Tag Archives: John Carpenter

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

0review-halloween4b

THE PATIENTS

Director: Dwight H. Little
Writers: Alan B. McElroy, Danny Lipsius, Larry Rattner, Benjamin Ruffner
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Ellie Cornell, Danielle Harris, Beau Starr, George Wilbur

THE PATHOLOGY

On a rainy night in 1988, the Shape is about to be moved from the medical facility where he lay comatose for ten years since the concluding moments of HALLOWEEN II. One medic signs for the bandaged Michael Myers while another checks his blood pressure. They’re ready to move him. Then the music blasts from the screen – HALLOWEEN is back! It’s just like going home again.

THE PROGNOSIS

One of the greatest fanboy thrills of my teen years was sitting in a darkened movie theater and seeing two doomed paramedics moving the dormant body of Michael Myers. HALLOWEEN III, while a fun experiment, was almost the death of this film series; no Myers was a no go at the box office. Finally, in 1988 producer Moustapha Akkad resurrected the Shape and reunited him with his tireless pursuer, Dr. Sam Loomis, once more played by Donald Pleasence. There was no chance Jamie Lee Curtis would return to the series – her career had to take a few more downturns before that would happen – but Loomis found allies in a new sheriff (Beau Starr) and a fresh bunch of young Haddonfield natives led by Rachel (Ellie Cornell) and her foster sister Jamie (Danielle Harris). Did I mention that Jamie is the late Laurie Strode’s daughter and Michael Myers’ niece? Yes, Michael has a new family member to kill, and the stage is set for good old-fashioned HALLOWEEN mayhem!

Michael has a new family member to kill, and the stage is set for good old-fashioned HALLOWEEN mayhem!

HALLOWEEN 4 ages pretty well. There are likable characters in Rachel and Jamie, and Loomis – now more deranged in his obsession with Myers and with scars from the hospital explosion at the end of HALLOWEEN II – has a chance to grow into a more complex and magnetic foe for the Shape, a Gerard to Myers’ FUGITIVE. Musically, the theme tune and “Laurie’s Theme” are used frequently and well, further tying this new installment into the HALLOWEEN universe. Recapturing some of the tone of the original, there’s only a small amount of actual blood or gore. Arguably the most violent sequence involves a rowdy bunch of Haddonfield redneck vigilantes incorrectly identifying a fellow gun-toter as Myers in the movie’s funniest scene. George Wilbur is also a decent enough Myers, although he lacks the distinctive body language created by Nick Castle and Dick Warlock.

The worst part? That mask! So begins what HALLOWEEN fans often consider the ultimate cross they must bear through every new sequel – enduring an endless parade of completely inaccurate mask sculpts that utterly fail to recapture the simple terror of the William Shatner white-face that started it all. The expressionless, way-too-clean version seen here lacks the scowl and twisted mouth of the original, robbing Myers of his trademark demonic visage…and what’s with the friggin’ ’70s sideburns? Now that’s pure evil! (And yes, I know he acquires this new mask in town early in this movie, but with an icon like the Shape, there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. If Haddonfield can keep stocking the damn things despite all the history that builds up around them – surely residents must cringe to see the face of their own local Boogeyman in stores every Halloween – they can at least stock the right style!) Let’s not even talk about the awful shot at the school with the platinum blonde version of the mask that looks like a poorly executed tribute to Ben Tramer from HALLOWEEN II.

The concluding scene promised an all-new direction for the series that might have been fascinating but was never meant to be.

The ending is a brilliant parallel of events at the start of the first HALLOWEEN, and Loomis’ tortured screaming should send a chill down any fan’s spine. Unfortunately, the concluding scene also promised an all-new direction for the series that might have been fascinating but was never meant to be. Moviegoers were quite happy with HALLOWEEN 4, but they definitely wanted Michael Myers back at fighting strength for 5. There was no room for a new Shape, and Akkad wasn’t about to disappoint his audience. But soon enough, fans would rue the day they clamored for the revenge of Michael Myers…

RATING

07brains

HELP US BY ORDERING THE MOVIE VIA THIS LINK!

