Halloween – 1978

Director John Carpenter
Screenplay John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Starring Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, P. J. Soles, Nancy Loomis
Michael Nick Castle (The Shape), Tony Moran (unmasked), Will Sadin (age 6)
Synopsis CPE Review HERE
Storyline A – The basis for all of them, except the Zombie reboots
Mystic Shit It’s not there in the original cut of the script, but it is in the original book based on the movie, Samhain and the idea of an ancient family evil coming back to the town. The familial stuff, with Laurie being Michael’s sister is brought in for the television edit which directly ties into the second film that was released the same month as the TV premiere.
The Mask Not only is this the best mask, it’s used so sparingly and filmed at such a distance as to make it chillingly effective. It’s not what you see. It’s what you think you see.
Score (*****) Superb. The measure of all others. The piano score is spare and piercing at once. Yes, that is Don’t Fear The Reaper playing on the radio when they’re in the car.
Rank 1

Halloween II

Director Rick Rosenthal
Screenplay John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Charles Cyphers, Lance Guest, Nancy Stephens
Michael Dick Warlock, Nick Castle, Tony Moran
Synopsis/Review Even if this film is way more brutal than the first film, Curtis’ wig is distracting and Michael doesn’t move at all like he did in the original, the film is still decent. It’s a measure of the time it was released, when everything is ramped up a notch quite unnecessarily in comparison to the spare original. There is still that essential connection to the first that cannot be ignored.
Working with Carpenter, Rosenthal makes attempts at recreating shots with in the same manner as the original. They even use the same cinematographer.
There is a great open with the pumpkin giving way to the skeleton and a good selection of memorable moments in the first act. I will never forget poor Ben Tramer, the lady with the sandwhich as well the hammer to the head. There is the claustraphobia of the hospital, coupled with Loomis’ search to discover the real connection between Michael and Laurie that pushes the story forward.
It is at the hospital the film suffers, as most of the characters follow what Ebert describes as the Idiot Plot. Characters do anything they can to make sure they’re the next on Meyers’ list. The decision to ramp up the nudity matches that of the violence: Carpenter trying to keep up with his interperetation of the times. The ending is as ludicrous as one might imagine, with explosions and double shots to the eyes. It’s clear that Carpenter was done with Michael Meyers.
Mystic Shit Carpenter and Hall introduce the concept of Laurie being Michael’s sister, here, still fitting into the whole Samhain theme. Loomis makes the connection after Michael breaks into a school and leaves clues. Originally this is conceived as a desperate attempt at an idea, but it took a life of its own.
The Mask According to Warlock, the mask is the same one worn by Castle in the original.
Score (****) Some fool decided to update the movie to a Synth sound, and it dates the soundtrack terribly. Still, the overall theme still haunts occasionally, as it should. It’s just that the high points seem less ominous and more playful. The addition of Mr. Sandman is a stroke of genius.
Rank 3

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Meyers – 1988

Director Dwight H. Little
Screenplay
Alan B. McElroy
Starring
Donald Pleasance, Jamie Lloyd, Ellie Cornell, Michael Pataki,
Michael
George Wilbur, Tom Morga, Erik Preston
Synopsis/Review
I used to think of this as the gold standard for Halloween sequels. Time has not treated this one kindly. First of all, there is little to no attention paid to how Michael is supposed to look, walk, etc. The result is kind of a stiff walk that seems anything but agile, unless he needs to climb on a roof, under a car, hide in the back seat or something equally evasive. The attempt to flesh out a story seems pretty unique at first, given that they found out early on that Curtis wasn’t coming back. By the time we get to the second half of the film, Little gives up on actually making logical choices. Michael is everywhere he needs to be the moment he needs to be there. There are few attempts to make sense of time and space. One moment he’s tearing apart a police station and a few seconds later he’s turning off the power for the whole town. Lloyd does a decent job, if one can get past the number of times she’s forced to shout “Rachel” at her foster sister. Pleasance, for his part, really dives into it this round. It’s definitely his best performance after the original. Extra points for the daring ending which is utterly destroyed by the 5th film. For a script written in 11 days, McElroy is on the virge of greatness, but conventions of 80’s slasher films get in the way.
Mystic Shit
This one pushes the idea of a psychic connection between Michael and his family that the second film started. First of all, he awakens from an atrophied coma the moment he hears about a niece existing somewhere. Then he makes a beeline (give or take 6 bodies) to Haddonfield. Little didn’t want there to be more than an Uncle trying to connect with his niece with no real way of communicating except through violence. Sounds like a challenging family reunion.
The Mask
At the time I didn’t mind, but time hasn’t been kind. It looks formless and bland. It’s also brand new yanked out of a random store. It’s tough to be scared when The Shape looks like the unknown comic from a distance. There are some reshoots which have an even worse version with a different shade of hair.
Score (****) The same collaborator, Howarth, as had worked with Carpenter on the second film. It’s more effective than the mask by a long shot.
Rank 2

