Halloween is one of the most well known and most influential horror films of all time and was one of the big films that really started to push the ‘slasher’ sub-genre as a truly marketable thing. There had been films before it which really created the sub-genre but Halloween for me and for many others is the one that you can see has had a major impact on the modern horror genre.
Being so so popular and successful, it was obvious sequels would come, but I don’t think anyone could have imagined it would still be going pretty strong fourty-two years later with a franchise that much like Michael Myers just doesn’t seem to want to die. The Halloween franchise is one of the most interesting horror franchises in my view as it’s so convoluted with numerous timelines, remakes and reboots. Films over-right endings to the previous ones, they write-out major plot points and some completely change the whole mythos of the franchise, it’s crazy. Let’s take a look at all of the films and how they hold up in my view.
BEWARE THERE MAY BE SPOILERS!
We begin with the one that started it all. John Carpenter’s seminal masterpiece Halloween. The film follows Laurie Strode played by Jamie lee Curtis who is part of a group of teenagers stalked by the masked killer Michael Myers who has escaped from a mental hospital. It’s a super simple set up, but one that works perfectly due to the masterfully crafted direction and score. Looking at it now, by today’s horror standards it is pretty tame in terms of violence and Michael isn’t actually in it that much. This is one of the things that makes it work so perfectly. You always feel he may be near, lurking somewhere in the background. Michael is portrayed as an unstoppable force but is still very much human. This is something that is sadly lost in the later films of the franchise.
The film is masterfully shot and has such a chilling sense of dread surrounding every scene. The soundtrack is also stunning with every beat evoking further terror and evil. Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis are great as the two main protagonists. They are really the only notable performances within the film but the rest of the cast get the job done. Although nowadays the film is pretty straightforward and is headed in a pretty straightforward direction it does end on a clever and brilliant note which leaves way for a sequel. You also have to remember that a lot of what is obvious in the horrors of today came out of this film.
Halloween II (1981)
Halloween never needed a sequel as it is near perfect and has a perfect ending, but as with any successful film, it’s always likely.
Halloween II picks up right at the end of the first film and is set mainly in the hospital Laurie is taken to get fixed up. It really does carry on the story although it does fail to capture the horror of the original film. There is a big, big twist in the third act of the film *SPOILER* that Laurie is Michael’s sister *SPOILER*. It is the twist which would really create the whole mythos of the series and the point where the seed for a franchise was really sewn. The film plays out like a straight slasher film of the era and doesn’t really do anything bad. But it also doesn’t do anything remarkable.
The acting is fine and the script is pretty good for what it is. There are moments which feel like Carpenters original and you can see that his structure is there in his and Debra Hills’ writing. It kind of acts like an extended final act to the original film and gives it a definitive ending which ends the story (until producers decided to semi ignore certain elements). It’s definitely worth giving a go as it is a good film but it definitely loses a lot of what made the original so great.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
John Carpenter has said that originally the Halloween series was going to each feature a different stand alone story set around Halloween and which would each have different stories and themes. The original plan wasn’t to have a franchise built on Michael and Halloween III marked the first and only film in the franchise that would shy away from Michael and that would have a wacky story which somehow works.
The film focuses on a crazed toymaker who under the guise of a company called Silver Shamrock is trying to kill hundred of people using a fragment of a standing stone from Stonehenge and evil Halloween masks.
When I first watched the film I went in not knowing anything and what I got was a highly enjoyable eighties horror film that somehow works even though it has such a silly premise. If anything it feels like an evolution of the sort of films that the British film company Hammer were pumping out in the seventies.
The acting is typical of the era and genre but I just can’t really fault it. It’s a film I really want to pick apart but it’s one that I just find so enjoyable.
Although it has nothing to do with the other films in the series it does retain the Halloween III title which is really interesting. I would say anyone going in wanting a slasher film will be massively disappointed but anyone going in with an open mind and want something slightly different, I’m sure they will get a kick out of it.
