“I met him fifteen years ago; I was told there was nothing left; no reason, no conscience, no understanding; and even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, of good or evil, right or wrong. I met this six-year-old child, with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes… the devil’s eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… evil.”
AnchorBay and Scream Factory have tapped into that pure evil. It’s the collection we’ve waited years to see.
Where it all started: Halloween (1978)
The story couldn’t be more simple. A child murders his sister and is sent to an insane asylum where he grows under the watchful eye of Dr. Loomis, played quite effectively by Donald Pleasance. In 1978 he escapes, only to return to his small town and begin to kill again. That’s the film in a nutshell. It’s not the story so much that makes this a powerful film. It’s the execution, and I don’t mean Michael’s killing spree.
John Carpenter would have made a wonderful stripper. No, I’m not talking about his looks. I’m talking about his natural talent for the tease. If you haven’t seen this film for a long time, it will be a bit of a shock to you that there is almost no blood at all in the film. It’s not as violent or as gory as you might remember. Carpenter allows you to leave believing that you’ve seen far more than you really have. He also knows the value of anticipation. Before he does give you anything juicy, he makes you wait for it. And then he makes you wait for it again. And when you think you can’t wait any longer, he dangles the payoff in front of your face, and he makes you wait some more. Unfortunately, this is not an aspect of the film that has been so often imitated. Today slasher films are filled with loud music and manic cuts, and the only time you’re allowed to linger is on a tableau of blood and guts. After all, the makeup guys have to show off their work. There’s none of that here. The climax of the film begins with Curtis’s character slowly walking across the street to the “death” house. It’s nearly ten minutes of no dialog and no real “action”. Another pending victim is about to enter a car where we know Michael will be waiting for her. Ah, but she forgot her keys. No quick cut. We are forced to follow her unhurried walk back to the house, a search for the keys, and a return to the scene of the impending crime. It’s all in the anticipation, and no one has done that better than John Carpenter in Halloween.
Then there’s the Halloween theme. It, too, is as simple as you can get. It’s a haunting keyboard riff. Like Tubular Bells of The Exorcist or John Williams three-note theme from Jaws we’ve been conditioned by these scores. You need here only a measure or two and your mind has conjured startlingly crystal-clear images. This one was written by Carpenter himself. It’s in my top 10 scariest themes ever.
Many of the film’s themes are even more relevant today. Carpenter plays a lot with voyeurism here. We see through the eyes of others, most often the killer. It’s through the eyes of Michael that the film opens. We witness, through the eye slits of a mask, “naughty” things and the brutal murder that serves as penance. Later we see the three young girls as they engage in the silly minutia of life from the perspective of someone who is watching them. Today if you get that feeling you’re being watched, it’s because you are. You can’t really go through a day without being captured on video. There are cameras everywhere, and we live in a society that is becoming insensitive to being watched. Of course, there aren’t any maniac killers behind those cameras…but how do we know?
The film was quickly followed by a pretty strong sequel, and then Carpenter did something unexpected. The third film had nothing to do with Michael Myers or any of the characters and events of the original film. It was Carpenter’s idea to use the Halloween franchise tag to tell different horror stories, perhaps on an annual basis in October. Unfortunately, fans didn’t embrace the story of a modern-day witch and his attempt to control children through hexed Halloween masks. If the movie title said Halloween, we wanted Michael Myers, otherwise known as The Shape. Halloween 4 did that, albeit without the involvement of his creator John Carpenter.
Halloween sequels have never really captured the atmosphere of the original film. Some things can never truly be recreated. I do think this one might have come the closest. The very young Danielle Harris is a bit of a breath of fresh air here. By now we all know her as an established horror actor as an adult. You can really see some extraordinary acting from this little kid. She helps to change the tone from the already tired formula of cat-and-mouse these films have turned into. For some it might have been a bit much putting such young children in the path of the monster, but it works. The chemistry Harris has with Ellie Cornell as her protector Aunt Rachel is solid. These aren’t your typical slasher-fodder characters or performances. They elevate the film itself above the rather weak script and a lot of been-there- done-that situations. Of course, Halloween has never been the same since we lost Donald Pleasance. With this acting combination we don’t necessarily miss Jamie Lee Curtis. It was a nice touch to give the girl Jamie’s name, however. I’ve heard Danielle claim there was no relation there, but I rather doubt that’s true.
Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers is actually quite tame when compared to the other films in the franchise. Most of the kills are quick and often off-camera. This is not a gore-fest by any stretch of the imagination. There are none of the frightening body poses from the original and almost no nudity. I suspect we’re talking a PG-13 by today’s standards. The only thing that might change that is again the idea of such a young girl in danger.
By the time we got to the fifth installment of the Halloween film franchise, there might have been fans thinking it was time to ban its sequels. Even the return of young Danielle Harris and Donald Pleasance couldn’t save this train wreck of a movie. It ranks as the worst of all 10 Halloween films at the box office and has been conveniently forgotten by the fans of the franchise. Yes, it even made less money than Season Of The Witch. It looks like we’re about to be reminded of just how horrible horror can really be.
The first 3-5 minutes of the film are really the last few minutes of Halloween 4. Things change as the posse opens up on Michael and he falls into the mine. Now we follow what happened to him after that. A stream carries him to the home of a swamp hermit (Roisman) where he is nursed back to health. Jump to a year later and Jamie (Harris) is in a children’s clinic where she has stopped talking. What’s really going on is that she has now developed a psychic link with her Uncle Michael and can see through his eyes as the killing spree begins again. Can you say “bye-bye hermit”?
Halloween 6 did away with numbers and went by the title The Curse Of Michael Myers. By now the series had gone back and forth between various parties holding the rights. It ended up back with the Akkad family, and they ended up joining forces with the Weinstein Studios. The result was a film pulled in too many directions by too many people. Here at least we get the closest thing possible to a Producer’s Cut. It beats those grainy boots you’ve been watching and looks good. Unfortunately, these guys never got the chance to truly film elements the way they wanted.
The movie went too deeply into a Druid explanation for Michael’s powers and took us down some really odd pathways. The result doesn’t live up to the original script or the talent on-screen. There was a fan backlash that Harris did not return to the roll of Jamie, an obvious homage to Jamie Lee Curtis. She was better off not doing the film as the character was no longer interesting. The franchise would be put to rest a bit after this one.
In 1998 the 20th anniversary of the franchise led to a return by Curtis to the movies. It turns out that Laurie is alive and well. She has a son, played by Josh Hartnett in his first screen appearance. She’s the headmaster of a private boarding school living under another name. Of course, Michael finally makes it to the school, and we do get one of the better sequels. It’s not just because Curtis returned. This movie went back to the stalking nature of the first film. Halloween H2O appeared to bring the franchise back to its roots. Unfortunately, that was not meant to last.
Halloween Resurrection is one of my least favorite films in the collection. Curtis returns, only to get killed off early in the movie. Rapper Busta Rhymes plays a self-promotion idiot who decides to do a reality show at the Myers house on Halloween. The result is the expected slaughter but with some of a found-footage element. The entire film takes advantage of the cheapest jump attempts. Paul Rudd makes his acting debut as a voyeur who’s in love with one of the camera characters in the house. He ends up guiding her to safety using the cameras planted there along with the ones on the other dead kids who are now strewn all about the house. The film attempts to move Michael beyond his family obsession, while the only real connection after Laurie’s death is Rudd’s Tommy. He was the kid she was babysitting in the original film. Resurrection would be the final film of the franchise to carry the original film forward.
Next up was a reboot by Rob Zombie and a return to the original title with no numbers or subtitles. Zombie’s film attempts to tell the story of Michael as a young boy before his fateful stabbing of older sister. It’s a great idea and certainly adds depth to the otherwise enigmatic Shape. Unfortunately, the film spends far too long before getting to a retelling of the events of the first film. Danielle Harris gets to return and play Annie this time around. All grown up, Harris has become quite the scream queen, and when you watch the films in rapid order the growth is quite amazing.
This film is far more violent and bloody than any of the films. None of the cast members really live up to the original, with the possible exception of Harris and Malcolm McDowell stepping into the shoes of Dr. Loomis. He was actually the perfect choice, and, at least in this film, he carries the same weight and authority that Donald Pleasance did in the run he had. No one could replace him, but this would have absolutely been my first choice.
Unfortunately, Zombie’s Halloween II is an absolute mess. Loomis is converted to a media whore who profits from the Myers horror. His character is flipped to being the one man who doesn’t believe Michael is still alive. What a waste of a perfect character and the actor who played him.
The film is entirely too fragmented and ambitious. There is a huge Frankenstein motif going on as the bearded Myers searches for some answers about himself. There are odd metaphysical elements that involve the ghost of his mother, a white horse and himself as a boy. Wherever Zombie was going here it led to an end, for now, of the franchise.
In my interview with Malek Akkad I’ve learned a third is coming, and Zombie will not be involved. It sounds like they have plans to reboot without completely going back to the beginning.
This collection is a fine one indeed. You get all 10 films and extra versions of three of them. There’s the vintage features and plenty of new stuff filmed by Shout’s Red Shirt Productions. Hours and hours of this stuff dominate this huge 15-disc set. It’s a collection every horror fan must have. Even with the stinkers, every film now has a place in horror film history.
In 1968 Marvin Gaye / Tammi Terrell hit the American pop charts with the song Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing. They didn’t know it at the time, of course, but they were talking about John Carpenter’s original 1978 Halloween. The sad fact is that this original classic sometimes gets lost, or worse, considered along with the various sequels and remakes. It’s a crime, to be sure. The first film is nothing like anything that followed and should be considered more as a standalone film than it is now. That’s not to say we should dismiss the influence the movie has had on American cinema. Halloween certainly wasn’t the first slasher movie. It did establish some genre rules that have been followed for decades to come. It might well be one of the most imitated films in the genre. Now you can compare it to all that followed. There are good and bad films here. You decide which is which. Now you can watch them all. I did just that in two nights. Good, bad, or ugly, “It’s Halloween, everyone’s entitled to one good scare.”