“Is it Time to Say Goodbye to the Horror Trinity?” Part One: HALLOWEEN
*Author’s note: Before jumping right into this, I must say: I am a horror fan through and through. There is nothing that I love more than to watch genre films (that’s not an exaggeration). My favorite film of all time is HALLOWEEN (’78), and as much as I have been made fun by my friends over it, FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER sits firmly in my five favorite films of ALL TIME. So, this three-part editorial series dealing with the HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY THE 13TH and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchises, is not meant to insult any filmmakers involved in any of the three franchises at hand, it serves more of a question, asking horror fans (myself included): is there anything left out of three different series that all started off strong, just to end up being almost laughed at by fans?
When looking back at the HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY THE 13TH, and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET films, it’s an obvious first choice to focus on the original films. When John Carpenter’s 1978 classic HALLOWEEN came out, it did decent, until word of mouth turned it into the juggernaut of slasher gold that we all know now. It was a creepy, VERY effective film about an escaped lunatic who went home, and just happened to latch onto an innocent high school girl who was unfortunate enough to drop off a key at his former home. What made that film so damned scary, was the lack of us as viewers really knowing what was driving Michael Myers (or “the Shape” as he was referred to in the credits) into stalking Laurie and her friends. Watching HALLOWEEN for the first time, you’re unsure whether or not he’ll get to Laurie, Annie and/or Lynda, or if his resident doctor, Sam Loomis, would find Michael first and stop Myers’ night of terror. It was a less is more approach, showing Michael mostly in either shadows, backgrounds or behind bushes.
When the carnage ended up actually happening, it was absolutely terrifying, and made even more chilling by Carpenter’s legendary score and theme. When Loomis finally did find Michael, just as Myers was about to kill Laurie, he fired multiple bullets into him, causing Michael to fall off a balcony, to his assumed death. A nice and neat way to end the film…until Loomis looked over the balcony where Michael’s body should’ve been, but there was instead, nothing. Michael was gone. As Carpenter’s theme began to play, we then were shown various places that Michael had previously been and could very well be again, leaving us viewers shocked, and well…scared out of our minds. That ending, while many would eventually think of it as a cliffhanger ending, wasn’t set up for another film. It was a terrifying film with an ending to leave viewers’ hearts racing and mouths agape. We knew nothing of what was going through Michael’s head, what led him to do what he had done, and what he would do next..or even IF he would strike again. The mystery was enough to leave the film as is..a perfect horror classic.
When it was decided that a sequel to HALLOWEEN would be made, Carpenter bowed out, but wrote the script, handing off directorial duties to Rick Rosenthal and giving viewers a couple of twists in the process. If there’s a specific point in which the series began its trek downhill, my opinion would be that it was partially birthed inside of HALLOWEEN 2. While Myers stalking Laurie and her friends in the first film was mysterious and downright creepy, the twist in the second film was that Michael actually had a reason to do so: Laurie was Michael’s younger sister, having been given up for adoption following Myers’ murder of his older sister at the beginning of the first film. What that twist did, was erase all of the mystery from the first film, and instead, put Michael on a path to murder his remaining family members, something that would last all of the way until 2002’s HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION. Where the series went from HALLOWEEN 2 on is a series of WTF twists, complete with Michael getting set on fire at the end of 2, waking up from a coma to try to kill his niece in 4 (though he had never even seen a single picture of her), continuing to stalk said niece in 5 (this time, also having somewhat of a telepathic link with her), with that adventure ending with Myers getting busted out of jail by a mystery man in a trenchcoat, hat and a machine gun and kidnapping his niece. By then, the series had strayed so far from the original film’s tone and source material, that it seemed almost like a joke, a parody of sorts. When HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS came around, his motives for everything that we had seen in 4 previous films (I’m not counting HALLOWEEN III, due to Michael not being a part of that one) was summed up to Michael being led by a druid cult. A cult. Everything that happened in Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN was done, because of a cult and a set of rocks? I still scratch my head at that one. Not only did the film expect viewers to let the fear and mystery of the first film be put into a plot shredder, but anybody who HAD been on board with parts 4 and 5 and went through the journey of Jamie Lloyd (Michael’s niece) were given one hell of a slap to the face, when her character was given the same fate that a lot of the series’ continuity and plot was given: a sudden death.
Knowing that something was rotten in the town of Haddonfield, the series decided to explore an alternate angle, telling viewers to ignore parts 4-6 and instead follow the newest entry, HALLOWEEN H20. With H20, the series brought back Laurie Strode, explaining that after the events of the second film (kind of, she’s still his sister in H20 which would lead to HALLOWEEN 2, but for the most part, it’s a sequel to the first film), she faked her own death, and started a new life as a teacher in a new town, complete with Josh Hartnett as her angsty son. Laurie is far from the smiley, yet pensive girl we saw in the first film, in H20, she’s scared of everything, on medication, and lives in fear that Michael will come back for her,…which eventually happens. He shows up at the private school that she teaches at, doing his best to kill her and her son, but Laurie goes a little nuts, stabbing the hell out of him and stealing the coroner’s van that his body is placed in. After wrecking the van, Laurie does what any survivor should have done in multiple films before: chop Michael’s head off with an axe. Just a few years later, fans were given what was in my opinion, the worst sequel of all time, HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION, a film that didn’t just give viewers a wtf? thought regarding twists and plot-holes, but actually killed off Laurie Strode in the film’s first 15 minutes, basically getting rid of ANY trace of the original film. By RESURRECTION, a HALLOWEEN film wasn’t a HALLOWEEN film anymore. Myers’ mask could very easily just had been replaced with a clown mask, because there wasn’t a single element of the first film, or even its sequels for that matter. Gone were the characters that fans of the series had loved. Gone was the tone and suspense of the first film, and hell even parts of the subsequent entries (for all of its messiness, HALLOWEEN 5 does have some pretty intense and terrifying moments). How far off the beaten path that the series was at that point, just screamed for either a final goodbye to Myers, or a fresh approach…and boy is that what viewers got. Enter Rob Zombie.