ALL THE OTHER FILMS IN THE SERIES:
HALLOWEEN

HALLOWEEN II

HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH

HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS

HALLOWEEN 6: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS

HALLOWEEN H20: TWENTY YEARS LATER

HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

0review-halloween3b

THE PATIENTS

Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
Writers: Tommy Lee Wallace, Nigel Kneale, John Carpenter
Starring: Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O’Herlihy, Jamie Lee Curtis (the voice of Santa Mira), Tommy Lee Wallace (the voice of Silver Shamrock)

THE PATHOLOGY

The petite but buxom Ellie Grimbridge (Stacey Nelkin) teams up with troubled alcoholic physician Dr. Dan Challis (Tom Atkins) to investigate the disappearance of her father. There’s a peculiar little toy factory churning out the coolest masks this Halloween, and every kid wants one. So why do the strangely emotionless minions of Silver Shamrock founder Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy) seem so hellbent on murdering anyone who tries to uncover the secret behind their special Halloween promotion? And why does a kindly Irishman like Cochran have a full-size piece of Stonehenge sitting in a warehouse in company town Santa Mira (a nice reference to ’50s paranoid sci-fi tale INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS)? What demonic fusion of modern electronics and ancient Druidic rites will enable Cochran to resurrect the “true meaning” of Halloween and have a last laugh on the giggling trick-or-treating children of this great land of ours? Ooh, that Cochran! He’s one nasty warlock!

THE PROGNOSIS

Wait a minute! Where’s Dr. Loomis? Where’s Laurie? No MICHAEL MYERS?! What the f***!

This movie has suffered much over the years. I admit that Michael Myers fan that I am, I too used to savage this film for committing the heinous crime of bearing the HALLOWEEN title and numbering but leaving out the horror icon himself. But with age comes maturity; I can now evaluate this for what it is – a self-contained Halloween-themed tale that attempted to take the series into anthology territory. It didn’t succeed, but it was an admirable effort. It’s also a damned nifty little chiller with a creepy Carpenter electronic score and a superb hammy turn by O’Herlihy. At times, Cochran is so giddy about the prospect of murdering millions of children that you just can’t help but root for the guy (well, maybe not), and that’s largely due to O’Herlihy’s delightful performance.

HALLOWEEN III is a damned nifty little chiller with a creepy Carpenter electronic score and a superb hammy turn by Dan O’Herlihy.

This installment ratchets up the gore and viciousness, with both adults and children stricken with electronically-enhanced magic and turned into exploding bags of flesh filled with bugs and snakes and all sorts of creepy crawlies. Eww! There’s also a drill to the temple, a hands-on decapitation and a few androids leaking yellow ichor, but nothing beats that early scene of Ellie’s father having his skull crushed. While we’re talking uncomfortable visuals, there’s the otherwise chaste sex scene between Nelkin and the craggy but heroic Tom Atkins, who gets to put his beefy hands all over the poor girl in a sequence that should give you more chills than any horrific Halloween trick Cochran could cook up.

As long as you’re willing to forget that this is part of a series at all, which it really isn’t, then you can enjoy SEASON OF THE WITCH on its own terms. It’s a great homage to UK horrorfests of the sort you might see on an old DOCTOR WHO (which regularly featured small towns controlled by ancient evil back in the 1970s, as did much of British fantasy television), not least because it was actually written by QUATERMASS creator Nigel Kneale. It also makes good use of Carpenter’s repertory group, musical skills, and talent for staging suspenseful sequences capped by sickening, bloody deaths.

Just imagine if Cochran had access to cable or the Internet (there’s your remake premise)!

Everything leads up to a Bondian final confrontation in Cochran’s factory, and while the warlock’s grand plan crumbles around him, Challis discovers that saving the world isn’t as easy as movie heroes make it seem. Then again, he has only three networks to call as he struggles to get the deadly Silver Shamrock commercials off the air; just imagine if Cochran had access to cable or the Internet (there’s your remake premise)!

Although Carpenter has often been quoted as listing THE THING, PRINCE OF DARKNESS, and IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS as his three “End of the World” movies, this dark fairy tale comes damn close to an apocalypse itself. Can you imagine the clean-up on November 1st? Ugh. Now let’s all sing along: “One more day to Halloween, Halloween, Halloween! One more day to Halloween, Silver Shamrock!” Watch the magic pumpkin…watch…

RATING

08brains

HELP US BY ORDERING THE MOVIE VIA THIS LINK!