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Meyers – 1989

Director Dominique Othenin-Girard
Screenplay
Dominique Othenin-Girard, Michael Jacobs, Shem Bitterman
Starring
Donald Pleasence, Danielle Harris, Ellie Cornell, Beau Starr, Wendy Kaplan, Tamara Glynn
Michael
Don Shanks
Synopsis/Review
This one is pretty close to pure shit. Pleasance was right to complain about the script. This one has nothing going for it. First of all, they were not brave enough to follow through with the ending of the last film. They revert and make Jamie the friendliest mute at a home for nice kids with…issues that are never clearly defined. Foster mother isn’t dead. Rachel is around, but not for long.
Hard to tell what is happening at that hospital/home. The doctors and the nurses seem confused and Pleasance just yells at everybody.a diatribe that changes as the film goes on. This could be the worst version of Michael. He’s stiff and only framed decent’y in just a couple of background scenes. No clue what they were thinking in killing the final girl first off, then inisting that Jamie now has a connection with the dingbat Tina is asinine. She adds nothing because she’s no more observant than any drunk girl at a frat party. There is something severely uncomfortable watching Pleasance maul Jamie throughout the film. It’s far grosser than anything The Shape does. There are no real memorable kills beyond the pitchfork. Most of it seems severely edited to play for kids. And what in the hell with those stupid cops?
In searching for some new angle to take the series (The Cult of Thorn), they took the racehorse out in the corral and shot it in the leg.
Mystic Shit
Lo, but is there a ton of it in this film. Michael and Jamie have some psychic connection. There’s the guy with shit-kickers and the fancy black outfit There is Donald Pleasance screaming at everyone who’ll listen that Jamie is the key to all of this because of whatever it is that is drawing Michael to her this time.
The Mask
Horrible. It looks brand new in every scene. Somehow it’s the same one that he had survived 100 gunshots, fallen in a well, climbed away from dynamite blast and floated down the river inside. It was on the shelf for one year. Then it comes out looking pristine throughout the length of this putrid film. Best thing is they leave it on him while he’s in the cell.
Score (**1/2) Howarth continues noodling out more slight variations on the original theme. Nothing stands out.
Rank
10

Halloween 6 The Curse of Michael Meyers: The Producer’s Cut – 1995

Director Joe Chapelle
Screenplay
Daniel Farrands
Starring
Donald Pleasance, Paul Rudd, Marainne Hagan, Mitch Ryan, J.C. Brandy, Danielle Harris
Michael
George P. Wilbur, A. Michael Lerner
Synopsis/Review
This is the one that got away. In an attempt to bring everything together, the filmmakers ran into the buzzsaw of the Weinstein effect. Mainly, this original cut of the film, which while a bit more awkward at parts, was sliced to the point of almost being unwatchable in its original released form. It’s strengths outweigh the weaknesses in this cut, but not by much. In Marianne Hagan as Kara Strode, we have the strongest final girl since Curtis. She has self-awareness and isn’t looking forward to the party tonight. Her family members are bad to the point of being comical, but the peril of her son gives the series an element it has lacked since the first five minutes. The incest and complete wasting of Jamie’s character is disturbing, and they never really come up with an actual reason why that had to happen. The plot device of having a baby at the alter is redundant by the end, with the peril of Kara at the hands of her own child. Still, at least they mix up the tension a little and give the soundtrack a feel they haven’t had since the second film.
Mystic Shit
They go all out here. Farrands, in an effort to tie all aspects of the series together, goes full on into The Curse of Thorn. The effect is somewhere between being invincible until you’ve killed all your family (and assorted collateral damage along the way) and producing more family members by incest or kids living in your house that will carry on the tradition. It’s a lot of pieces to pull together, but it’s at least an honest attempt to pull all of the mole hills into one ungaingly mountain.
The Mask
Wilbur is about as effective as he was in part 4, which is to say, too obvious to be all that scary. Seeing him waiting in the wings at a ritual of bad stuff makes him seem more like a mascot than anything else. Something about seeing him in anything less than a shadow just robs the shape of his full power, because you see too much of the mask and think it’s either too big, too hairy, etc…
Score (***1/2) In some ways, this version’s score works better than any to that point, outside of II. However the overuse of an abridged version of Laurie’s Theme ends up being kind of annoying by the end of the film. Overall, though, Hogwarth is allowed much more space to operate than he had been.
Rank
4

