These Slasher sequels are supposed to be simple. Trot out a brace of clay pigeons, watch them all die one by one, tack on some stupid cliffhanger, and you’re all good to go. It seems impossible to screw that up, but by God, Mustapha Akkad found a way. Several, in fact.
The first, Halloween 4, was a complete waste of its own potential, meant to compete with the other Big Names in this sub-genre by copying all their worst eccentricities. By 1989, the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street films had long-since surpassed the original Halloween in the popular imagination. They (rightly or not…mostly not) were synonymous with American horror movies of the late-80s, leaving their mutual progenitor in the box office dust.
Akkad couldn’t allow that. Nor could he allow Halloween 5 to pick up where the last left off. Sure, The Revenge begins with a re-staging of The Return‘s final moments, but that somehow makes it worse. Unlike the mouth-breathing audiences Akkad obviously targeted, I actually remember the end of Halloween 4. I hoped it signaled a spark of creativity finally flaring up within this franchise. Nice of Halloween 5 to crush that right out of the gate. Continue reading Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
In all the history of cinema, Godzilla and Star Trek stand alone as the only franchises in history who’ve managed field strong fourth films (Mothra vs. Godzilla and The Voyage Home, respectively – though this feels like an invitation for everyone to “well, actually” me). One day they will do epic battle for the hearts and souls of nerds the world over. But until then we, their partisans, must content ourselves with taking the piss out of other, less-fortunate film series.
After Halloween III‘s non-success, John Carpenter apparently had an idea: the story about some small town, haunted by the memory of a violent killing spree in its all-too-recent past…rather like Haddonfield, Illinois. It could’ve been an Our Town for the 1980s…except George went insane and murdered his sister Rebbecca at the end Act One, spent the scene break in an asylum, escaped, and spent the whole of Act Three trying to murder Emily. C’mon: you know you’d love to see that. We won’t see it here, but you just know it’d make a better movie. Continue reading Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
I get what Rob Zombie’s going for. No, no, I really do. I even appreciate it. He’s trying to inject the iconography of real-world serial murderers into mainstream Slasher movies, and my hat’s off to his efforts. I, too, once harbored the delusion that the two had anything to do with each other. But both our efforts are hampered by the inconvenient fact that Slasher villains are are not serial killers.
If they are anything, they’re spree killers. Think Charles Starkweather instead of Edward Gein. I know everyone’s had Edward on the brain since the police first hauled out his human-skin living room set, but you know what? It’s been done. At least Zombie avoids going down the tried and oh-so-true Silence of the Lambs route, since by now even that‘s degenerated into Jerry Brukheimer’s boring, CGI-assisted propaganda for the coming police state, CSI. Continue reading Halloween II (2009)
Everyone ignores this Halloween sequel, and why shouldn’t they? I’m guilty of it myself. Why should we waste our time on something called Halloween that’s not centered around one Michael Myers? Besides, it’s written and directed by the man who’s puerile “mind” vomited up Amityville II: The Possession: Tommy Lee Wallace.
Not that I hold that against him. Sure, Tommy participated in a classic Dino De Laurentiis land grab, writing the screenplay for a film the De Laurentiis Group had no right to make. Sure, Tommy began his screenwriting career by slandering real-life murder victims, telling a story that absolved their killer of any responsibility by straight-up ripping-off The Exorcist. Sure, all that is horrible human (and, more important for me, writerly) behavior…but does being a horrible person mean you have good horror movie in you? We’ll find out tonight, won’t we? Yes. Continue reading Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
And here we have a film never should’ve seen the light but, like that three-car pile-up on your way to work, resolutely sits right in the middle of the road refusing to be ignored. The same way most critics ignore John Carpenter’s made-for-TV movies.
Awkward segues aside, there’s two very good reasons to focus on the man’s studio pieces. For (1) they’re better, and for (2) they’re easier to find. Yet in their blindness, critics miss essential facets of Carpenter’s story, which is in many ways the story of genre cinema in the 1980s. That’s sad because it’s a great story in itself…often much more interesting than the films it created. A story littered with greed, betrayal, and compromised aesthetic principals that will probably go on to make a great bio-pic once everyone forgets who Orson Welles was…or, if they remember him at all, remember him only as “the voice of Unicron.” Continue reading Halloween II (1981)
Two thousand seven was a black year all around. Spider-man jumped the shark, the Fantastic Four died, and Michael Bay sodomized the Transformers amidst a shower of derision and money…mostly money. As if that weren’t depressing enough, in the midst of it all some brain-damaged soul looked both ways and said: “I know! We’ll remake Halloween!” He was promptly run through by the heretofore-unseen masked killer standing directly behind him. In accordance with his last will and testament, the remake was greenlit, with Rob Zombie set to write and direct. The result is a 2007 version of the 1978 film that’s probably been ripped-off, re-imagined, re-purposed, retconned and reanimated more than any other film ever. I might as well start wearily sighing now. Continue reading Halloween (2007)
It’s easy enough to review Halloween. Just prattle on about how scary and haunting adjectival it all is given that twenty years of increasingly-mechanical slasher films have done absolutely nothing to diminish Halloween‘s overall effectiveness. Nothing at all. Do you hear? Rather like I attempted to do in my original review of the film, which appeared somewhere very much like this space way back in the dark, dial-up days of 1999. Don’t look for it: I’ve not touched the thing since I originally put it up, and I’d just as soon it ceased to exist. Bloody Wayback Machine.
On the other hand, it’s difficult to review Halloween given its lofty position at the event horizon of the American Slasher Film, a cinematic object so dense its sucked down the entire horror genre into an ever-redshifted morass of misogyny, masochism, and mordant self-referencing. Halloween is the film most directly responsible for this ongoing Judgment Day, making it the cinematic equivalent of a supernova. Unknown, it flashed onto the American scene at the decrepit end of the 70s only to collapse in on itself, creating an omnivorous black void from which nothing good can escape. Continue reading Halloween (1978)