Starring: Donald Pleasence, Paul Rudd, Marianne Hagan
“Enough of this Michael Myers bullshit!” (John Strode, Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers)
It says a lot about a film when the stories of its behind-the-scenes turmoil and tantrums are more interesting than the story that ended up on the screen.
This was the curious condition inflicted on Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers, the sixth film in the Halloween series. Plagued by in-fighting and studio politics before a single frame was even shot, the conflict continued to escalate throughout production.
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance, Charles Cyphers, Dick Warlock
“He was my patient for fifteen years. He became an obsession with me until I realised there was neither reason nor conscience or anything about him that was even remotely human. An hour ago I stood up and fired six shots into him and he just got up and walked away. I am talking about the real possibility that he is still out there.” (Dr Loomis, Halloween II)
Everyone (including me) always goes on about how incredible the first Halloween was, and with good reason. It was a landmark in horror history and one of the first true pioneers of the slasher genre. It’s understandable then that its sequel doesn’t get quite as much recognition but it’s a shame because while it isn’t quite as innovative or genre-defining as its predecessor it’s still a strong slasher and a decent conclusion to what John Carpenter had only ever intended to be a two-film story.
Carpenter only wrote Halloween II, this time passing the directing duties to newcomer Rick Rosenthal. The film’s first five minutes are a recap of the last five minutes of its predecessor, reminding us of the final confrontation between Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Michael Myers, and the eventual saving of the day courtesy of Dr Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance). After the original film’s ending, with Loomis firing six shots into Myers (though some dodgy editing means this time he actually shoots him seven times) and “the Shape” legging it, the rest of the film then takes place from that immediate point on and shows what happens over the rest of the night.
As Laurie is taken to the nearby hospital to be treated for her injuries from her scrap with Myers, Dr Loomis and the Haddonfield rozzers continue their search for him. While in theory this shouldn’t be too hard – after all, they just have to look for the guy with six or seven gunshot wounds – it turns out they’re wasting their time, because Myers is actually at the hospital, trying to find Laurie and kill her. Continue reading “Halloween II (1981) review”→
Starring: Donald Pleasance, Danielle Harris, Ellie Cornell, Wendy Foxworth, Don Shanks
“I prayed that he would burn in Hell, but in my heart I knew that Hell would not have him.” (Dr Sam Loomis, Halloween 5)
While Halloween 4 wasn’t the greatest slasher ever made, it did at least have a cracking ending that suggested the inevitable fifth film would take the series in a twisted new direction. This makes Halloween 5 all the more frustrating then, because not only is it a pile of pish but its predecessor had practically spelled out how it could have done it better.
(spoiler alert for Halloween 4 in the next paragraph, folks)
Halloween 4 ended with young Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris) going a tad mental and stabbing her foster mother while dressed up in a clown outfit, much like young Michael Myers did at the start of the original Halloween. Many took this to mean that Jamie was going to follow in her uncle’s footsteps and continue his killing spree. Instead Halloween 5 decides that her foster mum survived and Jamie was sent to a children’s psychiatric hospital, where she recovered. Bottlers.
(spoilers end now, innit)
When we join Jamie at the start of Halloween 5, she’s been in a psychiatric hospital for the past year. The trauma of the events in the previous film have led to her losing her voice, but her foster sister and her friend Tina (the annoying Wendy Foxworth) visit her regularly to bring her gifts and the like. She’s also got a little friend, a fellow nine-year-old called Billy who’s clearly trying to get fired in even though she’s not much of a talker. Good man Billy, beggars can’t be choosers. Continue reading “Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers (1989) review”→
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Danielle Lloyd, Ellie Cornell, George P Wilbur
“We’re not talking about any ordinary prisoner, Hoffman. We are talking about evil on two legs.” (Dr Sam Loomis, Halloween 4)
While Halloween III: Season Of The Witch wasn’t a bad movie by any means (in fact, judging by the films to follow it was one of the better entries in the series), many moviegoers were enraged when they found that the film they’d gone to see didn’t continue the story of evil stalker Michael Myers and was instead a completely different tale about a nutjob plotting to kill children with cursed Halloween masks powered by Stonehenge. A brilliant (if fucking insane) idea, sure, but you can understand people’s annoyance at paying for a Halloween film and not getting to see Michael Myers.