*It also has one of the catchiest jingles in film history and one that will stay in your mind for many years after you hear it.
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
Halloween 4 would mark the return of Michael Myers and would also start what the internet has called the ‘Pink Panther trilogy’ of Halloween films (as they share the same naming structure as the Pink panther sequels; Return, revenge, curse). Enough time had passed since number two that changing the story to not be about Michael stalking Laurie and in fact killing her offscreen. This I feel is a great move and one that makes this film one of the best of the series.
Set ten years after his original massacre, Halloween 4 gives us a fresh take on the character while ultimately pushing the series down the more supernatural route. Donald Pleasence returns and is on fine form as a more detective-like Dr Loomis. He is still after Michael all these years later knowing that he is the embodiment of pure evil. Michael this time is after Jamie Lloyd who is his seven-year-old niece.
It’s quite a nice change and one that adds an extra level of vulnerability to the whole story. Having a child as the victim creates a new dimension of fear and fear for her safety. It might be coming from being a father of a young daughter myself but I found some of the scenes quite harrowing and found myself really involved with what was going on. For me, it is one of the scarier titles in the series and one that until the very end keeps up the tension. It also has one of my favourite endings of all of the films in the franchise. it’s one that hits with a gut punch and stays long after the films have ended.
Halloween 4 is definitely up there with the best Halloween films and one that I have happily watched numerous times. This is one that can be taken on its own but it does also work really well as a follow up to number two.
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
So how do you follow up such an amazing ending that really hit hard? You pretend it didn’t really happen and that it was a psychotic episode. This was the first time the franchise decided to completely ret-con what had come before and the first time for me that the franchise really got hurt by it. I loved the ending to the fourth film so for it to all be essentially a dream is just ridiculous.
The film again focuses on Dr Loomis trying to track down Michael as a now mute Jamie is stalked yet again. The whole film just feels like they have run out of ideas and are just dragging the franchise into the dirt. Everything about the film just leaves a sour note and is just sad. It is at this point the franchise really starts to go off the rails and starts to push supernatural goings-on. Needless to say, it becomes very silly.
It’s the only film in the franchise which I have only seen a couple of times and that is because I really can’t find any redeeming features. For me this is a film that either needed a lot more time coming up with a story or it shouldn’t have been made at all.
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
With part five being so terrible in my eyes I was always hesitant to watch part six (which many consider the worst of all Halloween films). When I finally gave it a shot I realized why most people dislike it. From the very start, you know you are getting into something very silly. We have cults, curses and all manner of things trying to explain why Michel is evil. There are two cuts of this film, the theatrical and a producers cut which for a time seemed almost like an urban legend but was revealed as genuine and eventually got a proper release. It doesn’t make the film much better.
We yet again have Michael going after his niece Jamie and this time everyone else in the Strode family. Apparently, a curse was put upon him by a cult and this is why he must kill. This time Dr Loomis is assisted by Tommy Doyle, a child that Laurie babysat in the original film. What follows is pure madness and so many ideas thrown into a barrel and mixed up.
The film isn’t good but it is so crazy that I feel it is hilariously watchable. It had numerous difficulties in the production as it did lose Donald Pleasence halfway through filming forcing rewrites, but even then the whole film feels like some weird dream. Performances throughout are just as silly as the film itself and its amazing to now see how far Paul Rudd has now come as an actor with this being one of his earliest roles.
Even though it is bad, I’d say it’s worth watching in the ‘so bad it’s fun’ sense. It destroys pretty much everything that came before and really does feel like a final nail in the coffin of the franchise. Luckily though it wasn’t.
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
Set exactly twenty years after the original and also filmed twenty years after the original, this could be argued to be the true continuation after part one. Jamie Lee Curtis reprises her role as Laurie Strode which is great and it’s great to watch her character evolve throughout the film’s runtime from hunted to hunter.
Halloween H20 completely ignores films 3-6 and follows the events of the first two films twenty years later. It’s a clever move and one that works fantastically well. It’s a move which would happen again in 2018 with the next reboot/ sequel albeit far less successfully. By doing so we get rid of all of the silly supernatural stuff and all of the cult rituals. Although I like a lot of the fourth movie I feel that this is truly the successor to the first two films.
H20 goes back to the suspense that made the first film so good (although tries too hard to appease modern-day horror fans by upping the pace). The director Steve Miner (the director of Friday 13th parts two & three) obviously loves the first film and as such has echoes of it running through his film, from Laurie hiding in a cupboard, to the reoccurring silhouette shots of Michael in the background watching. For a modern-day slasher film (well a late nineties slasher flick) there are very few on-screen deaths with most occurring off-screen.
The acting is overall very strong with a great performance from Jamie Lee Curtis. Josh Hartnett is great as her son (in his first lead role). You also have LL Cool J, Janet Leigh (Jamie Lee Curtis’s real life mother) and you even get an early performance (if very short) from the great Joseph Gordon-Levitt. All of the main characters are great with just enough likeability for you to actually care about them. I would say that as with many nineties horror films, it is very much a who’s who of pretty heartthrobs.
The only real failing of the film is the fact that we see Michael too much throughout the runtime. We know Michael is lurking the corridors of the school so we don’t need to be constantly reminded. It’s not the worst thing in the world and I understand that by this point in the franchise Michael is the true selling point, but it would’ve helped the tension to just have a bit less of him.
Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
With the success of Halloween H20, it was sadly obvious another film would come and what we got wasn’t very good. Resurrection re-writes the ending of H20 in a bad yet kind of inspiring way and one that sort of justifies Michael still being alive. We once again get Jamie Lee Curtis reprising her role but this time it’s more of a cameo and one that does the character a massive disservice after seeing how well she was written in H20.
This film has Michael stalking the cast and crew of a reality TV show who are staying in Michael’s old house. It’s silly, doesn’t really make much sense and is clearly made to cash in on the success of the previous film.
There’s really not much to say on this one other then it is quite a glossy film as many of the films in the early 2000s were. The acting isn’t great and the script is terrible but I’d say the film is probably worth watching once for those curious in watching the whole franchise (although those people would probably have seen the film already)
After the pretty bad critical reception of Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, it looked like Halloween was done. Zombie had refused to make a third film and the franchise fell into a limbo where the character of Michael Myers started to fade from view. This was until rumours began to appear that a fresh reboot would be coming that would follow on from the original film and would forget about everything that came before.
In 2018 we got Halloween which was directed by David Gordon Green (whose previous directing credits include Pineapple express and Your highness.) he seemed an odd choice to helm what was being marketed as a dark horror which would go back to the roots that John Carpenter had sewn. What we got was a weird semi pointless film in which we see a now reclusive and disgruntled Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie hiding in a cabin in the middle of nowhere planning on how she can kill her brother who is back in an asylum. He of course escapes and goes on a murderous rampage to kill Laurie’s daughter. Needless to say, we get a film filled with violence and not particularly great horror.
The film was pitched as this big event as everyone was returning for the first time since the original. But that simply isn’t the case. This film tries to do what Halloween H20 did but fails so incredibly badly it almost pushes itself into self-parody. It’s well filmed but wow is it bad. This for me is the worst of all of the Halloween films (and I’ve given it numerous views to see what I was missing) as it tries to copy another film and pretend that it never happened and fails on almost every account. This would probably be the only Halloween film other then number five which I would say is a 100% don’t watch.
Back in 2007, it was felt that Halloween needed a reboot and who better to helm it then Rob Zombie who at that point was having cult success with both House of 1000 Corpses and Devils Rejects. With both, he proved he knew horror and whereas many were making super glossy films, Zombie was focused on dark gritty realism. It was always going to split fans of the originals as they were retelling the story of Michael and Laurie which had been told almost to death. The films take on their own stand as interesting horror films which tell a familiar story in an interesting way.
Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007)
After the highly disappointing Halloween Resurrection there wasn’t really anywhere else the films could go. So to keep everything going it was decided that Rob Zombie would create a full on remake/reboot which would start right at the beginning and would focus a lot more on a young Michael Myers and show how this evil psychopath came to be.
Keeping the original characters but completely recasting them was a good move also. We do get to see Danielle Harris who played Jamie in Halloween 4 and 5 as a completely different kind of character and one that works well. Malcolm McDowell is perfect as Dr Loomis and the perfect person to stand side by side with Pleasence’s performance. The tone of the entire film is pretty grounded and at times does look at some pretty heavy things. It does push the stereotypical ‘killer coming from a broken household’ which is nowhere near as scary as in the original film where there was no real precursor to young Michael’s first kill.
The whole film is dark, visceral and brutal with a real focus on horror through grime and nastiness. We have no supernatural villain here we just have a large towering man who just wants to kill. It has a very different feel to any of what came before and it’s something that I found very jarring when I first saw it one release. In fact, I truly hated the film the first time I saw it. I found the whole first act laughable and what followed to be a depressing mess of a film. BUT I now genuinely like the film and have seen it many times since. I would say the directors cut is the way to go which tweaks some scenes and adds the little things I was missing that first time. It’s one of the few remakes out there that I feel actually does hold the name of the original film and holds it well. I would definitely say it’s one of a handful of must watch films from the franchise and one I am so happy I gave a second chance.
Rob Zombie’s Halloween II (2009)
Now, this film is a hilarious mess. I saw the film at the cinema and thought it terrible with no redeeming features in the slightest. I then watched it years later in its directors cut form. It was better the second time but I’m not sure if that was simply because I knew what to expect.
Much like the original series, it starts where the first one ended (well one of the many endings to the first film). Laurie is lost and crazed but is taken to help. What follows is a pretty mundane experience which is punctuated with some incredibly violent moments along with some incredibly weird silly things such as fantasy dream sequences. The performances aren’t bad, it’s just a that the film is grim and depressing without any sign of light.
The one redeeming feature is the film does have a good ending which brings a nice end to the two Zombie pictures. I would say it is easily one of the worst Halloween films out there but it does at least match the style of the first film while acting as an extended final act. I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch the film on regular occasions as I do with some of the Halloween films, but it was on television I’d probably watch it again.
There are really six timelines which have come out of the sequels, all of which go in different directions. There is also the third entry in the franchise which is entirely stand alone and not in any of the timelines. The main four are below:
- Halloween, Halloween II, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
- Halloween, Halloween II, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
- Halloween, Halloween II, Halloween H20
- Halloween, Halloween II, Halloween H20, Halloween: Resurrection
- Halloween, Halloween (2018), Halloween Kills, Halloween Ends
- Halloween (Rob Zombie), Halloween 2 (Rob Zombie)
It’s almost like a choose your own adventure story where you can pick which timeline you prefer and just go with it. It’s really interesting but also massively frustrating as each film has its own merits and their own flaws. For me, the strongest of all of the timelines is the third which really works really nicely as a trilogy that comes full circle on itself.
I will also say that I have grown a soft spot for the Rob Zombie films as they did try to flesh out Michael slightly more and I like that Zombie didn’t just try to do a reboot. He made the films how he envisioned them and he does give them a real visceral feel. Although the second isn’t great, I’d say the first is up there with my most-watched of the Halloween films (which is interesting as I truly hated it at the cinema when it came out).
We know there will be at least 2 more Halloween films following on from 2018’s reboot/sequel (Halloween Kills in 2021 and Halloween Ends in 2022). It’ll be interesting to see where they go. Although I will go and see them as I am a big fan of the franchise, I can’t say that I am amazingly looking forward to them. For me personally, the proper Halloween story ended with H20 which did exactly what it needed to. It brought the franchise all the way back around and ended in such a great way which echoed Michael’s beginnings.
So those have been my thoughts on all of the Halloween films to present. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.