Back in 1978, who could have thought that John Carpenter’s low-budget horror movie with an unknown cast (yes, Jamie Lee Curtis was a nobody when she first acted in the original Halloween) would go on becoming one of the most iconic slasher films ever made? The original Halloween proved financially profitable, which subsequently spawned numerous sequels, a spinoff and even a reboot. Now, with David Gordon Green’s new Halloween sequel arriving in our local cinemas this October 25th (well, looks like we have to wait a week longer after the US release date), it’s time to look back at the previous ten Halloween movies, ranking from worst to best.
10) Halloween II (2009)
Rob Zombie’s sequel to his 2007 reboot is structured like Rick Rosenthal’s 1981 version of Halloween II, complete with a scene where Scout Taylor-Compton’s Laurie Strode being taken to the hospital. But instead of a straightforward remake of that aforementioned sequel, Zombie successfully subverts our expectation by landed an unexpected twist after the first 20 minutes. It was a bold move and it somehow works.
Too bad, the rest of the movie nosedives from there and barely recovered. Zombie took a creative risk by introducing an awkwardly-misplaced supernatural element that comes with recurring dream sequences involving a white horse and the ghost of Deborah Myers (Sheri Moon Zombie, reprising her role as Michael’s deceased mom). Not to mention the sequel is visually repulsive (someone should tell him that throwing constant gore and hardcore violence do not translate into a good horror movie).
Zombie’s vile script is full of neverending f-bombs, assorted profanities and lots of screaming and yelling. Don’t get me started with the characters. Scout Taylor-Compton returns with a bigger role this time around as Laurie Strode and her so-called emotionally unstable role annoys me the most. And what’s with that full-bearded, hillbilly appearance of Tyler Mane’s Michael Myers whenever he’s not putting his mask? It’s a severely misguided sequel that Zombie’s so-called “unique vision” clearly doesn’t gel well with such established slasher-movie franchise like Halloween.
9) Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
Following a somewhat promising return to form in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, the immediate follow-up turns out to be a polar opposite. Under the hands of Dominique Othenin-Girard, he seems to be clueless about how to approach his movie whatsoever. The sequel is pretty much an utterly forgettable affair, complete with Danielle Harris’ annoyingly mute performance and uninspired killing scenes. And what’s with the cartoony sound effect each time the two bumbling cops showing up in a scene? Easily one of the worst sequels ever made in the Halloween franchise.
8) Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
Frankly speaking, they should have ended the franchise in Halloween H20. But the huge box-office success of that sequel back in 1998 has prompted the studio to greenlit another sequel. So, here we are: An eighth instalment titled Halloween: Resurrection, which “explained” how Michael actually survived in the first place. I would figure Halloween II director Rick Rosenthal able to shed some positive light into this otherwise cash-grab sequel… but I was wrong. Although I appreciate the way Larry Brand and Sean Hood’s screenplay tries their best to make Michael Myers and the Halloween franchise culturally relevant with the added reality-show angle, the execution is flat-out bad. Rosenthal’s direction is largely pedestrian, with most of the (uninspired) killing takes place either in the dark or dimly-lit setting. Even the cast is forgettable, with the exceptions of Bianca Kajlich’s decent role as the movie’s new protagonist and Busta Rhymes’ somewhat hilarious turn as the kung fu-loving producer (yes, he even get to show his “moves” by kicking Michael’s a**!).
7) Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
It’s a curse, alright. This sixth Halloween entry is famously known for its notoriously troubled production than the actual product itself. It’s a huge mess suffered from patchy editing, disjointed storyline and half-baked subplots (like what’s with the mysterious Man in Black and the pagan ritual?) Director Joe Chappelle even tries to differentiate his movie from prior Halloween sequels with a somewhat unique visual approach, even though there are many times it tends to suffer from Billy Dickson’s dimly-lit cinematography. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers also marked the (unfortunate) last appearance for Donald Pleasance as the franchise mainstay, Dr Loomis. And just so you know, this sequel happens to be Paul Rudd’s big-screen debut (yes, the same Paul Rudd who would go on becoming the popular Ant-Man character).
6) Halloween (2007)
When I first found out that Rob Zombie was going to reboot the Halloween franchise a year prior, my initial thought was: What the hell is the studio thinking?! I mean, why bother rebooting John Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic when it’s already perfect the first time around? But for the first 40 minutes or so, Zombie surpassed my expectation by doing the unthinkable: giving Michael Myers a backstory. It was supposed to be an ill-advised move. Besides, what makes John Carpenter’s original movie such an enduring genre classic is the total ambiguity of Michael Myers as a masked killer. And yet, Zombie — who also single-handedly wrote the screenplay — manages to build a surprisingly solid foundation on what makes Michael Myers a terrifying figure in the first place. He takes his time developing the character, beginning with his troubled childhood (played by relative newcomer Daeg Faerch in his breakthrough role as the disturbing 10-year-old Michael Myers) to Michael’s eventual grisly murder massacre that has him locked in a psychiatric facility at Smith’s Grove under the care of Dr Loomis (Malcolm McDowell made quite an impression playing the iconic psychiatrist role previously made famous by the late Donald Pleasance).
But once the adult Michael (now played by Tyler Mane) breaks out of the facility, this is where Zombie starts to lose his direction. The second half of the movie is basically a straightforward remake of John Carpenter’s 1978 original, except that it was poorly executed with ill-timed suspense, shaky camerawork and dim lighting. Other than Faerch and McDowell’s noteworthy performances, Sheri Moon Zombie delivers an equally engaging turn as Michael’s stripper mom. It’s just too bad the rest of the female characters like Scout Taylor-Compton’s Laurie Strode and Danielle Harris’ Annie (yes, the same actress who used to play little Jamie Lloyd in Halloween 4 and 5) are reduced to thankless roles.
5) Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
The critical (but actually underrated) and financial failure of Michael Myers-less Halloween III: Season of the Witch certainly took a toll on the otherwise lucrative franchise. Six years later, the white-masked boogeyman finally made a comeback in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, which served as a direct sequel to Halloween II while completely ignored the existence of the anthology-style third movie. The result is a fairly effective slasher movie, even though Dwight H. Little’s direction tends to function more like an action thriller than an outright horror entry. Then, there’s the unexpected ending which caught me by surprise when I first watched it on the DVD.
4) Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
This is the only non-traditional sequel in the Halloween franchise where you either love it or hate it. Personally, I hated it very much when I watched this atrocious third movie on a VHS tape decades ago. It was just too weird and worst, it had nothing to do with the continuation of Michael Myers… at all! I didn’t bother to give it another chance ever since… until now, that is for the sake of this feature article. After revisiting the movie recently, I didn’t hate it as much as I did the first time around. Halloween III: Season of the Witch is actually a bold attempt for an otherwise popular horror franchise, which dares to be radically different than your usual stalk-and-slash formula.
Believe it or not, that was John Carpenter and Debra Hill’s intentions, who originally wanted their Halloween franchise turned into an anthology series instead of traditional horror sequels. Viewing this as a standalone movie, it has its potential. Tommy Lee Wallace’s Twilight Zone-like screenplay has a bizarre yet intriguing but uneven mix of horror and sci-fi elements. How bizarre? Here goes: It involves an Irish madman named Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy) trying to brainwash every kid in America and kill them at the same time with a microchip implanted on his bestselling rubber Halloween masks. The microchip on the mask will be activated during a Silver Shamrock TV commercial on Halloween night, in which the laser beam is generated and fry the kids to death.
Wallace, who previously worked as an editor for John Carpenter’s original Halloween and The Fog, does quite a decent job as a first-time director (the third movie was originally intended to be directed by Joe Dante). Dan O’Herlihy, the veteran actor who would later appear as the Old Man in the first two RoboCop movies, proves to be a creepy antagonist after all.
3) Halloween II (1981)
More like an extension to the original than a sequel, Halloween II tries to emulate the original by offering the same minimalist, pacy direction and even go as far as replicating the POV opening sequence. It doesn’t quite match the superior 1978 original but Halloween II remains an effective sequel that stands on its own, thanks to Rick Rosenthal’s competent direction, who proves to be a worthy successor to John Carpenter.
2) Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
In this seventh instalment of the Halloween franchise, Friday the 13th veteran Steve Miner and Scream writer Kevin Williamson made their bold decisions by ignoring every event that has occurred over the course of three previous sequels (Halloween 4, 5 and 6). Instead, they opt to serve Halloween H20 as a direct sequel to Halloween II. The good news is, it’s nice to see Jamie Lee Curtis made a comeback to the Halloween franchise that made her famous in the first place and not surprisingly, she handles her Laurie Strode role well enough. The sequel also featured future stars like Josh Hartnett, Michelle Williams and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, even though their performances here are basically cookie-cutter characters. Apart from Jamie Lee Curtis’ engaging performance, Halloween H20 benefits from Steve Miner’s overall effective and pacy direction. And best of all, I truly enjoyed how they finally found the right way to end Michael Myers’ life once and for all. Except for the fact, the otherwise perfect ending doesn’t last long after all…
1) Halloween (1978)
Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho may have been the precursor of the slasher movie, while the likes of 1974’s Black Christmas and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre were often credited as among the first modern slasher genre. But I always felt that it was John Carpenter who sealed the deal once and for all in Halloween, the landmark 1978 slasher movie which responsible for popularising the genre throughout the late 1970s and 80s. And for all the numerous Halloween sequels that have been subsequently spawned throughout the decades, the incredible 40-year-old 1978 original remains unsurpassed even until today.
Made at a measly cost of US$300,000, this low-budget staple is pretty much a straightforward horror picture. Even the plot is as basic as it gets: the adult Michael Myers (Nick Castle) escaped from the mental hospital and came home to stalk and kill the teenagers of the (fictional) small town of Haddonfield on a Halloween night.
But what makes Halloween such an enduring horror classic is John Carpenter’s minimalist yet masterful approach of building up every scene with well-timed suspense before gradually escalated into an increasingly tense finale. The movie also features Carpenter’s deceptively simple but creepy piano score that would become one of the most iconic horror music ever heard. With the help of cinematographer Dean Cundey alongside editors Tommy Wallace and Charles Bornstein, Carpenter favours a lot of long takes and other ingenious camerawork that includes the opening sequence shot entirely from a young Michael Myers’ point-of-view as well as scenes where a character would see the killer standing somewhere watching across the street, only to find him nowhere in sight when the camera shifted elsewhere and back again (a then-brilliant take that would become one of the most overused camera techniques in the horror genre).
The antagonist himself is particularly memorable: a frighteningly silent killer dressed in a serviceman’s uniform who never speaks a word. Over the course of the movie, we see his face is entirely covered with a creepy white William Shatner mask and he would never hesitate to kill any teenager he come across with a kitchen knife. He is equally relentless and seemingly unkillable, as evidently seen during the climactic finale where Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), the “final girl” in the movie, defends herself by trying to kill him over and over again, only to see him rise again. Ironically, this movie happens to be Jamie Lee Curtis’ big-screen debut, a then-unknown 19 years old newcomer (she is actually the daughter of Janet Leigh, who also coincidentally appeared in that little slasher classic called Psycho) who delivers an impressive performance as Laurie Strode.