Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #278
Number of Views: Three
Release Date: September 29, 1995
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $15,116,634
Running time: 88 minutes, 96 minutes (Producer’s Cut)
Director: Joe Chappelle
Screenplay: Daniel Farrands
Characters: John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Producers: Moustapha Akkad, Malek Akkad, Paul Freeman
Special Effects: David Barrett, John Carl Buechler, Brad Hardin
Score: Alan Howarth
Cinematography: Billy Dickson
Editing: Randolph K. Bricker
Studios: Dimension Films, Nightfall Productions
Distributor: Miramax Films
Stars: Donald Pleasence, Paul Rudd, Marianne Hagan, Mitchell Ryan, Kim Darby, Bradford English, Keith Bogart, Mariah O’Brien, Leo Geter, J.C. Brandy, Devin Gardner, Susan Swift, George P. Wilbur, Janice Knickrehm, Alan Echeverria, Hildur Ruriks
Suggested Audio Candy
Alan Howarth “Jamie’s Escape”
I’ve always rooted for the underdog. Maybe I’m a sucker for a hard luck story or, more likely, a sucker for punishment. I was the one guy applauding come the end of Hudson Hawk that wasn’t just pleased to reach the final credits, Harley Davison & The Marlboro Man is one of my guilty pleasures and The Adventures of Ford Fairlane and Kuffs easily qualify for my all-time twenty favorite movies. Should I be lead out to the paddocks and shot in the back of my head? Possibly, but before you load the shrapnel, hear me out I beg of you. You see, I may seem deluded based on the aforementioned but I’m also rather a dab hand at accepting certain less defensible works for what they are, more so after any initial disappointment has vanquished. Therefore I welcome knockers and even identify with them when their point is valid and not steeped in blind bitterness. But my opinion is exactly that. I’m very much entitled to it and, if there’s one thing Keeper will never be culpable of, it’s changing my story to keep up with the Joneses.
Currently I am working my way through the Halloween franchise as part of my festive spotlight season. This has meant reappraising the sequels in an attempt at sorting the wheat from the chaff once and for all. There were two things I knew unreservedly upon commencement, Resurrection was utterly reprehensible and my hatred of it unshakable, and the sixth installment had received treatment way harsher than necessitated. Last night I sat down and let Joe Chappelle’s troubled entry wash over me once again and it confirmed that, while The Curse of Michael Myers is shockingly poor on so many key levels, it is also a courageous piece of film-making not without significant merit and more than worthy of a second glance. The words which follow may well be carved into my tombstone but I’ll be resting easily beneath every last one of them.
Many of you will already be aware of this film’s troubled shoot. At the time of appraisal I only had the theatrical cut to hand and I understand a fair few of my niggles would be ironed out should I ever track the eight minute longer Producer’s Cut down. However, this would need a complete overhaul not to fall into the numerous traps it does and I’m reasonably assured that there’s no magic wand mystical enough to cast a spell on this particular addressee. It is what it is, both an outright travesty and a fascinating addition to the fast-faltering series. Daniel Farrands’ screenplay is the stuff of gibbons, perfectly acceptable if the film was of Italian origin, but not when it was attempting to turn the tide on one of the most lucrative franchises horror has ever known. It contains so many inconsistencies, plot holes, and stilted dialogue that it had no right in ever making it from the storyboard to the screen. What is also worth noting is that his original script was largely rewritten after studio executives applied the nipple clamps so he is absolved from much of the blame.
Donald Pleasence signed up for what was to become his epitaph based on Farrands’ first draft whereas Danielle Harris refused to return after Miramax genre arm Dimension Films refused to pay her a paltry sum of $5,000 to reprise her role as Jamie. Considering her character previously had been so integral, this was shameless form although, given the fact that she is pretty much superfluous here, I’d say she dodged a bullet. $1m was slashed from the budget and the entire shoot became plagued by meddling suits who had a rather large case of the jitters with Hellraiser: Bloodline also in pre-production. Chappelle cut much of Pleasence’s dialogue after finding it boring. Test screenings were so negative that re-shoots were ordered, many of which angered the cast. Honestly, it’s astonishing that it ever made it to screens but somehow it did and it was left to H20: 20 Years Later to tidy up the veritable quagmire it left in its wake. So it sucks then, Chappelle’s film is without redemption right?
Fuck no it isn’t. I must tread carefully from this point forward as those incapable of taking the rough with the smooth will likely crucify me for saying this but The Curse of Michael Myers is more fun than a man-sized hamster wheel. We have to accept the flaws if we are to stand any chance of making it through 88 minutes without an embolism; but should we limbo the bar of expectation, overlook its club-footed approach and accept its plethora of preposterous liberties with logic, then we will be left with a particularly mean-spirited, beautifully shot and edited entry into the series which gets one thing on the money: it gifts The Shape his balls back. Or at least until Paul Rudd batters him into submission with an iron pipe at least. He is represented unerringly as The Boogeyman, an unstoppable force of nature at its most awry, and ambassador for unprecedented evil. This means popping up in the edge of our peripheral vision or directly behind his quarry, covering ground far faster than he has any right to, being in multiple locations seemingly at once, and providing no mercy whatsoever.
As much as the lines delivered are stilted, Rudd somehow manages to come through this smelling of roses. He’s hardly had chance to look back since and am guessing that this no longer forms part of his résumé after Judd Apatow practically adopted him, but he certainly didn’t harm his credentials one iota with such a spirited and edgy turn. He owns Tommy Doyle as though his life depends on it and where many would have struggled to identify with his character he embraces all like the consummate professional. Alas, in what was to be his final curtain call, Pleasence largely plays spectator here. He looks jaded and, after a fine shift in Halloween 5, seems beaten at starter’s orders. Having said that, there will never be a time when this great man doesn’t resonate. Just having him around helps us make sense of why we’re still watching when the eject button is only ever a few feet away.
The none-dimensional fodder is as uninspired as they come, culpable of desperately poor decision-making skills, cloth-ears, the inability to pass a washing line without becoming ensnared by its linen gossamer, and various other crimes too heinous to list. Audio is a decidedly mixed bag with the original theme given a contemporary lick which doesn’t sit quite right but a multitude of tension-cranking sound bytes which involve us that much more in what is playing out before us. Chappelle fills the screen with as much mist and blue hued light as he can possibly cram in and does manage to gift us an opening twenty which hardly allows us to catch our breath. Maybe that’s what he was banking on; mental exhaustion would invariably soften us some and he pounds us incessantly with well-staged brutality until which time we are powerless to resist. I’m not sure whether to thank him or thump him. I possess two idle hands so a handshake/gut punch combo would likely be the way to go.
The last entry left behind it a poison chalice. It attempted too much, leaving plot strands flailing like algae, and never explaining its man in black. Chappelle joins the dots rather vaguely and focuses on the druid origins of Samhain as a way of digging himself from a rather hefty hole. It is, of course, beyond ludicrous but still represents the old college try. Kudos to all involved for seeing it through, despite the adversity. If nothing else, it was a failed experiment which didn’t end up too catastrophic in the grand scheme of things, as H20 then repaired the damage. Ambition should be rewarded in Keeper’s books and this is as earnest as they come. Is it good? It’s a whole cavalcade of fun if that sufficiently answers your question. Whether that is enough to justify a view depends entirely on the eye of the beholder. Personally, I’d watch it again in a heartbeat. Isn’t that what it’s ultimately all about?
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Not so much grue-sodden as uncharacteristically vicious. Myers is at his most perturbed throughout and tries his hand at wielding an axe and utilizing numerous environmental hazards in attempt to mix things up some. Crudely snapped necks, impalement, multiple stabbings and possibly an exploding head too far may not sit right with some audiences and the decision to have him break into a brisk jog could be argued against also, but there’s mucho bang for the buck so I don’t see what all the fuss is about. Hell, he even throws in a brace of mammalia just to sweeten the deal. Don’t hate the player Grueheads.
Read Halloween (1978) Appraisal
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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