|Review||Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)||Director||Dwight H. Little|
|Writer||Alan B. McElroy (screenplay)|
|Cast||Donald Pleasence, Danielle Harris, Ellie Cornell, Beau Starr, Kathleen Kinmont, Sasha Jenson and George P. Wilbur|
“Maybe nobody knows how to stop him, but I’ve got to try” – Dr. Loomis
|Review||Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)||Director||Dominique Othenin-Girard|
|Writers||Michael Jacobs, Dominique Othenin-Girard and Shem Bitterman|
|Cast||Donald Pleasence, Danielle Harris, Wendy Kaplan, Ellie Cornell, Beau Starr, Jeffrey Landman and Don Shanks|
“I prayed that he would burn in hell but in my heart I knew that hell would not have him” – Dr. Loomis
|Review||Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)||Director||Joe Chappelle|
|Cast||Donald Pleasence, Paul Rudd, Marianne Hagan, Mitchell Ryan, Kim Darby, Bradford English, Keith Bogart, J.C. Brandy, Devin Gardner and George P. Wilbur|
“It’s his game. And I know where he wants to play it” – Dr. Loomis
The Michael vs. Jamie storyline
It’s that time again and horror buffs are re-watching the Halloween series. Trouble is nowadays that the series has four timelines! There’s the option of watching “Halloween” (1978) followed by “Halloween II” (1981) and continue that with “Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998)…and conclude with “Halloween Resurrection” (2002) if you want a bitter aftertaste…to get the full Michael/Laurie brother and sister confrontation. Then there’s the option of watching “Halloween” (1978) followed by “Halloween” (2018) where Michael and Laurie are not related. Then there’s the option of watching “Halloween” (2007) followed by “Halloween II” (2009) by Rob Zombie. For this year I chose the option of watching the Michael vs. Jamie storyline covered in “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers”, “Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers” and “Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers”.
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
At the end of “Halloween II” (1981) it seemed that Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis (Pleasence) had perished in a blaze of fire in Haddonfield Memorial Hospital. It seemed so definitive that next year’s sequel, “Halloween III: Season of the Witch” (1982), took the series in a completely different direction. It didn’t take and it was clear that if the Halloween series had any chance of continuing then they would have to bring Michael back.
Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis survived at the end of Part II and for 10 years Michael has been in a comatose condition at a maximum security mental facility. The night before Halloween Michael is scheduled for a transfer back to Smith’s Grove, Illinois. In the ambulance a paramedic mentions that Michael has a niece living in Haddonfield and immediately he snaps to life. Michael escapes and heads for Haddonfield and Dr. Loomis tracks him there.
Jamie Lloyd (Harris) is the 8 year old daughter of Laurie Strode. Recently both her parents were killed in a car crash and Jamie has been adopted by the Carruthers family. Jamie is a bit fragile but she has a good relationship with her new sister Rachel (Cornell).
When Michael comes to Haddonfield he sets his sights on Jamie and it’s clear that Haddonfield will experience a new night of terror as many will perish before a confrontation between uncle and niece ensues.
“Halloween 4” does most things right. Director Little puts so much emphasis on atmosphere that in some respects he perfectly replicates the mood in John Carpenter’s original. The town of Haddonfield is a character in it’s own right and it helps set the right tone. Michael’s presence is surely felt but he’s constantly somewhere in the background waiting for the right time to strike. In fact; the first hour or so are a perfect build-up to a magnificent showdown inside Sheriff Meeker’s (Starr) house where he has barricaded Jamie, Rachel, Dr. Loomis, his daughter Kelly (Kinmont) and her boyfriend Brady (Jenson) to keep Michael from getting at his niece. But Michael has managed to sneek in and quietly waits for the right time.
The script by McElroy is pretty good and it creates some decent characters worth rooting for. Jamie, who’s astonishingly well played by young Harris, is a good character who immediately earns viewer sympathy. Not only having to deal with the loss of her parents and getting to know a new family, she has to deal with bullying at school and recurring nightmares. She also has bizarre visions directly linked with Michael that most definitely pay off at the end.
All the characters here are just a little bit more believable and likable than is the norm for slashers. Rachel, in particular, comes off as a well rounded character and she’s well played by Cornell. Starr is very effective as the town sheriff and that brings up another thing worth complementing. When Loomis arrives in town and immediately contacts local authority then Sheriff Meeker responds at once. When people behave in believable ways but still Michael manages to terrorize it makes him all the more scary. Finally Loomis is, of course, perfectly played by Pleasence. The veteran actor sinks his teeth into the role and is properly anxious and in turns sombre while spewing his dialogue about Michael being pure evil.
