Dreams of Halloween – Watching the ‘Ween Series

       I remember being a young and impressionable young horror fan and ADORING the HALLOWEEN series. From Carpenter’s first, to the unnecessary sequel that captured my mind because it happened RIGHT after the first, to the third that was trying to do its own thing, and even to part four which tried to reinvigorate the franchise while taking it in a new direction.

I loved these movies.

I loved Michael Myers.

Where I liked the FRIDAY THE 13th and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchises, and like most of the CHAINSAW MASSACRE franchise, HALLOWEEN was where my heart was. I liked the passionless drive of Michael, as well as the fury. Jason had no investment in his kills, he was just acting out of revenge for his mother. Freddy was cool but they turned him into a clown, and it became more about his quips and the special effects than it did the scares. Leatherface was never allowed to be more than just a weirdo in a mask.

Michael, while never saying anything, seemed driven by a weird, creepy purpose to do evil actively, and I loved it.

            Re-watching the movies this year in honor of my fave holiday has been interesting. Removed from my passionate youth I can take a look at the movies with clearer vision and while I still love these movies, man alive is this franchise a mess.

HALLOWEEN is pretty much untouchable. While not perfect, it’s an amazing spookhouse of a horror film with characters that have personality and a heroine you pull for. Carpenter’s visual style and flair for camera work elevated what could have been a mediocre chiller into something legendary. There’s no real touching the original.

I give HALLOWEEN II credit, it has passion. As a kid I loved that this film picked up directly after the first. Man-ALIVE did I love that ending. Had they only stuck with that ending. Sigh. This is where the films start to get a little dodgy in that they graft on the idea that Laurie Strode is Michael’s sister. It works but why he wants to kill his family we’ll never know. He just really didn’t like them, I guess. While the bloodshed starts to get over the top in this one – something that doesn’t really fit with Michael for me, but oh well – this is still darn fun.

HALLOWEEN III is just fun. It’s nonsensical but creepy and weird and I love that. It has a fantastic score that really is the standout here but it’s a rollicking horror fantasy that is sold by the ever-wonderful Tom Atkins. THIS is what the series could have evolved into – a yearly horror film set at Halloween. Alas, the fans spoke, or rather yawned, and here we are. The movie’s logic is sloppy, there isn’t a lot of realism at work, but its surreal terror is about as fun as the series ever got and the ending is fantastic. I will always wish someone could remake this with a better script that could better delve into the mythology here and the lore on hand. As it stands though it’s a heck of a fun movie that has finally started to get some of its due.

HALLOWEEN 4 decided that people didn’t understand what Roman numerals were any longer and with that decided too to move on from old girl Laurie Strode. I have to say that the way they did this was a bit clumsy, to say the least, but it works. Switching from Laurie to who we find out is her daughter works, mainly because Danielle Harris is adorable as such and you feel for her. While the characters are starting to become more props than ever before, Loomis and Harris are standouts. Michael still mostly has the same-ish mask but we’re starting to veer away from the mystery that makes him creepy. This is a great imitation of H1 and H2 and as such it is still good, but it is also corny. The sex scene seems needless and awkward. Having Loomis show up to warn people only to have him mocked is getting old, but not too old yet. The biggest problem here is that it FEELS like it’s an imitation. It’s not a bad one, but it’s the margarine of the series but at least it’s trying! The bummer of the film is that it ends on a note that opens up a fascinating door that could have really changed the series up and rebooted it completely. Again, though the fans and the producers shrugged and decided to lean on Michael who, as usual, is never fully dead.

HALLOWEEN 5 is where we start to see the slide. I do get a kick out of the fact that The Shape low key became supernatural over the films. No one takes this many bullet hits and this much harm and ISN’T supernatural. I suppose this is why this was the start of the turn towards Michael becoming more than just a madman, he was indeed The Shape, a mindless killing machine. Part 5 is rote in every way and while Harris is again the star and does the best she’s able, like Pleasance as Loomis, the film just doesn’t have anything to offer. It has a lot of possibility, with the idea of bringing Halloween back to town, of a shock jock wanting to take advantage of that fact, but a secondary main character is killed off without any drama, and that seems par for the course. At this point the movies are going through the motions. Michael lurks around like a robot at this point. There’s no menace. There’s no personality. He’s just a man in an outfit killing people in wilder and more audacious ways. Here was where they were trying to take some inspiration from the FRIDAY THE 13th kill variety. Meh. Part 5 isn’t a disaster but it feels passionless and adds so many awkward threads that have to picked up in the next film that I have to wonder if a plan was actually in place or they were making it up as they went along.