ALL THE OTHER FILMS IN THE SERIES:
HALLOWEEN

HALLOWEEN II

HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS

HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS

HALLOWEEN 6: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS

HALLOWEEN H20: TWENTY YEARS LATER

HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION

Halloween II (1981)

0review-halloween2b

THE PATIENTS

Director: Rick Rosenthal (and John Carpenter)
Writers: John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Lance Guest, Pamela Susan Shoop, Charles Cyphers, Hunter von Leer, Nancy Stephens, Gloria Gifford, Leo Rossi, Ford Rainey, Dick Warlock

THE PATHOLOGY

The Night He Came Home continues as Dr. Loomis pursues the supernatural Shape to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, where a final showdown ends Michael Myers’ reign of terror at great cost…

THE PROGNOSIS

I saw Michael Myers, AKA the Shape, descending a staircase in a television trailer for this movie when I was about ten or eleven years old. It was an extreme upward angle with Michael’s Shatner mask in half-shadow, hair sticking out in every direction. The demonic image enthralled me; I had to see this movie! So it was HALLOWEEN II, not the first film, which introduced me to Haddonfield’s unstoppable killer and his tireless pursuer, Dr. Sam Loomis. I found the movie at the first video store we ever visited, back when video rental was presented with all the trappings of an elite club. There was that striking pumpkin skull on the shelf of new releases at Barry’s Video Station, and that night he was definitely coming home.

What may be my favorite moment in the series arrives as Loomis fires his warning shot and takes control of the night.

HALLOWEEN II is a mostly satisfying follow-up to a movie that had already achieved near-legendary status by 1981. The first good move was the opening; with a great dialogue sting launching into the best title sequence in the HALLOWEEN series (not to mention a wonderful use of the song “Mr. Sandman”), HALLOWEEN II follows Michael’s rampage through the rest of that 1978 Halloween night. While Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie spends most of the running time asleep, drugged, or otherwise incoherent – and wearing a horrific wig that doesn’t begin to match her ‘78 hairstyle and color – Donald Pleasence more than picks up the slack (“I shot him six times!”). The kills are also more graphic this time around in order to compete with HALLOWEEN’s many slasher competitors since 1978. An enticing scene set in a local school, suggesting that Michael has some unknown connection to and certainly awareness of ancient Celtic rites, is given no further attention (in this movie anyway) but sets up a chilling monologue by Pleasence on the unwavering primitivism of human nature (Loomis does mispronounce Samhain though; come on, Doc!). And then what may be my favorite moment in the series arrives as Loomis fires his warning shot and takes control of the night.

Despite the nostalgic fun and truly explosive finale that not only showcases Loomis as one of the coolest horror heroes of all time but also reveals Laurie’s inexplicable sharpshooting skills, there’s a lot wrong with HALLOWEEN II. It’s surprisingly boring in long stretches, with most of it taking place in the most underpopulated hospital on the planet. The movie also has a disjointed sensibility indicative of post-production scrambling to save the film from total incoherence. If you watch the television edit (and you should), you’ll be treated to extra bits that should surprise anyone that has only seen the theatrical cut. In fact, the ‘new’ last scene in the film is a shocking revelation about the survival of another key cast member that illuminates post-HALLOWEEN II Myers family continuity. Best to just turn on the TV version for the ending, though, as the rest of it shifts entire scenes back and forth until the whole mess of celluloid is tangled up in itself. Count yourself lucky if you can figure out why any one scene follows another in the TV cut; it’s truly impressive in its sheer unwillingness to embrace the linearity of time.

The TV cut is truly impressive in its sheer unwillingness to embrace the linearity of time.

But I come to praise HALLOWEEN II, not to burn it. I still have a lot of affection for this first HALLOWEEN sequel. It continued the saga with a seamless transition from the first movie to the second, and it added a crucial bit of history between Laurie and Michael that may have been gratuitous but ultimately enabled future films to extend the story in intriguing directions. This is no GODFATHER PART II or BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, but it is a good rematch between the Shape, Laurie, and Dr. Loomis, and the last we would see of all three of them for years to come.

RATING

08brains

HELP US BY ORDERING THE MOVIE VIA THIS LINK!

