Halloween Scene: The Halloween Marathon

halloween poster I wasn’t very creative when it came to my Halloween movie marathon this year. On the 30th, I was flipping through Netflix to see what was available on Instant when I realized I should ring in one of my favorite holidays with my favorite slasher movie, Halloween. As it turned out, I was too tired to finish the film (I seem to be turning more and more into an old man with each passing day), but I did wind up watching the rest of the original, 2, 4, 5 and Curse on Halloween. I popped the discs in my computer and watched them pretty small, but with a toddler running around, it’s not like I can watch these movies on what she calls “the big TV.”

As I mentioned in my list of movies that scared me, the original Halloween still gets to me. Since I’ve reviewed all of these movies before, though, I’ll probably just drop a few highlights and things I wanted to point out. I can’t believe I didn’t point this out before, but most of the kids in Haddonfield are complete asshats and are throughout the series. I also like how you don’t get much explanation for why Michael is the way  he is or how he can do the things he does. Also, it’s crazy how much you see of Michael in this film.

One question was answered for me on this watching. I’ve always thought it was crazy how Michael could plan out his kills so well and pose them and all that. This time, I noticed that Loomis said he’d been basically planning this night for 20 years. Makes sense to me! Here’s something else to think about: while Michael was planning, do you think he knew that he couldn’t be killed or did he go in thinking he was human?

I also realized another reason why this movie is so effective: it has so many different scary elements going on. There’s Carpenter’s score, the sense of being followed in broad daylight, the primal fear of the night, the kills, all of the performances from the young women, everything about Michael from his size to his faceless appearance, the fact that Laurie’s protecting children (something I never really thought about before). Chances are pretty good, this film hits on at least one of your fears.

halloween 2 poster Halloween II, which was penned by original writers John Carpenter and Debra Hill with Rick Rosenthal directing, carries on that legacy of combining multiple fears, this time adding in new elements: the fear of hospitals, the fear of being drugged and helpless and that sense of dread that comes from knowing what Michael can do and him still being loose (if that makes sense).

One big story detail that I never really thought about much was how young Michael Myers is. Loomis says he’s 21. That’s super young! Also, while the first one felt a lot more planned out — because it was, as noted above — Michael is a lot more reactionary in this one, trying to get the one that got away. This movie also picks up on something else I thought about while watching the first movie: Michael wasn’t super secretive about being out on Halloween, so people must have seen him, right? That’s mentioned a bit in this film.

I think this is a pretty solid sequel, but it lacks a little focus when it comes to characters. First it seems like the one nurse is the focus, then it switched to the one who gets drowned/burned, then back to the blonde nurse. Laurie’s of course up for the part, but she doesn’t really do much throughout the film until the end. And, as usual, Loomis is all over the place. That plus, the fact that Rosenthal’s no Carpenter, makes this movie not quite as good as the original, but still a solid offering in my opinion.

halloween 4 poster I skipped Season Of The Witch because I watched it casually a few weeks ago and it also holds no bearing on what I like to call the main series. For what it’s worth, I still love that weird movie. Anyway, the slasher’s story continued with Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers. This one introduces Laurie Strode’s daughter Jamie who shares a strange connection with her uncle Michael who has been kept in an asylum for the ten years between 2 and 4. First and foremost it needs to be said how damn good Danielle Harris is as Jamie in this and the next film. She has a heaviness to her that doesn’t come easy for actors, especially child ones.

Anyway, this film continues a few of the themes I’ve noticed. The kids in this movie are even worse than the ones in the original. They straight-up make fun of Jamie for having a dead mom. Even worse, one of the kids sullies his MASK costume by being a total jerkwad. This film also expands on the parties involved in the Michael Myers threat. In the first one it was Loomis, teenagers and eventually the cops. With the second the teens were swapped out for hospital employees. In this one you get the hick-ish lynch mob as well. Plus, since we’re dealing with a story that takes place 10 years after the original, there’s people who have lived with that initial tragedy. I think there’s an interesting commentary here about how we bury our past to the point where it can come back and stab us with a shotgun.

Another more esoteric thing that came to mind while watching these movies is that they’re as much about regular people trying to comprehend the idea of an unkillable man as they are about the man himself. In the real world you can write certain things off as tricks of the light or your mind playing tricks on you, but in these movies, some of the characters discover that those things might also be Myers. They also have to deal with the insanity that comes from experiencing these things. In Loomis’ case, these recurring meet-ups have clearly played with his sanity.

Halloween 5 poster

Halloween 5 picks up where 4 left off, showing how Michael survived the end of the previous film and catching us up on Jamie since she stabbed her step mom. She’s not speaking now, which leads to some super creepy and sad moments, but now shares an even stronger connection with her recently revived uncle.

I actually don’t have too much to add to my initial review of this film. Harris is still awesome as Jamie. Michael’s still scary. Loomis is still increasingly crazy. One element of this film that really stood out to me this time around was how dangerous it felt. In addition to terrorizing a child, Michael kills Rachel, a character you would think was off limits.

While watching this movie I realized that one of the great things about the Halloween series is that the sequels are so easily distinguishable. After a while the Friday The 13th films get really confusing, same with the Nightmare movies, but each Halloween flick is different enough that they’re pretty easy to keep straight.

Halloween-The-Curse-of-Michael-Myers-movie-poster

The first time I went through and watched the sequels, I was surprised with how much I liked 4 and 5, and wound up not liking Curse. Much like my recent re-watching of Jason Goes To Hell, though, I found myself liking this film a lot more the second time around. I think a big part of that is knowing that it’s not super great and having lower expectations. Paul Rudd is stellar in this film, bringing a crawling intensity to his portrayal of an older Tommy Doyle. I will say that this film tries a little too hard to make connections to the previous films though. Jamie (not Harris) is in the beginning, her baby is a major part of the story, then you’ve got the Strodes inexplicably living in the Myers house (was her dad unable to sell it and just had to move in?). I think there’s a real tragic story behind Mr. Strode’s decent into assholery.

Even though this isn’t a great movie and I didn’t see it until much later, I feel like I can relate to aspects of it a lot more because it was filmed in the 90s which were a very formative decade for me. There’s a Power Ranger in the kid’s bedroom. Plus, the music and clothes are of my youth, so even though I know it’s not great and I’ve only seen it twice, there’s a familiarity there that I relate to on some level.

And with that, we conclude what I consider the main Halloween series. When Jamie Lee Curtis returned for Halloween H2O and Resurrection, those films ignored parts 46 which I still think is kind of lame. Anyway, Michael Myers is still my favorite slasher and I think this series still holds up pretty well, especially if you think of the original as more of an outlier of quality (in the positive direction) than an indicator of the whole series which is far below that. This season I also watched every single Friday The 13th film for a list I did on Topless Robot called The 20 Most Deserving Victims In The Friday The 13th Films and I can easily say that Halloween is the more solid franchise, though there will always be a soft spot in my horror heart for all the classic 80s slasher franchises.

One last quick thought about the series. Whether conscious or not, I think these films share a lot of connections with Night Of The Living Dead. I know they’re completely different, but the opening scenes of both movies reminded me of one another. Night starts with that long shot of the car slowly driving up the winding road while Halloween has the long POV shot of young Michael taking out his sister. Then, in the second film someone’s actually watching Night. Plus, as I noted above, these films focus on regular people dealing with horrific elements that challenge their traditional thoughts on death.

Halloween Scene: Halloween 5 (1989)

2008-10-28
2:22:39 am

This might sound funny, but I keep watching the Halloween movies expecting to not like each subsequent sequel. But I’ll tell you, I dig H5 for the most part too. Sure it has it’s problems, but I Michael Myers is still my favorite slasher and I just love seeing him skulking behind clueless dudes and dudettes. And you know what? Danielle Harris is awesome as Jamie. She’s 12 in this one (she was 11 in the previous one) and I think she does a damn good job of acting scared. It might seem easy at first thought and I’ve never personally been chased by a maniac with a knife, but I feel like her fear fills up the screen just as much as the images. Good for her.

The basic idea behind H5 is that Jamie’s getting hunted by her uncle, Michael Myers but folks like Dr. Loomis, Jamie’s step sister Rachel and Rachel’s friend Tina are standing between The Shape and this little girl. But as you might remember from the very end of H4 Jamie stabbed her step mom. They kind of explain that away by saying Jamie was influenced by her uncle. In this flick, Jamie’s got some kind of psychic connection to her uncle that gives her a kind of Spidey Sense when Michael’s killing someone.

Donald Pleasence’s Dr. Loomis gets even crazier in this sequel and it’s awesome. Watching the transformation from movie to movie has been pretty fun. In this one he threatens another police officer and grabs Jamie as bait. It’s a great bit of business because we’re not sure if Loomis is really nuts and wants to end the madness by letting Michael kill Jamie or if it’s a trap for Michael.

I also really like the opening credits. You get treated to scenes of a knife slashing through something that turns out to be a pumpkin. There’s just something so brutal about the knife work. It does a good job of setting the sometimes brutal tone that the movie has.

But it’s not all love and hugs for H5. There’s a character that he only see in profile or at ankle level dubbed The Man in Black that breaks Michael out of jail at the end. He seems to have only been introduced to do just that. He’s not a character he’s just a plot point.

Another problem I have is how easily duped the Haddonfield police department is. For a force that now has a SWAT team (hey, it’s about time, if for no other occasion than the yearly murderfest, they should get their own tank) they make a really stupid mistake. They’re all camped out at the Myers’ house until Jamie has a vision of Michael attacking the children’s hospital. Loomis and the cops actually listen, but then ALL OF THE COPS leave the house and go to the hospital. Really guys? You’ve never heard of a bait and switch? Sheesh. Loomis knows right away.

Sure there are stumbling blocks along the way, but I think H5 looks pretty good for a movie rushed into production a year after H4 came out. And yet again, I find myself not looking forward to Curse of Michael Myers, except for the performance of a young Paul Rudd. After that I’ve got H20, Resurrection and, huh, the remake. I’m REALLY not looking forward to those three.

Halloween Scene: Halloween 4 The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

2008-10-05
2:18:47 am

Last night everyone (Em and her visiting parents) went to bed at about 9:30 so I was left with a pile of comics and the TV to myself. I wasn’t really feeling a horror movie yet, so I read comics and then watched The Soup (love that show). I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do so I popped 300 in, but instead of watching that I saw the top 7 songs on VH1’s Top 100 Hip Hop Songs of All Time (or whatever they called it) followed by a documentary about NWA which was really interesting (I was definitely not paying attention to rap at the time so it was a great education on the time period as well the music).

Well after that I was faced with a question, should I just watch 300 or another Halloween Scene flick? Well, horror won out and I popped Halloween 4 in even though I wasn’t very excited about it. And let me tell you, I was pleasantly surprised.

I originally watched most of these slasher movies in high school, so it’s been quite a while in most cases, plus I think I watched some of them out of order. Needless to say, it’s hard to keep everything straight (just wait until I start watching the Friday the 13th flicks). H4 is a great addition to the Halloween franchise as well as a great movie on its own.

It’s 10 years later (remember that, even though H2 came out a few years after the original it was still set on the same night, so it works out time-wise) and we’re introduced to Jamie, who is Laurie Strode’s daughter which makes her somewhere between 7 and 10 I think, I can never tell how old kids are. Laurie and her husband died so now Jamie is living with another family including older “sister” Rachel. And, of course, Michael Myers is still around. Apparently both he and Loomis survived the huge explosion at the end of H2 and Michael ended up in an asylum where he’s been for the last 10 years. It’s not until he’s getting transported to another facility (without Loomis’ knowledge) that he hears about Jamie’s existence, goes crazy and makes his way back to Haddonfield.

Instead of the fake out scares that populated H2, H4 offers more general suspense as you never really know what’s going to happen. The directing and screenwriting has some really inspired moments like when three or four kids in Michael Myers masks and coveralls surround Loomis and the new police chief. One of them might even be Michael as only two called out and/or took off their masks. Another scene I really liked takes place before either Michael or Loomis get to Haddonfield when they end up both in the garage. They stare at each other from across the station, Loomis has a great speech, fires a few shots and then Michael drives out of the station and sets the gas pumps and Loomis’ car on fire.

