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Slasher Summer: The Halloween Reviews - Page 2


HALLOWEEN:
THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1995)
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
HALLOWEEN:
THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1995)
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers

The Premise: After giving birth to a baby boy, Jamie Lloyd escapes the cult that captured her and rescued Michael Myers years earlier, only to be pursued and killed by Michael. Tommy Doyle, one of the few people to have survived Michael Myers, finds the baby and alerts Haddonfield that the Shape is back.

The Verdict: Given that the previous film forced it to create a mythology to explain everything, it's remarkable this movie works as well as it does. Marianne Hagan and Paul Rudd shine, as does Donald Pleasence, in what would be his last appearance as Dr. Loomis. That said, the Thorn plot is pretty dumb and distracts from making Myers the primary threat. Most of the film is okay (despite some questionable editing and asinine music cues), but it falls apart and becomes a confusing mess during the last twenty minutes.



HALLOWEEN:
THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1995)

(Unrated Producer's Cut)
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (Producer's Cut)
HALLOWEEN:
THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1995)

(Unrated Producer's Cut)
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (Producer's Cut)

The Premise: After giving birth to a baby boy, Jamie Lloyd escapes the cult that captured her and rescued Michael Myers years earlier, only to be pursued and attacked by Michael. Tommy Doyle, one of the few people to have survived Michael Myers, finds the baby and alerts Haddonfield that the Shape is back, while the cult behind it all has other plans.

The Verdict: I include this as a separate entry, because the changes are dramatic enough that it feels like a separate film. When compared to the theatrical release, the Unrated Producer's Cut is definitely superior. Light touches increase the suspense; plot holes are smaller and fewer; and the final act is completely different (and far more coherent). However, it does delve much deeper into the rune mythos and, at the climax, Myers is defeated by a handful of rocks, making this the sillier of the two versions. I would recommend the Unrated Producer's Cut over the theatrical one. Still, as its own thing, it sits at a low point in the franchise--even though it is better than Halloween 5--because the need to explain all the unnecessary set-up and explain what Michael Myers is takes away pretty much everything that makes the character work.



HALLOWEEN H20:
TWENTY YEARS LATER (1998)
Halloween H20
HALLOWEEN H20:
TWENTY YEARS LATER (1998)
Halloween H20

The Premise: A damaged Laurie Strode, having faked her death and assumed a new identity as headmistress of a private academy, finds her deepest fears realized when Michael Myers tracks her down and sets his sights on her 17-year-old son.

The Verdict: A soft reboot that surgically removes the entire Thorn trilogy, this is a return to simple suspense and character drama that never gets carried away by psychic bonds, mystical runes, pagan rituals, or any other silly explanations for Myers' single-minded mission. I appreciate all of that, and I also appreciate that the story takes its time to build believable characters and create a satisfying arc for Laurie and a few of the other characters (including the creatively frustrated security guard played by LL Cool J). Unfortunately, the movie relies too much on tiresome jump scares to maintain tension through a fairly mundane first half, not all the characters pay off (including Laurie's son, who seems to get blander and blander as the movie goes on), and there are a few too many lazy coincidences in the writing, including the refusal to explain where Michael's been for the last twenty years. However, the final act and conclusion are incredible, turning Laurie into the heroine who is finally able to take charge of the demon who has haunted her life. All in all, it's a bit slow, but it's more solid than most of the films in this list.



HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION (2002)
Halloween: Resurrection
HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION (2002)
Halloween: Resurrection

The Premise: After dispatching Laurie Strode once and for all, Michael Myers returns to his childhood home only to discover it's become the setting of an Internet reality show.

The Verdict: Actively undoing everything the previous film accomplished is hard to overlook (not to mention killing the series' beloved protagonist in the first act), but it might be forgivable if this were a decent entry in the series. Unfortunately, it takes the seeds of what could be a decent story and fails to nurture them at every turn. It's narratively incoherent and illogical, full of every bad turn-of-the-century horror cliché you can think of, and loaded with awful characters with even worse dialogue. Had this been better written--and not tied to the Halloween mythos in any way--it might have been a biting satire of the entire slasher genre, full of subversive themes and damning social critique, but all of the potential for such a film is wasted. The only reason to even consider watching it is the campy performance of Busta Rhymes, but other than that, the only thing Halloween: Resurrection accomplishes is making a good case that the series has nothing left in it.



HALLOWEEN (2007)
(Unrated Director's Cut)
Halloween (2007)
HALLOWEEN (2007)
(Unrated Director's Cut)
Halloween (2007)

The Premise: After young Michael Myers goes on a murderous rampage, he spends the next fifteen years institutionalized before making a bloody escape and returning to his home in Haddonfield.

The Verdict: There's nothing inherently wrong with retelling the original story of Michael Myers or updating it for the modern era. However, Rob Zombie's remake is less successful than it could be for a number of reasons. For one, it's an oddly structured film, dividing itself almost cleanly in two and never settling on a protagonist.

The first half delves deep into the psychology of a budding psychopath, and as such, it's interesting, albeit unnecessary and unwise for a Halloween film. Giving Michael an awful, abusive home as a child creates a more realistic environment from which a psychopath can be nurtured, but it also depletes from the more frightening story of a seemingly normal suburban middle class child suddenly turning into a murderer, a backstory established quite efficiently in the original. Also, the inclusion of "Love Hurts" is so wildly tone-deaf as to ruin what should be one of the most emotionally impactful moments of the first half: the actual murder of Michael's family.

