Horror Franchises Worst to Best – “Halloween” Edition

While Hollywood have always been keen on sequels and producers of horror movies are keener than even your average movie producer to cash-in on a quick buck. The horror franchise only properly became a big thing in the 80’s with the likes of the “Halloween”, “Friday the 13th “and “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchises. Horror fans have a love-hate relationship with franchises as while some bring up genuine affection it is often the case that fans tire of sequel after sequel and want to see something more original as well as not wanting to see a franchise they like driven into the ground (which often happens). That of course does not stop most from going to see sequels (including myself), you know just to see if it is rubbish or not. Franchises can be interesting too as while some film series, like the three aforementioned, are known as a franchise others not so much. As sometimes there is a famous first film and the sequels go by fairly unnoticed as not many people know there are 5 “Psycho” movies (including the remake) and equally unknown there are 5 Exorcist movies (although technically Dominion and Beginning are two different directors cut of the same film and “Exorcist II: The Heretic” is fairly notorious ). Some were not even all that famous to begin with I mean how many people are aware there is 6 Wrong Turn films or a staggering 10 Puppet Master films (with another on the way next year). Anyway I hope to have a look at other franchises over time but since it is one of the big ones and it is Halloween after all what better franchise to look at than the “Halloween” franchise:

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Halloween: Resurrection (2002) (Directed by Rick Rosenthal)

Halloween: Resurrection sees the director of Halloween II return to the franchise. Which was a decent sequel, so surely a good sign then? Hell no is the answer to that one. This is movie is grade-A stupid and not in the lovable way. The dialogue is groan inducing, the acting is wooden and the special effects are god-awful. Also within minutes it insults the audience as we are supposed to believe that Michael survived the finale of H20 (where he was decapitated) due to a David Copperfield-style body switch. Luckily there was a paramedic of the exact same height, size and body type who was convincing enough to fool his sister. Oh yeah Laurie Strode is also killed within the first 15 minutes (clearly Jamie Lee Curtis wanted out of this flick as quickly as possible) and the old Myers house is now being used for a horror reality show which is just as daft as it sounds. The only redeeming feature is a hilarious scene where Busta Rhymes puts an epic whoopin’ on Michael before being inevitably killed.

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995) (Directed by Joe Chappelle)

This was initially going to be called Halloween 666: The Origins of Michael Myers. The Curse subtitle was initially suggested as a joke due to all the problems the production was set with. Also after a poor test screening the movie was butchered in the edit leaving it near incomprehensible in places and lumping it with a nonsensical ending. Well I say ending it is more like the movie just gives up. It is fun to spot Paul Rudd in the lead role as a grown-up Tommy Doyle (the child Laurie was babysitting in the original film) in an earlier role (it is amazing how many current name stars starred in crappy 90’s horror flicks). The plot follows “The Curse of Thorn” plot which was first brought up in part 5 and involves a cult and explains Myers powers but this was completely ignored when the franchise came back with H20. Apparently it is explained better and more fully fleshed out in the “Production Cut” of the movie which I must admit I have not seen. It is a mess of a movie made even more tragic by the fact it was Donald Pleasance’s last film as he died during production.

Halloween II (2009) (Directed by Rob Zombie)

Love or hate Rob Zombie it is clear that he very much has his own vision and a unique visual style (even if it has borrowed elements of other styles) which always made him an odd choice to reboot a franchise. His reboot/remake while flawed and wrongheaded in some respects did at least have something’s going for it. The sequel on the other hand is flat out rubbish. Interestingly Zombie manages to make his sequel, which he was reluctant to do in the first place and it shows, both too generic and too out-there. As lot of the violence and horror feels by-the-numbers and tired but equally what can be seen as the more experimental choices don’t work either. Especially what can be seen as the one of the main Zombie flourishes with the dream sequences involving Debbie Myers (Sherri Moon Zombie) and that white horse which presumably are supposed to come across as ethereal and profound but instead comes across as pretentious and idiotic. If there is something nice to be said about the film it is always fun watching Malcolm McDowell ham it up which he does with gusto here.

