October 31, 2009

'Tis the Season

So it seems fitting, with this being Halloween and all, to rank the Halloween films. John Carpenter's original Halloween, from 1978, is truly a classic movie. Unfortunately, the success of this film spawned not only a sea of crappy imitators, but also and endless string of sequels that continue to this day. Without further adieu, here's my ranking of the films, and it's worth noting that Halloween III: Season of the Witch, because it was a sequel in name only and didn't follow the Michael Myers plot line, has been automatically defaulted to last place.

Halloween (1978) The log-line is quite simple: escaped mental patient stalks babysitters on Halloween night. This is the grand daddy of the stalk and slash genre. Director John Carpenter's slow build suspense, excellent use of light and shadow, voyeuristic steady-cam shots and iconic musical score combine to make a shocker that's still effective today. The only bad thing you can say about this film is that its success gave us over a decade of shitty knock offs that failed to capture (or even understand) what made this film so successful in the first place.
Halloween II (1981) Carpenter opted not to direct the follow up (though he did co-script it) and in doing so he muddied up the simple story of the original by suddenly feeling the need to give us a "motive" for Michael targeting Jamie Lee Curtis' Laurie Strode. This movie also seems to ignore the suspense and scares of the original opting for the bloodier style that many of the first movies imitator's went for, but this direct sequel, that sees the (living) cast return and picks up the moment the first film concluded has enough of the feel and tone of the original to be enjoyable. As an aside, it's probably best to forget that Michael is clearly blinded (by two gunshot wounds to the eyeballs) in the film's fiery conclusion because if you don't the subsequent sequels, where he would clearly be a blind man, don't make much sense.
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) The series was seemingly dead after the non-Michael Myers third entry failed to perform at the box-office. With Carpenter now leaving the franchise, Michael's return was left to Dwight H. Little, a no-name genre director who does a serviceable job with this entry that sees Dr. Loomis, the slightly loopy doctor of Michael Myers, at his best; crazed, funny, angry and over the top.

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998) We're already squarely in mediocre range with this entry, that gets extra marks for the return of Jamie Lee Curtis to the series (for the first time since 1981's Halloween II) and also for including her mother, Janet Leigh, who really was the first "scream queen" for her role as Marion Crane in Psycho. (Better known as the unfortunate woman who took a shower at the Bates Motel.) Myers mask inexplicably changes from scene to scene, including an incredibly strange CGI incarnation in one sequence and the film is marred by strange pacing throughout, but it picks up for a decent stalk-and-chase finale.
Halloween: Resurrection (2002) Directed by Rick Rosenthal, (who also helmed Halloween II) this movie is flat out awful and includes a scene so bad that it literally killed the series altogether (requiring a full on re-boot a few years later.) The scene in question sees rapper Busta Rhymes delivering a kung-fu kick to Michael Myers. Terrible, terrible flick, but it does open with Michael finally killing Jamie Lee Curtis, a murder almost 25 years in the making.
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) After Part 4 revived the series, and was successful, this crappy sequel was rushed into theatres for the next fall. The incompetent direction and horrible Myers mask (look at the photo above, Myers looks like Nic Cage) sank this entry well before the stupid sub-plot of the mysterious man who seems to be helping Michael fully derailed it.

Halloween (2006) Rob Zombie's trailer park version of the Halloween story misses in a big way. A large part of the terror of the original film is that Michael appears to be a normal little boy and then one day they discover he's a monster. No motive, no empathy, no logic. In this take, Zombie tries to rationalize the behaviour. The film is also marred by Zombie's sick need to make all of the victims in the film literally beg for the lives before they are murdered. Instead of the roller coaster thrills of a horror movie, you're left with a sick feeling after watching one person after another beg for their life. Far from fun.

Halloween II (2009) Same shit, different pile.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) A movie about an evil mask maker that wants to kill the children of America on Halloween night. Lame. This film was bad enough that it sent the series into hibernation for five years. That doesn't sound like long, but in the 80's horror movie sequels were an annual affair.

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995) I know I said that Halloween III defaulted to last place, but the sixth entry in the series is so incredibly bad, it has to claim the last spot. This movie tries to introduce an absurd subplot about a a cult that worships Michael Myers and the "curse of the Thorn" that is supposed to be the source of his evil. All subsequent films in the series ignored the muddled idiocy of this movie and went back to basics. The movie, likely due to it's moronic plot, was subjected to vast re-shoots and the finished product is almost incoherent and literally devoid of scares. Sadly, this cinematic shit sandwich was the last film that Donald Pleasence, who played Michael's doctor in the series, ever made. His role in the finished film is cut down dramatically because the hack director of the movie, Joe Chappelle, deemed his scenes "too boring."