As explained in the Halloween III review, this was mainly down to John Carpenter’s wish to make the Halloween movies a collection of unrelated stories all based on Halloween. The first two films would be the Michael Myers story, the third would be the one about the cursed masks, the fourth would be something completely different again. When the fans turned on this idea and the studio told Carpenter they wanted a standard slasher with Michael Myers in it he decided “fuck you then” and ditched the series altogether.
Determined to to make some serious greenbacks with a Myers return, producer Moustapha Akkad decided to start work on Halloween 4, being sure to include “The Return Of Michael Myers” as part of its title to ensure people who’d abandoned the series knew they were getting him this time. In a rush to beat the writer’s strike of the late ’80s, the entire film was written in 11 days. The result is a movie that, while not great, did a decent job of bringing back “The Shape”. Continue reading “Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers (1988) review”→
“These eyes will deceive you, they will destroy you. They will take from you, your innocence, your pride, and eventually your soul. These eyes do not see what you and I see. Behind these eyes one finds only blackness, the absence of light, these are of a psychopath.” (Dr Loomis, Halloween)
The most effective remakes are not those that simply try to update the original film so it fits in with today’s society and technology, but those that actually attempt to give a unique take on its predecessor and handle the same story in a different way. This is what Rob Zombie’s version of Halloween does, and in doing so it makes it abundantly clear that the filmmaker has an intense respect for John Carpenter’s original.
While the original film focused mainly on Jamie Lee Curtis’s character Laurie Strode and her ordeal throughout the movie, Zombie’s take is very much all about the killer instead. Far more time is spent on Michael Myers – his violent upbringing at the hands of his father, his time at the asylum as he grew up there, his loving mother’s desperate attempts to get through to him and cure him from his psychosis, and his eventual escape years later as a young adult. Rather than going down the “look at what’s happening to this poor girl” route, the message of Zombie’s Halloween is more “look at what this young boy has become”.
This shift of focus isn’t the only difference between the remake and the original, however – Zombie’s version is also far more shocking and visceral. Whereas the few killings in the original film are very ‘clean’, swift and to-the-point, when Myers attacks his victims in the remake it makes for extremely unsettling viewing.
Many films of this generation have similarly grisly and graphic death scenes, but Halloween is impressive in that they never feel glamorised. These killings are raw, they’re shocking. They’re not some big-chested bimbo getting a knife in the tit as she pulls a hammy pained expression, they’re unflinching and realistic – and it’s to Zombie’s credit that they’re presented in this way rather than the ‘torture porn’ many of today’s horror films are accused of offering.
The cast for the most part are effective. It would be easy to accuse Zombie of nepotism by casting his wife Sheri Moon as Michael Myers’ mum and also putting his friend Bill Moseley in the film, and it would be similarly simple to suggest the casting of Halloween 4 and 5’s Danielle Harris as one of Laurie’s friends was simply Zombie’s attempt to pander to the fans, but they all put in solid, realistic performances to ensure the film remains as plausible as possible. The addition of strong character actors like Malcolm McDowell (playing the Dr Loomis role almost as well as the late Donald Pleasance did) and Brad Dourif as the sheriff makes for some compelling moments too, particularly when the two are in the same scene.
Oddly, the only real negative performance is that of Scout Taylor-Compton as the ‘heroine’ Laurie Strode. Stepping into Jamie Lee Curtis’s shoes is a big enough feat as it is, but she’s barely even able to do the laces up. It’s not a bad job by any means but it’s almost impressive how forgettable she is and how unimportant Laurie becomes because of this. Indeed, this underwhelming version of Laurie is one of the reasons Michael Myers is the key focal point of the remake rather than the terrified babysitter.
