Halloween series

So Halloween is upon us and this year it occurred to me that I had only seen half of the Halloween films. I decided to rectify that this year.

Halloween (1978)

You know I kind of go back and forth on Halloween. I last saw it in 2009 and thought that while good it was somewhat overrated. Watching it again for this article, I disavow that previous opinion. I give it a lot of shit because it’s often credited with pioneering the slasher film techniques that were in fact used in earlier films like Psycho, Peeping Tom, and Black Christmas. Maybe it didn’t originate those techniques but it uses them masterfully. To me the greatest thing about Michael Myers is that he is a blank (even referred to as The Shape in the credits). Even his mask is a blank. No one really knows why this little kid snapped and murdered his sister. When the mask finally comes off he looks so normal, but he has been dispassionately killing people the whole movie. Halloween isn’t as violent as later slasher films would be, but it knows more about suspense. John Carpenter’s film deserves its classic status.

Famous people: Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance, obviously

Nudity: Sandy Johnson combs her hair nude in post-coital bliss, P.J. Soles (also post-coital) sits up in bed letting the blanket fall away

Memorable deaths: P.J. Soles totally gets strangled with a phone cord while her death noises are mistaken for an obscene phone call.

Body count: 5

Halloween II (1981)

The worst Halloween of Laurie Strode’s life continues in this sequel that picks up right where the first film left off. While suspense is still the name of the game in this film, the gore factor absent from the original makes itself known in this one. This film is less a trailblazer like the first one and more a standard slasher film of its day. Of course between Halloween and Halloween II, Friday the 13th happened and that upped the stakes for blood and guts. This film also introduces the fact that [spoiler alert] Laurie Strode is in fact the younger sister of serial murderer Michael Myers. John Carpenter says this was a dumb idea he had to raise the stakes but it went on to be one of the key aspects of the series. This was intended to be the last movie to focus on Myers ( as evidenced when [more spoilers] Myers and Dr. Loomis blow up at the end of the movie… they got better.). That didn’t work out or this would be a much shorter article.

Famous people: Dana Carvey is briefly in one scene although you can’t see him clearly

Nudity: Pamela Susan Shoop skinny dips in a therapeutic bathtub.

Memorable deaths: A nurse gets drowned/scalded in an overheated therapeutic bathtub.

Body count: 10 (or 12 if you count 2 that are undone in later movies)

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Originally, the plan was to tell a different Halloween-themed story every movie. As Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis died in the previous film, Halloween III was a departure for the series. See the next seven movies if you want an idea how well that was received. The plot deals with a doctor and a girl investigating the mysterious murder of the girl’s father. The trail leads to a sinister corporation hatching a maniacal scheme involving Halloween masks. It’s very very stupid. There are some cool gory moments but this hour and a half movie felt much much longer. Even if you’re marathon-ing your way through the movies, you’re better off skipping this one.

Famous people: Fans of the horror genre might recognize Tom Atkins. Jamie Lee Curtis has a voice-only cameo as a recorded phone message.

Nudity: Obscured, as Stacey Nelkin gets out of the shower.

Memorable deaths: A woman’s face is melted. A bum’s head is ripped off. A kid disintegrates into bugs and snakes.

Body count: 9

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

So that whole thing about Michael Myers getting shot in both eyes and burned to death? Not so much. He’s just been in a ten year coma (eyes intact). Likewise Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) didn’t sacrifice himself blowing Myers up, but rather just burned part of his face. Anyway, the comatose Myers gets transferred when guess what happens? He wakes up and escapes and kills a shit ton of people in the process. Sister lauries is apparently dead, but had a young daughter named Jamie Lloyd (the adorable Danielle Harris). Actually Harris kind of grounds this movie, which in most ways is just a by-the-number slasher flick but without the gory silliness of the Friday the 13th series. The end of the film seems to imply that young Jamie will end up following in the footsteps of her psychotic uncle, but the producers chickened out (the same thing happened in the Friday the 13th series with the character of Tommy Jarvis).

Nudity: Kathleen Kinmont (briefly) as she gets down with someone else’s boyfriend

Memorable deaths: The aforementioned other woman gets stabbed with a shotgun by Michael Myers, who clearly doesn’t know how guns work.

Body count: 17, but there are a lot of off-camera ones so the final count may be off a bit.

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)

So this movie picks up a year later with young Jamie now mute and in a children’s hospital after attacking (apparently not killing) her stepmother. Michael Myers survived his previous death scene and is now after her again. Eventually a bunch of people get killed. In the meantime there’s long stretches where not… much… happens… While I wouldn’t say this beats the third film for the worst in the series, it is very boring and none of the stalking-and-killing scenes are exciting enough to redeem it. I always enjoyed slasher movies because there’s a sense of fun to the grisly proceedings, but this one takes itself way too seriously. This film does hint at a larger mythology with a mysterious tattoo on Michael’s wrist and an even more mysterious man in black who fucks everything up towards the end, but I guess we have to wait for the next movie to get answers on that one…

Famous people: None, but recognizable character actor Troy Evans (E.R.) has a small role as a cop.

Nudity: Of the brief obscured-by-a-translucent-shower-curtain variety. In other words, not really.

Memorable deaths: A guy gets his face raked with a garden hoe.

Body count: 16

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

One of the eeriest things about Halloween is that you never really know why this perfectly normal kid just snapped and murdered his sister. He went from happy normal child to unstoppable killing machine. Why? Well, The Curse of Michael Myers sets about answering that question and it’s pretty god damn stupid. Turns out a Druid cult curses a person to kill their whole family (and anyone who gets in the way) so that the rest of the community may prosper. Told you it was stupid. Paul Rudd plays an adult version of the kid Jamie Lee Curtis babysat in the first film. For an actor I usually like, he is uniquely awful in this movie. I’m not even sure how to describe it. This movie ups the gore compared to the other films in the franchise but it is bogged down by the self-seriousness that plagued the previous two films.

Famous people: pre-Clueless Paul Stephen Rudd, True Grit’s Kim Darby, character actor Mitchell Ryan

Nudity: Mariah O’Brien in bed after sex with her boyfriend (in his sister’s bed)

Memorable deaths: One of the main character’s jerkass father gets stabbed and then electrocuted until he explodes.

Body count: 15-ish (a scene where Myers slaughters a bunch of people at once confuses the count a bit)

Halloween: 20 Years Later (1998)

This film rather notably ignores the continuity of the previous four films (so no more stupid Druid curse). It’s been twenty years since the Halloween night chronicled in the first two films and Michael Myers’ body was never found. Laurie Strode fakes her death, changes her name, and moves to California where she becomes the headmistress of a boarding school. Michael Myers finds her anyway, after killing Nurse Whittington (Loomis’s nurse from the first two films) to get Laurie’s information. This is the first of the Myers Halloween films not to feature Dr. Loomis, due to Donald Pleasance’s death. This film is dedicated to his memory. This film is directed by Friday the 13th Part 2 director Steve Miner and produced by Scream writer/producer Kevin Williamson. At one point some people watch Scream 2 on TV. The first Scream featured characters watching Halloween on TV. Meta, right?

Famous people: Curtis and Psycho star/Curtis’ mom Janet Leigh, Adam Arkin, LL Cool J, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, two-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams, and introducing Josh Hartnett

Nudity: None. What gives?

Memorable deaths: Jodi Lyn O’Keefe is stabbed in the leg, then her ankle gets broken in a dumbwaiter, then she’s stabbed and her body is hung on a light fixture with the bulb glowing out of the hole in her chest. Someone else is stabbed in the chest, flung threw a car windshield, run over, pinned to a log by a van, and then finally decapitated.