As said; the first hour and 10 minutes of “Halloween 4” are nearly perfect and it’s rivalling the original. The final showdown inside the elementary school and on board a truck invite all sorts of illogical proceedings and really undermine the excellent low-key suspense that preceded it. But it kicks into high gear for a very memorable ending that really sends a chill down the viewer’s spine.
All in all; “Halloween 4” was a good return for Michael Myers and a surprise hit in theatres.
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers
The surprise box-office success of Part 4 prompted producers to green light another sequel immediately. The shock ending of the previous entry was discarded in favor of continuing with Michael as the main baddie. It was an understandable decision but another out-of-left-field surprise element left viewers scratching their heads
A badly hurt Michael Myers collapses in a cabin occupied by a hermit. A year passes and he awakes in time for Halloween. Jamie Lloyd, meanwhile, has been in a medical institution after she attacked her stepmother. The traumatizing events of last year’s Halloween have left her mute and in constant care of professionals. Her psychic link to Michael has grown even stronger and Dr. Loomis is convinced that she is the key to end Michael’s rage.
This movie is a mess. French director Girard (who’s also among the writers) doesn’t seem to grasp what made the original work so well or the decent 4th instalment either. For one thing he discards with Rachel (Cornell) too soon and introduces another character, Tina (Kaplan), to basically take her place so as to set up a gratuitous and, narratively speaking, pointless slaughter of mind numbingly boring secondary characters. For some reason Tina is in high regard with Jamie and that sets in motion how she (and her friend) find themselves in danger when Jamie goes out looking for Tina.
Plot wise this film is the pits but it’s crowning achievement is in introducing a mysterious Man in Black who’s sporting the same tattoo that apparently Michael also has. The Man in Black is following Michael and is instrumental in the film’s final scenes but no explanation is given whatsoever surrounding his motivations or background.
The less said about the clownish cops the better. It’s amazing how anyone could think those characters (and the accompanying music) would be a fit for the film. No words can describe it.
To Pleasance’s credit he makes the most out of some really bad dialogue but reportedly he didn’t think too highly of the script or the new direction of the material. Harris is really good as her role here got even more difficult, Cornell is good too but her role is too brief and Starr is a welcome presence. Kaplan is very annoying as Tina but I’m sure she played the part as director Girard instructed. There are moments where you can clearly see Kaplan is a solid actress but she’s saddled with a very poor character who’s a radical departure from the solid ones that appeared in Part 4. Not to mention her friends who, I’m sorry to say, the viewer is actually looking forward to seeing dispatched of.
The final showdown takes place in Michael’s old house and apparently it was a mini mansion as opposed to the modest one displayed in Parts 1 and 2. I will give the film it’s due credit concerning a suspense sequence where Jamie is evading Michael in a laundry chute. It’s an excellent set-piece that’s highly suspenseful and well done. The ending however does little to improve what has been an otherwise a wholly underwhelming affair. The Man in Black finale ensures that no one knew what to make of anything.
The cryptic ending was always going to be the next writer’s headache for Part 6. That writer was Daniel Farrands and he gave it a good go.
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
The sixth entry in the series has the most fascinating behind-the-scenes story. Writer Farrands makes a game attempt at explaining just who the Man in Black was, why he and Michael sport the same tattoo and why on earth someone would go about rescuing Michael from imprisonment. The explanation, of course, would not be universally liked and it gave Michael’s story a rather big supernatural element and added into the mix a cult with dubious intentions. A rather weird continuation in what started out as a really simple horror movie 17 years earlier.
As it happened; there are two different versions of the film and they are radically different from one another both in content and style.
Six years after the previous film ended Jamie Lloyd (Brandy) gives birth to a baby boy in an underground facility. She manages to escape with her baby but Michael comes after her and kills her in gruesome fashion (in the theatrical cut). Jamie did manage to hide her baby before Michael caught up with her.
Also Jamie managed to alert both Dr. Loomis and Tommy Doyle (Rudd) via a telephone call to a radio show that Michael is back in Haddonfield. Tommy finds out that Jamie had called from a bus station and heads there looking for her. There he finds her baby in the restroom and takes it home with him.
Meanwhile Dr. Loomis and Dr. Wynn (Ryan) are also out looking for Michael. Tommy alerts Loomis to the fact that Michael has one last relative to wipe out his bloodline and also tells him that relatives of Laurie Strode are living in the old Myers home. Tommy also has a theory that a certain alignment of stars, marking the symbol of “Thorn”, dictate when Michael appears and starts killing and the only way to control him are by ancient ruins.
In the Myers home young Danny Strode (Gardner) keeps seeing a nightmare man (closely resembling the aforementioned Man in Black) who tells him to “Kill for him”. His mother, Kara (Hagan), lives there with her parents and younger brother Tim (Bogart). Soon Michael will start to terrorize the folks living there and he (and the cult) seem to want to apprehend Danny.
That’s a complicated storyline. But kudos to writer Farrands for expanding the universe in imaginative ways and trying to make sense out of something senseless that was put in as an afterthought in Part 5. Giving Michael a supernatural background concerning the constellation of stars, aligning him with a protective cult and being a puppet of ruins was always going to be a hard sell and, in the end, that didn’t happen. Test screenings and subsequent negative feedback resulted in re-shoots and the final edit deviated quite a bit from the original storyline. However the end product did not take the story elsewhere as much as it completely refused to make any sense.
Present in the theatrical version of the film is a small reference to the cult, the mysterious Man in Black, the convoluted subplot of a voice telling Danny to “Kill for him”, Tommy’s theories of stars aligning by forming the symbol of “Thorn” and Jamie’s baby being sought after by Michael and the cult but none of these elements are explained in any meaningful way. The ending is particularly mind boggling as there’s no way of making sense of what just happened.
This was the result of re-shoots and the financier’s insistence that the supernatural elements would be greatly de-emphasized. More gore was also on the wish list. There was also the problem that the film’s leading actor, Donald Pleasence, had passed away shortly after filming so there was no way of altering his scenes to fit the re-shoots. Consequently a number of his scenes end very abruptly and seem, in certain instances, to go against the flow of the film. The finished film looks awfully choppy, incidental and aimless. The music score and editing are also fairly different from earlier entries with a more rock driven soundtrack and music style editing creating a disorienting and deliberately confusing look.
All that said; “Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers” does possess a certain “Lynch-ian” ambiance that creates a certain kind of mood that’s appealing. The final third throws so many outrageous visuals at the viewer without any rhyme or reason that do, at the very least, keep the viewer interested. The film is very brutal (and entirely tasteless in regard to the treatment of Jamie Lloyd), fairly artsy on occasion and just about confusing enough without going overboard that it stands as an OK entry. Just about.
The so-called “Producer’s Cut” of the film is another story altogether.
The synopsis above is the same but for one difference; Michael does not kill Jamie when he’s in pursuit of the baby she has just given birth to. The beginning and middle of the “Producer’s Cut” are essentially similar but scenes here are extended, characters get more exposure and overall the film is more leisurely paced. The music here is completely different; chock full of recognizable suspense cues from the original and there’s much more of a “Halloween” vibe than the routine slasher one present in the theatrical cut.
Writer Farrands’s script is also mindful of what has come before and he expands on characters with a history to the series. Bringing back Tommy Doyle, who was the boy Laurie babysat in the original, is a nice touch and his story arc is interesting but a bit clumsily handled. Paul Rudd is awfully robotic in the role and some dialogue scenes are painfully clumsy and badly staged. Dr. Wynn is also expanded upon and genre vet Ryan is a welcome addition to the franchise. His role is also greatly expanded upon in this cut.
This version also fully embraces the supernatural element and goes for broke with it’s plot. The reason why Jamie’s baby is sought after is fully revealed, Tommy’s theories are explained in full and tested, the subplot about Danny being wanted by the cult is fully explained and Dr. Loomis’s story arc is much more compelling and gives the legendary actor more screen time and a fuller part. The radical difference is in the final act where a completely different showdown occurs and the ending is very different.
It really doesn’t matter which version the viewer watches as both are definitive endings in the Michael vs. Jamie storyline. The next sequel; “Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later” (1998) discarded parts 4, 5 and 6 in order to bring back Laurie Strode. Personally I would recommend the “Producer’s Cut” as a more coherent and fully realized film despite it’s (admittedly) outlandish explanations.
Part 4 is a big favourite of mine and I would rank it the 3rd best in the franchise. Part 5 is dismal most of the time though with a few highlights that do place it above the stinker “Halloween Resurrection” which remains the franchise’s low-point. Part 6 is rather fascinating. The filmmakers were highly ambitious but ultimately the film was a jumbled mess that was appreciated by few and basically everyone saw that it got mutilated in post production. But thankfully the version that got the axe surfaced and fans could see how it really was intended and it sure is interesting.