Two Journals in one day? Yes indeed. It was important to me to top off 31 Days of Spooky Stuff with this two-part series which looks at all ten official HALLOWEEN films. In this first entry, we’ll look at the original films, as well as the Myers-free detour and then killer’s return in two more films at the end of the 1980s.
The Best – Reserved for the absolute cream of the crop.
Highly Recommended – Very good. Far better than your typical film and one that I will remember for some time.
Recommended – Just what it says. This is a good film and earns a recommendation. Don’t think that because it’s not one of the top two categories that these films aren’t worth your time. The “recommended” tag is a winner and nothing to sneer at.
Barely Recommended – The middle of the road. Those films where I didn’t feel it was a complete waste of time, but it didn’t set my world on fire either. Not bad, but leaves me feeling bored and/or apathetic.
Disappointing – Close but no cigar. Does a few things right but is ultimately a whole lot of wasted potential. Not recommended.
Awful – A bad movie. Pure and simple. Not worth your time.
The Worst – The Britta Perry of ratings, though not as entertaining. The bottom of the barrel.
What was the film trying to accomplish and how well did it meet those goals?
In addition to (or sometimes despite) that, how does the film hold up on sheer entertainment value?
FILM GEEK JOURNAL – ENTRY 85
(31 DAYS OF SPOOKY STUFF – DAY 30 – OCT. 30, 2013)
HALLOWEEN (1978) – In the early 1960s, a teenage girl is murdered by a psychopath that winds up being her younger brother. He is committed to the insane asylum and for years lives in a catatonic state, not communicating with anyone. In 1978, on the anniversary of the murder, Michael Myers comes to life. There is a violent breakout at the asylum, a breakout he certainly played a part in. Michael escapes and heads to Haddonfield with his obsessed psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) in hot pursuit. Myers returns to the town of Haddonfield, where three girls will each come face to face with evil on this Halloween night.
John Carpenter’s film was not the first slasher, but it is certainly the slasher film upon which all others are based. This is the film that didn’t just make the slasher another horror film, but a new subgenre within itself. Carpenter’s film is brilliant from beginning to end, without a single missed note. It is a classic in the truest sense of the word, integrating itself into our very culture. I have already expanded on this in a different review, which you can check out here. The general point is that HALLOWEEN is unimpeachable. The Best.
HALLOWEEN II (1981) – The second installment of the HALLOWEEN series picks up immediately where the first one left off. Michael Myers has inexplicably survived and continues to roam the streets of Haddonfield. Dr. Loomis and local law enforcement try to catch up with the killer, not knowing how they’ll take him down once they do. Eventually, Myers makes his way to a mostly deserted hospital where survivor Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has been admitted. But why does Myers seem so fixated on Laurie?
The sequel to the John Carpenter classic appeared after the original film had started spawning an endless series of imitators. The slasher genre was not just limited to indie films either, but major films like FRIDAY THE 13TH and MY BLOODY VALENTINE. This second installment is hard to mistake for an independent film. They obviously had more money behind this one, evident from more elaborate set pieces which include but are not limited to an accident that burns up a car and a bystander all at once.
Sure enough, HALLOWEEN II is very enjoyable, retaining much of the original’s spirit. The film isn’t as fresh however, and certain segments of the film seem to be imitating the imitators rather than expanding on the first installment. One thing that does a lot to save the film is the motivation we learn behind Myers’ crimes. It adds an intriguing new dimension that producers would continue to milk after they decided to go back to Myers. Recommended.
HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (1982) – “You don’t really know much about Halloween. You thought no further than the strange custom of having your children wear masks and go out begging for candy. It was the start of the year in our old Celtic lands, and we’d be waiting in our houses of wattles and clay. The barriers would be down, you see, between the real and the unreal… and the dead might be looking in.”
Halloween is approaching and thanks to a media blitz, every kid wants one of the state of the art Silver Shamrock masks. But as two people investigate the Silver Shamrock company, they discover an insane conspiracy that blends ancient practices with cutting edge technology.
I also already discussed this film when I counted down the Five Best Halloween-themed films last year. So, feel free to check that out. Needless to say, this is a film that I am glad has gained a sizable following over the years.
Can you imagine what the HALLOWEEN series would have been like if they were able to stick to the original plan – a new self-contained film every year that carried the HALLOWEEN moniker and attempted to create an annual tradition at the movies? But, people were resistant to change. Oh well. Highly Recommended.
HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS (1988) – If you thought something as puny as a point-blank gas explosion could take out Michael Myers, you’ve got another thing coming. Michael survived the blast, though he has been in a vegetative state for the past ten years. This hasn’t stopped Dr. Loomis, a little crispy but also alive, from keeping strict tabs on Myers. Suddenly, Myers springs to life and heads back to Haddonfield. His target this time is Jamie Lloyd (the awesome Danielle Harris, in her big screen debut), Myers’ niece and the daughter of the now diseased Laurie Strode.
There is almost no reason for HALLOWEEN 4 to succeed as well as it does. It seemed like they were returning to the well and trying to bleed more money out of the franchise by revamping the Myers mythos. But man, is this ever a great slasher film!
There’s a damn fine script here and the direction from the underrated Dwight H. Little (PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, MARKED FOR DEATH) is tight and classy. Harris is great as the put-upon kid who is unfortunate enough to have a psychotic killing machine for an uncle. Ellie Cornell, who doesn’t get nearly enough credit for being as awesome as she is, also shines as Jamie’s sister and guardian. I defy anyone to watch the rooftop scene and tell me this film isn’t what high-octane horror is all about. Highly Recommended.
This film picks up where the previous film left off. Myers is supposedly dead, but actually escapes and is nursed back to health by a mysterious drifter. We also see some strange runic symbols on Myers’ wrist. Jamie Lloyd hasn’t been able to communicate very well after the events of last year, which culminated in a terrifying moment that revealed a deeper bond shared with Jamie and Michael. Dr. Loomis, more desperate than ever, begs Jamie for help, knowing that she should be able to see what Michael is up to. But Jamie is either unwilling or unable to help until Michael returns to town and starts killing once again.
A lot of people dislike HALLOWEEN 5. I will admit there are a couple of problem areas, most notably a pair of ill-advised comic relief cops. But I am much more tolerant of the film on the whole than most horror fans. Many critics even cite the character of Tina (Wendy Kaplan, a.k.a. Wendy Foxworth) as being one of the most grating ever, but I find her endearing. Pleasance and Harris continue to do good work and the relationship being killer and victim is made more complicated by the added wrinkle in the plot. The film also ends on one of the most intriguing twists of the series. Highly Recommended.
After this, HALLOWEEN would go into another period of inactivity for a few years. Michael Myers and company would resurface in the 1990s when Bob and Harvey Weinstein of Miramax/Dimension fame distributed future entries in the series. And that’s when everything went to hell.
TO BE CONTINUED…..
Number of films covered in the Journal so far: 350
Miss any of the previous Journal entries? Check them out here!