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) (Directed by Dominique Othenin-Girard)

At the end of Halloween 4 we see Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris), niece of Michael Myers, wearing a clown mask holding a pair of scissors stained with blood. The inference being that she has taken over the mantle of Michael Myers after he was blown up in a mine shaft. So how do they address this? If you answered they just completely gloss over the whole thing and go back to business as usual, well done as that is exactly what happens. Instead Jamie is mute with an apparent telepathic link to her uncle and Michael Myers back to his killing ways after narrowly missing the aforementioned explosion and falling in to a convenient year-long coma. Basically despite getting largely negative reviews Halloween 4 did decent business at the box office and this film was then rushed into production released only a year after the previous entry and that seems obvious watching it. The movie isn’t actively awful like but it is a very unmemorable generic slasher. That said both Danielle Harris and Donald Pleasance put in praise-worthy performances that are a cut-above the movie that surrounds them.

Halloween (2007) (Directed by Rob Zombie)

Unlike Rob Zombie’s Halloween II I do not actually think Rob Zombie’s Halloween is a terrible movie. In fact I always figured I would have probably liked it more if it were not a Halloween movie but it is. The problem I have with that is much the same problem John Carpenter recently stated he had with it which is it tries to make Michael Myers more understandable. The section we see him grow-up in the Mental Hospital tries to peer into Myer’s psyche which nullifies the whole “force of nature” thing that seems central to the character. There is a reason he was credited as The Shape in most of the Halloween movies, it is because the character is supposed to be unknowable. Also part of what made Myer’s incredible strength and unstoppable-ness scary/surprising was his normal stature but by casting a 6’8’ ex-pro wrestler in Tyler Mane again takes away from this mystique. Which is not to say it is all bad as business picks up after Myers’ escapes from the asylum, there is some decent gory deaths and while not full throttle Zombie he does bring his unique psychedelic-grindhouse-grungy-

redneck-torture-porn sensibility to the franchise. Also it doesn’t really need said again but Malcolm Mcdowell is awesome.

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) (Directed by Dwight H. Little)

People hate it when Hollywood just repeat themselves all the time. Particularly horror fans who hate the constant churn of sequels and remakes. Well turns out people can also hate when you try something different as critics and audiences vehemently rejected non-Myers sequel Halloween III: Season of the Witch so for the fourth one they decided to bring Michael back as the focus of the franchise. While initially John Carpenter was supposed to direct this actually so him permanently part with the franchise. In this one we Michael awaken from a ten-year coma in order to come after his Laurie Strode’s daughter Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris) and generally slash through anyone in Haddonfield who gets in his way. While on the formulaic side this is actually a fun sequel as there is some decent action and some good kills as well as that it was this film that turned Danielle Harris into the cult horror figure she is today and like many of the sequels the film is lifted by an energetic performance from Donald Pleasance as a very exasperated Dr Loomis who has to convince the slow-witted police force that Michael is on the loose again (a surprisingly difficult task!). Plus Loomis is possibly at his most badass in this entry.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) (Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace)

Somehow of all the Halloween films this has the second lowest score on IMDB with 4.6/10. Apparently (with 4.9) The Curse of Michael Myers is a slightly better film which it is not and just goes to show you can’t always trust IMDB (that said Resurrection rightfully has the lowest score with 4.1). Some people really hate this movie and it is still probably the most divisive of the sequels for being Myers-less. This was how John Carpenter intended the Halloween series to be a series of films of unrelated scary stories put out under the same banner but no one else wanted that it seems as this was a critical and commercial flop as previously mentioned. However over the years it has picked up some fans and while, as mentioned, it is still reviled by some it has come to be seen as an under-appreciated horror by others. You will know which camp you fall into if you buy into the loopy concept of a pagan cult trying to bump off America’s youth with possessed Halloween masks or not. To me it is an entertaining concept and done pretty decently. Particularly good is Dan O’Herlihy as the cheerfully malevolent villain and owner of the Silver Shamrock Corporation. Tom Atkins is also good as our hero Dr Daniel Challis (even if he is unconvincing as a Ladies Man). It does not work and it gets really wacky at the end, plus the Silver Shamrock jingle might be the most irritating jingle ever, but it is a decent sequel.

