John Carpenter’s immortal 1978 Halloween was never built to have one sequel, let alone eight (plus two movies in a remake series). Though it left us with Michael Myers still on the loose, an omnipresent, almost metaphysical boogeyman, in a lot of respects, the movie is utterly self-contained. The immediate threat of Myers has been quelled by Dr. Sam Loomis shooting him, point-blank, six times! Laurie Strode has protected her pint-sized babysitting charges, and basically fought Michael to a draw.
The first film’s narrative is not a cog in a grander storytelling machine. The tale is simplicity itself. A faceless, fundamentally unknowable lunatic goes crazy on the titular night in 1963, in the fictitious every-suburb of Haddonfield, Illinois, killing his teen sister. After being locked away for 15 years, he escapes the confines of Smith’s Grove Hospital, steals a nurse’s station wagon, and wreaks havoc on a small group of babysitters in his old neighborhood, as his obsessed psychiatrist strives to hunt him down. Michael Myers lacks the eerie, wise-cracking charisma of Freddy Krueger, Norman Bates or Hannibal Lecter — the kind of uniquely villainous personality that one would presume to be essential for sustaining a long-running horror series.
The original Halloween stands as such a towering cinematic achievement that it inspired a wave of imitators. Its own sequels were no exception. They can’t help but exist in their predecessor’s long shadow. Because of this, Halloween as a series takes fewer risks than the Friday The 13th or A Nightmare On Elm Street adventures (each of those movies spawned several sequels and a TV series). The first movie’s legend looms larger than those other two ’80s slasher staples, and thus the others held it in far too much reverence to play around much. Each Halloween successor (with a few notable exceptions) does its darnedest to adhere to the basic tenets established in the original film: Michael Myers is a mute, masked killing machine, with a mysteriously supernatural ability to evade capture or permanent death, who stalks his prey at a snail’s pace; and either Laurie Strode, Dr. Sam Loomis or Busta Rhymes is the only human who can effectively stop him.
In light of the October 19th release of David Gordon Green’s direct sequel to the original Halloween — confusingly also titled Halloween — this writer has tasked himself with the sacred duty of re-watching (and, in some cases, watching for the first time) all 11 official franchise installments. The listing here extends from first to worst, because the surprises will actually arrive later on during the proceedings. If you are thirsting for some informative podcasts that cover every element of the Halloween universe, like I was a few months ago, I have two great ones for you to check out. Consequence of Sound’s Halloweenies podcast is in the midst of a movie-by-movie analysis from a critical fan perspective, and their informative episodes run about twice as long as most of the movies! The Ringer’s Halloween: Unmasked podcast, hosted by Amy Nicholson, focuses primarily on the making of the two Halloween entries that bookend the franchise, and is packed with insightful reflections from many of those movies’ key players.
This author absolutely loves all things Halloween. Please take all my critiques with a grain of salt, as they all derive from a place of love. Even the franchise’s messier entries (basically everything ranked at #8 and below) hold a sentimental place in my heart, and are more re-watchable than most prestige Oscar fare. If you want this writer’s power ranking of all five different Halloween timelines, scroll over here.
