Halloween Horror Celebration--Part 7...Jason & Michael Myers
JASON AND MICHAEL MYERS
Two of the most successful and popular horror franchises of the 1970s onward were the "Halloween" series and the "Friday the 13th" films. These films became hugely popular because of the unkillable leading men. Michael Myers, followed by Jason Voorhees, were a pair of two legged killing machines that wouldn't die--at least, not permanently--no matter what you hit them with. The idea of a super strong serial killer who couldn't be slain apparantly struck a cord with young horror film fans.
The two immortal maulers were both very similar. They wore masks, silently stalked their victims with a sharp object and refused to die. Jason was the campier of the two and arguably the more popular. He had more elaborate ways of killing his teen victims. Michael, on the other hand, generally used a knife. The tone of Michael's cinematic stalkings was somewhat grimmer than Jason's. Fans tend to have a more gleeful reaction to Jason's colorful kills, whereas they jump with a start at Micheal's mayhem.
Michael first appeared in John Carpenter's frightening horror classic "Halloween" (1978), a low budget thriller that grossed tremendous box office revenue and revamped the horror genre. The formula of "Halloween" set the basic blueprint for most modern horror films. The silent lurking killer picking off his victims one-by-one and the virginal female heroine who emerges as the sole survivor of the carnage.
Michael Myers simple yet effective outfit was merely dark clothing crowned by a white mask which, famously, was a Captain Kirk mask painted white and with the eyes cut out. Michael almost always used his trademark knife to pick off his prey.
Halloween featured a then-unknown Jamie Lee Curtis (daughter of Janet Leigh who starred in one of the all-time great horror classics "Psycho") as Michael's perpetual victim Laurie (AKA the virginal heroine.) The film was given credibility by the appearance of respected actor Donald Pleasence as Doctor Loomis, the wise pyschiatristwho tries to warn people that Michael is the embodiment of pure evil,but no one listens.
The story concerns a young kid who kills his older sister for no reason. After 15 years in an asylum where "He waited with inhuman patience", the super psycho escapes and returns to his home town of Haddonfield, (On Halloween night, of course) where he begins culling the teenage inhabitants and working his way to his main target, sweet Laurie (Curtis).
"Halloween" ended on a cliff-hanger, setting up the sequel. And the success of the film insured a sequel. Thus, "Halloween 2" (1981) continued the story of Michael, Laurie and Doc Loomis. This film was gorier than its predecessor, upping the body count. The story explains Michael's obsession with Laurie (She's his sister) and somewhat explains Michael's undying nature as him being the embodiment of the evil within the human mind, which can be temporarily defeated but never completely conquered. The film came to a satisfying conclusion, resolving the storyline. However, in typical film style, the end wasn't the end.
The next entry in the franchise, "Halloween 3: Season of the Witch" (1983) had nothing what-so-ever to do with the other series entries and seemed more inspired by "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" than by "Halloween". The film is generally acknowledged as being very poor and flopped at the box office. This sequel-in-name-only convinced the studio to go back to the well and bring back Michael. (Also, the success of the rival Jason franchise inspired them to yank the prototype super killer out of mothballs to compete with his imitator.)
And so we got "Halloween 4: the Return of Michael Myers" (1988), and Michael was back to kill again and again. (And again.) Although Jamie Lee Curtis didn't return to the series as Laurie, Donald Pleasance was back as Lomis, who miraculously survived the explosion at the end of "Halloween 2". He once more attempts to stop the unstoppable Michael, who has returned yet again to Haddonfield to kill Laurie's daughter. (We're told Laurie has died, but--well, thats another story. Wait a few sequels.) This film was much weaker than the first two entries.
The plodding "Halloween 5" (1989) continued the story of Laurie's daughter, which was finally concluded in the dull "Halloween 6: the Curse of Michael Myers" (1995), which is also the swan song for Doctor Loomis (Sadly, Donald Pleasance passed away and so his character was killed off in the film, off-screen.)
Jamie Lee Curtis returned to the franchise as Laurie in "Halloween H20: 20 Years Later", (1998), which was, as the title implies, a celebration of 20 years since the original film came out. Here we find Laurie alive and well, having built a new life for herself and her son. But along comes Michael with his big, sharp knife to finish up some unfinished killings.
The seemingly endless saga was finally concluded in "Halloween: Resurrection" (2002), the goofiest of all the films. It comes across more as a parody than a serious horror film. Inspired by "the Blair Witch Project", the film has six teenagers spending the night in the house where Michael was born. Naturall,y Michael shows up and blood flows. Jamie Lee Curtis is superfluous in this film, only present for the recognition factor.
But this is not the last we see of Michael Myers, since gore icon Rob Zombie filmed the remake "Halloween" (2007), a gruesome retelling of the 1978 original. This needless redo focuses mostly on the hacking and slashing, omitting the tense suspense that Carpenter created in the original. But Zombie wasn't done yet, and made a sequel to his remake, "H2", which was just more of the same. Nothing noteworthy. And so we leave the saga of Michael Myers and we go to...
The saga of Jason began with a tense little thriller called "Friday the 13th" (1980) about a woman avenging the death of her son Jason who drown at Camp Crystal Lake. It was a standard crazed killer film until the surprising ending which introduced one of the great modern film fiends. (Inspired by Michael Myers.)
"Friday the 13th: Part 2" (1981) continued the carnage at Crystal Lake but this time the unkillableJason takes center stage and does his best Michael imitation, cutting a bloody path through the teenager counsellors at the camp. The next entry, "Friday the 13th: Part 3" (1982) continued along the same lines, with Jason hacking away.
"Friday the 13th--the Final Chapter" (1984) was supposed to wrap up the franchise, but the door was left open for a sequel. And more sequels we got!
"Friday the 13th-Part 5: A New Beginning" (1985) was the 'Season of the Witch'of the franchise, in that it didn't feature the series star monster-man Jason. Its the least popular of the series and the mistake of a Jasonless entry was soon corrected.
Jason was back again in "Friday the 13th-Part 6: Jason Lives" (1986) to the fan's delight. Camp Crystal Lake may have changed its name but Jason was up to his old deadly tricks.
In "Friday the 13th-Part 7: the New Blood" (1988) Jason gets a somewhat more formidable opponent when he battles a pretty blond telekinetic teen.
The franchise started to get rather silly in "Friday the 13th-Part 8:Jason Takes Manhattan"(1989) when our unkillable killer travels to New York to carry out his usual mayhem in a very different setting. A unique entry in the franchise.
The Ninth film was supposed to (again) end the franchise. "Jason Goes to Hell: the Final Friday" (1993) changes the nature of Jason, seeing him as an evil spirit who inhabits the bodies of of others and transforms them into the next Jason. He even gets to battle the military, like a miniature Godzilla. There is a clever gag at the end regarding Freddy Kruger which hints at the future X-over.
"Jason X" (2002) the 10th film, mixes horror and sci-fi. Set on board a space ship in 2455, Jason is freed from suspended animation, along with a hot lady scientist (Lexa Doig) to catch up on some lost killing time.
Jason's last (to date anyway) appearance was the monster-mash X-over "Freddy Vs. Jason"(2003), which pitted Jason against Freddy Kuger from the popular "Nightmare On Elm Street" series. Their epic battle was a crowd pleaser. Jason seemed to come out on top but the ending was rather ambiguous. Will there be a rematch?
Well, thats all for now. More monster madness to come.