Sunday, November 01, 2015

At Flashbak: Ranking the Halloween Movies (1978 - 2009)



Well, Halloween is officially over until next year, which is sad. Reset your internal clock (not just for Daylights Saving Time, but for the next visit of All Hallow's Eve...)

But if you want to re-experience the holiday or are having a Halloween hangover, you can read an article I wrote this week at Flashbak: "Dismembering the Halloween Movies: Ranking the Saga of the Shape Worst to Best (1978 – 2009)."

This article ranks all ten Halloween movies in ascending order, from worst to best.

Here's the start of the article (beginning with the bottom three films, in my opinion):

"...it seems an ideal to remember and rank the franchise that carries the name Halloween, and began with the efforts of legendary director and genre icon, John Carpenter. Without further ado, here -- ranked worst to best -- are all entries of the ten-strong horror franchise. As always, your mileage may vary (and that’s okay).


10. Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

This underwhelming final entry in the “original” franchise is so bad that it led to the decision to re-boot the whole bloomin’ thing in 2007.

But worse than that, Halloween: Resurrection looks horribly dated in 2015, focusing on a  Web 1.0 reality series and the callow youths (including one played by Katee Sackhoff) who star in it, exploring the abandoned (though staged…) Myers House in Haddonfield.

If the premise of a web-cam MTV-style show set in the Myers House isn’t lame enough, then one need only remember the cringe-worthy climactic scene that witnesses Busta Rhymes kung-fu fighting Michael Myers to the death. 

Last but not least, Resurrection also kills off legendary Final Girl Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) when it could have chosen instead to make her the new “anchor” for the franchise, following the demise of Donald Pleasence as Dr. Loomis.

If that was not a possibility given Jamie Lee Curtis’s lack of desire to star in an ongoing horror franchise, then Halloween: Resurrection still fails resolutely for offering no new protagonist to become invested in; one who can take the franchise in a new direction.

I suppose the film is disappointing too, because it followed immediately after Halloween H20 (1998), an entry which is considered a latter-day high point for the saga.



9. Halloween VI: The Curse of Myers (1995)

One great virtue of the overall Halloween story is simplicity. The franchise involves, on a very basic level, a relentless, unstoppable antagonist; one who, Terminator-like, hones in on a target (preferably a babysitter) on October 31st, and then stalks, and stalks. 

The sixth entry in the franchise totally forsakes the simplicity of the saga for a byzantine and confusing new mythology.  Here, a grown up Jamie Lloyd -- a leading character in entries IV and V -- is all grown up, and somehow has been impregnated by Myers while in the captivity of a cult.  She escapes from the custody of the Thorn acolytes, dies early in the proceedings, and before the end of the movie we see a lab where the cult seems to be making more “Michael”-like beings with unknown green chemicals.

It’s not just that the film’s plot is overly complex; it’s that The Curse of Michael Myers is so bad it doesn’t make clear why certain events occur.

The Curse of Michael Myers also forsakes any sense of suspense or build-up, and so there is a cursory, rushed feel to the whole enterprise.  This is a sad last entry for the great Donald Pleasence, one as faulty in narrative as it remains in execution. Once upon a time, an alternate cut of the film (known as The Producer’s Cut) was promised as a superior version of Curse, but the truth is that it’s not really any better.



8. Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007)

The reboot makes a crucial creative mistake: it forgets the cardinal rule of horror movies that we aren’t afraid of what we know, but rather what we don’t know. Alas, the film goes to great lengths to show us Michael Myer’s youth and home-life as an abused child in a white-trash family. 

By giving us this back-story (and motivation for his behavior), we lose all sense of Michael as “The Shape,” or possible Boogeyman. A character who was once electrifying in his inscrutability and ambiguity is now made wholly “known” -- and understandable -- because of the decision to tell us everything about his formative years.  As a result, fear and terror bleed out of the picture, and we’re left with no real scares.

I like Zombie’s films (including his balls-to-the-wall Halloween sequel), but his flawed reboot is further undercut by the choice to re-stage many of the set-pieces of the 1978 original. In terms of composition, pacing and impact, these scenes look like pale, half-assed imitations of the work of a genuine film maestro.

Zombie is a guy with vision, and filmmaking chops, but it ill-suits him to ape Carpenter’s (superior) sense of film style."

1 comment:

  1. Just as every one is entitled to one good scare,they are also entitled to their opinion! HALLOWEEN III is a film that seems to be growing a larger and larger cult following with each passing year and i think the ridiculousness of the entire plot is a large part of that appeal. I always liked the idea of putting Michael out to pasture (surely III's plot is no more ridiculous than Myers and Loomis both coming back with superficial burns after being incinerated in a massive fire) and III drips with 80s Halloween ambience (like those old school Beistle decorations hanging around). The montage of kids trick or treating around the country is a winner.

    As for Cochran's plan,i don't think the idea of huge audiences of children buying those masks and watching the commercial at 9pm are so far fetched. As a kid,i recall classmates falling for all kinds of gimmicky toys and trends and kids continue to do so to this day. You'd be hard pressed to find someone who didn't succumb to TV advertising and peer pressure and fall in line with some sort of disposable hype,much to the detriment of their parents wallet. I remember vividly my whole family going out of our way to go to Quik Stop to get 3D glasses to watch REVENGE OF THE CREATURE on TV in the 80's, an already 30 year old monster film that nobody but me was interested in but they all watched (as did scores of others) simply for the novelty of it. The major draw of the commercial in the film was that it was a big giveaway aired during the Horrorthon,so while you were watching the horror films post trick or treating,the commercial was promising a vague reward (cash-trips-prizes?) so i am sure children were going to watch in order to get a just reward...and they were certainly getting something in the end. I remember Nickelodeon running kids contests in the 80's (like Toys R Us shopping sprees) that kids at my school went apeshit over. Never underestimate the power of a TV ad and free loot coupled with the child mind! Lets face it,if parents boughts there kids those goofy and embarassing KOOKY SPOOKS outfits for Halloween,then some admittedly awesome looking Don Post masks aren't asking too much.

    The film never comes out and says explicitly but there seems to be some sort of sinister result from Cochran's mass sacrifice of the children on Halloween night. I don't think he is overly concerned with prosecution or the Better Business Bureau because after he succeeds,its going to usher in some sort of new dark age..well according to his nice soliloquy on witchcraft,that's how it seems anyway haha. The amount of children isn't the point. The very concept of promising children a Halloween reward that results in their imminent demise is a pretty sick one and one that is a refreshing change from the cycle of dead teenagers films of the early 80s. Is the film 100% successful in its aims? No,but i will take a botched unique idea over a well oiled retread anyday. For what its worth,i also think III's score is my favorite of the HALLOWEEN films and has aged wonderfully.

    I think its interesting that Universal Studios gave us HALLOWEEN III and VIDEODROME (yes,splinters and monoliths i will admit) in short order, two off the wall films that come from two totally different planets but both pretty much telling us that TV isn't good for you, whether you're a cartoon obsessed kid or a voyeuristic pervert haha.

    I enjoy the site and the books both! Long time lurker at the gates,first time poster. Nice to see i'm not the only one alive who fondly remembers JASON OF STAR COMMAND haha.

    ReplyDelete