The “Halloween” Movies: From Worst to Best
August is well under way. The smell of barbecues is in the air, the beaches are packed and the neighborhood kids are just starting to round up their school supplies. This can only mean one thing: It’s time for a new Halloween movie!
Yes, the last three movies featuring the venerable serial killer Michael Myers have all been released during the dog days of summer, and 2009’s entry, Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, is no different; it’ll hit theaters this Friday. If you want to know what I thought of Zombie’s 2007 Halloween remake you can check out this article, but today I’d like to take this occasion to go over the original, pre-remake Halloween series (just as I did with the original, pre-New Line Friday the 13th series) and hopefully show why I, and so many others, have had such affection for a movie series about a soulless murderer.
A quick note for those of you unfamiliar with the original Halloween series, which began in 1978 and ended in 2002: The story revolves around Michael Myers, a mute, masked serial killer who stabbed his sister to death when he was six years old. He was institutionalized but escaped on Halloween night fifteen years later to take part in a series of increasingly outlandish adventures.
So here’s my ranking of the original Halloween films, beginning with the worst one:
8. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995, 6th in the series)
And yet there are so many things I like about this movie. The cinematography looks good, the music is fine, the acting (featuring Paul Rudd!) is decent… Overall, Halloween 6 sets up a pretty good atmosphere. None of that matters, though, when the script is this incomprehensibly hackneyed and confusing. Seriously, I still don’t know what was going on in this movie. I’ve seen the “Producer’s Cut” alternate version, and it ain’t much better.
Fun fact, though: I always felt bad for director Joe Chappelle, since I thought he did a good job despite the screenplay’s awfulness. Chappelle, however, ended up working as a director and co-executive producer on the greatest TV show of all time, The Wire! I guess happy endings aren’t just for shady massage parlors.
7. Halloween: Resurrection (2002, 8th in the series)
Resurrection was directed by Rick Rosenthal, who also directed the original Halloween II (and The Birds II), but it’s far lighter in tone than his first entry. That’s the problem. Resurrection (which does not feature any actual resurrection, by the way) tries too hard to milk comedy from its premise (young people set up a Halloween webcast in Myers’ house) and ends up making Myers look kind of like an incompetent buffoon. I’ll admit that this movie has some semi-interesting story ideas and a couple decent jump scares, but that’s it. Plus it ruins Halloween H20‘s perfectly good ending.
6. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
III is famous for ditching the Michael Myers storyline altogether and putting forth a new story about an evil corporation run by Druids who sell killer Halloween masks. The movie gets points for ballsiness (whatever SpellCheck, it’s a word now) and for several suspenseful scenes, but overall it’s a little too dull and clichéd to really work. III is also notable for being the last Halloween movie to feature any involvement by John Carpenter, director of the original. (He served as producer.)
5. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
I may be alone on this, but I actually like this movie. It’s got several very creepy sequences and locations, including an old barn, an abandoned house and a basement where hanging sheets flap eerily back and forth on clotheslines. Still, the plot is somewhat unsatisfying (especially since it sets up the awful plot of Curse), and in the end I just couldn’t justify putting 5 above any of the following entries on the list. (To be honest, I’m not positive that it should be above III, but sometimes in life you have to make choices.)
4. Halloween II (1981)
Halloween II (the original, I guess I have to say) nicely preserves some of the atmosphere and visual style of the first movie, especially in the early scenes, and it provides a pretty satisfying conclusion to the story. The middle is pretty slow and boring, but I can’t dismiss my fond memories of watching this on TV after trick-or-treating. Also, this is the movie that introduced the now-sacred idea of (spoiler alert?) Michael Myers being Laurie Strode’s brother.
3. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
I can never forgive Halloween 4 for having the dumbest-looking Michael Myers mask ever. Seriously, what is that, a department store mannequin? Besides that, though, 4 offers sympathetic characters, a well-structured story and some nail-biting set pieces, so overall I can’t complain. I once saw this in theaters as a double feature with 5; good times.
2. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998, 7th in the series)
Okay, I’m biased: This was the first slasher movie I ever saw. I watched it at a friend’s house during a Halloween party and was hooked from the first sight of Michael Myers standing ominously in a doorway in the background of a shot, backlit and surrounded by fallen leaves. H20 isn’t perfect, but it’s fun, satisfying and occasionally scary. What more could you ask for?
Okay, I guess there’s an obvious answer to that:
1. Halloween (1978, 1st in the series)
Without question. As much fun as I’ve gotten out of the Halloween sequels, none of them even come close to matching the craft and sinister beauty of John Carpenter’s original film. Every shot is constructed to increase the audience’s tension, and the musical score has come to represent not just Halloween the movie but also Halloween the holiday. The film is a bit dated now (why doesn’t she just call the police on her cell phone?), but it’ll never cease being captivating and influential.
So that’s my ranking, although I’ll admit that a year from now (or tomorrow) I might disagree with this post. What do you guys think? As always, add your thoughts and criticisms to the comments section.