The slasher movie was the genre that just kept on giving. By the early eighties sequel pitching had reached the sort of levels previously reserved for James Bond, yearly outings that saw many a horror franchise march undeterred towards double figure releases. The one franchise that had the toughest time keeping up was Halloween. Unlike most of the movie's contemporaries John Carpenter's 1978 masterwork had genunine pedigree. The problem was how to maintain this quality through sequel after sequel. This wasn't an issue for slashers that hadn't been much cop in the first place, but Haddonfield revisits had a tough legacy to live up to. So to help you decide which Haddonfield outings are worth a revisit FilmsFilmsFilms looks back over the entire Halloween saga from the first slice to the last dice.
1. Halloween (1978)
Not just the best Halloween film, not just the best slasher film, but one of the greatest scary movies of all time. A tight script around an original premise, director John Carpenter brought together every aspect of the filmmaking craft to create a perfect package. Soundtrack, lighting, pacing, framing, each component was faultless and combined to create a horror film that came closer to high art than any fright film had before. Even the acting was in a different league compared to the usual horror b-movie dramatics, thanks to a surprisingly accomplished cast. Babysitter Laurie Strode is stalked by escaped killer Michael Myers on Halloween night. Only Myers’ psychiatrist Dr. Loomis realises the danger he represents and tracks his patient down to Haddonfield to help save the day. It was a template so perfect the world, his wife, his wife's lover, and his wife's lover's manical, psycho cousin lined up to replicate it and repeat Halloween's $70million dollar haul off of a £335,000 budget.
2. Halloween II (1981)
The first sequel could be viewed as the second part of a two stage story. Halloween II picked up at the exact point the first film left us, with Dr. Loomis and Laurie staring out from a bedroom balcony as Myers disappears into the night. Michael continued his stabathon tracking Laurie down to the world’s most understaffed hospital. Carpenter and partner Debra Hill returned to write but Rick Rosenthal took over the director’s chair. Though it repeated all the tricks of the first film it failed to reach the same terrifying heights as its predecessor. Bulking out the story somewhat unnecessarily, we discover that Laurie is Michael’s younger sister, while Loomis connects Michael to the occult and theorises his indestructibility through some sort of supernatural power. The good doctor eventually blows up half the hospital taking Michael and himself with him.
3. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Hats off for originality, Tommy Lee Wallace (Carpenter alumni, designer and editor on Halloween) was handed writing and directing duties and was bold enough to move away from the Michael Myers story completely. A stand alone tale, we join another doctor, Dr. Challis (another Carpenter regular Tom Atkins) as he travels to Santa Mira California to solve the murder of a patient in his hospital. With the dead patients daughter along for company Challis uncovers a novelty toy fronted cult that’s attempting to channel the mystic power of Stonehenge through Halloween masks. Not quite as batty as it sounds, the film offers some interesting plot themes including an intriguing anti-commercialism stance. A jumbled script does the movie no favours but the downbeat ending is a plus.
4. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
The Michael free Halloween III was a box office flop, so the Shape returned. Unfortunately seven years had passed since his last cinematic outing, by which time the slasher movie formula had been flogged to death. This Dwight Little directed effort offered nothing new to revive the genre. Predictably Myers didn’t die in the Haddonfield Hospital fire but has instead been languishing in a coma. Upon awakening he discovers that Laurie has died in a car accident, leaving behind a daughter, Jamie. Michael turns his attentions to Strode Junior but luckily for her Dr. Loomis somehow survived part two’s fiery climax as well. Myers ends up shot multiple times, landing at the bottom of a mineshaft for good measure. Though it only offered a pale imitation of what the first two films did so well, it at least portrayed new heroine Jamie with some sympathy and had the good sense not to screw with the winning formula too much.
5. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
Things started to get weird as the studio got desperate for a franchise jump-start. Despite having dynamite thrown into his mineshaft grave, Myers keeps on trucking, receiving the help of an old hermit who nurses him out of yet another coma. A year down the line Michael tracks a returning Jamie down to a children’s psychiatric hospital. Donald Pleasence brings his Dr. Loomis along for the ride once more, and his digging this time uncovers a psychic link between Jamie and her stabby Uncle Michael. Standard Haddonfield scares ensure, though their formulaic nature had by now watered down any potential tension or frights. Odd attempts to inject some humour into the proceedings didn’t help much either. Myers got off lightly at the end, being carted away in the back of a police van. A prison break with the help of a stranger in black sees Michael free in a downbeat, sequel baiting conclusion.
6. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
Though the title dropped the numerical, part six continued the franchises slide into mediocrity. Plot wise things got weirder still, with satanic rituals and baby stealing thrown into the mix. Tommy Doyle, Jamie Lee Curtis’ babysitting charge from the original movie, makes an appearance but it only serves as a reminder of how far the films have slipped from Carpenter’s wonderful original. Dubious explanations are offered for Myers’ continued obsession with knifing all those before him, but it’s about as weak a plot device as you’re likely to find in a horror film. The characters who find the sharp end of Michael’s blade are entirely unsympathetic and even Pleasence’s Dr. Loomis’ schtick is getting old by now. No scares, no originality, no fun.
7. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
Forget the watery title, this is the Halloween II follow-up that fans wanted to see. Sensibly bypassing parts four, five and six, this twenty year anniversary effort finds Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie living a new life as a headmistress of a private school, trying to put October 31st 1978 behind her. A faked death and new identity isn’t going to keep her big brother at bay though and sure enough Michael returns for a second stab at his little sis. It was fun to see Curtis back in the Strode role, but alas Pleasence had passed away two years prior, so a Loomis reunion was out of the question. Still, director Steve Miner did manage to bring back some of the original film’s high tension scares. It helped that he had a reasonable script to work with that offered a realistic continuation of Carpenter’s story. An accomplished cast chipped in, including Curtis mother and Psycho (1960) star Janet Leigh, offering above par performances throughout. The finale fell back on clichés and the rushed climax didn't match the intriguing build up, but it was still a huge improvement on previous outings. Strode finally gets revenge by decapitating Myers in the van crash finale. Or does she?
8. Halloween Resurrection (2002)
Probably best viewed as a short-film, this disastrous eighth outing can be switched off after the ten minute opening sequence where Curtis’ Laurie Strode finally bites the dust thanks to her long time tormentor (Myers somehow managed to switch bodies at the end of the last film to save himself from a van crash and a beheading). What we’re left with is an internet reality show driven plot, as some bright spark decides it’s a good idea to have a bunch of meatheads hole up in the old Myers house on Halloween night. The property in question seems to have doubled in size since the first film, but logistical continuity is the least of this movie’s problems. A cast of uber annoying pretty-things made the film a painful watch, with most viewers grabbing a sofa cushion to hide behind for all the wrong reasons. Myers dies again, this time via electrocution thanks to headlining rapstar Busta Rhymes, which tells you all you need to know about what this film does wrong.
9. Halloween (2007)
Halloween fans let out a collective groan when they heard that the heavy-handed, gore-loving Rob Zombie had been charged with reinventing the subtle scares of Carpenter’s original. Surely there was nothing to add, nothing to improve upon? Zombie found something though, the Myers back story. The resulting film was a tale of two halves. Zombie actually did well with the first half, which offered an intriguing look at Michael’s youth. Though the "white-trash” parents and home-life were a touch cliché, the abuse-behind-the-killer voyeurism was at least a refreshing angle for the series. The resulting violence was much more extreme than the 1978 vintage but nowhere near typical Zombie levels of over zealousness. Things went south with the films second half though when Zombie had to set about remaking Carpenter’s Halloween night story. Squashed into a reduced running time, there was no room left to flesh out the characters (who are all vacuous, look-alike catalogue models – even supposed straight arrow Laurie) or build up the tension. McDowell’s Dr. Loomis is also a dubious operator and not a patch on Pleasence’s old hero.
10. Halloween II (2009)
Another film of two halves, Zombie’s opening is a wonderful tribute to the hospital centred part two, as a returning Michael stalks Laurie to another near-deserted but apparently operational hospital. It’s a bravura first act but as with Zombie’s first movie, the quality isn’t maintained thanks to some awful characterisation. Laurie was turned into an ultra whiney EMO teen, the sort of woe-is-me sixteen year old who spends their Saturday afternoons sitting crossed legged on the floor outside Burger King with their leather coat sporting pals. Despite everything she has been through it’s impossible to feel even an ounce of sympathy for the moaning Curtis wannabe. McDowell struggles on with Dr. Loomis but an uneven script sees him lollop from silver tongued shyster to potential saviour at the drop of a knife. Brad Dourif as Sheriff Brackett is the only saving grace but even he can’t rescue what turns out to be a by-the-numbers offering. Odd moments of Michael entering some sort of hallucinogenic state with galloping white horses and visions of Mrs Myers Senior don’t seem to make much sense either and whiff of a desperation to add something, anything, different to what has gone before.
So those were the highs and lows of ten terrifying Halloween nights. There’s lots of scary fun to be had across the franchise despite the sometimes rocky road it traverses along the way. Whichever outing you choose to watch in honour of All Hallows Eve, have a great Halloween!