(Editor’s Note: For this weeks’ A LOOK BACK AT, our regular contributor Josh Soriano turns his gaze towards the 6th installment in the HALLOWEEN franchise: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS!)
Now that the dust has settled from the actual holiday, it seems the perfect time to talk about one of the most hated HALLOWEEN sequels by fans to date, HALLOWEEN 6: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS.
You can’t have a discussion between two Halloween fans without the subject coming up. The fact is, even if you’re a fan of it, you’re aware that THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS is one of the most ridiculous entries of the franchise after HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION and it can cause quite a debate if you’re one of the ones that defend it. My attempt is not to convince anyone that it’s a good film, because it’s really not, but merely to explain why it still isn’t the worse. It doesn’t seem fair to blame the sixth film entirely because it really starts with HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS.
At the cliff-hanging end of the fifth installment, The Shape has been rescued from the Haddonfield police department by the mysterious “man in black” who isn’t Johnny Cash but does wield an automatic firearm like he’s straight outta DICK TRACY. The mystery man, who was likely an addition by co-writer and director Dominique Othenin-Girard who wanted to take the series into new territory, destroys the entire police department leaving Jamie Lloyd the sole witness to the carnage. The visual styling of HALLOWEEN 5 has more of a foreign film feel and is one of its few redeeming qualities, seeped in the Gothic imagery and shadows (the Blu-Ray cleans them up and in turn reveals too much of Michael in the dark that hid him and created a creepier effect). However, as interesting as its visuals were, H5 is an unfortunate beginning to the major misfire that would be it both it and H6.
Another aspect of the sixth film that can cause some confusion is the fact that there are technically two movies (think EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING and EXORCIST: DOMINION). The original cut of the film, aptly titled THE PRODUCERS CUT, beckons closer to the original’s mood around the actual holiday and its mythology. While this cut has some great ideas it just ends up being a lesser of two evils. Writer Daniel Farrands likely experienced way too much studio interference because they both reek of re-shoots. To keep things from getting more confusing than they already are, the version I’m discussing will be the theater-released one.
Our story begins with Jamie Lloyd giving birth to a child in an underground facility under the arrest of a cult (I know, WTF!?). One of the members who grows a conscience helps her escape with her baby after stealing it back from the mysterious “man in black”. Michael pursues Jamie as she tries to make her way back to Haddonfield. Eventually he catches up and kills her, unceremoniously. The decision to recast Jamie is the gravest error of the makers because the character will always belong to Danielle Harris. The recasting only amplifies the air of confusion that the film holds. It is clear director Joe Chappelle didn’t seem to be interested in maintaining any respect for the previous films or their lore.
The Shape looks like he’s been eating one too many dogs on his kitchen table considering the spare tire he’s dragging this time around and his mask carries on the tradition, started by HALLOWEEN 5, of having too many humanistic qualities. What makes John Carpenter’s original Shape so frightening is the lack of definition to his mask which allowed the viewers to project their personal fears into it. Giving Michael too much definition creates a familiarity and becomes distracting.
Looking back, the visual design to HALLOWEEN 6 is still the most striking of the later sequels. For someone who actually lives here, it’s the most faithful representation of IL during autumn. There’s an oppressive bluish tone to the night scenes while the day scenes are muted with a mild orange hue. Most of the imagery is spot-on with the real Midwest. It may not sound like much but it enhances the film a great deal. Most of the scenes shot at night are dimly lit and give a more moody ambiance improving on HALLOWEEN 5. We get a broader range of locations in Haddonfield that open the scope up and give the town a more tangible reality, early on we get some great sequences of suspense while Michael is in pursuit of Jamie in both a desolate train station and barn.
One thing we rarely get to see in the sequels is how the actual town has been affected by Michael’s infamous reign of terror. There is a fair amount of it throughout the film although the idea that a family can be living in the Myers house, without realizing it, isn’t very plausible. Then again, a man who can’t die and always has a new clean white mask every sequel isn’t exactly realistic either. Marianne Hagan is an interesting choice for the lead role; a believable adult protagonist is a welcomed return after the slew of cartoonish irresponsible characters that litter the previous sequel. The family conflict with her abusive father adds some emotional weight to the characters. Farrand’s idea to bring back Tommy Doyle helps us reconnect via the original storyline before things start spinning into bizarro zone.
It’s safe to assume that Daniel Farrands screenplay went through the ringer and back. When it comes to horror franchises, studios have a knack for excising everything with substance and replacing it with predictable garbage they feel will keep the audience entertained. The film industry had changed by 1996, so HALLOWEEN 6 was the first in the series that had to go through a test screening. I’ve yet to see the original script but it becomes easily discernible to the viewer what was added after the first screening. Even if you aren’t savvy that there’s an alternative cut, the tone of the film still feels unbalanced, often changing from a moody and subtle approach to full-out schlockfest ridiculousness (keep in mind, one of the characters actually explodes). Is it a ridiculous movie? Most certainly. THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS extends beyond Thorn. It goes right off the screen and into Hollywood. Halloween is the one franchise that seems to have a black cloud over it preventing any reputable ideas from getting into a sequel (or remake). For most, it’s a stinker, but it has a lot more originality and interesting elements weaving through it than most stinkers. Hey, at least it’s not HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION.