Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers (1995)

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There was a bit of a tradition back in the 1990s for long-running horror franchises to dispense with the numbering, as if making a “part 6” was a bit embarrassing. You got “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare”, “Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday” (neither of which were the final films in their respective series, by the way), and every “Hellraiser” and “Child’s Play” film past part 3.

There are two things about this film that might be interesting to the modern viewer. First up is the “introducing and starring” credit for one Paul Rudd, future A-lister, but more on him later. Second is the rather bizarre production this film had. Planned for the year after part 5, the poor performance of that film and all sorts of legal troubles meant they didn’t go back to the series til 1995. Donald Pleasance had aged a heck of a lot in the last six years and sadly died after principal photography had ended: but the original cut tested very badly, and due to the feuding groups who had a financial stake in it, reshoots were required, which involved some hasty reworking of the plot to remove him. And I mean hasty!

Michael Myers, it turns out, is the recipient of a curse, the “Mark of Thorn”. There are druids, and the “Thorn” rune, and a child is chosen from each tribe to carry the curse, and they had to kill their blood relatives on Samhain in order to stop a demon from spreading sickness and causing destruction. The mark also, apparently, makes the killer indestructible, for no reason whatsoever. That it takes Michael nearly 20 years to get down to the last member of his family and the demon has spread no sickness or destruction might just indicate to the druids that they’re wasting their time, but such questions are never asked.

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At the end of part 5, Michael is kidnapped from a police station by a mysterious Man in Black, who blows it up and kills everyone inside (he doesn’t appear to have any supernatural abilities, so how he did it is another question left unanswered. Also best left unanswered is why they didn’t help him get out of the asylum where he’s locked up in part 1, or the hospital in part 4). Jamie is kidnapped too, and when she’s 15, it’s implied but not shown that Michael rapes her and she gives birth to his child. When we meet her at the beginning of part 6, she’s managed to escape from the weird cave / hospital base that the cult is operating out of, and Michael, needing to kill her in order to…get rid of the curse, become mortal and die in excruciating agony from his previous injuries?…gets to chasing. Also, if he’s got to kill his family, creating new ones would seem to be a bit counter-productive.

Paul Rudd is Tommy, one of the kids that Laurie was babysitting in part 1. He is me in my early 20s, only a great deal more attractive – posters for obscure bands and arthouse movies, hipster fridge magnets, moody expression, and so on. He’s living in a boarding house across the road from the old Myers home, waiting for Michael to come back, and…I feel the more I unpack this film, the crazier it gets. It’s like zooming in on a fractal image and only seeing more layers of complexity, but in this case it just keeps on getting stupider the more you look at it.

I think one more example of how oddly this film gets going, though. Jamie runs to a bus station, trailing blood from the phone booth to the bathroom, and leaves her child in a cupboard while she nips off to get brutally murdered by Michael in the grand tradition of “final girl from the previous movie dies in the first half hour of the new one”. Tommy, analysing the phone call she made to the local radio station (there are no police in this film, at all) figures out where she went and goes there the next day. Despite it being busy, no-one’s cleaned the trail of blood up, and evidently the toilet wasn’t used as he discovers the baby where she left it.

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The Strode family has moved into Michael’s old house, and apart from providing cannon fodder and acting work for the mum from “Better Off Dead”, one of my all-time favourite films, it gives us Kara and her eight-year-old son Danny, who may well be the next recipient of the curse. They meet up with Tommy and together with Dr Loomis they try and stop Michael, one last time.

The final release version of this is so thoroughly awful that I’m genuinely amazed that anyone thought it was okay to put out. I just can’t fathom it. They keep trying to remind you of part 1 and how good it was, but all it actually makes you think is “I wish I was watching part 1 again”. The last half hour is really just a random selection of scenes which bear only the faintest relation to each other, but you’ll no doubt ponder on just what Michael’s relationship with the rest of the cult is, and why none of them are also indestructible, immortal killing machines. You’ll wonder why he’s developed a taste for impaling people on stuff and twisting people’s necks, as he does both a lot. You’ll realise that most film writers, directors and producers are talentless chancers who just have more money and connections than normal people like you or I.