1. Halloween (1978)
Was there ever any doubt? John Carpenter’s masterfully minimalist Halloween was one of the first-ever “slasher” horror films, following the creepy voyeuristic holiday serial killing lead of Bob Clark’s Black Christmas. In fact, Carpenter admitted years later that Halloween was pretty directly inspired by Clark himself. There isn’t much to be said about this flick that hasn’t been said already. TFH Guru Adam Rifkin supplies a pretty great analysis for this very site:
Outside of a bravura four-minute opening sequence set in 1963 that sees a six year-old Michael Myers don a creepy clown mask and slaughter his older sister, minimalism is the name of the game here. The plot is bare bones in its simplicity: after the murder, Michael Myers is institutionalized. An adult Michael (Nick Castle) escapes Smith’s Grove Sanitarium on October 30, 1978. His psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) makes a mad dash to his home town of Haddonfield, Illinois to warn local Sheriff Brackett (Charles Cyphers). Myers lands in Haddonfield and promptly sets up about killing a group of babysitters and their boyfriends. The survivor is resilient, nebbish Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). She saves her babysitting charges and helps Loomis take Myers down. Myers mysteriously escapes. And that’s the movie. Myers is, as Loomis points out repeatedly, “purely and simply… evil.” Halloween‘s classic score is just a melodic bed of synths, composed in a few days by Carpenter himself. The babysitters are established by the inimitable performative triumvirate of Curtis, PJ Soles and Nancy Loomis as unique, distinctive characters, possessive of a realistic charm and honesty rarely seen in horror. Their dialogue, mainly written by producer and co-writer Debra Hill, really goes a long way towards making us care about what happens to these girls. They are not just bodied to be slaughtered. They are people we hope can get away.
Cinematographer Dean Cundey’s streamlined style, which employs natural light during the day and sharp shadows at night, may have been dictated by budgetary restrictions, but it serves to emphasize and enhance the realism of the piece. The fact that he keeps his camera moving abets that realism, too. The movie’s minimalist efficiency extends to its editing, by Tommy Lee Wallace and Charles Bornstein. They let the long, roving camera moments last, but they also know when to cut in order to evince maximal tension.
2. Halloween II (1981)
There was no winning when it came to Halloween II in the popular imagination. Yes, Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode and Donald Pleasence’s Dr. Sam Loomis would return to once again combat Michael Myers/The Shape (Dick Warlock). Yes, John Carpenter and Debra Hill would return behind the scenes to write, with Carpenter this time joining Hill as a producer. Yes, Dean Cundey was back manning the anamorphic lenses. Yes, Halloween II once again boasted a dynamite synth soundtrack, composed this time by Carpenter and Alan Howarth. The duo would go on to collaborate on Halloween III: Season of the Witch together, plus some other Carpenter-directed projects. Howarth became the solo composer for Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers through Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (the sixth installment).
But Halloween left too indelible an impression on the minds of the moviegoing public for Halloween II, directed by Rick Rosenthal, to properly distance itself. That’s unfortunate, because Halloween II is pretty great in its own right. Halloween II leans heavily into the connection, setting the action on the same 1978 Halloween night during which the events of the first film transpired. It follows Laurie into the local Haddonfield Hospital, her leg badly hurt from the fall she took down a stairwell in the original movie’s climax. The hospital, unfortunately, is undermanned, making it easy pickings when Michael Myers swings by for a quick visit. Dr. Loomis and his nurse Marion (Nancy Stephens) discover that Laurie is Michael’s baby sister, her identity covered up by the Haddonfield powers-that-be decades ago. Carpenter later confessed that he created the familial connection in a moment of imbibed desperation, seeking any way he could to extrapolate on the original movie’s deliberately threadbare plotting. That decision would greatly inform Halloween II‘s multitude of followups.
The choice to move from the coziness of Haddonfield’s leafy suburbs to the antiseptic coldness of its under-lit and underpopulated hospital wound up being an inspired one. Halloween II gets a lot of great mileage out of being a direct followup to the first classic that truly builds on that movie without repeating it verbatim, a lesson most of its followups would unfortunately ignore. There are some moments that stretch credibility (the weird locker room sauna tub chief among them), but overall, Halloween II earns its stripes as a worthy followup to one of the greatest horror films ever made.
3. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later shares a core commonality with Halloween ’78 and Halloween II ’81 that the other flicks on this list lack: it pits Michael Myers against the Jamie Lee Curtis-vintage Laurie Strode in a wholly fresh, limited location. By that logic, you might argue, I should like Halloween: Resurrection (2002) way more than I do. Let’s just say that Resurrection is the exception that proves this rule. So many of the other Halloween sequels and reboots serve as soft reboots of the first movie, rehashing the major beats again and again, ground that particular horse’s corpse into a bloody pulp. We don’t need to see Michael Myers in Haddonfield anymore. It’s time to open up his world. I’m not saying Blumhouse should send him to space, a drastic step horror movies take when they have exhausted almost all other possibilities (stand up and be counted, Jason X and Leprechaun 4: In Space). What about exploring that terrifying psych ward with the red-and-white-checkered outdoor exercise space that Michael occupies at the opening of the 2018 Halloween?
The Halloween saga, at its best, is about setting this mysterious maniac loose within a contained location and watching the sparks (and blood) fly. Locking Michael into an elite, near-empty boarding school where his bitter sister works as headmistress is an inspired pivot from the mundanity of Haddonfield. H20 succeeds where other followups fail in a myriad of respects: producer Kevin Williamson, who wrote an early treatment of the script and later did touchup work on it, no doubt was responsible for a lot of the clever quips and earned humor that make H20 a nice companion piece to the Williamson-penned Scream, The Faculty and the first I Know What You Did Last Summer. Robert Zappia and Matt Greenberg receive writing credit here. A key soundtrack choice (Creed) has aged poorly, and certainly H20 feels very of a piece with the Williamson/Dimension horror content of its era. But the fact that it really has its own signature personality and style, and effectively pays off and builds on the Laurie Strode story, gives it the edge over our #4. H20‘s casting team of Ross Brown, Christine Sheaks and Mary West also deserves a shoutout: nabbing future stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Hartnett, and Michelle Williams was quite the coup. They all exhibit a dexterity and charisma with their dialogue and the movie’s frenetic action that anticipates their stellar futures.
Director Steve Miner knows his way around a slasher set piece, and it shows. We are treated to several high-level horror and action moments, but perhaps is the best, where Laurie assertively takes matters into her own hands in disposing of her big brother. She chops off his head with an axe, and thus, we assumed at the time, ends the franchise once and for all…
4. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
Halloween H20 helmer Steve Miner had justifiable cause to excise the events of Halloween 5 and Halloween 6 from the storyline’s official chronological canon. Lamely, in retconning those films, he also took it upon himself to wipe Laurie Strode’s original progeny, Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris) out of existence. The character was off to a strong start in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers.
Halloween 4 holds up really well, as the ultimate ’80s slasher movie interpretation of the original Halloween. Like many of the Halloween followup movies, Return operates primarily as a pseudo-remake of the original film. Michael Myers has been in a coma for a decade after being practically incinerated by Dr. Sam Loomis at the climax of Halloween II (which, remember, took place on the same October 31st, 1978 night as the first movie), holed up in Ridgemont Federal Sanitarium. For some reason, on October 30th, 1988 the eve of the ten-year anniversary of Michael’s initial sanitarium escape, the powers that be opt to transfer Michael from Ridgemont back to Smith’s Grove, where he had been imprisoned from 1963 till 1978. Invariably, he awakens from his coma just in time to get some crucial plot exposition (Laurie’s orphaned daughter Jamie Lloyd still lives in Haddonfield), then busts out of the ambulance transporting him in grisly fashion. Loomis, sporting some nifty burns, returns on the scene, now raving like an unhinged lunatic, and promptly makes for Haddonfield.
There, he (and we) discover young Jamie battling strange visions of her uncle, but otherwise living peacefully enough with her adoptive family, the Carruthers clan. Lovelorn teen Rachel Carruthers (Ellie Cornell) adores her new sister, but balks when her parents force her to watch Jamie and cancel her Halloween date plans with beefcake Brady (Sasha Jensen of Dazed and Confused). Brady immediately cheats on Rachel with the comely Kelly Meeker (Kathleen Kinmont), daughter of new Haddonfield Sheriff Ben Meeker (Beau Starr). Brady and Kelly’s transgression essentially signs their death warrants at the hands of Michael, but at least Brady puts up a fight. Myers chases Rachel and Jamie all over town, as they hop across houses, through a deserted school in an inspired creepy sequence, and in a fast-moving pickup truck. At the end of Halloween II, Michael somehow overcame being shot in both eyes to blindly pose a serious threat to Laurie and Loomis. This time, Michael has acquired a superhuman strength so powerful that he can now crush people’s skulls and rip off their flesh with his fingers.
