Suggested Audio Treat:
John Carpenter Halloween II
If you were asked to list the three iconic modern-day horror villains that pop up in your head first then I’d hedge a bet that you’d list the exact same usual suspects as I would – Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers. This trio has been by far the most successful, each spawning sequel after sequel, and of course, the obligatory post-millennium reboot. All three series have been culpable of squandering momentum and, the longer they’ve stuck around, the more the overall quality has suffered. Yet the long-suffering fans still remain hopeful of a return to form and, who knows, one day they may just get what they ask for. However, while Freddy has been forced to endure the transformation from nightmarish dream weaver to stand-up comic and Jason wound up in outer space via Manhattan, Myers has stuck quietly to his brief the whole time, to his infinite credit. That isn’t to say that his service hasn’t been shocking, but the one thing that has remained consistent throughout these turbulent times has been him.
The Halloween franchise was born in 1978 to blood father John Carpenter who birthed an imposing silent killer the likes of which scared stiff audiences the world over; becoming American children’s visualization of the dreaded ‘Boogeyman’. Dubbed The Shape; Michael Myers embodied the exact evil which gave them motive to search under their beds thoroughly every night. I was one of those kids. My safe haven was underneath my bed sheets; misguided that they would shield me from harm but clinging on to that optimism I hoisted those sheets over my head, tucking them under my bulk so as not to leave a knife-sized opening for Michael to take advantage of. By doing so I felt safe(ish).
Carpenter created a formidably framed foe with a fascination for frequenting the small town of Haddonfield, making life a short-lived hell for the sexually charged disposable teens that inhabited the municipality. Among those was plucky survivalist Laurie Strode. They do say that you cannot choose your family but Ms. Strode really grabbed the shit end of the stick with Michael. Institutionalized from a tender age after decimating his older sister with an oversized bread knife, Michael’s subsequent years had been spent channeling all his inner fury. Where other angst-ridden teenagers were listening to death metal and self-harming, Michael remained calm and fiercely focused on the task at hand. By the time his passage out of incarceration had been secured he was older, stronger and his evil purer still than previously.
The first entry in this tremendously profitable and long-running franchise had the master at its helm and it shows in every frame. He laid steadfast foundations and in the process made a nigh-on perfect movie. It was unbearably tense, steadily building to a momentous crescendo which was the making of Jamie Lee Curtis as much as it was our Boogeyman. In my estimation the first three entries in this series are all crafted well from the template he formulated. While they were very diverse experiences and the third didn’t even feature The Shape; they felt like they belonged in the universe he had so efficiently crafted.
Then after a short interval the sound of ringing cash registers began to reverberate through the ears of studios desperate to replicate Carpenter’s triumph. Michael’s boiler suit was dusted off for Part 4 and, whilst dropping a notch from the trilogy which preceded it, Dwight H. Little’s film did an admirable job of making the streets of Haddonfield perilous once more. In my recollection it was then that Carpenter’s vision became blurred.
The fifth film appeared in quick succession and, though proving a decent enough companion piece to the previous effort, it became convoluted and had the feel of a rushed end product. Plot seams were left a dangling; crowds left cold. In truth it needed a sequel just to make sense of it but instead the next chapter ignored all that had paved the way beforehand and told its own fable.
A fresh-faced Paul Rudd caught a break and probably wished he hadn’t. The film was met with unanimous hostility (ridicule even). I will explore in reappraisal whether or not this was justified but my memory serves to offer it a lifeline. Rudd was well suited to the role of Tommy Jarvis. He is a likeable guy and you naturally want things to work out for him. I recall also the film being brutal, particularly in the labs towards the end. If anything I enjoyed it as much as its forebear. Regardless of my thoughts however, Halloween essentially died on that day.
Auspiciously defibrillators were on hand to give a surge of Franken-style electricity to the black cavity deep within our murderous maskermind and the resulting film fared well. Not exceptional in quality; H20 at least did many things right (bringing back Curtis was a large step against the wind). Michelle Williams in particular really resonated with me and you could see why Josh Hartnett so fervently shielded her throughout.
Then it all went wrong; horrendously. Despite an opening worthy of any sequel Halloween Resurrection was more like desecration and each character lined-up willingly to fall under his shiny blade. It’s most heinous crime however was to allowing Busta Rhymes to do his shizzle in Michael’s hizzle. Colossal error; catastrophic even. I feel compelled to add that I am not averse to rap stars becoming film stars. Indeed, I’d had no issues with LL Cool J’s bigger and deffer turn in H20. James Todd may be cocky but he respects himself enough to stay as far from Myers’ trajectory for the most part (whilst confidently still exercising his no-death clause). Busta (living up to his mantle) tries to engage Michael in fisticuffs Jason Takes Manhattan-style; thus making an absolute mockery of his menace. Worst still Michael doesn’t punch his head clean off his shoulders. I could hear Debra Hill and Moustapha Akkad turning in their graves.
Rob Zombie attempted to reboot the series in recent years but, while his first effort wasn’t bad at all and provided some intriguing insight into Michael’s mental decline, the follow on misfired spectacularly. Two things here were memorable. Firstly the film was merciless, more so than any Halloween film had ever dared to be (possibly a knee-jerk reaction from Zombie after the incessant whining of fans that his films weren’t as fierce as they’d hoped). Most appallingly though was Malcolm McDowell’s obliteration of Dr Loomis, transforming him into one of the vilest, most hateful and money-driven characters in recent memory. Even Danielle Harris’ return and solid performance from the ever-dependable Brad Dourif could not compensate for Malcolm crimes against cinema.
Ups and downs then for the franchise but noticeably more downs in recent times, it will be fascinating over the following season of Halloween re-inspections to see whether my viewpoint changes (in Resurrection’s case I fear not). One fact is concrete; there are no more cold hearted executioners than The Shape.
Subject to change; here is my best to worst including reboots as I currently view it
Halloween (1978) 10/10 $55,000,000
Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (1982) 9/10 $14,400,000
Halloween 2 (1981) 8/10 $25,533,818
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) 7/10 $17,768,757
Halloween (2007) 7/10 $80,249,467
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998) 7/10 $73,000,000
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) 6/10 $11,642,254
Halloween II (2009) 6/10 $38,705,248
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995) 6/10 $15,116,634
Halloween: Resurrection (2002) 5/10 $37,664,855
Truly, Really, Clearly, Sincerely,
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2014