It also helps that the Michael Myers in this film is one of the best in the history of the lengthy Halloween series. This guy isn’t just a simple crazed killer, he’s a proper monster in every sense of the word. Played by the 6’9” Tyler Mane he’s simply terrifying to look at, and that’s just in the asylum scenes before he even escapes and finds the iconic white mask and jumpsuit. Once he does pop them on he’s a truly frightening sight, a Myers with obvious strength to back up his intimidating appearance.
Rob Zombie’s Halloween may not boast the effective simplicity of the original film but it almost makes up for it with its rawness. It’s the original story told in a far more aggressive manner, yet one that still clearly holds Carpenter’s classic in high regard. A success.
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance, PJ Soles, Nancy Loomis
“I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply evil.” (Dr Loomis, Halloween)
There are a sacred handful of films that will forever be considered horror classics, films that revolutionised the genre and influenced the creation of countless others that followed in its wake. Look inside the wallets of Night Of The Living Dead, Psycho,The Exorcist and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and you’ll find they’re all card-carrying members of this elite club, but John Carpenter’s Halloween was the one who went to the printing shop and had the cards designed. Shite metaphors aside, the influence Halloween had on horror is one that continues to this day, largely because it was the first film to successfully introduce the slasher genre to the mainstream public.
While it’s often wrongly credited as the first ever slasher movie (the likes of Black Christmas, The Driller Killer and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre came before it), there’s no denying that Halloween was the first to nail it and the one that would inspire the endless stream of low-budget slashers that followed it (a stream that would flow right through to the present day). Its simple premise – a babysitter stalked by a faceless, unstoppable killer – made it easy for the viewer to relate and as such made it terrifying to the teenage audiences that came in their droves to see it. Simply put, Halloween changed horror cinema forever.
It tells the story of Michael Myers, a young boy who suddenly snaps one Halloween. Putting on a clown mask, Michael grabs a kitchen knife and goes upstairs, stabbing his older sister over and over. When his parents get home and find that young Mike’s turned his sister into a human colander, he’s sent to a mental asylum for the rest of his life.
Naturally, someone sitting in a cell of 90 minutes would make for a fairly shit movie, so Michael (now aged 21 when we catch up with him) has the common courtesy to escape the asylum and head back to his home town of Haddonfield to raise some hell again.
Halloween is bloody impressive given its shoestring budget. Jamie Lee Curtis and the actresses playing her friends had to go to a charity shop to buy their own outfits, director John Carpenter also composed the music on a cheapo piano and synthesiser, the cast are complete unknowns (other than Donald Pleasance, who plays Michael’s doctor Sam Loomis) and there isn’t a special effect to be seen throughout. Yet despite (or perhaps because of) this, it’s one of those rarities – a horror film that remains genuinely scary more than 30 years later.
Michael Myers is the perfect bogeyman. With his expressionless white mask (a painted William Shatner mask, incidentally) it’s impossible to tell what he’s thinking. He doesn’t just kill like Jason or other slasher villains do, he stalks his prey, watching them and waiting for the right moment to attack, catching them off guard then studying how they react as they die. He’s chilling.
Even his mere presence in the background is enough to cause a fright, a fact taken advantage of by John Carpenter’s clever direction. During some indoor scenes there are occasional subtle glimpses of the white mask outside the window as he stands in the darkness. This keeps the audience on edge and puts them in the odd position of actually hoping to see complete darkness outside. What other film makes its viewers NOT afraid of the dark?
Halloween may be near-perfect but there are one or two tiny elements that make it fall just short. While the young Jamie Lee Curtis is fantastically believable in the lead role of Laurie – giving a real girl-next-door feeling that greatly adds to the film’s authenticity – and PJ Soles is funny as her friend Lynda, the same can’t be said for the third member of the group, Annie (played by Nancy Loomis). She’s so wooden they might as well have put a charity shop skirt on a table and wheeled it alongside the other two, and while her character’s fairly unimportant in the grand scheme of things, she’s the sole reminder that we’re dealing with a low budget film here. Her stupidly hammy facial expressions during her strangulation scene are ridiculous, cheesy garbage and as a result she ruins what should have been a classic moment in horror cinema.
