Halloween Tribute: The Halloween Franchise
In the spirit of Halloween, let’s take a look at the big three. Who the hell are the big three? Well, I’m talking about the three un-killable, sequeled to near death, unstoppable killing machines that defined the slasher genre, along with 80s and 90s horror. They make us afraid to go into the woods, walk the streets of small-town suburbia, and even fall asleep.
This is not a movie or series review, but rather a brief look at these horror icons. After a quick peak at their origins, we’re going to look at what makes them unique.
Just a few things to note:
- This is one part of three for this tribute, so hang tight if you like the first because the others are coming soon.
- These are in no particular order and one is not necessarily better than the others.
- The analysis below is based on my own opinions and experiences with these movies.
- The release dates and some of the minor stats were taken from the back of the movies themselves, but the rest was from pure memory and re-watch.
Warning: there are some spoilers, as they are required to clarify certain aspects of the series.
We’ve discussed the undead, machete wielding, Jason Voorhees, who stalks the unhallowed grounds of Camp Crystal lake. Then we shifted to the deviant dream predator, Freddy Krueger whose custom claws are the things of nightmares (literally).
While both are obviously motivated by it, what about evil itself? Moviegoers in the late 70s would be subjected to a manifestation of pure evil, which lacked any soul or regard for human life. As one persistent doctor would continue to assert, the empty shell lost all its humanity with the traumatizing murder of his sister. The unstoppable malevolent mass murderer relentlessly preys upon the unfortunate members of his family tree, while concealed under the legendary white mask. Only the wearer himself rivals the disguise’s lifeless, expressionless, voided texture. No one said it better, than the lone doctor who sacrificed most of his career in a failed attempt at keeping the malicious force locked away.
“I met this six-year-old child, with this blank, pale, emotionless face and, the blackest eyes... the devil's eyes. 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,” insisted Dr. Sam Loomis (Taken from Halloween 1978).
Tarnished in his sister’s blood at an extremely young, Michael Myers was imprisoned in a psychiatric ward until adult hood, where he finally managed to escape. As the original film’s subtitle exhibits, the knife-wielding psychopath returned home to Haddonfield, Illinois to begin his true reign of terror. It is only through the second installment that we learn that the only survivor from the original, Laurie Strode, is Michael’s sister. This introduces a central plot point that would be exploited throughout the entire series, as the masked murderer hunts down the remaining descendents of the Myer’s legacy.
Jason is an undead killing machine and Freddy is the master of nightmares, but as Dr. Loomis argues repeatedly, Michael Myers is nothing short of a walking vessel governed by evil.
Entries into the Series - 10 total - 8 parts and a remake of Halloween (1978), along with a sequel (Halloween 2).
Debut - Halloween (1978) – John Carpenter’s low budget classic has defined the slasher genre and horror industry. It proved that an enormous budget is no substitute for a well-paced story that exceeds at building tension. The exceptional use of atmosphere to purvey chills over blood and gore is something that is completely nonexistent in modern horror films. Before he was an unstoppable supernatural being, Michael Myers was an insane escapee who preyed on defenseless teens on Halloween night. Only through the direct sequel, Halloween 2, is it revealed that Laurie was his sister, which explains the sick reasoning behind the masked maniac’s madness. “The night he came home,” will forever be associated with the introduction of one of the genre’s biggest icons.
Greatest Adversary – The Halloween Franchise distinguishes itself from the other two series by maintaining reoccurring characters throughout the series. Sure Tommy Jarvis and Nancy Thompson appear in a few of the sequels, but this is where Halloween distinguishes itself. However, this makes it difficult to pin one opponent of Michael’s as his sole adversary. But we’re going to acknowledge both of them before passing judgment.
First off, we cannot fail to mention the psychopath’s poor biological sister, who becomes a primary target of the escaped inmate. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is introduced in the first Halloween and the film’s climax centers on her attempt to escape from the boogieman himself.
Although seemingly a bland character at the film’s opening, she’s not ditsy like her friends and still possesses the innocence they lack. Laurie singlehandedly prevented Michael from killing the two children that she’s stuck babysitting on that fateful evening and assists in his downfall once more in Halloween 2. She would appear in two more films, before finally being slain by her brother.
