Sunday, May 19, 2013

MR:Quickies Halloween series

Okay, we're far from Halloween, but I really wanted to finally review this classic film series.

"The trick was to stay alive."

Originally imagined by Hollywood Horror master John Carpenter who helped craft the genre in the cinema, the original Halloween is the sole responsible to birth the entire slasher genre. Alongside the earlier Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday The 13th later, those three form the grandfathers of the genre.

If TCM established the idea of this bloody splatter direction and Friday brought in the crafty originality behind the death scenes, it was Halloween who gave a form to the boogeyman that lurks in the darkness. The less you see of it the more terrifying the fear gets.

The original film was going to be about babysitters being stalked by a killer. Once they set the story around Halloween the rest came up naturally.

The series' never been about the Halloween night itself but about that old haunted house-type of scare.

The original film established several rules of the genre that still hold very true to most horror flicks to this day.

Movie title: John Carpenter's Halloween
Directed by John Carpenter
Release date 1978
Genre horror

The story is set in the fictive little town of Haddonfield, Illinois.

The movie starts with the point of view of a 6 years old Michael Myers.

One faithful night of Halloween, in 1963, for some reason, the little Michael grabs a knife and kills his own sister...

Michael is sent to Smith's Grove Sanitarium.

15 Years later, Michael escapes...

Michael goes on a killing spree after babysitters. More precisely, he seems to be after a Laurie Strode.

Meanwhile psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis is well aware of Michael's intentions. That's why he was always against Michael's release. Loomis suspects Michael is not what he appears to be...

In the end they have to shot Michael at least six times until the monster falls...

Overall: The original Halloween film was written and directed by John Carpenter. He also self-composed the main theme for the movie that has since become iconic and synonymous with the series.

The film was produced on a very small budget, since it originally was an independent film as most successful series to start like.

It features a young Jamie Lee Curtis in her film debut and veteran actor Donald Pleasence as Doctor Loomis.

Halloween came from a long line of horror films centered around a serial killer, the principal inspiration behind it being Hitchock's Psycho in 1960.

John Carpenter's film goes back to the Samhain festival-roots behind the more commercial Halloween tradition. An idea some of the sequels would explore and try linking to Michael.

Many of the ideas that seem so fresh and original here went on becoming  clichés and tropes of the genre sadly...

Halloween seems to provide as only escape from "the evil" Michael represents a certain sexual purity, represented here by Laurie Strode. A question of moral moral. It works great with the Halloween theme from the film. Only the innocent and pure protagonist is able to survive to the end.

Halloween not only launched Jamie Lee Curtis' career but also the tradition of the "scream queen" horror star.

The original film didn't conain any gore. It was a very simple film all in all. From the still creepy title screen featuring a Jack o'lantern to its narrative direction.

Carpenter's signature first person point of view come to a great use in this film. Halloween has a great great aspect about the perception we have of us and others. Depicted with Michael's voyeurism for example. (Also, is he evil because he's thought to be?)

The film went on spawning an entire film series and receiving an unexpected fantastic reception as well as many, many awards and nominations.

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score!

Movie title: Halloween II
Directed by Rick Rosenthal
Release date 1981
Genre slasher horror

Halloween 2 picks up right where the first one left.

Michael Myers' body appears to be missing where Loomis shot him down.

Michael stalks Laurie to the hospital where she's been taken to.

He starts a killing spree on his path.

Loomis follows some clues connecting Michael to Samhain. Giving an occult explanation to Michael's apparent invincibility.

Laurie finds out she and Michael are actually brother and sister. Laurie was adopted into another family as a child after what happened.

They end up putting a stop to Michael for good in an explosion of flames, leaving Michael fall to his death...or did they?

Overall: Carpenter wrote and produced this sequel. And he co-directed sine scenes alongside director Rick Rosenthal.

Rosenthal did great, he perfectly mimicked the tone of the original, bringing back the same technique and style such as Michael's point of view.

The film was meant to end Michael's storyline. But the awful reception from the next film (below) forced the production to scrap the original ideas and bring Michael Myers back.

The sequel had a lot more gore and violence than the first one, to match the other slasher films at time.

Which in turn had another reaction. Making Michael bleed and get hit several times was slowly turning him into an indestructible inhuman force every sequel.

The music was composed by John Carpenter with Alan Howarth.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Movie title: Halloween III: Season of the Witch 
Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace
Release date 1982
Genre horror

This time the story takes place in a completely different setting.

The plot follows a certain Dr. Challis. Something strange happened to one of his patient in the hospital.

Challis and Ellie, the daughter of the patient, follow up a mysterious series of bizarre murders to a small town in California, Santa Mira.

There the couple unveil a giant conspiracy linking a big company to a plot to use mystic powers to kill people on "All Hallows Eve".

People trying to gather Stonehenge rocks to bring back the Celtic festival to its origin. To conjure the force of Samhain.

They plan on killing children wearing some masks. And thanks to a series of commercial brainwashing people into buying those, it's all about to come to place..

Overall: Released the following year, Season of the Witch was this time written and directed by Tommy Lee Wallace while John Carpenter produced it once again.

The film is a departure from the Michael Myers storyline.

Making the series go back to Carpenter and Debra Hill's original idea of having the Halloween series being an Anthology series. Featuring new plots and original stories centered around the eponymous night every year.

This time the story revolve around consumerism.

It all sounds fine and dandy... but the execution is simply really bad.

I'd say the only good thing the film has going for it is some well made gruesome deaths and special effects.

Otherwise? It's a very slow paced cliché, boring and uninspired story. And even it the film was well executed the characters are simply not that interesting and the threat way too far fetched... Even by horror film standards.

The soundtrack was once again composed by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth. They tried giving it a whole different tone to make it stand apart from the previous films. Replaced a synthesizer over the piano... It has really aged to the ear...

And I'm not saying that as a fan of the series or not. Even as a standalone film, it's simply not that good. There's no redeeming quality to save it. It's like a very bad Twilight Zone episode (and before you ask me: But there are no bad TZ episodes, I'd tell you, why yes, there's this film!)

It's just a plain awful forgettable horror film.

I give this one a: 0.5 / 3 Score!

Movie title: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
Directed by Dwight H. Little
Release date 1988
Genre slasher horror

As the title implies, this is the long awaited return of Michael Myers.

Taking place some years later, Michael Myers apparently survived the fire from the second film.

They bring him back to Smith's Grove.

But one time Michael overhears that Laurie is long dead. Apparently she died in a car accident. But she was survived by daughter, Jamie Lloyd.

So naturally, Michael escapes, goes back to Haddonfield and sets after Jamie.

Dr. Loomis is back to put a stop to Michael Myers' killing spree.

But not before Michael starts killing several teenagers on his path.

The 8 years old Jamie Lloyd has been having nightmares about this uncle she never met. Probably thanks to the other kids teasing her being related to the infamous "Haddonfield's boogeyman".

Loomis and the cops are able shoot Michael down a mineshaft.

But when nobody's expecting it, they turn to Jamie now donning a clown mask similar to the one Michael originally wore as a kid, with a bloody knife...!
him down mine 

Overall: I love that twist ending... even if it never was followed upon. (sort of like the Friday the 13th movie without Jason) It makes the story perfectly coming full circle...

This new episode was directed by Dwight H. Little.

It's a return to the Michael Myers storyline. The original plans for Halloween IV was to revolve around a ghost story... but that was quickly scrapped thanks to the failure of the above film.

They left the series aside until several years later, when the production decided to bring back Michael.

Having the ideas and story go back to the first two films is what originally made H4 one of the most successful films of the franchise. Even if it is less regarded nowadays.

The character of Jamie Lloyd was introduced since they weren't able to have Jamie Lee Curtis back (her first name is actually a reference to Curtis).

Halloween 4 featured the cute Danielle Harris in her Hollywood debut role. She has since become one my favorite scream queens nowadays. She really got to shine here as a child actor in a lead role.

It's a pretty good movie it a bit too similar to the first one. And the first in the series to actually embrace the slasher tone.

The soundtrack was this time entirely composed by Alan Howarth who assisted Carpenter in the earlier films.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Movie title: Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers 
Directed by Dominique Othenin-Girard 
Release date 1989
Genre slasher horror

After q quick recap of the previous events, we find that Michael survived down the mine.

Thanks to a hermit he ends up killing, Michael is up and running, ready to kill again.

Michael wanders off the scene never to be seen again... until a year later.

Turns out Michael has now a sort of connection to Jamie, explaining the end of the last film.

Jamie is now at a mental health child clinic. She has become mute due to the trauma.

Loomis lures Michael with Jamie.

They are able to capture him and take him into police custody.

But suddenly, a mysterious figure in black break him out of jail at the end!!

Overall: The Revenge of Michael Myers was quickly produced short on the success of the previous film. It was the late 80s and people were in the middle of the slasher/horror craze.

Dominique Othenin-Girard is a more straightforward film and much more conventional but it still is a good film through and through.

The film has a pretty intense suspenseful car chase.

Danielle Harris originally expected to be set as killer in this film or at least Michael's sidekick due to the ambiguous ending of the last one... but they were able to find a way out of that plot.

The film is less horror and more "in your face" than the classics, with full on original creative deaths and Michael now much more of an immortal and unstoppable creature than ever.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Movie title: Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers 
Directed by Joe Chappelle 
Release date 1995
Genre slasher horror

This time the story picks up 6 years after the last one due to the film being produced only that many years later.

In this new installment we finally discover who that mysterious figure in black was... It actually was a friend of Loomis who has been absent in the last few films. Dr. Wynn, who was in charge of Smith's Grove. He actually sort of "created" Michael.

Turns out Michael's source of power and apparent invincibility comes from a Drudistic cult. Michael's driven by the curse of Thorn, which turned him into a beacon of everything that is evil in the world, "pure evil", and caused him to track and kill his entire family.

At the beginning of the film we also find that a 15 years old Jamie Lloyd was captured by this clan and impregnated forcefully. They were planning to kidnap Jamie's own newborn infant and use him..

... But Tommy Doyle, the kid Laurie was babysitting in the original film is able to save the baby.

With Loomis' help he is able to stop Michael for good.

The film ends with Loomis walking off into the sanitarium where Michael has been put back into.

Overall: The Curse of Michael Myers is... a very controversial film.

I truly believe Joe Chappelle's sequel could have been as good as H2 if not better had it been much better treated.

This sequel was written by Daniel Farrands who was a big fan of the series.  He was able to sell his screenplay and convince Halloween 5's producters when he came to see them with his story all lined up and prepared. He had made an entire timeline, bios of characters and family trees of the main protagonists to tie everything together. He had imagined the entire storyline and ideas from the runic symbol of Thorn that was briefly glimpsed in H5.

The film was originally titled Halloween 666: The Origin of Michael Myers which I think as cheesy at it sounds would have suited the film better.

Curse features comedy actor Paul Rudd in his film debut as Tommy.

Danielle Harris did not return. She didn't like the way her character was disposed off nor the salary she was being given. So she opted out.

Despite its bad reception it's easily one of my favorites in the series.

The film had a really rough difficult production. The production kept messing with the film. They had to do many reshoots, as well as several cuts and change during editing. Even to the point of giving an entirely different ending to the film.

Also Donald Pleasence died of a heart failure which prevented from reshooting too many scenes regarding Loomis. The film was dedicated to his memory.

The film is much darker in tone than the last titles. It has some great ideas to tie the story together and even offer a sort of ending to the series. Michael Myers' origins are a bit far fetched but in the context of the film make sense actually.

There is also an alternate unreleased cut of the films, the "producer's cut", which fans have been waiting to see released to this day, Hopefully, someday...

The film is perfectly dark and creepy.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Movie title: Halloween H20: 20 Years Later
Directed by Steve Miner 
Release date 1998
Genre slasher horror

Halloween H20 ignores all past films and opens up twenty years after the original.

Laurie has apparently faked her own death after the second film and has been living under a new identity elsewhere.

She is apparently still hiding from Michael even if he has been thought to be dead since then and never heard off anymore (which doesn't make much sense when you think about it, wouldn't she think he's simply dead? he shouldn't be expected to be a supernatural entity in this new timeline..)

Laurie now teaches at a private school.

She still fears her brother's return.

Laurie's son John also attends that school. (not a generic first name, but a nod to John Carpenter)

But one day she sees Michael Myers around the school. That's right, he's back! Again!!