Halloween H20: 20 years Later (1998) (Directed by Steve Miner)

As the title suggests this movie was released to coincide with the 20th Anniversary of the original movie. It is somewhat divisive movie as while Halloween’s 4-6 are hardly gems many felt it was wrong to just pretend they never happened and simply continue from Halloween II. This is mainly due to the franchise’s fans affection for the Jamie Lloyd character. Although there is a comic book series made after this film that bridges the continuity between Curse of Michael Myers and this.
Your enjoyment of this movie may also come down to how much you like Scream. As some horror fans find the self-aware, knowing style that “Scream” popularised in the mid 90’s to be smug and annoying. Not only that some argue that by filling horror movies with so many references/parodies of other films and genre clichés that it dilutes the scares. If that is you then this might not be the Halloween film for you as like most American horror films made in the post-Scream/pre-Saw period it satirises the genre and has several nods/homages to the original, to “Psycho” and to “Scream” itself. As a teen in the late 90’s myself I have personal affection for this movie but also thinks it holds up reasonably well. It has a sharp script, the acting is generally good (even Josh Harnett is pretty good), it is cool to see Jamie Lee Curtis back as Laurie Strode for the first time since 1981 and generally it tells its story well.

Halloween II (1981) (Directed by Rick Rosenthal)

As you may remember way back at the beginning I mentioned that the director of “Halloween: Resurrection” the worst entry in the franchise (according to your writer here anyway and loads of other people to be fair) also directed this entry which as you can see I consider to be the franchise’s second best effort. At this stage of course John Carpenter was still co-producer on the series (the first three films were produced by Carpenter and Debra Hill). As well as that he was also the writer on this one. Which is no slight on Rosenthal as this is a decently directed movie as well. The movie is very much a direct sequel in that starts right after the original film’s cliff-hanger ending with Michael disappearing and Laurie going off to hospital while Loomis resumes his search for Michael. While many of the supporting characters here aren’t particularly memorable or stand-out much Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance are excellent. It is fair to say while Laurie is the notional protagonist that Loomis really is the heart of the franchise and as mentioned earlier even when the material got ropier Pleasance still gave it his all. The movie also makes good use of the hospital setting and there is some very good kills in this one including a nasty death by hot tub which is one of series standouts (the kill just before this which is done silently in the background of the scene is cool too). It may not be up to the standard of the original but it is still a very good and well superior to your standard sequel.

Halloween (1978) (Directed by John Carpenter)

Honestly was there ever any doubt what No1 was going to be? Now it is not always the case that the original is the best. There are other franchises were one of the sequels is better than original there are also some franchises where there is no much of a gap between the best entries in a series but that is not the case here as Carpenter’s original stands head and shoulders above the rest of the franchise. Which as I have written does not mean the rest are rubbish. I certainly would recommend II, H20, Season of the Witch and The Return of Michael Myers as decent watches but the original is a stone cold classic and one of the best horror films ever made. That said it may not be to everyone taste especially if you are modern horror fan as there is not a lot of blood and the pacing is much slower than modern horror fans have come to expect as there are those who seem to be disappointed if the killing spree has not started 10 minutes in. So some may find this patient approach boring but while their might not be a whole lot going on in terms of violence in the opening half of the movie, it must be said that Carpenter does an excellent job of ratcheting up suspense and menace before various teens start to get picked off by Myers. As well as being an excellent piece of horror cinema it also one of the most influential (and parodied) horror films of all

time and is often referred to as the “Father of the Modern Slasher” given that it established many of the genres tropes. It also endlessly
re-watchable and perfect Halloween viewing!

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