As a big fan of Horror movies, there’s a question that runs through my mind alot. “What is my favorite horror series?” With my cinematically ADD addled brain, I can go through all of the big ones with ease. Sometimes it’s the Saw series. Other times it’s the Scream series. Almost never does it fall into the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series, as there’s only 2 1/2 good movies in the bunch and nothing worthwhile in the others. Hell, if I’m in a braindead mood, Friday The 13th and it’s mission statement of being pure dumb fun does the trick pretty well. But my default before getting into the details has to be the Halloween franchise.
The Halloween franchise is not my favorite because it was started by John Carpenter, my favorite director. I loved the original before I really knew Carpenters work. The reason I love it is two fold. One, it’s the franchise I saw first when I was young and getting into movies. But the second reason is far more elemental. Michael Myers is death incarnate. He is pure, unfiltered evil. Unlike the other icons of the genre, Michael had no sense of wrong doing in his past. Jason was bullied to death, Leatherface’s family used his mental deficiencies to feed the cannibal family. Even Freddy, murdering pedophile he is, was seeking revenge for being murdered. Michael though was just a kid where something snapped in him or something corrupted him, turning into the boogeyman. And his unending march into each sequel to slaughter those around him at the special time of year kinda perfectly matched that idea of him being death incarnate. When he took six slugs to the chest and fell off a second floor balcony and walked off, there was no other way to see him. And that simple, motiveless killer made him my eternal favorite despite the neverending debate it my mind. But while the idea of Michael was simplicity itself, the franchise became anything but simple.
The original movie was created in the most simple of ways. Independent film producer Irwin Yablans and financier Moustapha Akkad wanted to get in on the bourgeoning horror genre with a simple little movie about a crazed man killing babysitters on Halloween night. So they reached out to Carpenter after seeing his impressive debut flick (kinda. Dark Star came first but was a student film). Carpenter agreed to the job and wrote the movie with his girlfriend and producing partner Debra Hill. The movie was made on the cheap but with the immaculate stylings of Carpenter, and the rest is history. It changed the horror genre forever, essentially creating the slasher sub genre that would dominate the 80s and pop up now and then afterwards. It wasn’t an easy go though. The movie was essentially released as a roadshow movie, traveling the country with only a few prints. Reviews weren’t great at first, but then the tides started to change after some time. Despite the reviews, the movie was making money. Word of mouth was massive in this movies success. It wasn’t an immediate change, but change it did. And since was a time, 1978, when movies didn’t usually get sequels, everyone thought it was a one and done success. But even those with a cursory grasp on hindsight, that was not what happened. And from there, the complications in the series started.
3 years after the original movie was released, Akkad and Yablans wanted a sequel. So much so that they bumped up the budget to $2.5 Million, an exponential increase to the originals budget of $300,000. Also with the budget increase, they went to Carpenter and Hill to craft the movie. Carpenter didn’t see the need for another, but decided he wanted to get paid so he crafted a script. Legend has it that he wrote it in one night, drinking heavily the whole time. It was here that he decided upon the series changing aspect to make Laurie Strode Michael’s sister, impacting how the movies would be crafted afterwards (more on that later). Apparently it was good enough for the producers to go ahead with it, with Carpenter deciding to direct Escape From New York instead. But in addition to his writing on it, he did help as a producer and did some work on the score. So they hired Rick Rosenthal to direct it. While he did a commendable enough job on it, trying his best to ape Carpenters style, he didn’t do high enough quality work to satisfy the producers. They felt like it wasn’t scary enough or bloody enough for the current wave of horror movies. Reshoots were required. And who came in to do the reshoots? One Mister John Carpenter. Which is funny since they wanted more blood, and his work on the original eschewed all blood and gore. But he felt the same way and did the job, and it shows. His work, subtle enough but different enough from the rest, marks an improvement in the watchability. With the film then officially done, Halloween II was released and marked the official end of Michael Myers story, with him getting blown up and all. One sequel was enough for Carpenter and co., and the process of bringing the killer back again and again wasn’t in vogue in 1981. Hell, Friday The 13th hadn’t even ripped them off yet. So how did the franchise get to the point of being unkillable?