Sorry kids, but SPOILERS. I need for the sake of my own sanity to unpack the ending, and knowing how it ends will only make the rest of the film more bizarre, should you choose to watch it later. After the ludicrous reveals of who’s in the cult, Michael (for reasons which are at best faintly implied, and at worst left out) gets annoyed at how they’ve treated him and slaughters them all, but he still wants to kill the rest of his family too. He is finally put down by having multiple injections of some corrosive substance and getting battered with a steel pipe by Tommy, and when green slime starts oozing out of his mask, it looks like Michael is finally done for. Unless you’ve ever seen a film, of course. Tommy, Kara and Danny are about to drive off, rather than do anything silly like wait for the police, when Dr Loomis tells them he has unfinished business inside. The last shot of the last film of Donald Pleasence’s career is of Michael’s mask, laid on the floor where his body was, and Loomis’ scream dubbed in from the end of part 4, cut to black, “In Memory of Donald Pleasence”. Oh my god!


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There’s a “producer’s cut” of this film, which was originally just sold as a bootleg at horror conventions but has finally been cleared up and released in the official blu-ray box set. Hilariously, it sounds even stupider, with a black magic ending that keeps Donald Pleasence in the series, and having Jamie survive her initial attack from Michael.

It’s so strange that I can’t hate it as much as I hate part 5. The “huh, I guess we were drugged” scene is one of the most bizarre non sequiturs in film history, and there’s a rich bounty for the bad movie enthusiast. I do like that they don’t spend much time trying to kill Michael, as there’s not a lot of tension in that, although we’re two years away from “Scream” and the self-aware slasher villains. There’s not a single scene in this that manages to hold up to the slightest scrutiny, and for that it ought to be…well, what’s one step above “ignored forever”?

Rating: thumbs down

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Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)

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Wow, the Haddonfield police are one of the dumbest groups of people in film history. They filled Michael Myers full of holes in part 4, and he fell into a well, or a mineshaft, or something. The police basically just shone their torch down the hole where Michael had fallen and went “well, he’s probably dead down there, let’s call it a night, shall we?” This amazingly isn’t the dumbest thing they do during the course of this film.

Of course, ol’ Michael takes a kickin’ and keeps on tickin’. After being shot a bunch, he falls down the shaft, but luckily there’s a tunnel that leads to a nearby river at the bottom. He goes for a bit of a swim down-river, and fortunately happens upon a hermit’s shack. He collapses, the hermit decides to just look after him (friendly hermit), until Halloween the next year when Michael bashes the guy’s head in and goes back to Haddonfield to finish his work off, whatever it’s supposed to be at this point.

I think there ought to be a new way to judge slasher films. It’s not so much if they’re any good or not – most of them are absolute garbage – but on how cleverly they set up the pieces for the next sequel. As you may have noticed with the treatment of Michael, this one just goes “ah, who cares?” Perhaps it’s not the sort of thing you’d notice if you watched them a year apart, but watching them all over the course of a week, certain things pop out, and apart from MM, it’s mainly to do with Jamie (Danielle Harris).

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It’s obvious at the end of part 4 that she killed her foster mother. Both the actress and Donald Pleasence wanted her to be the villain in part 5, or at least Michael’s sidekick, but what actually happens is there’s a spot of retconning – she only moderately wounded the woman, who is now referred to as her step-mother; and she’s been sent to a childrens’ psychiatric hospital. Rachel and friends from the last film gather round to try and cheer her up at the beginning of the movie, which is nice BUT SHE TRIED TO KILL HER MOTHER! Dr Loomis, who was inches away from shooting her at the end of part 4, is now her best friend; and, of course, the parents aren’t around, having gone on a camping trip. Why bother sticking around at the most traumatic time of the year for your children? It’s not so much the retconning itself, more they had an opportunity to do something interesting with the franchise and decided to go back to the lame safeness of the indestructible Michael.

Donald Pleasance is a mainstay of the franchise, only leaving it when he died, most of the way through filming part 6. He’s fully in scenery-chewing territory here, either being given weird direction or having some competition with himself to see what’s the craziest line reading he could slip into the final film. He also looks a lot older than he did in part 4, shot the previous year, which indicates he was already a little ill by this point. The sole interesting part of this film is strong indication that Loomis is just as crazy as Michael is, but it’s a tiny oasis in a desert of idiocy.

You don’t really need me to incredulously recap the rest of the stupidity in this one. I could talk about the two cops who refer to themselves as “lousy” and even have their own comic relief-style theme music; the boyfriend, beamed in from the 1950s; the psychic link that Jamie and Michael share – we all know that Uncle-Niece bond is the strongest of all; how Jamie has weird fits every time Michael kills someone, except when the film forgets and she doesn’t; the endless bullshit jump-scares; the way that people dressing as Michael Myers for a joke have been directly responsible for a lot of deaths in these movies; why the movie is called “The Revenge Of…” when he’s a damn mass murderer who’s got no-one to take “revenge” on; and, finally, why Michael is after this group of teenagers, who have no relationship whatsoever to him or his family.