Halloween H2O -1998

Director Steve Miner
Screenplay
Robert Zappia, Matt Greenberg, Kevin Williamson
Starring
Jamie Lee Curtis, Adam Arkin, Michelle Williams, Adam Hann-Byrd, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Janet Leigh, Josh Hartnett, LL Cool J, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nancy Stephens
Michael
Chris Durand
Synopsis/Review
The first attempt at retconning the franchise forgets the “Thorn Trilogy” and picks up where the original Part II let off 20 years earlier. This time, Laurie faked her own death and is now a headmistress of the Hillcrest Academy, which her son also attends. After killing Marion Chambers, he takes off with a secret file that contains her information. Then he heads to California for a reunion.This film has allusions to Scream throughout, as the writer of that script also came up with this story. They probably could have come up with a better director than Miner. The casting is great, but the execution is flawed, especially when it comes to Michael. He’s less the Shape than an acrobat for several scenes. His visage is non-existent in the background aside from a few obvious shots. Too many jump scares. Not enough looming, and what they do show is too well lit to be really effective.
LL gets a great line in when he tells Hartnett to comb his hair, but other than that he role of security guard is beneath him. Hartnett and Williams are tied to the kids just gotta party story line, but they are not nearly as vacant as many of the teens that preceded them. Thankfully they put up a fight enough to mke it interesting.
In her first attempt at reinventing Laurie, Curtis presentsa a stable, but damaged alcoholic battling visions of her past as it becomes her future. She is powerful enough, when not reverting to visions in random places. Once the action kicks in, she goes into Ripley mode. It’s more entertaing than her frantic frazzled wreck of 2018.
Mystic Shit
The only real connection is that Meyers is indeed Laurie’s brother. No Samhain, no cult. He is presumably unkillable, but no one really discusses how he rose from being shot in both eyes and burned to a cinder.
The Mask
It’s kind of a greenish gray. Not sure what that is about. There’s nothing wrong with it, particularly, other than we see it just a few too many times during the day. He’s too nimble and spry for someone older than Laurie. His coming down and hanging by one arm is particularly ridiculous. It’s still not s dumb asseeing him get atop z flimsy table without a sound.
Score (**1/2) The film does benefit from the inclusion of Mr. Sandman. The rest of the score feels removed from the original franchise. It’s got bits and pieces from other movies like the Scream series and Psycho. There never was an original soundtrack released and it’s just as well because it has no real resonance. If there is no piercing piano, it just doesn’t feel like Halloween.
Rank
8

Halloween Resurrection – 2002

Director Rick Rosenthal
Screenplay
Larry Brand, Sean Hood
Starring
Busta Rhymes, Bianca Kajlich, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Ryan Merriman, Sean Patrick Thomas, Tyra Banks, Jamie Lee Curtis, Daisy McCrackin, Katee Sackhoff
Michael
Brad Loree
Synopsis/Review
This film is a legendary waste of the talent of the cast. It’s not even that talented of a cast, but it should have been way more than the sum of these parts. Curtis, donte with the series at that point, is killed off in the opening act. This is supposed to raise the stakes, but it just totally deflates the momentum.
From here, we join a team of potential “broadcasters” who will do a liive broadcast in Meyers’ original home on Halloween night. Most of the kids are uninspiring outside of the young energy of Sackhoff and the incredible Busta Rhymes. The film is not much more than a feeble excuse to get a bunch of future corpses to the slaughterhouse.
Who is Sarah Moyer and why is she final girl? The film never really makes her into a fully drawn character. We know she survives, and that she can scream. That is it.
Meanwhile, a friend of Sarah’s rollows the broadcast while at a Halloween party. Then he gets suspiscious that the events he’s seeing are real and not a set up. Will he get there in time to save Sarah? I mean we know everyone else will die…except the fantastic Busta Rhymes, who gives an astounding ass kicking to the masked menace.
Mystic Shit
Only that Michael and Laurie bond, which is severed after the first act. Nothing connects after that.
The Mask
There is stll that green hue to the mask. Fortunately we see it more in the dark this time. The atmosphere is key to everything.
Score (**) We moved away from the main theme in the previous film. This is the soundtrack to a Michael Meyers action film and that just isn’t Halloween.
Rank
9

Halloween – 2007

Director Rob Zombie
Screenplay
Rob Zombie
Starring
Scout Taylor-Compton, Sheri Moon Zombie, Malcom McDowell, Brad Dourif, Danielle Harris, William Forsythe
Michael
Tyler Mane, Daeg Faerch
Synopsis/Review
Zombie takes the tack of creating a backstory to the Meyers house. Instead of making them a common set of parents in the early ’60s (think Charlie Brown’s parents) into a severely disfunctional broken family in the ’90’s. The result almost gives young Michael the air of sympathy. Fortunately Faerch has a face that is tough to love. The whole routine takes almost half of the running time. His breakout occurs with superhuman strength. From here, it’s tough to get the feeling that anyone who crosses him will have a chance. Mane is too huge to become the truest version of The Shape. McDowell does about as good of a job as anyone could in replacing the irreplacable Pleasance as Loomis. And Zombie does adhere pretty faithfully hones to the skeleton of the story, including casting Danielle Harris as Annie Brackett, watching The Thing from another Planet and using Don’t Fear The Reaper. It can’t be ignored that The Shape from the first film was silent and faded in and out of the frame. Zombie tries the same types of tricks, but it just incredibly obvious.
Mystic Shit
None really, just a view of a person who comes from a bad family situation in the ’90’s, where he kills as almost an outlet of frustration, to one who succumbs to the darkness while incarcerated.
The Mask
B: It would be a higher grade, were it not for Tyler’s mane of hair that protrudes. Looks like Sabertooth from X-Men under the mask.
Score (***1/2) The inclusion of Love Hurts is an ironic one that kind of lands with a bit of a thud. The basic score is given a bit of a Zombie jolt, but there’s not enough of the flavor of the original score.
Rank
5

Halloween II – 2009 / Director’s Cut

Director Rob Zombie
Screenplay
Rob Zombie
Starring
Michael McDowell, Sheri Moon Zombie, Brad Dourif, Danielle Harris, Scout Taylor-Compton, Octavia Spencer
Michael
Tyler Mane, Chase Wright Vanek
Synopsis/Review
An excessively brutal film. This is more violent than any of the other films outside of the original second film in the series. Still there are some fairly well played sequences, many better than Zombie achieved the first time out. The best sequence overall turns out to be a dream to Nights in White Satin in the hospital. Hearing Michael grunt while brutally stabbing Octavia Spencer feels out of place, to be sure. There’s a lot of grunting going on here. It’s more animal and way less the inevitability of evil. There are plenty of scenes of Mane ambling through the fields of late summer. Zombie suffers from some lapses of spatial logic here and there. He puts Laurie and Annie into the death metal society, presumably as a response to the horrors they experienced. He also makes a complete waste of McDowell.
You’ve got to hand it to Zombie. He really puts it all out on this one. No one is spared, even poor Jamie Lloyd, who gets brutalized for the second film in a row. This film has improved with time. Instead of selling the sizzle without the steak, this film is really carves the hell out of the steak.
The Director’s Cut of the film is 14 minutes more. The primary difference is more dialogue, more screaming and a different ending. Instead of Laurie killing Michael, it’s the cops and they take a few shots at Laurie, who is shown to be even further on the edge.
Mystic Shit
What the hell is the deal with the white horse? I know what it is supposed to be, but shouldn’t they have brought it up at all in the first film? This is the most mystically heavy film in the series, but it goes completely off of the rails. I admire it, even if it doesn’t work all that well. There is a complete psychic link between Meyers and his emotionally shattered sister. The Director’s Cut shows the white horse as something Laurie sees in the psycologist’s chair.
The Mask
One of the worst. It’s barely there and somehow, grown more hair.
Score (***) More of a Zombie collection of tunes and sounds than anything intended to give the feeling of Meyers strutting about on Halloween night. Not bad, but not what one looks for in a Halloween film.
Rank
6

Halloween – 2018

Director David Gordon Green
Screenplay
David Gordon Green, Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride
Starring
Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Virginia Gardner, Haluk Bilginer, Rhian Rees, Jefferson Hall
Michael
James Jude Courtney, Nick Castle
Synopsis/Review
CPE Review Here
Mystic Shit
Absolutely none. He’s just a machine, going from place to place killing. It’s mere coincidence of the stupid doctor’s fascination that Michael ends up at Curtis’ house.
The Mask
Nearly perfect. This is a great estimation of what an aged version of the mask would be, given that it did not go through the first version of the second film. The Shape is there.
Score (*****) This is perhaps the best aspect of the film, outside of the mask. It’s clear that Carpenter is fully invested and the film benefits.
Rank
7

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