Laurie Strode is re-imagined in Rob Zombie’s Halloween and Halloween 2, but does not maintain the characteristics that distinguished her in the original franchise. She comes off less intelligent and fits in amongst her stereotypical teenage girlfriends. The sequel takes it a step further, where Laurie is so traumatized that she is willing to throw away her inhibitions and becomes a dark twisted mirror of her older brother at the films conclusion. This is achieved only after she brutally stabs him more times than necessary and sports the infamous white mask as cops rush to secure her. This is far removed from the original series, even after Laurie has become quite traumatized in the original's latter installments.
But if Michael’s own sister is not his greatest opponent throughout the series, then who is? Well, the only one whose been tracking the deranged killer since his institutionalized days. Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) makes his first appearance in the 1978 original, where he attempts to warn the unsuspecting citizens of Haddonfield. Loomis eventually catches up to Myers at the film’s conclusion and puts eight bullets into him.
After slipping through his grasp, the doctor once again intervenes at the end of Halloween 2 and sacrifices himself to save Laurie. However, similar to Michael, the good doctor would be back for a majority of the sequels. He returns to take on his old foe for the fourth film and the two that followed, after both being absent in the third installment.
Loomis is persistent, brave, determined, and will do whatever it takes to ensure Michael is put down. This occasionally conflicts with his duties of preserving the lives of the innocent (taking aim at a Michael look alike in Halloween 2 and using Jamie as bait in Halloween 5). However, the doctor is willing to sacrifice himself in order to stop Michael’s mayhem, as demonstrated in Halloween 2.
While not comparable to the original, Rob Zombie’s version of Dr. Loomis is believable as Malcolm McDowell carries the role well. However, this shifts in the sequel, but not as a result of McDowell’s performance. Once again, he’s great in the role and believable as the persistent doctor. However, in the sequel he’s becomes a controversial author who profits off his studies on Michael and the victims that were caught in his path of destruction during the first film. Similar to Zombie’s Laurie, the character is completely removed from his 1978 counterpart. He does redeem himself slightly at the film's conclusion, but I still prefer Donald Pleasance’s portrayal of the role.
Series Most Memorable Kills
Halloween (1978) – When it comes to the original, no one would disagree that the best kill is actually a pair. What begins with poor Bob in the kitchen turns into a somewhat comical, but well-done death scene. After some of that notorious horror genre premarital sex, Linda’s boyfriend heads downstairs for some cold ones. However, instead of retrieving beers, he is pinned to the wall by Michael’s blade. Now wearing a sheet over his head and Bob’s glasses, the killer proceeds to enter the bedroom, where unsuspecting Linda assumes it only her boyfriend playing a joke. Michael uses the phone cord to strangle her. The scene is eerily humorous, clever, and disturbing all at once.
Halloween 2 – What began as a quick hookup in a hydrotherapy pool between a pediatric nurse and ambulance driver, quickly turns into another set of victims for Michael. After dispatching Bud, who had gone to check on the heat settings, via strangulation, Michael moves in on the nurse. Although believing it to be her lover at first, she quickly realizes otherwise as her face is boiled off in the scorching water.
Halloween 3: Season of the Witch commendably attempted to veer away from the Michael Myers story line, especially considering Dr. Loomis blew them both to Hell at the previous film’s conclusion. However, seeing as there is no Michael and therefore no kills by the deranged psycho, we won’t be recapping this movie. But don’t worry, we’ll come back and rip this one apart later.
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers – The most memorable kill in this installment is not from the returning psychopath, but from the series new protagonist. Michael pursues his niece Jamie the entire film until he is gunned down at its conclusion. However, the seven year old brutally murders her foster mother and leaves her bloody corpse floating in the filling bathtub. The film ends with Dr. Loomis’s agonizing screams, while the same evil that possessed Michael now stands reborn before him at the top of the steps.