When news broke that musician-turned filmmaker Rob Zombie was hired to remake John Carpenter’s original HALLOWEEN, the internet was definitely full of people either claiming that it would be the best thing ever, or downright excrement. Having already made HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES and the awesome DEVIL’S REJECTS, fans of the HALLOWEEN series were very vocal about not wanting RZ’s HALLOWEEN to be like those films. Early script/story leaks involving character descriptions and some interesting new angles such as young Michael mutilating animals and masturbating to photos of the corpses, created quite the uproar with fans, and though some of the early story elements thankfully didn’t make it into the final film, it’s safe to say that a lot of horror fans had already decided not to like RZ’s remake before it had even hit theaters. When the film hit theaters in 2007, it was definitely a financial success, but wasn’t very well received by fans of the original film. Just like the later sequels of the original series, Zombie’s HALLOWEEN gave Michael a back story, with most of the film taking place during Michael’s youth. Zombie made Myers a long haired KISS fan, whose family were white trash characters, taken right out of a trailer park (metaphorically so, no offense to anyone who actually lives in a trailer park, I’m sure there are many great ones) and injected right into Haddonfield. Michael had a promiscuous sister, a stripper mother, and a waste of flesh father figure in his life, with Zombie trying to explain that maybe it was Myers’ upbringing that caused him to snap. When Michael grows up, and is in Smith’s Grove for the murder of not just Judith this time, but for killing three people, he’s a massively tall and bulky mute, obsessed with wearing homemade masks. After he breaks out, he heads back to Haddonfield, and for the most part (save for the murdering of Laurie’s parents, and a few other changes), the film becomes a copy of the original. When the film reaches its climax, Loomis arrives just in time to save Laurie, but not before getting killed in the process. Laurie hides in the roof of the house, eventually falling, and Michael tackles her over the balcony (this character and balconies, jeebus). Laurie comes to, on top of Michael, who is seemingly unconscious, and she raises the gun that Loomis had and begins to attempt to shoot Myers, with each trigger-pull not having a bullet in it, and just when Michael grabs her arm, BAM! Laurie blasts Michael IN THE FACE, spraying her with blood, leaving her hysterical.
The majority of critics and horror fans despised RZ’s HALLOWEEN, but at least it closed a very problematic franchise,…until it didn’t. A mere two years later, Zombie returned for H2, a sequel that didn’t resemble the previous HALLOWEEN films whatsoever, went WAY off the rails, and was instead Zombie’s middle finger raised VERY high to the haters of his 2007 remake. Taking place a year after (or two years, depending on if you’re watching the theatrical or director’s cut) Zombie’s first HALLOWEEN excursion, H2 picked up the second that the first one left off, with Laurie having shot Myers in the face, and walking down the street delirious. When taken to Haddonfield Memorial hospital, Laurie senses something wrong, and sooner than you can say Rosenthal’s HALLOWEEN 2, Myers shows up and absolutely slaughters everyone there. Not even in a “stab once, and done” way. No, this time around, Zombie means business with Myers, as every kill is overkill to the max. People are stabbed five times, then stabbed another ten times, just for the hell of it. Laurie makes her way outside and is helped by a security guard, but not even three minutes later, Myers kills the guy, and tears down a whole wall of the security building and is about to slam an axe down on Laurie, and BAM!..it was just a dream. Had the film been as intense and pressure building as the pseudo-opening, then it could very well have steered the franchise back on track, but instead, viewers are giving a very negative film, with Laurie now a foul-mouthed, dread-locked rebel, with a tramp stamp and a Charles Manson poster on her wall…yeah. Her relationship with Annie (having survived the last outing herself) is strained, and if that odd angle wasn’t crazy enough, we’re given three VERY odd new elements to the film. 1.) Michael walks from town to town (in the outskirts), dressed like a homeless man, with a massive beard. 2.) Michael sees the ghost of his mom, which looks like a character out of a Dan Brereton comic, who walks alongside..a white horse. A white horse. Michael talks to his dead mother through his younger self, and 3.) Laurie is psychically connected to Michael and the ghost of their mom, having craaaaazy visions right out of an acid trip. Add a still alive Loomis to the mix (Getting his head crushed in the theatrical version of 2007’s HALLOWEEN is disregarded), and it’s so very odd, that you have to ask yourself, if you’re even watching a HALLOWEEN film at times.
All of those ingredients put into H2 lends itself to be probably the most hated entry of the entire series (by most fans, I tend to despise RESURRECTION a lot more). Full of face stomping, more “fucks” that I can count, and without a single likable character (well, Sheriff Brackett is cool, but it’s Dourif, how could you go wrong with him?) in the film, H2 pretty much killed the franchise for a lot of people. Loomis ended up being a selfish bastard in the 2007 and 2009 films, and many people were left to wonder if the series had finally hit an all time low..which finally leads to my question: Is it time to finally say goodbye to Michael Myers and the HALLOWEEN franchise? I know most fans will instantly say “NO!, there’s something that can be done!”, but really,..is there a single thing that could be done to save a franchise built on such a monumentally strong film, just to be taken down such odd paths, time and time again? For me, I’m on the fence. I love the original film so much, and it would be a lie to say that I don’t pull HALLOWEEN 4 and 5 out of my collection to watch every once in a while, but still…I can’t see a single angle that could invoke the mystery and terror of the 1978 film or even a new angle that would make the series actually scary again. What do you fright fiends think? Can the series be saved, or should Michael, Laurie and Loomis finally be laid to rest? Sound off!