Which reminds me, kids in the Halloween-verse are big time jerks. Remember in the first one where the three kids pick on Tommy and give him crap about the boogie man? Well, this one tops that with three kids dressed up in those costumes where you basically wear a mask and then a plastic shirt with what you’re supposed to be on it making fun of her for her mom being dead and her uncle being a serial killer. These kids must really taken to heart the old saying that kids can be cruel. But that’s not all as a car with two jocks and two cheerleaders pull over to offer a ride to the stranded Loomis and then drive off laughing at him. Hopefully Myers killed them at some point off screen.

Oh, and those kids that made fun of Jamie? She ends up trick or treating with them later, which results in her getting separated from Rachel who found her crush Brody ready to bone the sheriff’s daughter because Rachel canceled their date in order to take Jamie trick or treating. What a jerk (even though Kelly, the sheriff’s daughter is super hot). Brody is played by Sasha Jenson who was in both the Buffy movie and Dazed and Confused (two big favorites from my younger days). I can’t believe he was 30 when he did Dazed and Confused.

Anyway, back to the story. My mind’s all over the place. Back before trick or treating there’s a scene where Rachel takes Jamie to a drug store to get a Halloween costume. Brody works at the store too (this is when she tells him she can’t make their date that night). So while Rachel’s talking to Brody, Jamie’s looking at the mask section by herself, which brought back memories of the costume store that used to be by my house growing up. They always had those huge crazy monster masks that you never say anywhere but in the store, which was a fun bit of nostalgia. But the scene gets even better as Jamie picks pretty much the exact clown costume we saw Michael wear as a child when he killed his sister in the beginning of H1. But THEN we see Michael’s scarred hand grab a new Shatner mask and appear right behind her. Jamie understandably freaks out and crashes into a mirror and then Michael disappears.

Which got me to thinking about something. Is it a plot hole that he wouldn’t just kill her right there (if in fact that was him)? The answer I came up with was no because Michael doesn’t just want to kill his main target, he wants them to suffer all kinds of mental and physical trauma. Sure, if you were just one of the friends or a side character you’ll get a shotgun stabbed through your guts or a thumb through your face, but if you’re Laurie or Jamie or even Loomis, he wants bad bad things to happen to you, which is why he takes the time to set up the bodies. He’s theatrical that way I guess.

Okay, again, back to the story. The girls wind up with Loomis and the sheriff and a deputy in the sheriff’s house with Brody and Kelly (awkward). But Michael’s there too and he slowly picks off the ancillary characters (the sheriff and Loomis leave on their own accord). Rachel and Jamie have this great scene with Michael chasing them on the roof. For a few minutes, it turns out to be just Michael after Jamie which is kind of terrifying because, what chance does a kid stand against a dude who has survived gunshots and explosions? Then Loomis comes to the “rescue” gets them to the school and then promptly gets thrown through a door, leaving Jamie on her own again. Rachel and a group of rednecks who have formed their own “lynch mob” to take out Michael.

The rednecks drive away from the city with the two girls as cops from the town over (or something) drive past. There’s a sense of relief as they roll into town, but of course it’s not that simple as Michael was under the truck the whole time (or something). And then there’s the one part of the movie that I just can’t buy. Michael pulls himself up over the tailgate and attacks the two or three guys in the back, but the driver and the two girls in the cab don’t notice ANYTHING. Ah well. The girls are left alone with Michael on top of a truck and then crash into a cemetery. Then the rednecks and the cops show back up somehow (how’d they know to turn around?). The guns ring out and Michael falls back into a pit where all kinds of dirt and graves fall in on him.

As if the above wasn’t SPOILERY enough, now I’m going to talk about the very end, which I love. Rachel and Jamie get back to their house and Loomis and the sheriff show up so everything’s cool until we get a replay of the ultra creepy opening scene from H1. You’re not really sure who it is and then we hear a scream and see little Jamie standing at the top of the stairs holding a pair of bloody scissors that she used to kill her new mom. And THEN Loomis pulls his gun out and almost shoots him until the sheriff stops him. Then it just ends. Great stuff, even though I’m not sure why Loomis expects Michael to stay buried. SPOILER, he won’t there’s 2 of 4 more movies in the continuity depending on how you count.

Return turned out to be a really really great horror movie and I highly recommend it. I haven’t seen H2O or the sequel to that one, but it’s one of the better sequels in my opinion (depending on how I’m feeling it and H2 switch places in the favorite sequel category). Good times!