Body count: 7

Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

I’m sort of convinced that this one was conceived as an original slasher movie and they just decided it would sell better if it was tied into an established franchise. The opening continues the story from the last film, but after that it’s pretty much unrelated. Busta Rhymes plays a guy who wants to webcast a bunch of people spending the night in Michael Myers’ house. This was made in the early 2000s, when Hollywood new technology was progressing but didn’t really have a handle on how to exploit that. This movie is really fucking stupid, even by slasher movie sequel standards. Busta Rhymes (who actually wasn’t bad in Narc) is just awful in this. I mean, everyone’s bad, but he stands out. It’s also worth pointing out that movie is annoyingly dark. Not dark like all the movies in this series are dark, but dark like “what the hell is happening onscreen” dark. Plus large chunks of the movie are shot on what are supposed to be early-2000s webcams so it’s grainy too. It’s pretty easy to see why after this one the producers opted to start over…

Famous People: Curtis, Busta Rhymes, Tyra Banks, Katee Sackhoff

Nudity: Daisy McCracken gets topless to get busy in a basement.

Memorable deaths: There’s one that would have been shocking if it hadn’t happened so early in the movie. Also, poor Katee Sackhoff gets all decapitated.

Body count: 10

Halloween (2007)

Okay, so I have very mixed feelings about this movie. On the one hand, it’s a reasonably good showcase for Rob Zombie’s spin on the traditional slasher flick (as opposed to his earlier, more grindhouse-y efforts). On the other hand it really demystifies Michael Myers and gives him a hard-luck white trash backstory that explains his homicidal urges. The complete lack of motive was always Michael’s most chilling facet. Rob Zombie does not skimp on the violence and loads the film with familiar character actors, mostly from previous horror films. Zombie’s films always make me feel uncomfortable in their NON-violent scenes because he paints such an ugly side of humanity that it’s almost a relief when his character are dispatched (everything with William Forsythe, for instance). This is a great example of a Rob Zombie slasher film. It’s just not such a great example of Halloween.

Nudity: Remember adorable little Danielle Harris from parts 4 and 5? She grew up, as evidenced when she gets it on with her boyfriend. When Myers attacks she does not bother with anything as frivolous as getting dressed before attempting to flee. Hanna Hall also bares all during intimate moments with her boyfriend. V.I.P. goes to full frontal (and rear) nudity by Kristina Klebbe, though.

Memorable deaths: Danny Trejo gets almost drowned and then his head is smashed with a TV. It’s brutal because (atypically for Trejo) he was so nice!

Body count: 20 (Director’s Cut)

Halloween II (2009)

So Rob Zombie felt somewhat beholden to the iconography of the Halloween series in his first outing. This time he feels free to run wild with it. He’s careful to still make sure it narratively flows from his previous film, but Michael’s pure white mask is in rotting tatters and much of the time he walks around unmasked with a great big hobo beard. This also may be the most depressing slasher movie ever made because it shows that, no matter what happens, Laurie Strode will NEVER be all right again. Far from the resilient fighter that Jamie Lee Curtis played in some of the Halloween sequels, Scout Taylor-Compton plays her as damaged beyond belief. Rob Zombie burns a lot of bridges in this movie so that it’s hard to see what the next film will do. The unsettling ending leaves it open for a disturbing new direction for the franchise, but the producers will almost certainly pussy out in favor of the same old routine. If there’s one thing to be said for Rob Zombie it’s that his films are not routine.

Nudity: Topless go-go dancers at a party. A slightly older stripper is in her work outfit when Michael comes by. Danielle Harris also goes naked again, but it’s not the fun sexy kind (unless you’re into blood-covered half-dead girls… in which case seek psychiatric help immediately).

Memorable deaths: A redneck gets impaled on mounted antlers. Michael stomps a guy’s head until there’s no face left. A nurse gets stabbed… A LOT.

Body count: 17 (plus 3 more and a whole pile of corpses in a dream sequence)

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