This is made up for by the amazing Donald Pleasance, who steals the show as Dr Sam Loomis. The only real star in the film, Pleasance only signed up for the movie because his daughter was a big fan of Carpenter’s previous movie, Assault On Precinct 13, but it’s a good job he did because it’s difficult to imagine anyone else in the role.
While it could be argued that the point of film reviews is to give opinions on – among other things – the likes of plot development, to say much more about Halloween would be to spoil it. It’s the sort of film where, if you’ve been lucky enough to come this far without finding out what happens, you should track it down as soon as possible and enjoy it. All you really need to know is that it’s a true horror classic and is essential viewing for any fan of the genre.
WHERE CAN I GET IT? There are loads of ways to get Halloween so here are a bunch of links: UK DVD
Starring: Tom Atkins, Dan O’Herlihy, Stacey Nelkin
“Halloween, the festival of Samhain. The last great one took place 3000 years ago, when the hills ran red with the blood of animals and children.” (Conal Cochran, Halloween III)
Despite the success of the first two Halloween films, rather than sticking with the same formula the third movie went in a completely direction and scrapped Michael Myers, opting instead to tell a completely different story altogther. It was a move that in my opinion paid off, even if it’s a film that’s not really remembered these days.
Indeed, had this been simply named Season Of The Witch and not contained the word ‘Halloween’ in the title, it would have probably received a much better response from horror fans. As it is however many people tend to see this as the bastard son of the series despite the fact that, lack of Myers aside, it’s one of the stronger Halloween films.
A hospital patient is brutally murdered and his attacker dies soon after when his car blows up. Dr Dan Challis witnesses these events and decides to investigate, along with the daughter of the murdered man. They soon discover that Silver Shamrock (a Halloween mask-making company), led by the evil Conal Cochran, is plotting to revive the original idea of Halloween: mass murder. How does Cochran plan to do this? By triggering all the masks they’ve sold to kill whoever is wearing them at a certain time on Halloween. Now that’s a quality idea.
From the opening credits we know we’re still in Halloween territory, despite that key missing ingredient of Mr Myers. As a crude pumpkin is drawn on screen using an old computer (probably an old BBC Micro or something) the music is reminiscent of John Carpenter’s score from the first two films.
The idea of how Cochran plans to kill the children of America is also sheer brilliance. Using the addictive power of hype to control these impressionable children and lead them Pied Piper-like to their eventual demise is a stroke of genius which really should be used more often in films. It isn’t for the simple fact that the killing of children is still fairly taboo in cinema plots, so when Halloween III‘s most grisly death involves an eight-year-old boy it’s ruddy effective stuff.
There are some nice death scenes throughout, including a genuinely jump-inducing scene in a motel room (with a grotesque aftermath) and the infamous, aforementioned child death. Needless to say this is a very uncomfortable moment to watch, and while some may complain about it, I instead feel it’s a very powerful image and is perfectly handled.
Tom Atkins is great in every film he appears in and here he is no different. The fact that he looks like a normal Joe and not a well-built stereotypical “hero” figure allows us to connect with him on a better level than we would with, say, Busta Rhymes in the later Halloween: Resurrection. At times his acting borders on over-theatrics, but it’s so cheesy and typically ’80s that you can’t help but love it.
As for evil super-villain Conal Cochran (well, he must be a super-villain if he plans on killing every child in the country), Dan O’Herlihy plays him as well as possible given the script he has to work with. After all, no human being on this planet could successfully manage to explain how the masks are powered with rock from Stonehenge without some hint of cheese and scenery-chewing involved.
In all, Halloween III is top class ’80s horror. As long as you go into it with an open mind you should enjoy it. This is not really a Halloween film, so don’t expect one. Block Michael Myers out of your mind for 92 minutes, settle down with some Doritos and Coke, and enjoy a good slice of ’80s terror. You won’t regret it.