Halloween Retrospective

After 40 years, I think it is safe to say that “Halloween” is more popular than ever. How can you explain a horror movie making nearly 80 million on opening weekend in October? The reason is almost completely due to the original. The 1978 “Halloween” is one of those movies that even people who haven’t seen are aware of. It is something of an annual tradition for movie fans. It is screened yearly in theaters and is almost constantly reissued on DVD, Blu-Ray, and now 4-K. This popularity extends, not to the same level, to the various sequels, remakes, and reboots that occur throughout the series. In this series, you have three(!) movies named “Halloween” and two(!) Halloween 2’s! There are three continuities present in the series, so it is basically a choose your own adventure style of horror movie filmmaking. It makes perfect sense on the 40th anniversary of the series to look back and the twists and turns this series has taken since its inception.

Halloween (1978)

I consider the original “Halloween” to be nearly a perfect movie. Not in the sense that there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, but because I can’t think of anything being done better. There’s not a wasted frame in this movie, as it builds suspense thoughout. It is surprising when you realize that people don’t start dying until nearly the end, you are just waiting for the inevitable to happen. What was unique about this movie is that it put horror in the streets of anytown USA. This could happen to you or anyone in your neighborhood, which makes it more frightening. Michael Myers stalks at random, making him like the great white shark in Jaws. Laurie and her friends are just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

There is a reason this movie has stood the sense of time. It is not really dated like other movies of the era. The characters are relatable. The filmmaking style by John Carpenter is exquisite and I think by far the best of any horror movie I have seen.

4 Pumpkins out of 4

Halloween II (1982)

While this movie doesn’t hold a candle to the original, it is an overall success. Taking place immediately after the first movie ended, this movie follows the surviving characters from the original and seeing what happens to them the rest of Halloween night. I will say that the best element of this movie is that it doesn’t feel totally different from the original like most of the sequels do. While the directing is not up to John Carpenter’s original, the suspense is still there. The setting of the movie is unique – a hospital. It never made sense to me that a hospital could be that abandoned on Halloween of all nights, but I can’t deny that the setting is pretty terrifying especially with the lights out.

The main problem with this movie is that it turns away from being something special, like the original, into more of a run of the mill slasher movie. That is not completely a bad thing, as this is a good slasher movie, but it is a steep decline from the original. It sidelines Jamie Lee Curtis in a hospital bed for most of the movie until the climax, which is the best part of the movie. It also introduces the idea of Laurie being Michael’s sister, which makes sense why he would track her down at the hospital, but takes away some of his mystique when you can understand his motive.

3 Pumpkins out of 4

Halloween: Season of the Witch

I wish I could enjoy this more as an experiment, but I don’t think the movie is good enough on its own. This is an experiment to re create the Halloween series as an anthology series with each film going forward telling different stories with the only common trait is that they occur on Halloween. That sounds like a good idea, but after Michael Myers became a horror icon, audiences were thrown off with this out of left field story.

It is a really weird plot about a Druidic cult looking to kill children across America via a combination of masks and a television commercial that will trigger something in the kids masks that turn their heads into bugs and snakes, and pieces of Stonehenge are involved somehow? Is it any wonder that the anthology idea died before it really began? It is a curiosity worth a viewing, but nothing to write home about.

2 1/2 Pumpkins out of 4

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

After the financial and audience dismissal of the anthology concept, this one goes back to the basics, and, like the title states, brings back Michael Myers. This is a solid slasher sequel set above average due to a pretty good cast. Donald Pleasence takes the reigns here as the featured cast member, and he gives it his all. He has basically become Captain Ahab with his determination to capture Michael Myers has him coming across as an insane person. I particularly always remember his reaction to events at the end of the movie.

The movie’s breakout new cast member is without a doubt Danielle Harris’ Jamie Lloyd. Laurie Strode has been killed off offscreen and her daughter here is Michael Myers main target in this movie. You also have a good relationship between her and her foster sister Rachel. You root for these two to make it as they’re relentlessly stalked by Michael. The rooftop sequence is original and quite good. I would say that this is easily one of the best sequels, and is one of the major reasons the series is still with us today. If this movie hadn’t succeeded the way it did, how many more would they have made?

3 Pumpkins out of 4

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers

If this isn’t the worst Halloween movie, it’s close. This movie is just insufferable, offering a collection of the worst characters in any Halloween movie. This movie just drags along with no sense of momentum, and when it reaches the end, it doesn’t even have one, opting for a cheap cliffhanger because the filmmakers had no idea what to do. Danielle Harris returns from the previous movie, but this movie ditches the interesting ending of the previous movie, deciding it would rather have her be a mute character this time. The other returning character from the last movie, Rachel, dies early, leaving us with easily the most annoying character, Tina, who we are apparently supposed to like even as she repeatedly acts like an idiot and makes stupid decisions throughout the movie. The only thing I enjoyed in this movie is Donald Pleasence as Loomis, picking up from the last movie, he goes even crazier in this one. He is really the only one in this movie that you are interested in watching. This one can be skipped easily.