HALLOWEEN 6 is a mess. It’s a BETTER mess with the Producer’s Cut but how much of a mess does a movie have to be for a producer to slip in behind the director to put together a different cut of a film to release, even if just on home video? Yikes. This is where the series really went off the rails. Gone is Danielle Harris and her character, Jamie, is dispatched within the first half an hour with little fanfare and too many questions. Why filmmakers do this is beyond me. If you don’t like the core characters of a franchise, why get involved? Killing them out of hand seems like a cheat to fans. In this entry Michael is basically a robotic slave to cultists who somehow have an elaborate labyrinth beneath the sanitarium where they perform rituals and give praise to Thorn, some sort of evil force that has possessed Michael for all these years, driving him to kill. I appreciate their leaning into the supernatural at this point and trying to create a reason for The Shape to kill but it’s too weird and too late. They shoulda let Michael die and Jamie take up his mantle in Part 5. That made the most sense. Alas, they didn’t. And here we are. The series is literally running on fumes. This movie, even better with this Producer’s Cut, is still a mess and poor Pleasance is given little to do. So much plot explanation in this and Michael has zero presence or personality. Even the child-like head tilt he does seems forced and false. Sigh.

What a mess.

I ADORE HALLOWEEN: H20. Despite a stupid name that reeks of clever executives bathed in cologne, this is a solid movie. THIS shoulda been the end of the franchise. THIS is their FRIDAY THE 13th IV! Curtis is back as Laurie and shows some of the aspects that will become who she is in the newest reboot of the franchise. She is surrounded by a really strong cast, a fun story, and a quick pace. This film acts as if episodes 3-6 never happened and is essentially a sequel to part two. Fine. The film is atmospheric, contained, and has some great fights between Laurie and Michael. The big issue here is that, again, they show Michael too much. When we see him stalking around and as a character more than just The Shape he starts to seem sillier and less scary. The teens act like teens, which is good and bad. They are sorta endearing but this was in the era of Dawson’s Creek and features one of those actors so people who were over that era will for sure not be amused. Man alive what an ending though. It’s fantastic. It gives closure to the entire series and while we never get answers as to Why (or where Michael was or what he was up to for twenty years, ahem) it works. This isn’t perfect. It’s clumsy. It follows fads of the time, but darn was it fun and boy did it work.

HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION is a straight up mess. Again, we deal with an actor who didn’t want to be in the series any longer and a need to get rid of them as quickly as possible, and a clumsy way in which they do it. Credit to Curtis for actually coming back though. That’s some loyalty. The rest of the film is a mess. Michael kills for no real reason other than, I guess to protect his house, which has been overrun by a reality show and its cast. See, here’s the thing – there’s no way a murder house like this would be standing. It woulda been bulldozed and a new house built. Guaranteed. But OK, for the sake of argument, it’s there. Half of the drama for the film would be them getting permission film there or, being turned down, doing it illicitly. If you wanna do a ‘found footage’/’reality series’ entry do it with people breaking in and skulking about. As it is, this is way too wrapped up in being topical to be interesting. The characters are cardboard cutouts as bad as any in later FRIDAY movies and who only serve singular purposes. It’s embarrassing and that someone wrote this mess and then someone else filmed it as if it was a bowl of oatmeal is damning. This is boring, ridiculous, and boring with a hackneyed ending. It’s pretty clear to see why this was the end of the franchise and Rob Zombie was brought in.

This is a wreck and the low point of the series.

I loved the Rob Zombie HALLOWEEN films. I don’t agree with all the choices, or the full trajectory but they play as a two-film storyline that is completed. It was clear to me that the sequel was his way of saying ‘screw you’ to everyone that hated on him for the first. It’s weird to me that the rest of the series is so dodgy that fans hate THESE entries most. The RZ entries are beautiful, well cast, creepy, gruesome, and Michael is a force of nature. I get that people didn’t like that we got reasons why he MAY be what he is but for me there was already something wrong with him. He just needed the right push. With the series always about family it makes sense to make it about his sister and the family itself. How things work out, well, it’s weird, but at least it’s true to a vision.

I certainly don’t love everything about the films, the sequel being messy but gorgeous to gaze upon, but again, these are passionate and have a vision and identity. He did his own thing, at least as much of his own thing as he could. That’s admirable. He tried to make those films his own and did, good and ill. I can only hope that as time goes on the films age better with fans because I still love them both far more than most entries in the series.

HALLOWEEN – 2018. I was conflicted when they made this but liked it. Watching it recently, as the follow up to HALLOWEEN ’78 I loved it. It gets Michael. It gets what makes him scary. It gets what he is. He’s a shark and we don’t know his full purpose or reasoning, but he will do whatever it takes to kill Laurie Strode. Curtis is fantastic here and it’s easy to see why she came back. While I am not sure she should be this batty after just one night of terror with The Shape, since part two doesn’t exist in this world, she is fantastic in this role. She finally has more to do and is a force all her own. Side characters aren’t given a lot to do but we do care about them and with this a new trilogy they’ll get more time. The atmosphere is right, Michael is right, Laurie is right, the music is great, and even with an awkward side plot of a nutty doctor thrown in, the film works. Truly this is the second best in the series for me and I cannot wait to see what they do with these characters and this universe.

            I love this series, even with all the bumps. As a big Halloween holiday person, you sorta have to appreciate the series at least, I figure. While not my favorite any longer I do love the franchise and am glad to see new life breathed into it and hope they have the sense to at least let Laurie go out gracefully. She deserves it.

Happy Haunt Season, friends.

…c…

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