As usual, I recently watched Halloween once again and it was amazing as always, and since it’s Halloween I wanted to review some of the movies from the franchise that started with just one independent film that became such a hit and led to a cult following of slasher films that later included Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street. It’s crazy how one 1978 film that required around $300,000 to produce started a horror film obsession that produced a series of films that went on to gross $620 worldwide.
The movie became known for it’s chilling theme song, it’s abnormally calm yet calculating masked serial killer, and it’s rebellious young cast.
Halloween begins when a young boy dressed in a clown costume brutally murders his sister on Halloween night. After being committed to a mental institution because of the incident, he escapes just before he is scheduled to be transferred to an institution that has minimum security which resulted in the deaths of countless victims.
The film established Psycho actresses’ Janet Leigh’s daughter Jamie Lee Curtis as a successful actress who would continue to star in a number of successful films throughout her acting career. She was the likable, resourceful, smart character in the group with two other teens whose promiscuity seems to have made them easy targets for the serial killer. She did however have her flaws. Her unwillingness to see the seriousness of a masked grown man watching her outside of her classroom window, behind the bushes as she walked home from school, or in the yard of her home was a bit… odd.
Her friend Lynda brushing off the incidents was understandable though, but even after Lorrie found out how much of a threat he was she always had a tendency to turn her back to Myers after she had thought he was dead giving him too many opportunities to attack her from behind. Least we forget, Lynda was attacked from behind after he slipped into her car and waited for her in the backseat and Annie was attacked from behind while she was on the phone with Lorrie thinking that the white sheet was covering her boyfriend who was playing a joke on her instead of a psychopath who was planning to kill her.
It soon became obvious that Michael’s ability to slip in and out of places unnoticed, stalk victims outside and inside their homes unnoticed, and repeatedly evade capture or death even after being noticed and shot at turned him into somewhat of a supernatural force led entirely by the sadistic plans of his troubled mind.
The motivation of Michael Myers
It isn’t until Halloween II that Dr. Loomis(Donald Pleasence) discovers that his patient Michael Myers is on a mission to kill all of his sisters as well as his sister’s children on Halloween night.
Dr. Loomis says in Halloween II:
Samhain, the Lord of the dead, the end of summer the festival of the Samhain, October 31.
In order to appease the Gods the druid priests burned people and animals alive. They believed that by observing the way they died they could see omans of the future. 2,000 years later people have come no further. Samhain isn’t goblins, ghosts, or witches, it’s the unconscious mind.
He reveals that the real purpose of Halloween is for samhain worshippers(or satan worshippers) to offer human sacrifices to their gods(demon gods) in exchange for great knowledge from these gods. The costumes of ghosts(the dead) or witches(members of the occult) are just loose representations of Halloween that miss the central point of it.
He is also mentioning the possibility that Michael Myers was connecting with the unconscious mind, which is why he killed for the Lord of the Dead without a consciousness of the consequences of taking a life or the feelings of the lives he is taking.
After finding out what drove Michael Myers’ to kill and realizing what he was capable of, he felt a personal responsibility as his doctor to make it his mission in life to save as many people as possible from the psychopath beneath the mask.
In spite of his efforts, Michael Myers seems to have become more brutal and sadistic in his murders in Halloween II. As he still carries his signature weapon, he now chooses to use syringes, a hammer, scalding hot water, and also his bare hands to end the lives of his victims. The movie seems to focus more on his insatiable need for more victims regardless of the means of obtaining his goals adding to Dr. Loomis’ desperate need to kill him in the explosion in the end even though he knew it might cost him his own life.
Great characters introduced years after Michael burned in Halloween II
After saving Lorrie in Halloween I and II, he manages to help save her daughter Jamie with the help of her step sister Rachel in Halloween 4 and Rachel’s friend Tina in Halloween 5.
After the brutal murders of the paramedics transporting Michael’s burned body, Halloween 4‘s suspense was driven mostly by the risks people took to avoid Myers than the gore of the murders committed as Jamie and Rachel spent the whole evening trying to get away from the determined serial killer. They had also built a connection between Myers and Jamie when she holds his hand possibly because of Jamie’s need to fill the emptiness she feels as the adopted child in her family. This spiritual connection led her to murder her step mother on Halloween night possibly transferring the will of his unconscious mind to hers. After Dr. Loomis is frustrated by authorities who fail to recognize the dangers of not handling Michael Myers more carefully, he becomes horrified by the creation of another Michael Myers being born inside of a little girl and he almost seems tempted to shoot her out of anger and despair.
In Halloween 5, new characters were introduced to give the movie the light humor it needed to keep it interesting. The two cops that were more comical than useful couldn’t even be expected to do a thorough search of Rachel’s home before allowing her to go back inside just to be killed by the murderer she had barely escaped from in Halloween 4. Tina was destined to be the life of the party since she crawled in the window of Jamie’s psychiatric clinic with Max. She was fun when the good times were rolling, but she didn’t get serious until she realized the threat of Michael Myers claiming the lives of more victims was a reality. Like Annie in Halloween, she thought Myers was her boyfriend driving his car due to his Halloween mask switch that came conveniently before he went to pick her up. His constant struggle to contain his anger around her showed as he gripped the stirring wheel harder, but his reasoning for refusing to kill her right away isn’t clear unless we consider the possibility of just another psychopath wanting to keep the impersonation scheme going for as long as he could until he was able to choose the ‘right time’ to do his deed.
Her friend Sam may have been almost as fun as she was, but I’m hoping that her idea of a good time wasn’t sharing her first time with such a goofy boyfriend in a dark scary barn on the hard floor with hay in her butt… Myers sure put a pick fork through those plans though.
It was still the child actress that stole the show with her great acting skills and passion in the film. Jamie calling Myers her uncle and recognizing him as a part of her natural family ignoring the more prominent sadistic side of him evoked an emotional response, possibly forcing him out of his unconscious state and into the state of awareness most people share. This wasn’t enough to stop him from forgetting about his original plan to carry out the murder as he continues to chase her until he is captured by Dr. Loomis just to be released by… a stranger. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers was the last Halloween movie Dr. Loomis played in before passing away in 1995 from heart failure. His dedication to his character and his passion for his role is what the film needed to create a passion for the chase for Michael Myers.
Halloween’s story line and cast begin to go downhill
In Halloween: H20, Michael Myers finds Lorrie living a new life with her son 20 years later, but she appeared to be even more prepared to face him and finally end is life after his presence in her life had left her with PTSD and in constant fear of him coming back. The way the events unfolded weren’t nearly as good as the previous Halloweens with the typical rebellious young cast being killed off pretty quickly, Lorrie having a romantic evening with a guy before she feels forced to tell him about her past as Lorrie Strode, and a few comical scenes of LL Cool J striving to become an erotic novel writer until he is almost shot, but it’s always good to see Lorrie’s character come back for another Halloween movie. The trailers of the movie that indicate it will be where there is a fight to the finish is probably what drove so many people to the theaters because it was the most anticipated end to a Halloween movie after all these years. The last scene with Michael and Lorrie was iconic, but the movie as a whole… not so much.
Even after severing the head of a masked man who she believed to be Myers, Halloween: H20 would not be the end of the successful franchise as Michael Myers had been revived to continue to horrify his fans with more gory scenes with the deaths of the new cast in Halloween: Resurrection.
Eventually in Halloween: Resurrection, he is able to break into a psychiatric hospital where Lorrie is being held and end her life after years of her living in constant fear of him coming back for her and narrowly escaping death after each encounter with him. Unfortunately & fortunately, Halloween: Resurrection was different from the other Halloween films in that it focused more on comedy and nonsense than anything else, which was fortunate because some of the intentionally funny scenes were actually entertaining, but unfortunate because the other scenes were only funny because the bad acting and scripts were laughable. But as with any slasher film, the young cast members are probably made to be unlikable so that you could enjoy seeing them die, so I guess it’s not all that bad. Its ratings were almost as bad as Halloween III though it was more successful, grossing 37 million.
After years went by with no Halloween films being released after the failure of Halloween: Resurrection, people probably thought that was the end of the franchise, but they were wrong. In 2007, Rob Zombie released his own version of Halloween after expressing his disinterest in the way the latest versions of the series turned out. And yet again, we see that the series changes and is overdramatized for the shock value.
It was after this film was released that I had realized that what I really loved about John Carpenter’s original Halloween was its simplicity. Sure, they had a much smaller budget to work with, but the advantage of that was that they had to focus on developing ways to naturally capture the attention of audiences without relying on expensive theatrics or unnecissarily enhancing the look/persona of “the shape.” Michael Myers was feared because of his ability to go unnoticed for long periods of time when he searched for his victims, hiding in the shadows at night and appearing in plain sight in the day while stalking them, displaying superhuman strength when he was the average size of an adult male, walking slowly as if he were psychologically unconscious yet conscious of his ability to find his victims no matter where they run, and he was unpredictable. These attributes of his character cannot be replaced with artificial attributes of what someone wants Myers to be unless you are creating an entirely different character that is appealing to another audience for different reasons.
My favorite Halloweens 1, 2, 4, & 5 will be remembered as some of the best slasher classics regardless of what comes next.