1 Pumpkin out of 4

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers

For the longest time, this was my least favorite movie in the series, but coming back to it, I don’t think it’s as bad as I remembered it. Not that it’s good, mind you. The problems in this movie are built into it from the beginning. The movie pretty much has to follow the track laid out by the ludicrous cliffhanger from the last movie, that they clearly had no idea where it was going. So this movies task is to somehow pay off the mythology from the previous movie. And it does. The problem is that this completely misses the point of the original. The fact that you have no idea why Michael Myers does what he does is what makes it so effective. The act of explaining Michael Myers just takes away a lot of the horror of the character. So while the producer’s cut is a more coherent vision than the theatrical cut, it just isn’t what I want from a Halloween movie. Something would need to be done to reboot this franchise, because there is no way to go forward from where this movie leaves us.

2 Pumpkins out of 4

Halloween H20

This movie follows a pattern that this series goes to often. After going over the top in a previous entry, the series goes back to basics, hewing as close as possible to the original movie. What made this one stand out is that Jamie Lee Curtis returns to the series for the first time since the second, and the movie ignores every movie since then. Gone is the ridiculous Cult of Thorn storyline, and Michael’s niece/Laurie’s daughter. Streamlining the story is an effective tactic, and something the series would do 20 years after this one.

This is a good entry in the series, with Jamie Lee Curtis giving a great performance as Laurie who is living in a different state with a different name, but still fears that Michael Myers will come for her and her son. The movie surrounding he is a run of the mill slasher, with decent characters and a good run time. This is clearly a post “Scream” film, so the characters are a bit smarter and snarkier than the characters in previous movies. This movie isn’t the original, but by going back and trying to recapture that feeling, it is one of the better sequels.

3 Pumpkins out of 4

Halloween Resurrection

This is the movie that gives Halloween 5 a run for its money as the worst in the series. Not only does it retroactively ruin the ending of H20 and kill off Laurie Strode, it gives us a really crappy story as a substitute. It seems like they decided to ride the Blair Witch Project found footage wave and try to use it on a typical slasher movie. So this movie deals with a group of idiots wearing cameras, spending Halloween night in Michael Myers house for a live internet broadcast. The problem here is that right off the bat we don’t like the characters because they knowingly choose to do this idiotic thing in the first place. Then on top of that, they are simply an annoying group from top to bottom. At no point is this movie scary in the slightest. The less said about the owner of the company running the show, Busta Rhymes, the better. This movie should be avoided at all costs.

1 Pumpkin out of 4

Halloween (2007)

This one I am conflicted on. This is a remake of the original, and as far as remakes go, I prefer ones that don’t try to copy the original that much. So part of this movie works more than the other half. The first half expands on Michael Myers childhood and works the most. The second half, which is basically the original Halloween on fast forward, doesn’t. That is partially because it seems Rob Zombie felt he had to follow the original movie, but he cared more about Michael Myers as a child.

A lot of people can’t stand this movie, and I can see why. Zombie’s aesthetics are an acquired taste, with the constant language and tone, which seems nearly the opposite of Carpenter. But I can’t say his vision is any further off than making Michael a cursed person who is supernaturally driven to kill his family. That makes it even more annoying when it becomes a rote slasher for the last half. It is like Zombie’s heart isn’t in it and views it as an obligation. The newer, taller, meaner Michael Myers is good, as is Malcolm McDowell as the new Loomis, but the replacements of other characters are bland and boring. It is interesting as a curiosity, and well made, which makes it better than a lot of other entries in the franchise.

2 1/2 Pumpkins out of 4

Halloween 2 (2009)

This might be my most controversial opinion, but I like this movie. I know that this goes completely afield of the original in every way, but I like the fact that Rob Zombie just lets loose and commits to his vision. The opening portion of the movie is like a mini remake of the original Halloween 2, but better in that it cuts out any filler. This movie is very much a matter of taste for anyone who watches. I completely understand why a lot of people absolutely hate it, but at this point in the series, if you’re going to continue to make new Halloween movies, wild swings like this are worth it, even if they don’t always connect.

3 Pumpkins out of 4

Halloween (2018)

I really loved this one. It pulls an H20, but instead of ignoring everything except the first two, this one follows only the original. This means that Michael and Laurie are no longer related, which makes Michael scarier because he no longer has a motive. He isn’t out to kill his family, he is simply a force of evil again. This movie strikes the balance from being a remake of the original and the tone of the Zombie Halloween movies. It feels connected to the original, but also feels more modern. Jamie Lee Curtis is again great as a Laurie who hasn’t gotten over Halloween night in 1978 some 40 years later. The supporting cast is also good, and I think the Michael Myers in this movie feels the most like the Michael in the first movie. My only complaint in this movie is a bizarre plot turn it takes near the end, but that is followed by the perfect climax. I think the ending of this movie would be the perfect ending for the series as a whole, but I know it won’t be. With the way the box office is going for this movie, we’ll be seeing more Halloween movies for the next 40 years.

3 1/2 Pumpkins out of 4

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