Director Dwight H. Little (who, horror-wise, would later helm Anacondas and an episode of the Freddy’s Nightmares anthology series) and cinematographer Peter Lyons Collister adhere closely enough to the established style of the Carpenter-Hill-Cundey aesthetic established in the first two Myers adventures, while gently recalibrating the movie’s sensibilities for a decidedly ’80s teen universe. A host of writers — Dhani Lipsius, Larry Rattner, Benjamin Ruffner and Alan B. McElroy — tackled script duties for this one.
Halloween 4 was conceived as a return to basics, after Carpenter and Hill’s bid for turning the Halloween movies into an annual anthology saga, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, was met by audience apathy and middling box office returns. Though Halloween 4 technically outgrossed its predecessor by a stateside margin of $17.8 million to $14.4 million, Season of the Witch actually had more ticket buyers when one adjusts for inflation. Producer Moustapha Akkad took creative control of the series starting with this chapter, after Hill and Carpenter walked away, and he mandated the return to Myers.
Thanks to great turns from a pleasantly (ahem) bonkers Pleasence, a pitch-perfect, totally believable Harris (no small feat in pint-sized performers), and a chase across Haddonfield that fleshes out the town and its surrounding environs, Halloween 4 has aged like a fine wine. Pleasence’s standout moment is when he is picked up hitchhiking outside of town by a preacher (Carmen Filpi) who’s almost as demented as Loomis is, and they genuinely try to out-crazy each other for our viewing pleasure. Harris, of course, shines brightest during the movie’s twisted final moments, when she assumes her uncle’s demented spirit and stabs her adoptive mother Darlene Carruthers (Karen Alston) while the poor woman readies a bath. It’s a wholly unexpected moment, a great callback to the original Halloween. The next year’s quickie sequel, Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, quickly abandons this plot thread by explaining it away as a moment of temporary insanity, and turns Jamie into a sympathetic figure again. But for one glorious moment, Halloween 4 dared to take the character into an enticing new direction.
5. Halloween (2018)
The new Blumhouse take on Halloween, which makes no bones about being another pass at a direct sequel to the first movie, might not be the earth-shattering horror behemoth the original movie was. Then again, there are few films that are. Instead, the new project, directed by David Gordon Green and written by Green, Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley, is a wholly serviceable return to some familiar favorites in Laurie and Michael, with the added textural bonuses of a great new John Carpenter score (joined in composing duties by his son Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies) and original Michael Myers/Shape Nick Castle making a cameo appearance with his signature inhuman head tilt for a moment.
Curtis stands out for a markedly different take on Laurie’s PTSD than what she gave us in Halloween H20 and, to a lesser extent, Resurrection (more on this later). She’s a terrific actress, overqualified at this juncture to make genre fare, but her presence here is deeply appreciated. The 2018 Halloween, which we should just call Hallo-Green and be done with it (the Halloweenies pod team thought of that), really does posit a sort of alternate hypothetical reality to the events of H20, even though H20 in turn did that to Halloween 4 through Halloween 6. The biggest shift, of course, is that Laurie Strode is no longer Michael Myers’ sister, meaning the events of Halloween II ’81 have been completely wiped out of existence here. The move is meant to creepily randomize Michael’s targeting of Laurie in the initial Halloween. That said, it doesn’t do a whole heck of a lot with the change, to the point that this viewer was left wondering why the creative team here went about enacting it in the first place. The sequels’ confusing chronology can be tricky to navigate, so I listed the optimal timelines here.
Special mention should be given to cinematographer Michael Simmonds, a veteran of Green and McBride’s Vice Principals HBO series. Simmonds clearly worships at the altar of Cundey here, opting for voyeuristic, gliding tracking shots and low-light creepiness whenever possible. His color palette allows for more neon coloring than Cundey employed, especially during a Technicolor high school gym dance scene and a surprise heel turn from Myers’ attendant psychiatrist, Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer). Both scenes feel rushed and under-thought, but at least they look good.