Carpenter may not have wanted to keep making Michael Myers stories, but he wasn’t done with the Halloween series. He had an idea. Instead of following Mikey, he wanted to create an anthology series. A series that came out every year or so that’s only linkage was that they were set around the time of Halloween. Akkad and Yablans were cool with that and greenlit Halloween III: Season of The Witch for release a year later in 1982. Again, Carpenter didn’t direct. But he produced it, helped to write it, and did the score. He also wrangled a crew of old cronies to help make the movie, actors like Tom Atkins and Nancy Keyes, cinematographer Dean Cundey and Tommy Lee Wallace, production designer and editor of the original Halloween and writer/director of this flick. With these guys together, they crafted a movie very different than the first two. No blank slate killer slashing young girls. This one was a conspiracy thriller that was tied into witchcraft and Irish history with the aim to sacrifice young children to the gods. It was a complete left turn for the franchise, and one that did not connect with audiences at the time. People wondered where Michael Myers was and what the hell was actually going on in the bizarre movie. It wasn’t a bomb, but it was a big enough drop in success to tell the producers that the series was over. It’s gotten a bit of a reevaluation over the years, but the series was almost killed by it at the time. So how did the series come back to life? The very genre it created brought it back from the grave.
In the wake of Halloweens success, the slasher genre exploded and crafted the 80s horror scene. Neverending releases of slasher flicks where gore and tits were the selling points. All of it exploded out of the success of Halloween and the Friday The 13th series creating the idea of sequels and unkillable killers. So Akkad wanted to resurrect Mikey and once again reached out to Carpenter and Hill to bring him back. It was to be produced by Cannon Films, the notorious purveyors of cheap action flicks. Carpenter enlisted Doug Etchison to help craft a sequel, one that was more cerebral and supernatural. But Akkad wanted blood, so he nixed the script Carpenter brought to him. So Carpenter balked and sold off his rights to the franchise. Akkad wasn’t deterred, apparently cause he’s the kind of fucking idiot who’d turn away Carpenter, and got the crew together to make a new Myers movie. Cannon was out of the picture and Akkad figured that out too, getting Trancas International Films to fork over $5 Million to make the flick. And in 1988, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers was released. It did what it set out to do, bring Michael back from the dead and it was a hit with the audience. The movie followed Michael in his quest to continue his mission of erasing his bloodline by going after his 10 year old niece, Jamie. This movie wasn’t hit with as many problems as the others would in production, but there was still an iconic to the series goof. On a night shoot that was going real long, a mask that wasn’t supposed to be used was brought onto set and filmed. The crew was too tired to realize the mistake and it ended up in the film. How big a mistake could it have been though, right? In one scene, Michael has a mask with bleached blonde hair. Just mind boggling. But, people liked the movie and Akkad wanted to get a sequel going immediately. And by immediately, he wanted it in theaters literally a year after 4.
Akkad wanted 5 in theaters a year later, and he got what he wanted. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers was released and it was not as warmly received by fans as the 4th entry. Maybe it was because they could see the cash grabbing on display this time out. The movie was rushed immensely, with a script that didn’t really meet the standards of basic scripting. So the movie was basically made on the fly, making shit up as they went when they saw the script wasn’t working too well. That’s why there’s the added bullshit dirt of a Man In Black following the action and breaking Michael out of jail. That’s why the story doesn’t even really flow in a proper way, adding half assed supernatural elements to Jamie and Michael. That and it completely wiped away the ending of 4, skirting the idea of making Jamie a killer. It wasn’t very good and most agreed. It was made cheaper than 4 and earned less than 4. Hell, it was released straight to video outside of America. It was made on the cheap, released on the cheap, and was received like the no class whore it was. It came out when the slasher genre was in decline, and it felt the decline too. It would be 6 years until Micheal would come back from the grave, and it would be in the most disastrous one yet.
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers is the most fascinating entry in the series. Not because it’s good or anything. It’s a piece of absolute dog shit. It’s the behind the scenes nonsense that makes this one a special piece of shit. Akkad wanted to bring Myers back and give him an explanation, tying in to the supernatural elements introduced in 5. So they went about, essentially for 4 years, looking for the right script. Some legal battles ensued at the time, delaying things a bit and bringing the new entry to Dimension Films. Around 1994, they settled on a script by Daniel Farrands that introduced a cult of Michael Myers fanboys and went about filming. But that itself wasn’t enough problems. Danielle Harris, who played Michaels niece in 4 and 5, was set to return as Jamie. But the producers didn’t want to pay her and dumped her, recasting the role and killing her off in the beginning. What killed the movie though was producer Paul Freeman, who forced reshoots and rewrites as they were going. He hacked the movie to pieces and turned it into a piece of convoluted garbage. And when that hacked to shit film was screened for a test audience in 1995, they agreed. Enough so that the producers rushed the movie back into production and changed the movie completely, erasing most of the original versions storyline involving the cult that is essentially responsible for Michael. And this new version was made without the help of Donald Pleasance, who had reprised his role yet again as Dr. Loomis, because he died after making the original version of 6. So the movie somehow became even more chopped up and unknowable, sinking the franchise even lower. It did ok in the box office, but was not received well at all by fans. But the most shocking thing about this movie was the appearance of a bootleg VHS tape making the rounds at horror conventions and the like of that original, audience tested version of the movie. It became a bit of a legend, with fans saying it was much better than the released version. Fans clamored for years for an official release of the movie on home media, something with good visual clarity. It seemed like it would never happen, until 2014. 2014 saw amazing home media distributors Shout Factory put out a box set of the entire series on blu ray, which was a hell of a feat since pretty much every movie was owned by a different company. In the box set though? Both versions of this movie. And while that original cut is better than what was released, it was only a minor improvement and was still garbage. But the movie was successful enough for them to make a sequel only 3 years later. A sequel that did something really cool, but made the series even more confusing.
Halloween: H20 was intended to bring the series back to the beginning in many aspects. They wanted to bring Jamie Lee Curtis and John Carpenter back to give a fitting ending to the story they started 20 years prior. And they got Jamie Lee Curtis back. She was game and was most definitely interested in bringing Carpenter back, a nice little high school reunion. And yet again, they almost had Carpenter. It’s just fucking infuriating to me that Carpenter wasn’t completely against making more Michael movies. This wasn’t like Wes Craven dumping the Elm Street franchise after the original. Carpenter was down with it. We could have had his version of New Nightmare. Wes got to come back to his franchise, why not John? Money issues. John felt that Akkad had owed him residuals from the original, so he asked for a $10 Million to come back and direct the sequel. He wasn’t trying to overreach with his request to be taken out of consideration. But Akkad couldn’t give less of a fuck and dumped him yet again. But Curtis stayed and production began on the final entry in the saga of Laure Strode v Michael Myers. There was some continuity issues that they decided to solider through, by straight up ignoring them. In 4, they introduced his niece as the protagonist. Her backstory was that she was the daughter of Laurie Strode, who had died years back. Yet the premise of the movie has Laurie alive and well. So why the fuck did she abandon her kid, only to start a new life with a new kid even though she still feared Michael’s return? The movie has a scene before the opening credits that lays out the history of Michael, mentioning the events of 1 and 2, but erasing 4 – 6 by saying he’d been missing for 20 years. Kevin Williamson, writer of Scream, had a workaround that would have made sense of Laurie ditching her kid and Michaels reign of terror in Lauries absence. Even though Williamson did some rewriting on the movie, the saga with Jamie and Michael became so convoluted and mystical, that it was decided to essentially scrap all of that crap. So the series became even more jumbled, having two timelines in them. But despite all of that nonsense, the movie was a big hit and was loved by fans for giving them an ending to the series that felt right. Laurie killed Michael for good, and all was right in the world. Right? Of course not.
During the making of H20, Akkad wanted a way to make a sequel. Some scene to explain away Michaels head being cut off at the end of the movie. And in a move that many assumed was done after the fact, they actually filmed a scene that did such. It was a scene that was used in the beginning of the next movie, Halloween: Resurrection. Michael had switched places with a paramedic, putting the man in the jumpsuit and mask and crushing his windpipe so he couldn’t explain away it not being him and all. Cause as we all know, you can’t take a mask off without being able to speak. It’s a nonsensical, bullshit retcon to get the series back into a lazy mode of basic slasher territory. Miramax didn’t want it, hoping to make a sequel with a new character and to let Michael lay dead. At least for a bit. But Akkad disagreed, and they went ahead with the plan. And what we got was the new lowpoint for the series. It’s a movie that has no reason to exist. Aside from the opening chunk of the movie, it had no tie to the other movies. No family member he was looking to kill. Nothing. The story was a bunch of stupid assholes decide to spend in a night in the Myers home for some reality Internet streaming show, only to be killed since Michael lives in the sewers under the house. Just randos. And worse, it’s randos with no god damn personality or watchability. Blandness ran through this entire movie. Unlike the prior low point in 6, this wasn’t even bonkers. 6 was at least so wrongheaded you had to admire the lunacy. This one was just fucking soggy whitebread. And worst of all? It featured Busta Rhymes as a main character, and he defeats Michael using Kung Fu. It’s just painful for fans of the series. Only the beginning had anything of worth, as it dealt with the aftermath of H20. And even that it’s great, just having the benefit of being Jamie Lee Curtis come back. And even that’s ruined, since she’s killed off in a lame way. Just a real bummer. Somehow though, this is the reshot version. Much like 6, this one had heavy reshoots to make it “better”. Unlike 6, there’s no bootleg of that original version running around or any real desire to see the piece of shit in a different form. Cause like we all know, even a polished turd is still a turd. This movie pretty much killed the franchise. It made money, but no one liked it. The reception was loudly poor. But they wouldn’t be stopped. They’d just recalibrate.
On the way to the next entry in the franchise, Akkad had died. And like everything involved with this series, it was in a completely crazy way. Him and his daughter were killed in a terrorist bombing in Jordan in 2005. Not a heart attack or old age. Not even a car accident. No, he was killed in a one in a million chance bombing. Even if the man made some dumbass decisions, like Resurrection or dumping Carpenter from two sequels , he deserved much better. He did do some great things with the series and kept it going. With his passing, the rights were passed down to his son Malek. And with the rights now in Maleks hands, the series was gonna take a massive turn. And the way they’d do so is the same way that James Bond would, who was also destroyed in 2002. They’d restart the timeline.
In 2006, it was announced that Rob Zombie would be making the next Halloween. And not only that, it was going to be the dreaded R word. A remake. Right off the bat, people went berserk. You don’t remake a classic of such stature like Halloween. Look at the Psycho remake. This couldn’t go well, cried the world. And things moved in that direction. Before filming even began, the first draft of Zombies self written script came out and was reviewed on fan sites like Aint It Cool News. It was ravaged. But Zombie claimed things had changed, as scripts always do in comparison to the first draft. A trailer came out in early 2007 and actually looked pretty decent to us fans. But a few days before the movie was to be released, a workprint version of the movie leaked. What people always wanted for 6 had happened. They saw the rough cut of the movie and well, people were not kind. That’s the polite way of saying it. In a not so polite way people went absolutely fucking apeshit at what many considered an abortion to the franchise, a movie that had ruined the original completely. By going back and giving Michael a backstory and semblance of motive, the mystique of the franchise was absent from this entry. It made a lot of fucking money, but the reception was toxic. There’s a 4 hour making of documentary with the blu ray of the movie, so we saw that it wasn’t particularly filled with problems. Although the movie did have some decent sized reshoots, as seen in the differences between the workprint and theatrical print and directors cut. Yet not as substantial as the differences in 6. Despite the hateful reception it received, it would get a quick sequel. Not as quick as the time difference between 4 and 5, but two years was quicker than they’d seen since 4 – 5. Fans got some bad news though. Zombie was coming back.