Then starts a chase between the two siblings as Laurie tries to protect her son and his girlfriend from the serial killer.

It's time to face Michael for good.

In the end, she doesn't let go until she has decapitated the monster once and for all!

Overall: H20 is a very questionable follow-up to the Halloween series.

On one hand it distances itself and decides to stand apart from the countless sequels. On another, it ignores everything that fans have also liked about those and still is yet another sequel at the end of the day.

Originally conceived by Kevin Williamson who had intended H20's storyline to continue from the last few films. That is the reason why Laurie had faked her own death and run off in another state. The original story had some students mentioning Michael's past killing spree as well as reports from her other child, her own daughter's death.

The film apparently also seems to ignore Carpenter's Halloween 2 actually.

But finally they decided to simple avoid having to mention or explain Halloween 4-6 and ignore them. Putting this sequel (or the previous ones depending where you stand from) out of continuity. This H20 was to be the start of a new series.

The dialogues had to be adjusted then.

This film was dedicated to Donald Pleasence (as the previous one).

It was released in 1998, for the 20th anniversary of the original.

As such H20 has several homages and allusions to the original as well as Psycho and Wes Craven's Scream.

John Carpenter was originally set to direct it, with Jamie Lee Curtis returning to series finally. But he was too expensive for the production.

There were some problems and complaints from Michael Myers' new mask during the production so they had to re-shoot several scenes and tweak many scenes with CGi to get its original design back.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Movie title: Halloween: Resurrection 
Directed by Rick Rosenthal
Release date 2002
Genre slasher

The story picks up 3 years after H20.

The film opens with a short little first act.

Michael is not dead! Turns out Michael was able to swap his clothes with a paramedic near the end of the previous film, so to be able to run away.

So when Laurie thought she was killing him she actually decapitated a poor sap who Michael had crushed the throat.

Sent to a mental institution, Laurie is now traumatized by the guilt.

When Michael comes back after her she's far from surprised, she's been preparing for his eventual return.

She gets the better on him but decides to check if there's an innocent man behind the mask again to avoid making the same mistake... and that's when Michael gets the upper hand right away and is finable to get her killed!

His "curse" resolved, Michael goes back to his old home in Haddonfield to rest... only to find an internet reality show crew and a bunch of students lurking around his place!

They have made a mockery out of his dear beloved home!

So he starts killing everyone one by one as the dumb kids think this is all part of  some game.

Michael is back to his supernatural abilities despite this new series supposedly ignoring the past films.

Overall: Resurrection saw the return of Halloween 2 director Rick Rosenthal. But despite that, it's probably one of the worst films of the entire series.

Apart from an excellent opener that turns from bad to worse, it has so very little do with the rest of the series...

Originally called Halloween: The Homecoming, the film almost didn't feature Michael Myers. But thankfully the production learnt better than to make another Michael Myersless film thanks to Season of the Witch.

So they changed the title to Resurrection to make it more clear for the audience that Michael would be back.

It's a cheesy B-movie-ysh direct sequel to H20, with probably one of the lowest budget of the entire series - first film excepted. And it really shows.

The acting is a joke, the story is smells improvised...

And Busta Rhymes despite sounding like the worst part of the film ends up doing a pretty decent job all things considered, specially compared to the weak rest of the film...

They had originally plans for several more sequels but the series was put into a full development hell stop until it would be brought back with a remake some years later.

I give this one a: 1 / 3 Score!

And that is it for the Halloween series!

As you can see, the series has some considerably great films... as well as some abysmal episodes as well.

Carpenter's little film went on spawning an entire franchise.

Rob Zombie brought it back with some modern reimagining that seem to draw inspiration from many parts of the saga as well as his own touch.

With the unproduced Anthology Halloween episodes, alternate Halloween 7 and scrapped Halloween 10 there were also a rumored Helloween film. A Halloween/Hellraiser crossover that never made it past some early scripts and ideas.

There's also been a series of Halloween novels and comic books. Some tried to tie all the different films together.

And finally there was an old videogame for the Atari a really long ago where you play a babysitter fighting back Michael and the series has been declined into several figurines from McFarlane Toys and NECA.

That's all for this time's Quickies!

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