The reigning two-time domestic weekend box office champ has proven to be such a cost-effective smash that a followup is already in the works, though whether or not Curtis, Green or Carpenter return remains very much in the air.
Hallo-Green‘s biggest shortcoming is its thinly sketched supporting cast outside of Laurie. Laurie’s daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) are established so quickly that it’s tough to form much of a connection. All of Allyson’s high school friends’ teen dialogue feels forced and phony. Key characters, including a town sheriff (Omar J. Dorsey) and two of Allyson’s high school friends (Virginia Gardner and Miles Robbins), appear so sporadically that we forget we’ve met them before when they reemerge. It’s tough to have much of a vested interested in a character you barely know. The final climax, where Laurie combats Michael in her thoroughly booby-trapped home, isn’t particularly scary because it appears that she is prepared for every ominous eventuality. But taken as pure action movie showdown spectacle, it’s quite the ride.
The film strives to be a sort of cumulative greatest-hits compilation of the original Halloween followups, right down to a boot curb-stomping callback to Rob Zombie’s Halloween II.
6. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Among fans, Season of the Witch has become the On Her Majesty’s Secret Service of Halloween movies. Pieces from Den of Geek and Slash Film have recently sung its praises. The movie tanked initially among fans and critics. Rose-tinted glasses, enhanced by the passage of time, have since metamorphosed perception of the flick from weird franchise outlier into a misunderstood gem. While Halloween III is solid, there has been a market overcorrection in fan appraisal for a fun, but ultimately flawed, supernatural ’80s thriller that’s more Invasion of the Body Snatchers than it is Halloween.
Principally, it was a savvy move to attempt a transition from Michael Myers stabbing folks to other spooky storylines. But the people revolted, Michael returned, and the anthology concept was shuttered. The error probably fell in making Halloween II a direct, to-the-second followup to the first Halloween. Had Halloween III been Halloween II, perhaps an anthology series would have been tenable to audiences.
Surprisingly seductive middle-aged alcoholic Dr. Daniel Challis (Tom Atkins) apparently sleeps with every woman he knows until crazed patient Harry Grimbridge (Al Berry) warns him of impending doom, connected to a popular line of Halloween masks, Silver Shamrock Novelties. When Harry is murdered, his daughter Ellie (Stacey Nelkin) joins forces with Challis to travel to the ominous California town of Santa Mira. Ellie instantly, inexplicably takes a shining to Challis. We soon discover that Papa Grimbridge was right about the masks, which figure into a malicious plot by Silver Shamrock CEO Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy), secretly an ancient Irish warlock, and his army of nattily attired robot henchmen to murder masses of children.
The masks were created with shards of rocks straight off of the Stonehenge monument, and magically mutate their child wearers’ faces into an assortment of snakes and bugs when cued by the Silver Shamrock ad jingle. This jingle, by the way, bears more than a passing resemblance to “London Bridge Is Falling Down.” What Cochran will gain exactly from this very specific, very silly child extinction plot is never explicitly explained with much cohesion. But really, Halloween III is more about the journey than the destination, more about establishing a cool atmosphere than totally paying it off with a tidy narrative button.
Though the events that transpired in front of the camera marked a significant departure from the prior two movies, Halloween III really was a family affair. The script is credited solely to director Tommy Lee Wallace, an editor and production designer on the first Halloween, and Carpenter’s band mate in the Coupe De Villes. In actuality, it was a collaboration between Wallace, co-producer/composer Carpenter, and British writer Nigel Kneale. It’s all rooted in a germ of a concept from co-producer Debra Hill. Hill and Carpenter really had creative control of the franchise for its first three installments. At its heart, it strives to be different, and when it’s really rolling in the thick of its mystery, as Cundey’s camera swirls around the twisted goings-on within strips of lonely, cavernous California factories, you find yourself wholly onboard with Season of the Witch, wrapped up in its promise.
7. Halloween (2007)
The two Rob Zombie Halloween reboot movies have been thoroughly lambasted over the years, perhaps a bit unfairly. Fans seemed to react not just to Zombie’s story tweaks, but to his rambling, patchwork aesthetic. The stylistic transition jarred audiences. Where Carpenter emphasized control and finesse, Zombie thrives on chaos in his editing, screen violence. The first Zombie Halloween is pretty great during its first half, as Zombie delves into the psychological depths of Michael Myers (the unforgettable Daeg Faerch), showing formative adversities that molded his evening rampage over the course of a single day. Zombie also explores the months following Myers’ murders, as the child struggles to comprehend his brutal slaughters of a school bully, his sister, her boyfriend and his abrasive stepfather. Though his Dr. Loomis would descend into blowhard self-parody territory in Zombie’s Halloween II, here the Malcolm McDowell edition of the character is given plenty to do as he grapples with the tragic growth of Michael’s impenetrable malice, including more emotive shades than Donald Pleasence ever needed to employ.
Zombie gets a lot of mileage out of some clutch stunt casting. Michael’s stepfather is Zombie regular William Forsythe, Michael’s mother is Sheri Moon Zombie, Laurie Strode’s mom is Dee Wallace, a short-lived attendant nurse at the psychiatric ward is Sybil Danning, and Michael’s empathetic sanitarium janitor is Danny Trejo. This being a Rob Zombie joint, everything gets cranked up to 11. The Trejo character not only gets beaten and nearly drowned when Myers escapes, he also gets his head bashed in by a bulky TV monitor, in an obvious homage to a third iconic slasher franchise (specifically, A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors).
Where the Zombie Halloween stumbles is a second half that’s just a tweaked double-speed remake of the original ’78 Halloween, staged with frantic camera movement and cutting, a far cry from the elegant formalism of Dean Cundey’s brilliant work. As I said in my Halloween Timeline article, viewing the Zombie Halloween universe as less-than-definitive frees it to be more of a fascinating divergence. As fellow TFH scribe Danny Mears so aptly put it, the Zombie Halloween is basically Halloween ’78 filtered through the prism of a The Texas Chainsaw Massacre aesthetic. As a parallel universe iteration of the Myers origin myth, where he turns into a psychotic wrestler (assuming you can stomach the excessive violence), the Zombie Halloween works.
8. Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks play industrious reality TV provocateurs who recruit a gang of impossibly dim college students to camp out overnight in the original Michael Myers house, jerry-rigged with oodles and oodles of cameras. Though Busta’s Freddie Harris and Tyra’s Nora Winston have planted fake scares, they of course don’t count on the fact that the real Michael Myers has been squatting in his old haunt for decades. Soon, Michael and his knife make fast work of most of their contestants.
Halloween: Resurrection, directed by Halloween II‘s Rick Rosenthal, gets a bad rap from fans. It uneasily strives to weld an American Pie teen comedy component with the so-2002 reality contestant show element, and struggles to graft those uneasy bedfellows onto a slasher movie framework. The fit is bad, but at least the story makes sense, and at least Rosenthal knows how to choreograph and coordinate his action sequences. Another positive: Freddie Harris has a distinct personality, even if he’s just a blowhard kung fu fan. I couldn’t tell you one distinguishing characteristic of any non-Loomis, non-Jamie figure in Halloween 5 or Halloween 6. And at least it’s not just a boring retread of the first Halloween. “Trick or treat, motherfucker,” indeed. I appreciate Halloween: Resurrection for what it wants to be, and for not being aggressively boring and/or incoherent. Lower-ranked chapters possess at one or both of these unenviable qualities.
9. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
Halloween 5 marks the moment the enterprise started to really go off the rails for the first time. Halloween 4‘s cleverly executed soft reboot of Halloween ended with Michael Myers’ apparent death via firing squad and his kid niece assuming knife-wielding duties. The possibilities felt truly enticing. Halloween 5 was rushed into theaters just a year later, and the lack of time reserved for story development shows. Halloween 5 rehashes the broad patterns of Halloween 4, itself becoming more or less a soft reboot of the movie it immediately follows.
The fact that no characters outside are interesting of Jamie or Loomis, basically both relegated to supporting turns here (and Jamie is rendered mute for half the movie), makes every iota of time those two characters aren’t on screen a total slog. Pleasence and Harris do very solid work here.
It’s unclear what exactly happened, but somehow contract negotiations clearly broke down with lead teen Rachel Carruthers (Ellie Cornell). Rachel is quickly dispatched — during the day, no less! — and replaced as our Laurie surrogate by totally forgettable friend of the family Tina Williams (Wendy Foxworth), who has absolutely no discernible personality whatsoever, aside from being way too dumb and way too chipper in the face of obviously ominous red flags. As the Halloweenies podcast discusses, Revenge’s biggest sin might be its totally unfunny Keystone Cops doofus duo, announced by a questionable Alan Howarth music cue comprising “wacky” bell and whistle sound effects. Also, Michael Myers’ mask here makes him look like some kind of exotic bird throughout most of the movie. Most of the sequels and reboots took pains to significantly change the original modified William Shatner mask from its disturbing blankness, to their own detriment.
10. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
Though Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers was severely bastardized by the death of star Donald Pleasence midway through filming and two warring creative factions in director Joe Chappelle and producer Moustapha Akkad, its ceiling was pretty low regardless. This was a hell of a way for Pleasence’s Dr. Loomis to bow out. Curse‘s ridiculous script but roughly, it details Michael’s quest to find Jamie Lloyd’s infant baby, after he has slaughtered his niece at construction site. Little Tommy Doyle (a very young Paul Rudd), one of the original kids Laurie Strode babysat that first fateful night, stumbles across the baby at a train station (seriously), and soon becomes a target for Michael. He lives across the street from the old Strode family home, now populated by Strode relatives. As you can see, Michael Myers is running out of people to kill in Haddonfield. And yet, the series producers insisted on sticking right back in his quaint hometown for the third consecutive movie. He barely explores new blocks.
Several fight scenes (especially Paul Rudd’s pivotal beating of Michael Myers) are depicted in MTV music video-esque flash cuts so sloppy that they prove nearly impossible to decipher. No characters have any real personality. A confusing plot point is introduced in an effort to explain Michael’s cycle of Halloween murders as a Druid curse, ushered along by a cult of sinister doctors. Despite only running a terse 96 minutes, Curse somehow pulls off the impressive feat of being quite boring. Pleasence does what he can with a reduced role, but at this point his shtick has worn pretty thin.
11. Halloween II (2009)
The mind-numbing nadir of the franchise is, of course, Rob Zombie’s gratuitously violent and ridiculously silly Halloween II. Zombie goes full Texas Chainsaw here, with a violent and vulgar crust-punk interpretation of the Michael Myers legend, but without any of the humor, restraint or pizzazz of the actual Tobe Hooper Texas Chainsaw movies. Every home in Haddonfield is disgusting, grungy and dimly lit. Sort of like a Rob Zombie music video. Dr. Loomis is outfitted with the Rocky II story arc, where his success in profiting off the events of the first film gets to his head. Loomis’ rampant egotism gets so over-the-top, I half-expected to see him doing a Beast Aftershave commercial at some point. Zombie leans into an indecipherable, vaguely sinister abstract story thread, where Michael and Laurie’s mother (Sheri Moon Zombie) and a white horse control her children’s murderous mania from beyond the grave. Chaos reigns.
This was a brutally rough watch. My favorite part of Halloween II was spotting the stunt casting, a pool into which Zombie had dipped his toe during his first go-round. Margot Kidder, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 star Caroline Williams, and future Oscar winner Octavia Spencer all do their best with what they’re given to play.
Reviewed by Alex Kirschenbaum