With the massive amounts of money that the remake made, it wasn’t crazy to see that they’d get a sequel going. But it’s pretty crazy that they’d bring Zombie back. And it was wild that he came back. He said he wouldn’t do a sequel and that he told the story. But when he heard that they’d be making a sequel, he felt like he had to do it as he felt like it was his baby. And this time out, he wasn’t forced into any sort of connection to the original. He wasn’t going to be making a remake of the original 2. While he made the remake it’s own, he had a good deal of material that was cribbed from the original. But this time, he sought out to make a crazy, trippy movie. And with the budget and freedom he had, he sure as shit did that. What was released was a movie that felt like Ken Russell doing a Halloween movie. Bizarre and featuring dream logic and a tragic tone, it was the most divisive entry in the series. It has it’s fans though, since it’s so singular an entry in the series. It’s liked more than his first one, but it still has the many fans against it on a cellular level. Halloween II was so divisive that it made less than half of the first Zombie entry. And it didn’t suffer the endless reshoots or issues the other movies faced. Zombie has come out and said that it was a harder shoot, with significantly less time to shoot a more ambitious movie. But in the end, he did it and suffered less production hardships as the others.
It’s been 6 years at the time of this piece’s writing since we’ve had a Halloween movie. And it’s gonna be even longer until we see another one. There’d been a good deal of rumors and planned sequels to the movie, with some going on Zombies chronology and others going with an all new chronology. Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer, director/writer team of My Bloody Valentine 3D came very close to making a sequel to Zombies. But that fell apart. And recently this year, 2015, a new entry was announced. Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, writers of the Saw sequels and The Collector series, were tapped to helm the new installment. And the plan was to make it a sequel to the original Halloween 2, set years later in the late 80s/early 90s. It was gonna ignore the other sequels entirely. Although that now seems to have been dropped. Malek Akkad says they are constantly working on trying to make a new entry, and it’s not entirely clear if Melton and Dunstan are gone or their movie is changed completely. What we do know is, the next movie is delayed and the history of ridiculous production problems continues.
This series is far from perfect, as you can tell if you’ve made it to this point. Either bad entries, under appreciated experiments, production woes or a combination of the three. This series can not be called consistent. But what it can be called is unique in the horror field. It was the one that started off the slasher craze, but it didn’t take part in the practice of neverending sequels until the end of the craze. And even when it started cranking out sequels, it never stooped to the levels of sex and violence of the other franchises. What else set it apart? A dedication to mythology. Michael was unexplained for 4 movies until they tried to explain his evil. And even when they did, his demeanor never changed. He was always the silent stalker, playing with his prey before killing. When we saw Freddy turn from dark sorcerer to late night comedian and Jason Voorhees go from fast paced redneck hick to slow moving/teleporting zombie, it’s noble that they didn’t neuter Michael. As for continuity, the Jason movies never gave a fuck. And Freddy tried to build up some steam, but never really made much sense from flick to flick. Halloween at least made some semblance of narrative sense for a good deal longer than it should have.
As a fan of horror movies and this franchise in general, the only entry I don’t like is Resurrection. The other sequels have their charms and nostalgia factored in for me. And I actually, honest to good love the Zombie entries. They are absolutely not good entries into the series, missing the mark completely. Instead of mystery, we got explanation. But as an elseworlds tale, a tale where the Michael Myers story happened in Rob Zombies world, it just plain works for me as a twisted little Frankenstein-esque story. And his sequel? So fucking bonkers that I’d love it just for the balls it has. I’m so into this series, I can tell which movie a picture is from based solely on the mask that Michael wears. It always blew my mind that they never could keep a mask for the next entry, always just looking like a new piece of shit copy of the original. They only came close in Zombies entries, when he went to pains to copy the Carpenter version, even if he made some changes. The most bizarre one was in H20, when they had to alter the mask with CGI because they couldn’t do reshoots. This series is always gonna have a place in my heart, and the production history of it is always going to haunt my my dreams. It’s a series that shouldn’t have lasted this long, but it has. Like The Shape itself, it will always be lurking. Waiting in the wings.