When this remake finally gets around to the familiar story of Laurie Strode being stalked, it has far less time to build tension or suspense, which is what the story needs to work its magic. While there are some good scenes and I'm convinced it could have worked had Zombie decided to axe most of the superfluous first half, almost none of the characters are likeable (not even Laurie), with many of them so deplorable as to make one wonder whether Rob Zombie even likes humanity. The dialogue is also terrible at every turn, as though shocking expletives from every character will somehow distract from their inability to form a coherent thought. The best lines are all copied directly from the original, but devoid of the original context, even these lines fall flat. And finally, the cinematography relies far too much on hand-held cameras, claustrophobically close angles, and obscured foregrounds, making for a disorienting and distracting film that inspires more headaches than dread.

It's not a total loss, however. Malcolm MacDowell makes a great Dr. Loomis; the music is well-done, unafraid to utilize Carpenter's original tracks; the love of the source material is evident; and it maintains a consistent tone. Still, it's too problematic to be favorably compared to the original, and any remake that cannot do that is, by definition, a failure.



HALLOWEEN II (2009)
(Unrated Director's Cut)
Halloween II (2009)
HALLOWEEN II (2009)
(Unrated Director's Cut)
Halloween II (2009)

The Premise: Two years after Michael's assault on Haddonfield, he returns once more to collect Laurie and bring the family back together again.

The Verdict: According to Rob Zombie, he had difficulty figuring out where to put the iconic John Carpenter musical theme in this movie, and he eventually opted to place it only at the very end, during the closing credits. This is probably because there is nothing in his Halloween II that really qualifies as related to Carpenter's original film. This strays so far from the source material as to be unrecognizable, with even the hospital scene in the opening twenty-five minutes--a bare-bones call-back to the original Halloween II--being reduced to the cheap fake-out of an extended and irrelevant dream sequence.

Zombie has a flair for imagery, to be sure, and does a decent job showing the severe psychological damage that trauma can cause. Indeed, if there's a primary strength to be found, it's in how various characters react to violence. Still, the film spends so much time reinforcing how utterly despicable its characters are--most unforgivably Dr. Loomis and Laurie Strode--that it's impossible for the audience to truly get invested in any of them (except the Sheriff). The kills are also hyper-violent and shot with shaky close-up camera work and fast cutting which, combined with the frequent hallucinations and trippy dream sequences, makes the movie feel at times more like a two hour music video or gore-filled arthouse project than a film. It definitely never feels like a Halloween film. Myers never feels like the Shape of previous films, either--he doesn't even match the one exhaustively set up in the previous film--as he spends much of the movie wandering around, partially maskless and brooding over his psychedelic, imaginary Mommy time and the overexposed white horse imagery that is unnecessarily explained before the film even begins.

The final act becomes almost nonsensical in its attempts to tie Laurie to Michael through psychic projections of their dead family, and the ending tries but fails to achieve the masterful shock of the final twist in Halloween 4. As a fan of Rob Zombie's other work, it pains me to say it, but this is not a good movie, and I have no desire to see the franchise continue in this rebooted direction.




At his best, Michael Myers is a stand-in for the inexplicability of evil--something that has emerged from our nightmares in the shape of an innocent child who, without reason, turns into a remorseless and possibly immortal killing machine--or the inescapability of violent trauma. At his worst, though, he's a joyless slasher villain. The Halloween films take themselves more seriously than many of the other franchises we'll be covering this summer, and for people who watch these things for the entertainment value, they can feel a little too dour and plodding. Personally, though, this is one of my favorite slasher series, because I feel there's more going on beneath the surface than in most others. The original film can be seen as a thinly-veiled and provocative morality tale, and the more successful sequels can achieve a level of dread you just can't get out of a demon-possessed doll or a macrocephalic lakeside hobo in a hockey mask whose victims are somehow more intellectually challenged than he is.

The franchise seems to still have some life to it, despite the diminishing returns of Rob Zombie's remakes and the catastrophically terrible Halloween: Resurrection. Rumor has it John Carpenter himself is returning to the executive producer's role for the next installment, one which will honor the original continuity rather than simply reboot it yet again. Directed by David Gordon Green and working from a script he cowrote with Danny McBride (yes, the one and only Wreck-It Ralph), it is scheduled to hit theaters some time next year. I'm excited to see what Carpenter and the creative team have in mind, though if I'm honest, I think the series should have ended with Halloween H20.

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-e. magill 5/18/2017

THE UNAPOLOGETIC GEEK'S
SLASHER SUMMER:
  • The Halloween Reviews
  • Michael Myers' Top 10 Best Kills
  • Halloween's Top 10 Finest Moments
  • The Nightmare on Elm Street Reviews
  • Freddy's Top 10 Best Nightmares
  • The Friday the 13th Reviews
  • Jason's Top 10 Best Kills
  • Video Game Review: Friday the 13th: The Game
  • The Texas Chainsaw Reviews
  • Leatherface's Top 10 Most Intense Moments
  • The Child's Play Reviews
  • Chucky's Top 10 Best Kills
  • The Hellraiser Reviews
  • How to Make a Slasher Flick