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (one word alteration from four’s title)- This one is memorable because of its simplicity. Michael finds an unsuspecting Mike (why pick the same name?) in the garage. First he forces him to the ground by applying pressure to his throat. Mike slowly watches as Michael raises a rake, before embedding it into his forehead. It’s simple and back to the basics, but well executed.
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (dropped the numbering probably out of embarrassment) – Once again this one doesn’t go to Michael, but rather the film’s new hero, Tommy. This film is inconsistent and quite frankly disturbingly twisted, even by Halloween standards. Tommy beats the unstoppable evil force that is Michael Myers into submission with a mere metal pipe. This horrible, unoriginal, anticlimactic death of Michael is a perfect reflection of the ridiculous mess of the film that it’s portrayed in.
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later – This one goes to poor Sarah, who first has her leg severed off by an elevator, which Michael conveniently cuts free. Then the deranged killer creeps to her floor and executes the struggling girl with multiple stab wounds to the back. While not anything too special, the scene is relatively original and is pretty cruel. In reality the best part of this installment is that Laurie finally gets even with her deranged brother. She beats the shit out of him and even tries to prevent another sequel from being made. It's worth the watch alone to see Laurie get her revenge.
Halloween Resurrection – While nowhere near the best film in the series, this is undoubtedly one of Michael’s most memorable kills. After nearly twenty years of living in fear, Michael finally catches up with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and manages to kill her. While originally having the upper hand over the incapacitated Michael, the poor woman does not want to kill another innocent (Halloween H20) and gets stabbed when clarifying that it is indeed her brother.
Halloween (2007) - As the original, Michael murders his older sister in the Myer’s family home. Although this scene is slightly over the top, this is one of the few kills in the film that isn’t completely excessive. While it’s unsettling to see the oversized brute murder, the sight of young Michael brutally stabbing his older sister repeatedly is just sinister.
Halloween 2 (2009) - Poor battered Laurie was merely seeking some pain medication for her aching head, when this film’s most memorable kill takes place. The heavyset nurse gets a large slash through her face. After Laurie escapes, Michael proceeds to finish off the unfortunate nurse by excessively stabbing her repeatedly with a large knife. The screen pans to the slasher’s sister fleeing and then back to him one final time as he completes his work. After a brief pause, Michael gives the dead mangled corpse one last downward thrust from the oversized knife for good measure. While completely unnecessary, it’s certainly unforgettable.
Musical Score- Halloween’s theme is incredible to say the least. It invokes an eerie atmosphere that modern horror movies fail to replicate. Although simple, not unlike the film that it scores, the soundtrack is incredible and has become an unforgettable classic horror theme. This one is my personal favorite out of the three franchises that we discussed.
The Best - When it comes to the Halloween Franchise, few are on par with the original. It relies on tension, atmosphere, music and the actor’s brilliant performances to drive the story. What else can be said, that hasn’t already been said a thousand times? It’s simply a masterpiece and one of the best the genre has to offer.
While not quite as good as its predecessor, Halloween 2 (1981) is a great follow-up to the already classic original. It’s one of the few sequels that I know of that picks up literally seconds after the first, which it even recaps the ending of. Since nearly the entire surviving cast returns, the film builds on the pre-established characters and completes the story arc that the original started. I mean this in the most literal sense as Laurie shoots out both of Michael’s eyes and Dr. Loomis sacrifices himself to incinerate both of them. We watch the serial killer reduced to a limp flaming corpse at the film’s conclusion, but little did anyone know he’d return countless times.
I highly recommend these two, as they are the complete account of Laurie’s story on that fateful Halloween night. Technically the first can be viewed as a solitary experience, which leaves Michael’s final whereabouts open to interpretation. But if you want the complete story, I say check them both out. I recommend the Blu ray versions of both, since the pair have been remastered and look phenomenal in HD.
The Worst- While Halloween 3: Season of the Witch is often considered the black sheep of the series and seems to receive the most criticism of the series, there is far worse. This entry is often criticized for the absence of Michael Myers, but I say it's comendable that they at least attempted something different, as opposed to rehashing the same knife wielding killer routine.
So what's the worst then? Personally, the Rob Zombie's re-imagining of Halloween and the sequel only please gore enthusiasts and are not on par with John Carpenter's 1978 masterpiece. However, they will be discussed on the preceding section, as they are not apart of the franchise's main continuum.
So, what's the worst film out of the eight parts that preceded the remakes? Well that award goes to the sixth installment of the series. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers is not only flat out horrible, but actually deludes some of the already established history and character development. It adds nothing new to Michael's character and actually I takes a good deal away from the ominous, empty, incarnation of pure evil that he has come to be known as. He is given more back-story, which I’d usually welcome since it promotes character growth but only leaves a stale taste for the viewer, as he is degraded even further. We find out that Michael’s malevolent, unyielding, path of destruction is guided by a cult and he is actually defeated by at the film’s conclusion with a symbol on the floor, which supposedly cancels out the negative energy. Also, not to mention we find out that poor Jamie (his niece) from the previous films has given birth to his baby. So supposedly under the influence of a cult the entire franchise, Michael rapes his niece and then proceeds to kill her? I mean what the hell were they thinking? If a mask, knife wielding psychopath wasn't enough, now Michael's an incest rapist under the control of a cult. Wow, not only did they manage to produce a bad movie, but tarnished the rest of the series in the process.
But there is actually an alternative, as there exists a second cut of the movie that’s not been released and while a little better, still falls short. After all, in this version the unstoppable killing machine, whose survived being shot multiple times, blown up, and taken a fall out a second story window, is taken down by a lead pipe. Yeah, he’s beaten to a bloody mess on the floor. As previously mentioned, Halloween 3 is often seen as the worst, but at the very least it attempted something new by deviating from the overused Michael Myers story and its nowhere comparable to the ridiculous mess that’s Halloween 6.
Thoughts on the Remakes
The Friday the 13th remake took old ideas and developed a satisfying remake, which outshines many of the relentless sequels that came before it. While A Nightmare on Elm Street packed less of a punch, Rob Zombie’s Halloween and Halloween 2 failed to leave a lasting impression. Both are riddled with unnecessary gore and take the series in a direction that will leave fans of the original lost in the gritty transition.
Another issue that I have with the sequel is the overhaul Zombie gave to Michael. He’s incredibly large in comparison to the original and his back-story arguably deludes the character, as the younger version of Michael just failed to convince me. But probably the worst aspect is that the former silent stalker is given a voice. Some might see this as a way of humanizing the psychopath, as the first film emphasized. However, the ambiance and uniqueness of the character dies with each grunt. The silence only added mystic to the original. Not only does Michael groan repeatedly throughout the film, when hacking up his victims, he actually speaks at the end of the director’s cut. The oversized, brutish, Rob Zombie look alike yells out “die,” when viciously stabbing Dr. Loomis. Did we ever need to hear Michael Myers speak after all these years? Well, apparently Rob Zombie thinks so and all for an uninspired one-syllable utterance, which seems completely out of place.
The original reinvented the series with Rob Zombie’s overly gory style, but the sequel took that idea and bypassed ridiculousness, while only settling on complete absurdity. Overly violent and a weak, cliché attempt to explain the origins of Michael Myers will only leave a stale taste with most and completely turn off any who were loyal fans of the original. If one word could be used to summarize these movies, it’s overkill. Whether it’s the direction Zombie took the story or the excessively grotesque ways that Michael chooses to massacre his victims, the film fails to deliver. The oversized behemoth never stabs a victim less than ten times. I mean how dead can he make someone?
Unless you’re a gore hound, I say skip these two. A fan of the original might want to venture a watch, but will undoubtedly be unimpressed with the remake and completely disappointed with its bizarre sequel. However if you’re an admirer of Rob Zombie style, you might want to give them a try.
Just a Reminder...
This is the conclusion of my 3 part tribute. So, if you're dying (pun intended) for more,check out the other two. Happy Halloween and I hope that you've enjoyed this retrospect.
The undead menace that made us fear the woods, Jason:http://moviearbiter.hubpages.com/hub/The-Big-Three-Slashers
The dream preying, child-killing, claw wielder himself, Freddy: