31 Days of Horror: For Love of the Halloween Franchise

INTRO:

When it comes to some of the major horror/slasher franchises, I’m a huge fan of most. I love the ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ films, the ‘Friday the 13th’ films, the ‘Hellraiser’ films, the ‘Child’s Play’ films, the ‘Scream’ films and etc. But the one franchise that I admire the most is the ‘Halloween’ films, which is a series that I have a stronger personal connection to based on how these films made me feel as a child.

To elaborate, while I wasn’t entirely a stranger to the horror genre, and have always liked more than a few horror movies, I was a pussy when it came to the ‘Halloween’ films. My mother owned all but the third on VHS and watched them quite often. There was just something about them that scared me, and today I believe it had a lot to do with the music, as well as some of the imagery and violence. I was intrigued by them, but I kept myself at a distance from these films based on the pieces of them that I’ve seen and heard in passing as I crossed from the living room to the kitchen for a snack or something to drink as they played on the television. I wanted to watch them, but I psyched myself up too much. Just hearing that classic theme gave me chills. I could handle ‘Child’s Play’, ‘Silver Bullet’, ‘Scream’, and etc. But the ‘Halloween’ films had been a different story entirely.

This had changed for me back in August of 1998 when ‘Halloween: H20’ was released. I was fifteen years old, and had been working part-time via a summer youth employment program. Through this program, I was only able to work twenty-hours a week, scheduled to start early in the morning and to get out in the afternoon. My father had been working as a projectionist at the local movie theater at the time, and I was dropped off at the theater by a co-worker, where I was to wait for my father to get out of work. As a movie enthusiast even back then, this did not break my heart in the slightest. At this time, I had been into horror, slowly expanding my horizons in the genre, but I was primarily into Action and Science-Fiction films. Because it was August, there wasn’t many good selections to choose from, and at this point I still had not mustered up the courage to experience the ‘Halloween’ films, even if I had the strong urge to do so. As it neared closer to start time, I made the decision to go in and watch this movie. Again, I wasn’t entirely ignorant to the series; I knew going into this movie that Jamie Lee Curtis’s character Laurie Strode was Michael Myers’ sister and that his primary objective was to kill his family – so despite the seventh entry being the first one I was going to watch in its entirety, I at least wasn’t walking in blind and unknowing of what was happening.

I sat in the back of the theater, expecting to be terrified but instead I ended up having a fun time. It wasn’t scary at all, but the third act had been very entertaining, and the ending had been surprising. It was enough to get me to commit to viewing the entire series up to that point, and in the process discovering that, with the exception of the first film, they were not as terrifying as I had initially assumed – but boy did I love these movies. Since then I’ve watched all of these movies’ countless times, and I love talking about them. I follow several Facebook groups dedicated to this series, and although I don’t always engage, I do read a lot of posts because I just love to read peoples different opinions. I personally find it fascinating to see how others rank each film in the series, regardless if I agree or disagree, and I really love seeing the constant debates about which timeline people prefer or dislike, and why.

With my final 31 Days of Horror love letter due to be published on October 31st, I found this to be the perfect opportunity to tackle my love for the ‘Halloween’ franchise, and to talk about what I love or like about each entry in the series. I’m making a conscious decision to leave my negativity at the door with certain entries and to focus this article on the positives instead, which may make some of these shorter than others. This is not to say that I won’t allude to or briefly touch on some of my negative reactions, considering that there will be some comparisons of the good and bad, but my goal here is not shit on any of these films, but instead to focus on what worked for me, as a fan, in an article meant to celebrate this franchise.

Also, below I will be including ranking lists for the films, the masks, the timelines and the actors who portrayed Michael Myers.

So with that said, lets dive in, shall we?

THE FILMS:

‘JOHN CARPENTER’S HALLOWEEN’ – As much as I do love all of the sequels, they have in a way tarnished the quality that can be found within the first film. It’s unfortunate that this movie gets lumped in as “just a slasher”, primarily associated with the sequels and other slasher franchises such as ‘Friday the 13th’ – which is not intended to be a slam against those movies, as I do love them too – but if you ask me, ‘John Carpenter’s Halloween’ isn’t just a slasher; it’s art. This movie is just as good on a technical level as it is as pure horror entertainment, and that is due in part to Co-Writer/Director John Carpenter, and Director of Photography Dean Cundy, both of whom created a well-crafted balance of suspense and atmosphere, making a movie where very little happens a great horror experience. It’s beautifully directed, shot, framed, lit and scored, with a slow burn pace enhanced by deliberate long takes and what seems like minimal edits. The dialogue isn’t great at times, but the overall story works. This movie is easily among my top five horror movies of all time, and while it is well loved and respected, I still think it deserves more credit than it gets.

‘HALLOWEEN 2’ (1981) – The biggest appeal for me about this sequel is the fact that it picks up immediately where the original film ended and is entirely set on Halloween night of 1978. I’ve been a sucker for two-part films that make up one big story ever since I watched Universal’s ‘Frankenstein’ (1931) and ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ (1935), and that’s what this felt like. I am well aware that there was no intention for a sequel, and that the original movie concluded the same way as the majority of Carpenter’s works: open ended, and leaving a hook that will keep the audience thinking and guessing. I know that the sequel’s major plot point wasn’t even a thought at the time the original film was being written or shot, and that this twist/reveal only came to Carpenter during a case of writer’s block and a six-pack. But this sequel was written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill in such a way that it feels like an organic follow-up that acts as the second half of one large story. I feel that they were successful in making a sequel that felt relevant and necessary – even if it wasn’t entirely necessary to do a sequel. As far as that much debated sibling twist goes, well it doesn’t matter to me either way. I grew up knowing of this twist long before I got to sit down and watch each film, so that reveal didn’t have the impact on me when I did watch ‘Halloween 2’ as it may have had on those who got to see these as they were released originally. I can watch the original film either knowing of the reveal, or watch it as original intended, with Laurie Strode just being in the wrong place at the wrong time, attracting the attention of a serial killer by chance.  That said, this twist was so powerful to the audience that it became the defining theme of the franchise for the 37 years between this films release and the 2018 sequel that dropped it, so I understand why some have a difficult time letting it go as they view last years sequel. Regardless, ‘Halloween 2’ is a fine sequel that ups the ante and works as a fine companion to the original.

‘HALLOWEEN 3: SEASON OF THE WITCH’ – The one ‘Halloween’ film I was the least familiar with as I was growing up. All I knew was that it had nothing to do with Michael Myers and that it allegedly sucked, at least so I’ve been told. Maybe it was because my expectations where so low, but I ended up loving this film after watching it for the first time. Hell, even to this day I adore it and feel that it is an underrated and underappreciated stand-alone film mostly trashed because of audience expectations. At the end of ‘Halloween 2’, John Carpenter did what he’s rarely ever done in his career: he wrote a definitive ending, killing Michael Myers and Sam Loomis for good in an explosion, and bringing what he believed to be a permanent ending to the saga of escaped mental patient, Michael Myers. Moving forward with the series, the plan had been to tell individual stories, all set around the holiday of Halloween, and under the ’Halloween’ banner. However, as Paramount Pictures was having enormous success with the ‘Friday the 13th’ sequels, and had at the time of the release of ‘Halloween 3’, been on the third film of that franchise – the second of which to feature Jason Voorhees as lead antagonist – there had been some pressure and audience expectations for ‘Halloween’ to compete as a slasher franchise, which is ironic since the first ‘Friday the 13th’ was only made to capitalize on the success of ‘John Carpenter’s Halloween’, and yet ended up influencing the franchise to come. To be fair, though, not everyone who hates ‘Halloween 3’ dislike it just because Myers wasn’t in it; some people just don’t care for the story or the characters, and that’s totally fair. If it doesn’t grab you, it doesn’t grab you, and I won’t sit here and tell you that you are wrong. This movie is not for everybody, but for me, it works. I liked the characters, I liked the story, I liked the mystery and I absolutely love the ending. This movie looks and feels like an early 80’s John Carpenter movie, and I have fun watching it every time. It’s a divided film among the fan-base, but you can count me in the camp of people who will defend it.

‘HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS’ – This is one of my favorite sequels in the franchise, and aside from the original, probably the one that I have watched the most. Although I do tend to wonder about what the film would have been like had John Carpenter been able to tackle his version of The Shape’s return from Dennis Etchison’s excellent and unique script (you can read my review HERE), I really can’t complain about the film that we did get. Yeah, the mask was shit and the body padding on stunt actor George P. Wilbur made the character look awkward, but the film itself is incredibly atmospheric and is easily the only one in the franchise to feel like it’s set in the fall. A strong point of this movie is the characters, most of whom are likable. Jamie and Rachael made really good protagonists, Dr. Loomis was as great as ever, and this film introduced one of my favorite franchise characters with Sheriff Ben Meeker. While the first film was a home invasion movie of sorts, and the second film enlarged the scope a notch with the hospital setting, this movie upped the scope even more by showcasing a town-wide reaction to Michael’s return to Haddonfield. I like the minor subplot of a lynch mob made up of town drunks and rednecks, and I even get a chuckle out of poor Ted Hollister’s demise. And then there’s the ending. My god, that ending left my mouth open when I first watched this – some how I never caught this ending when my mother watched this movie, and it just rocks. I love this sequel.

‘HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS’ – Although I’m trying to focus this article on positives-only, I’m not going to lie: this is one of my least favorite entries in the franchise, and there’s little to love. That said, there are some elements and moments in this movie that I do enjoy. I don’t totally hate this movie, and occasionally watch this following a viewing of the fourth film and that in itself is one of the things that I do like about this movie: it’s a direct continuation of the previous film. Other than that, I enjoy the scene where Michael gets Mike’s attention by fucking with his precious car; I liked the barn sequence; and I liked when Tina got run over by Michael.

‘HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS’ (THEATRICAL CUT AND PRODUCERS CUT) – I never fully understood the hate that the sixth film gets – I mean, yeah, the subplot involving the Cult of Thorn was a ridiculous addition to the franchise, and trying to give a definitive explanation to what drives Michael does no justice to the character, story or franchise mythology, but these problems were created half-assed by the creatives behind the fifth film, who randomly through in the Thorn symbol and Man in Black without a fully developed idea or plan, and because of these useless additions to the fifth film (which neither did anything to enhance or relate to that film, making them beyond useless), I believe that the sixth film was doomed from the start. Make no mistake, ‘Curse’ does have its fair share of self-induced problems, but I feel that there’s plenty of positives to be found here as well. I think this film is effectively atmospheric, and I dig the more aggressive Michael Myers/The Shape – particularly in the third act of the Theatrical Cut as he cuts ties, so to speak, with the Cult – and I think that George P. Wilbur did a much better job this go-round than he did in the fourth film. I really like the mask in this and feel that it’s the best of all the sequels, with the exception of the mask from the 2018 film. Paul Rudd may have absolutely no resemblance what-so-ever to original Tommy Doyle actor Brian Andrews, but I don’t give a fuck, because I love his performance in this movie. I also really enjoyed the performances of Marianne Hagan as Kara Strode and Mitch Ryan as Dr. Wynn. Most importantly is that we have one final performance from Donald Pleasence as Sam Loomis, who sadly passed away shortly after principle photography wrapped, and it was good to see him play a more level-headed version of this character again after the bat-shit crazy turn they took with this character in the fifth film. When it comes to the two different versions of this film, I like both for different reasons: the theatrical primarily for the third act, and the producer’s cut for the first two acts. The Producer’s Cut ends on a bit of a dud, but this version has more of Loomis and Wynn, and for me that’s a win. This may not be the greatest sequel, but it’s hell of a fun one, flaws and all, and besides, it has one of my favorite shots of Myers in the franchise: the low angle shot as he stands with an ax over Debra Strode in the back yard. Great image, in my opinion.

‘HALLOWEEN: H20’ – As I mentioned in my opening, this one was the first in the series that I watched in its entirety, and was one that I held in high regard for a long time because of this experience. While the film doesn’t quite hold up for me upon recent viewings in the last few years, mostly because of how clean and safe that it feels, I still find it to be one of the better sequels in the franchise. I still really like the opening scene with Marion Chambers and her neighbor Jimmy, mostly because I loved seeing Nancy Stephens return to her role from the first two films. I also really dig the third act because I felt that ultimately having Laurie Strode turn the tables on Michael, taking a stand and hunting him down felt like a logical choice that lead to what could have been a satisfying and fitting end to the franchise. If you were to take the path of the timeline consisting of ‘John Carpenter’s Halloween’, ‘Halloween 2’ and ‘Halloween: H20’, it works as the third and final chapter of a trilogy. Hell, even had this not ignored ‘Return’, ‘Revenge’ and ‘Curse’, and had it not been bastardized by ‘Resurrection’, this could have been the great ending to the franchise. I mean, they wouldn’t even have had to mention the Cult at all, since presumably Michael slaughtered them all at the end of the sixth film, so they would have been technically liberated from that plot point/story arc as is. The only problem I could see with trying to tie ‘H20’ with the previous three is that, for me, there is no logical explanation what-so-ever for Laurie abandoning a child in Haddonfield. It’s just so out of character with what was established in the early films, and I’d have a hard time buying that. This is not my favorite sequel and sits more in the middle of my ranking list, but it’s still a fun and fast paced sequel that I still get some enjoyment out of.

‘HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION’ – Well … Uh … I suppose that the score from composer Danny Lux is a big improvement over John Ottman and Marco Beltrami’s score from the previous film, and the mask is also slightly better than the mask in ‘Return’, ‘Revenge’ and ‘H20’. Another positive about this film is the Myers house, which looked really good and accurate.

‘HALLOWEEN’ (2007) – Rob Zombie’s remake of Carpenter’s classic attempts to find its own footing by dropping the supernatural influence and presents Michael as just a violent psychopath instead of The Shape that we all know and love. I do appreciate the fact that Zombie didn’t try to just repackage the same thing we’ve seen before and took an alternate approach to the franchise instead of trying to mimic Carpenter. I think, or at least used to think, that Rob Zombie is a capable filmmaker with a strong visual style and some good ideas, but where he falters is with the writing. Regardless, Zombie made a brutal and bad-ass movie that actually tried to be a horror movie, something that can not be said for some of the previous sequels in the original franchise. This film has a real solid cast, some brutal kills and a strong score. I do enjoy the original franchise much more than the Rob Zombie saga, but I’m not entirely against this film as I feel it has quite a bit going for it as a horror movie.

‘HALLOWEEN 2’ (2009) – Around the time this sequel came out, I was honestly looking forward to it. With ‘The Devil’s Rejects’ (2005), Rob Zombie had proven that he was capable of doing a sequel possibly superior to his first, and to do one in a way that doesn’t rehash what he’s already done. ‘The Devil’s Rejects’ stood on its own, vastly different than ‘House of 1,000 Corpses’(2002) in terms of story, style and structure, and that’s what I was looking forward to seeing with his follow-up to the ‘Halloween’ remake. I looked at it as this: the origin story/trashy family aspect was told and is over with, and now we can move on to a new chapter not beholden to what’s come before. His remake was oddly split in two, with the first half focusing on young Michael, and the second half becoming a condensed version of John Carpenter’s original tale. This time I was wanted to see Rob Zombie do a full-on Michael Myers as-we-know-him movie – white mask and coveralls creeping around Haddonfield, but in a way different than what we’ve seen before – and I was confident that Rob Zombie would deliver. A group of friends and I planned a special mall trip to go see the movie and we were all optimistic. After the movie, however, on our way back home, we all talked shit about that movie. I hated it. They hated it. And that was that. Years later I saw the DVD of the Unrated Director’s Cut in the $5.00 bin at Wal-Mart, and being the completionist that I am, I bought it. Eventually I re-watched it, and while it’s still one of the bottom three of the franchise, it has grown on me a bit. I do like that it has its own unique style visually and is unlike any other entry in the series, and I think that there are some good ideas in it in regards to how its focused on the characters facing their trauma of what transpired in the previous film, even if I don’t like the direction some of the characters were taken in. My favorite scene in this movie isn’t even a horror scene: it’s when Loomis is confronted by Linda’s father in the book-store. I think that is a heavy moment that probably could have been better had Loomis not been written as a self-centered asshole – imagine that this was the true Loomis who only wanted to help people and stop Michael from hurting innocent people, but is constantly pushed aside and blamed. The potential was there.  Overall it has good ideas and a unique style that makes it stand out from the rest.

‘HALLOWEEN’ (2018) – After two films in the ugly, grimy world of Rob Zombie, the 2018 sequel was a nice return to form. Once again back in the original world established by John Carpenter, The Shape had returned and with it is a new timeline free from the baggage of the past. I know it made some fans upset, but I like the idea of this film dropping the sibling story and going back to the original intent with Michael being a mystery with no known motive. I think Jamie Lee Curtis does a really good job as this prepared survivalist version of Laurie Strode, and I prefer this take on her character more than the ‘H20’ version – although I do think that this version would have been a better fit for a Laurie Strode who survived the first two films, based on the extra amount of trauma that she endured at Haddonfield Memorial, and one could easily see where this survivalist version could have been molded by the end of ‘Halloween 2’ (1981); to elaborate on that thought, at the end of the second film, Loomis insisted that Laurie take his gun, and at first she shakes her head, refusing. He leaves it with her anyway, and moments later, after Loomis is stabbed, she picks up the gun and aims it at Michael as he approaches her. She fires two shots into Michael’s face, blinding him, and that could be seen as giving her a taste of utilizing firearms for defense – in a way becoming the turning point in her transition from being an ordinary teenage girl uncomfortable with guns, to a woman determined to protect herself and her family at all costs. But, to acknowledge the second film, as much as it would make sense for this take of the character, would mean to accept and continue on with the sibling angle, and by doing that, this film would lose its freshness within the series. Moving on, I didn’t like all of the supporting characters in this movie, but I did like some. I liked Will Patton as Hawkins, and wish that he had only been wounded and left for dead instead of meeting his end. I would have preferred to have the character survive for the sequels, but they did what they did, and they did it for a reason. As far as Dr. Sartain goes, I liked his character and I really liked the twist, where he was presented as more of an Anti-Loomis, but what happens after ruins the potential of what they could have done with this character. But, my hands-down favorite thing about this sequel is the score by John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies. It’s easily one of the best scores in the entire franchise. Although the ending is anti-climactic, and the majority of supporting characters were either useless or annoying, this is a sequel I highly enjoyed, and in my opinion, the best film in the series since ‘Halloween 4’, and I am eagerly awaiting the next two films. I’m looking forward to seeing where this story goes, and you can bet your ass that I’ll be there opening night for ‘Halloween Kills’ in 2020 and ‘Halloween Ends’ in 2021.

RANKING THE MOVIES:

11) ‘HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION’ (2002)

10) ‘HALLOWEEN 2’ (2009)

09) ‘HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS’ (1989)

08) ‘HALLOWEEN’ (2007)

07) ‘HALLOWEEN: H20’ (1998)

06) ‘HALLOWEEN 3: SEASON OF THE WITCH’ (1982)

05) ‘HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS’ (1995)

04) ‘HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS’ (1988)

03) ‘HALLOWEEN’ (2018)

02) ‘HALLOWEEN 2’ (1981)

01) ‘JOHN CARPENTER’S HALLOWEEN’ (1978)

 

RANKING MICHAEL MYERS:

10) CHRIS DURAND (1998)

09) BRAD LOREE (2002)

08) GEORGE P. WILBUR (1988)

07) DON SHANKS (1989)

06) TYLER MANE (2009)

05) TYLER MANE (2007)

04) GEORGE P. WILBUR (1995)

03) DICK WARLOCK (1981)

02) JAMES JUDE COURTNEY (2018)

01) NICK CASTLE (1978)

 

RANKING THE MASK:

10) ‘HALLOWEEN 2’ (2009)

09) ‘HALLOWEEN 5’ (1989)

08) ‘HALLOWEEN: H20’ (1998)

07) ‘HALLOWEEN 4’ (1988)

06) ‘HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION’ (2002)

05) ‘HALLOWEEN’ (2007)

04) ‘HALLOWEEN 6’ (1995)

03) ‘HALLOWEEN’ (2018)

02) ‘HALLOWEEN 2’ (1981)

01) ‘JOHN CARPENTER’S HALLOWEEN’ (1978)

RANKING THE TIMELINES:

07) ROB ZOMBIE’S ‘HALLOWEEN’ (2007) & ‘HALLOWEEN 2’ (2009)

06) ‘JOHN CARPENTER’S HALLOWEEN’, ‘HALLOWEEN 2’ (1981), ‘HALLOWEEN: H20’ & ‘HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION’

05) ‘JOHN CARPENTER’S HALLOWEEN’, ‘HALLOWEEN 2 (1981), & ‘HALLOWEEN: H20’

04) ‘JOHN CARPENTER’S HALLOWEEN’ & ‘HALLOWEEN’ (2018)

03) ‘JOHN CARPENTER’S HALLOWEEN’ AND ‘HALLOWEEN 2’ (1981)

02) ‘JOHN CARPENTER’S HALLOWEEN’ (STAND ALONE, AS ORIGINALLY INTENDED)

01) ‘JOHN CARPENTER’S HALLOWEEN’, ‘HALLOWEEN 2’ (1981), ‘HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS’, ‘HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS’ & ‘HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS’

NOTE: I should point out that my number one pick for timeline has everything to do with Donald Pleasence as Dr. Sam Loomis. I love this character and the ‘Halloween’ films have not been the same without him since. When I think of the ‘Halloween’ franchise, I think of Michael Myers AND Sam Loomis. So, for that I will always cherish the films that he is in, thus that saga is my favorite timeline.

BOTTOM LINE:

I love these movies, and I personally love having the multiple timelines to turn to. I feel like there’s more good entries in this series than bad, and I am very much a sequel guy, unapologetically at that, so I’ll happily take the good and the bad as long as they keep making them.

It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: these are my personal opinions and preferences, which will without a doubt differ from most others. Opinions are subjective, and there is no right or wrong. That said, I would love to hear your opinions, especially those who disagree with mine, so be sure to let us know what you think! How do you view each movie? How would you rank them? How would you rank the masks, the Michael’s and the timelines?

Most of all, I hope you all have a great and safe Halloween!

About Seth T. Miller 20 Articles
I am first and foremost a proud father of two daughters who may or may not be possessed by demonic entities/deadites (time will tell on that one, but I am pretty confident that one of them translated the Necronomicon). I am very passionate about writing, and spent a great many years focused on the craft of Screenwriting, but I have recently decided to switch gears and pursue my works as novels instead. While I do enjoy a variety of different genres and sub-genres, I am always and forever a horror film fanatic that loves the genre from the 30’s through the mid-90’s, and some afterward. I am particularly very fond of Werewolf fiction, as well as anything by John Carpenter, Stephen King, and George A. Romero.