loomis, and on a positive note the burn makeup looks much better in this film. Dr. Loomis has decided to go full on crazy, he now spends his days roughhousing kids and screaming at little Jamie; he has become a mumbling and abusive figure. There are also these two bumbling cops, the movie plays squeaky clown shoe sounds when they walk, one even declares that they are terrible cops; poor writing but I will admit that the two actors play it for what it’s worth.

Anyways, Michael kills people, but sadly not Tina, and eventually the cops set up a trap. Somehow Myers evades the trap by setting up a diversion, the movie is fuzzy on this, possibly deliberately so. Finally it is down to Loomis, Myers, little Jamie, and a cop. Guess which one dies. They capture Myers and he is taken into custody and then the big twist happens. You see, through this whole movie we were treated to this mysterious figure walking about doing random things. This is why I think the diversion angle was handle with subtlety (I’m being kind, laziness is more apt) because at the end this figure kills a bunch of cops and then breaks Jason out of jail.

So with that big cliffhanger looming over us we enter The Curse of Michael Myers. Now I’ve had to rewatch all of these and it’s been a rough ride; part five nearly did me in, so let me be brief. At the end of part five the stranger actually kidnapped little Jamie too. He is part of a cult that worships ‘the Thorn’ and Michael is their avatar. Jamie has been impregnated and has a kid (this is six years later) but is killed off. Some guy finds the baby and he and Loomis attempt to kill Michael before he can pass the curse on. Blah blah blah it sucks. It was also unfinished and suffered from massive production hassles. Fan edits apparently exist done with missing footage that was found and it apparently makes the movie better. I wouldn’t know.

So that is the end of the ‘classic’ Halloween series. It began with such promise, but I have little love for any of the sequels.  Next time we will cover the relaunch and the reboot. It’s going to be awful; just really, really awful.

Halloween the whole franchise: I am tempted to give it a higher score simply because the original was so great, but sadly it’s a 2/5

Halloween: A classic and staple of the genre 5/5

Halloween II: A decent follow up 3/5

Season of the Witch: Not as bad as reported, but not very good 2/5

Return of Michael Myers: Mimics the first move, and poorly made, but has redeeming points 3/5

Revenge of Michael Myers: slow, boring, and annoying 1/5

Curse of Michael Myers: and it sucks 1/5

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s