ALL THE OTHER FILMS IN THE SERIES:
HALLOWEEN

HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH

HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS

HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS

HALLOWEEN 6: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS

HALLOWEEN H20: TWENTY YEARS LATER

HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION

Halloween (1978)

0review-halloween1b

THE PATIENTS

Director: John Carpenter
Writers: John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Charles Cyphers, P.J. Soles, Nancy Loomis, John Michael Graham, Kyle Richards, Brian Andrews, Nick Castle

THE PATHOLOGY

There’s this fellow named Michael Myers with the blackest eyes…the Devil’s eyes…oh, come on, you know this story surely? OK, moving on then…

THE PROGNOSIS

It’s always difficult to go back to the beginning of a long-running franchise and evaluate the original film with any degree of objectivity. We’re often led to interpret it through the lens of everything that followed, and that makes writing an honest appraisal of a movie like HALLOWEEN so difficult. The fact that it’s universally and rightly hailed as a modern horror masterpiece and a watershed moment in independent cinema does nothing to ease the pressure.

Perhaps the most important thing to note in watching HALLOWEEN all these years later is just how little the movie provides in the way of an explanation for the sheer terror we’re witnessing. At this point we don’t know Michael is Laurie’s brother; we certainly have no inkling of the insane Thorn cult connection that would be grafted on a decade later; in fact, until the final moments of the film, there’s no real evidence to suggest that the Shape is at all supernatural, inhuman, or immortal. He’s just a cold, methodical killer driven by an unknown psychological impulse to murder babysitters and anyone else who gets in his way. Why did he crack that night in 1963? Why did he kill his sister? Why did he wait fifteen years and then escape to cause more mayhem? There is no explanation, no reason – and that is why we still find HALLOWEEN so scary nearly forty years after its release.

There is no explanation, no reason – and that is why we still find HALLOWEEN so scary nearly forty years after its release.

Most readers probably know the various bits of the legend, from the launching of Jamie Lee Curtis’ career as a Scream Queen, to the brilliant choice of a pasty white William Shatner mask for the killer’s emotionless face, to the inclusion of famed character actor Donald Pleasence as the somber voice of doom and relentless pursuer of his one-time patient. Haddonfield comes alive in this movie as well; its leaf-lined streets and party-minded high schoolers feel real, genuine, not at all ‘Hollywood’ choices in casting or performance. And when the murders begin – for the most part bloodlessly and with more suspense than gore – they shock and sicken because of the normality of the community we’ve come to know. Haddonfield invites us by its very warmth and reality to come home with Michael and watch this nightmarish reign of terror descend on that familiar middle-American town again and again.

There’s also no denying the incredible power behind John Carpenter’s unmatched musical score. Most fans know the story about the advance screenings that omitted the music and fell flat with audiences before the score was completed, turning a run-of-the-mill indie suspense film into a box office juggernaut as unstoppable as Michael Myers himself. The title theme and related leitmotifs are burned into the brains of generations of horror fans, and are as elemental in their effect on our psyche as Bernard Herrmann’s legendary PSYCHO score.

For fans, it’s worth seeking out the television edit of the film at least once to see the extra footage shot during the production of HALLOWEEN II for TV airings of the original. While they slow down the pace a little, they add a few very exciting bits for Loomis and Myers continuity fans – just fast-forward through the useless “P.J. Soles borrows clothes from Laurie” scene.

Its power is in a direct attack on our senses; in this way the Shape calmly stepped forward and advanced on us with unwavering determination.

Michael Myers quickly took his place in the pantheon of undying slasher stars, but we all know that his subsequent appearances never lived up to the power and promise of this first great film. As soon as the story moved forward, we demanded to know why he killed and what he truly was. And just like comedy, true horror can never be explained. Its power is in a direct attack on our senses; in this way the Shape calmly stepped forward and advanced on us with unwavering determination. Michael Myers is the embodiment of pure evil, and evil knows no reason…nor does it need one.

RATING

09brains

HELP US BY ORDERING THE MOVIE VIA THIS LINK!

ALL THE OTHER FILMS IN THE SERIES:
HALLOWEEN II

HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH

HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS

HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS

HALLOWEEN 6: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS

HALLOWEEN H20: TWENTY YEARS LATER

HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION