By Ryan C. Showers
Like its antagonist, “Halloween” seems to be the series that doesn’t die. Ten films have run the distance from 1978 through 2009, a majority of which are not well liked and made only decent money, but it seems as though if the studio can yield even the smallest profit off the horror legacy, they’ll throw a $15 million incarnation into production. An eleventh film will be ushered into the franchise this month, retaining the title of the original and remake, “Halloween.” This sequel is a “direct sequel” to the original, meaning it ignores every other film in which fans have invested time. Philosophically, I’m opposed to this, especially since the new “Halloween” movie will ignore the storyline of the series’ champion, Laurie Strode, which accounts for the best sequels in the series.
The reactions to the new movie at the Toronto Film Festival were resoundingly positive, most citing it as the best movie of the series since the original. Curtis has discussed what motivated her to approach the series again since her character died in 2002, and that’s revisiting the randomness that made the 1978 film so powerful and frightening before the story was given more dynamics and baggage to juggle in revealing Michael and Laurie are siblings. That element was part of what made the original “Halloween” a masterpiece, so maybe the hype is real.
The following is a ranking of the series thus far, from worst to best. Most find the series irrelevant after the original’s contribution to the history of cinema, but as someone who was raised on the horror genre, it’s worth looking at these stories again.
10. HALLOWEEN 6: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1995)
I would put this film on the shortlist for the worst film ever made. “Halloween 6” provides credible, objective evidence for the camp of critics who argue against continuing horror series with unnecessary longevity. In another world, where this same movie is presented without the name of “Halloween” attached to it, nor the iconic serial killer Michael Myers, one would describe this is a straight-to-VHS fodder. “Halloween 6” is a film of ridiculously appalling caliber, suspending the reality that was used as the glue holding these same characters together in the other, better movies. The slasher formula is replaced with witchcraft rituals and a supernatural spin on medical practices, made worse by perniciously stylized directing and a reprehensible musical score. I wouldn’t dignify the film as a viewing option for even the most vigilant fans of Michael Myers to sit through. Paul Rudd is often noticed as a reason to see the film. Don’t buy it, he performs just as horribly as everyone and everything else involved in the project. The most unforgivable aspect of “Halloween 6” is the strange direction the filmmakers chose when settling the Jamie Lloyd’s storyline, after two relatively strong outings for her character in “Halloween 4” and “Halloween 5.” Perhaps, in order to get the superb “Halloween H20,” we had to suffer “Halloween 6,” as the worst before the best.
9. HALLOWEEN RESURRECTION (2002)
After what should’ve been the series’ lasting and binding ending of “Halloween H20,” “Halloween Resurrection” unnecessarily revives Michael Myers using the most cowardly and disbelieving tactics to continue the story. The only reason to give the movie the time of day is to witness the opening chapter which cheaply concludes the Laurie Strode’s storyline. Jamie Lee Curtis deserves better than this backwash of a contractually obligated chase and death scene. What follows the opening 20 minutes is mostly made of cheesy moments, silly plot advancements, and bad acting. No matter how hard it tries to be creative, modern, and self-referential, the movie self-combusts. “Halloween Resurrection” bankrupted the “Halloween” franchise of creativity so much so that Dimension Films’ only recourse was to reboot the series in remakes in order to continue collecting money from Michael Myers’ profitability. You can apologize for a lot of things in the horror genre, but being obnoxious and betraying mogul heroines is not among them. Therefore, I commence a grudge against Halloween’s resurrection.
8. HALLOWEEN (2007)
The remake of “Halloween” is not the type of movie you would be inclined to boast about being a fan of or even watching in the first place. Rob Zombie’s reimagining is unbecoming, specializing in noisy audio, obnoxious dialogue, and unattractive visuals. He attempts to accurately characterize the story’s socioeconomic realities of the small town of Haddonfield, though the original never quite hinted at the extremes Zombie exercises. The uncharted territory, exploring Michael Myers the child, is interesting in theory, it not in practice due to Zombie’s classless execution. You can tell Zombie is a huge fan of the original by some distinctive choices, in particular, the way he shows the transition from boy to man and Michael Myers as a human in addition to a murderer. The best thing I can say about “Halloween” (2007) is, Zombie does well with making film scary and constructing suspense and payoff. But that doesn’t compensate for the poor taste of just about every artistic choice otherwise. He does his best work in the last act, but even that is ruined by the pile of false endings.
7. HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS (1988)
“Halloween 4” reestablishes the Michael Myers tone and environment absent from “Halloween III: Season of the Witch.” The premise of the film is well set up, but “Halloween 4” falls victim/perpetrator to common horror clichés of the 1980s. Just when you think it’s taking the high road, avoiding the Freddy and Jason trademarks, and is trying to be something really special, “Halloween 4” veers into the lowest, easy route in its development of action, death scenes, and suspense. It has good intentions but not good discipline. Of any film of the series, it’s the most seduced by Hollywood’s influence, which ends up undermining its own credibility. Danielle Harris steals the show, emphasizing the victimhood of the protagonist, Jamie Lloyd. The twist of focus in the characters and plot from the first two films may sound convoluted, existing as a way to write around Jamie Lee Curtis’s lack of involvement in the project, and it is totally that. However, the film uses the new story to create a chilling arc, and due to that, “Halloween 4” has the strongest ending of the ten films. It’s smart, sadistic, and perfectly rooted in the series’ trademark familial story. On its best day, the conclusion of “Halloween 4” compensates for its flaws.
6. HALLOWEN II (1981)
“Halloween II” is a shaggily good continuation of a story set in motion by the original masterpiece. It’s a film where each of its three acts are defined by a different quality. The first third meanders between perspectives, committing a sin the original never did: it focuses on a large number of different characters without producing any meaningful result. It’s excessive in the worst way and frankly, boring. This is a flaw that carries into the second act, which is slightly better due to some creative death scenes. But the movie as a whole until the climax lacks the fine-tuned focus of the original. Much of the action and scenes of dialogue are redundant and exist to pad the running time. Jamie Lee Curtis’ performance doesn’t even make an impact on the viewer, but then again, she’s not afforded much of an opportunity from the screenplay, either. The last third, by zeroing in on Laurie and Dr. Loomis, allows the story from the original to march forward in a highly acceptable and satisfying way. The blocking and suspense improve from the earlier in the film, and the classic twist of Michael and Laurie being siblings injects needed energy, direction, and purpose into the plot. Overall, perhaps a leaner version of the film would have been more effective as an epilogue to the original rather than it being a standalone movie demanding its own storyline.
5. H2: HALLOWEEN 2 (2009)
Rob Zombie began taking the story of Michael Myers into his own hands in the original remake, which rendered mostly negative results. In “H2,” he goes even farther to mark his own artistic territory, disregarding many specifics for the original “Halloween II.” At a certain point, about 20 minutes into the film, Zombie begins his own plot entirely and, thankfully, this unlocks a freedom for him to be a more effective storyteller. “H2” has its own spirit that’s darker and moodier than Zombie’s original. Even the death scenes have a more sophisticated directional approach while remaining unnerving and uncompromising. To my surprise, it’s a dramatically and emotionally susceptible film, even if it still has Zombie’s dirtiness and lacking stature, which cripples portions and aspects of the film. In addition, “H2” has an impressive interest in the psychology of its characters and exploring that with an art-house twist. Also, Zombie sets up this film with competent technicalities, in particular, some notably handsome cinematography and neat editing tricks/transitions.
4. HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (1982)
John Carpenter’s original intention with “Halloween” (1978) was to create a holiday anthology series, and that vision is exercised in “Halloween III: Season of the Witch,” which does not feature the iconic serial killer. That being said, “Season of the Witch” is a well-written and well-told story that has the unfortunate luck of being a “Halloween” movie without Michael Myers, thus an inferior reputation. If it were viewed separate from the series, as a 1980s horror movie of its own identity, I imagine it would be decently admired for its themes of consumerism, class, and the hypnotism of media. “Season of the Witch” is solid: the movie has strong directing, visuals, makeup, and constructs a storyline that is unpredictable and original. It stretches a bit beyond the realm of reality into science-fiction instead of realistic horror (unlike Carpenter was aiming for and accomplished in the original film), but it’s a worthy movie that shouldn’t be burdened as a member of this franchise.
3. HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1989)
“Halloween 5” does not commit to the brilliant ending of its predecessor, which is a disappointment, but it makes up for that cowardice by creating genuinely fascinating and captivating threads of stories. This film is more watchable and entertaining than “Halloween 4,” or basically any of the sequels that came before it. “Halloween 5” does not shortchange Jamie’s exploration after reinterpreting the ending of the previous film, and Danielle Harris is once again marvelous in what I would argue is a more challenging performance than the previous film. The worst aspect is, ironically, the ending, which endorses the perennial fight against an inhuman evil rather than wrapping up a smart, character-driven plot. Bowing out on a cliffhanger doesn’t make the artistic sense, but the buildup and creativity put forth before the conclusion makes the film worthy of such a high ranking on the list.
2. HALLOWEEN H20
“Halloween H20” is the most accomplished sequel of the “Halloween” series, and a film that would deserve a “10” for its potency, conviction, and intelligence if it wasn’t for a few non-Laurie scenes earlier in the film that feel less than what other films achieved at the time. You can’t talk about “Halloween H20” without discussing the impact the “Scream” trilogy had on this era in horror cinema. The post-modern references, thrilling and modern style, sexy stars, and heightened feminist protagonists that made the three “Scream” films so successful are borrowed by “Halloween H20” and are used to the film’s triumph. The single best aspect of “Halloween H20” is Laurie Strode’s character development. Though it’s a bit more heavy-handed than Sidney in “Scream,” it’s effective, thorough, and aided by Jamie Lee Curtis’ phenomenal, unforgettable portrayal. The last 20 minutes are first-rate 1990s horror. “Halloween H20” feels as scary and fresh today as it did in 1998.
1. HALLOWEEN (1978)
The original film of the series, “Halloween” (1978), is one of the greatest depictions of the horror genre in cinematic history. John Carpenter’s artful and patient direction is what sets it apart from other cash-grabbing slashers of the 1970s and 1980s. It’s about pace and visual style as much as it is beautiful simplistic storytelling. Jamie Lee Curtis is a revelation as Laurie Strode, who is a female protagonist explored with an enormous amount of depth. Curtis puts forth one of the most notable breakout performances from any actor graced with the responsibility of playing a protagonist their first time out of the gate. Her co-star, Donald Pleasance’s haunting, ineradicable presence as Dr. Samuel Loomis is also irreplaceable. If I would have been an Oscar voter in 1978, I would have voted for Curtis and Pleasance in the leading actor and actress races over Jane Fonda and Jon Voight in “Coming Home.” They’re aided by perfectly crafted dialogue and a balanced storyline. Some scenes are told through Laurie’s eyes, others Dr. Loomis’, and some Michael’s; these three distinctive perspectives coalesce cogently into one streamline plot, which is astutely executed astutely through the screenplay and direction. Perhaps the greatest single aspect of “Halloween” is the film score, assured to strike fear into the most stoic of us all. “Halloween” is balanced, focused, scary, and communicates an idea into a fable.
In a different world, where studios weren’t concerned with only the bottom line and cared as much about the artistic integrity of the stories they were telling, and they decided to not go overboard in producing ubiquitous sequels, the ideal series would have been one of the following:
The Laurie Strode Trilogy
1. Halloween (1978)
2. Halloween II (1981)
3. Halloween H20 (1998)
Or more realistically….
1. Halloween (1978)
2. Halloween II (1981)
3. Halloween: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
4. Halloween: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
5. Halloween H20 (1998)
6. Halloween (2018)
“Halloween III: The Season of the Witch” should have been disassociated from Michael Myers and be simply titled “The Season of the Witch.” “Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers” and “Halloween Resurrection” don’t do anyone any good existing. And the Rob Zombie remake doesn’t earn its existence either, even though its sequel is of better quality, those ideas could have been filtered into a film that worked better without dragging the series more into the territory of “This guy, again?!”
What re your thoughts on the “Halloween” franchise? What is your Top 10 ranking of the films? let us know in the comments section below.
“Halloween” (2018) is will be released in theaters by Universal Pictures October 19.
You can follow Ryan and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @RyanCShowers