I’ll leave you with a little more cop stupidity, though. Loomis sets up a trap for Myers at his old house, and the police finally realise he’s not dead so are out in force. Firstly, they don’t bother checking the attic of the house, or wondering why it’s lit up (yes, “someone” is already up there), and secondly, when the kid has a psychic vision of where the killer is, they all drive off, leaving one idiot and a sheriff’s deputy to protect Jamie and Loomis.

Anyway, it’s the dumbest Halloween film probably of ‘em all (although I’m really not looking forward to Halloween Resurrection). Its cliffhanger ending is at least different, even if it’s really stupid (knowing what I know about the mysterious man in black who drifts through this film, it would be difficult to be more stupid).

Rating: thumbs down

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

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“Both of them nearly burned to death”.

I want you to keep that line in mind when you watch the ending of “Halloween 2”. The room that Michael Myers and Dr Loomis are in EXPLODES. Loomis never leaves, and the last we see of Michael is him staggering out of the room, on fire, then collapsing, and the end credits playing over a shot of his burning corpse.

But that’s not all. The first ten minutes of this film is when it – and the series – stops attempting the remotest link to reality and just becomes a consequence-free slash-fest. For no reason whatsoever, Michael Myers, still alive, is due to be transferred from the hospital basement he’s been left in for the last ten years, and of course the only time they can possibly do it is the rainy night of the 30th of October. Oh, and Dr Loomis is still his doctor, for even less reason – he’s already shot him twice. When Myers, travelling in the ambulance, sticks his thumb through the skull of one of the paramedics, all bets are off! I can sense you asking questions, but don’t. Relax and enjoy.

The film, amazingly, isn’t done piling on the “boy, we ought to have hired a better scriptwriter or director for this” fun. Jamie Lee Curtis had the good sense to not come back for part 4, so her character Laurie Strode apparently died at some point in the last ten years. Before she did, she had the time to get married and have a kid, called Jamie, who looks 10 years old or so by the time of this one (so it must have happened pretty quickly after the trauma of having her brother kill dozens of people trying to get to her). But we’re still not done! All Laurie’s family are dead, so the poor kid is put into foster care. The only town they could possibly find with a willing foster family? Haddonfield, the site of the mass murders committed by her Uncle!

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Michael luckily finds a mechanic to kill and steal some overalls from, so he can keep the same look he had in the first two films; also luckily, those white William Shatner masks are now big business thanks to his exploits a decade ago, so he grabs another one. Loomis, his only visible injury being a bit of a scar on his cheek, pursues Michael back to Haddonfield, and it’s on for another Halloween night of slaughter.

Even if you can accept all this, the film has a bit more for you! For some completely unknown reason, the two paramedics mention in Michael’s presence that he has a niece, and they know where she lives, which activates his family-killing superpowers. Also, would you know where the power station that supplied your town was? It’s not the sort of thing that gets advertised, but Michael finds it immediately and blows it up, which combined with long-distance phone lines being down, isolates Haddonfield from the rest of the world. What a mastermind Myers is!

Of course, we need some teenagers to be cannon fodder, and this film has Rachel, Jamie’s much older foster-sister. She does normal teenager stuff, but her treatment is so appallingly sexist that it’s like they’re going for some sort of “Anti-Feminism In Cinema” Award. During a car ride near the beginning, she and her friend (supposedly the same character that Laurie baby-sat in part 1, fact fans) are discussing boys, and they end with “don’t be too pushy, boys don’t like that”. At the end, Rachel’s almost-boyfriend has slept with another woman, and she tells Rachel that if she doesn’t understand what boys really want, he won’t be the last boyfriend she loses to a girl like her. Wow! The film gives zero indication that these statements are wrong, and it’s not like either of them really play into the plot at all, so it feels like someone with a very skewed perspective on relationships crowbarred these parts in.

Amazingly, after all this, the film itself is rather good. If you take the first ten minutes as a “well, the producers want a film, here’s the least stupid way we can resurrect the killer and his only antagonist who’s prepared to come back” and the ending as “holy crap did we have to go that dark?”, then the film itself is a tight and decent enough thriller. If you ignore the rotten sexual politics, then Rachel is a smart and resourceful heroine who behaves in ways you don’t normally get from slasher ladies, and apart from a weird 20 minute lull (where the only two cops left in town lock themselves in a house and wait for Myers to show up) it keeps up the pace, and Pleasence is always good to watch.

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Myers gets his first kill which I’d call “playful” (well, my wife coined the phrase) where he pretends to be the cop sat in the dark who he just killed. It’s way out of place for the implacable force of evil which the film wishes it had the brains to portray him as, but it’s quite good fun. The kids at Jamie’s school are legitimately horrible like kids actually are in real life, but sadly Myers doesn’t kill any of them.

So, streets ahead of part 3, and more fun to watch than part 2. We’ve got some fun ahead of us, ISCFC readers. There’s a couple more films left in the “original” run, then there’s part 7 which retcons parts 4-6 out of existence and a part 8 with Busta Rhymes in it. YES! Then there’s fan films and two Rob Zombie reboot films…we’ll still be reviewing Halloween movies next October 31st.

Rating: thumbs up

PS. Perhaps an example of how lazy these sequels had gotten is the fetishisation of hiding Michael’s face. He’s got full-face bandages the only time we see him without his mask on, and a later film in the series made a point in its advertising of “Michael Myers unmasked!” This ignored the fact that in part 1 – the only really good one, the horror classic that everyone will remember long after the sequels are dust – you see his face, clearly. It’s just not important, until you become desperate to make a few more dollars any way you can.

Halloween 2 (1981)

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Well…mostly new

This film is the beginning of the end. As far as I can gather, it’s the first sequel to a slasher film – a few other “horror” franchises had sequels before this, but they weren’t slashers, and this sets the template. The killer is now effectively indestructible, unstoppable and his motives become more and more hazy, to the point where it becomes “Slasher Film 7 – Just Point Me At The Teenagers”.

It starts the second the first film ends. The police finally get onto the streets of Haddonfield in force, and take Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) to the hospital. Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasence, showing remarkable loyalty to this series) is sure that Myers is out there, and even carries on believing it when someone dressed identically to Myers is trapped between two cars and blown up. “Before they were famous” fans will enjoy seeing future SNL and “Wayne’s World” star Dana Carvey as one of the TV news crew people.

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The interesting things about this movie are things that its imitators didn’t do. A significant amount of this film is about the aftermath of the first one and how the characters deal with it, which is a thing most horror films don’t give a damn about. We see the father of one of the girls murdered in part 1, we see the people at the local hospital discussing the radio news reports, and we get a flavour of how a small town which has this happen would react. But it does also have an unstoppable mask-wearing force of evil, and he makes his way to the hospital, doing a few more killings along the way and stopping off at his former infant school to write “Samhain” in blood on a chalkboard.

We also appear to have the originator of the poorly lit hospital trope which I’ve railed against so many times. Initially, the hospital is brightly lit, and you’re like “finally, a horror film where I can see what’s going on” until about halfway through, when all the lights seem to be on a dimmer. Dammit! What we also have, that the first film had none of, is the fakeout scare – a cat jumping out of a rubbish bin, a boyfriend pretending to be a patient under a blanket, that sort of thing.

John Carpenter wrote the second one, even though one gets the sense he didn’t really want to, and couldn’t think of a sensible plot – hence the “twist”, which is never so much as hinted at in the film before it. Also, for all his great films, he’s made a lot more than his fair share of garbage, so maybe this is from the “minus” side of his resume. The director of part 2, Rick Rosenthal, has zero other credits worth a damn and has been a TV director for the last 20 years, but he does a decent enough job of aping Carpenter’s visual style from part 1 – it looks similar enough that if you compared a few scenes, you’d probably not be able to tell who did what.

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You have to laugh. Myers makes his way through the hospital, thinking of interesting ways to kill people (drowning someone in a boiling hot tub is my favourite) and there’s never a bit of doubt that he’ll make it through everyone in his way up to Laurie and Dr. Loomis. It gets so silly towards the end that comedy must have been what they were going for – well, I hope, anyway. There’s one hilarious death where Myers has drained all the blood from one of his victims, and someone happens upon the scene later, slips in the blood, bangs their head and dies. Brilliant! It’s when you discover that Myers has slashed the tyres and damaged the engines of every single car in the parking lot that you think “okay, I don’t have to worry about taking this seriously now”.

What this film isn’t is particularly scary, because there’s no real tension to it – when someone is shot in the eyes twice but doesn’t stop coming, it’s tough to keep tension; but it does have quite a bit more gore. I’ll leave you with a quote from Splatter Movies, by John McCarty, written around the time. “[They] aim not to scare their audiences, necessarily, nor to drive them to the edge of their seats in suspense, but to mortify them with scenes of explicit gore. In splatter movies, mutilation is indeed the message, many times the only one.”

Rating: thumbs down