With the long awaited 2nd revival of the Halloween franchise coming to theaters everywhere October 19th – and already receiving rave reviews from horror fans who were lucky enough to catch a preview – this seems like a good time for a retrospective of the movie’s 10 predecessors, even if this new one is pretending that 9 of them never happened. In fact, the 40-year journey of ol’ Michael Myers has been so strange, this marks the 4th time that at least part of his slate has been wiped clean.
10 – Halloween: Resurrection
Starting with the bottom of the barrel, Resurrection has almost no equal in the series for its awfulness. One can imagine the boardroom of coked-out movie execs trying feebly to brainstorm ways to make The Shape cool and edgy for Y2K teens. “Internet? Sure, the kids like the internet. Oh, let’s get a supermodel in there, and a rapper too. He can beat up Michael in a fistfight. How about reality TV? And let’s kill off who’s-her-face in the beginning – little something for the fans. Ok – time for lunch!” So all those ideas they vomited out were smeared into a formerly better screenplay called Halloween: The Homecoming and this steaming pile was the result. It’s best to pretend this one doesn’t exist at all.
9 – Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
When I mentioned that Resurrection almost had no equal in awfulness, this incoherent mess is nearly up to the task of being the worst. Out of ideas, there was seemingly nothing left but to make Michael Myers a supernatural entity, and since that makes no sense, neither did the movie. Something about a cult, a rune, a demon, a curse, and an incest baby – I don’t know. There exists a different cut of the film titled Halloween 666: The Origin of Michael Myers which explains these details that the theatrical version tried to dilute in its embarrassment, only to better demonstrate why this was a bad idea in the first place. This was, however, the film debut of Ant-Man Paul Rudd, for whatever that’s worth.
7 (tie) – Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers & Rob Zombie’s Halloween II
At least we’ve arrived into mediocre territory with this pair of unmemorable slap-dash sequels. Both offered little more than the same from the entry preceding it, with little flourishes wedged in for the sake of it, like psychic powers in Revenge while Zombie’s 2nd had…Weird Al Yankovic? Sure, why not. They trudged along unceremoniously, carrying the same tone as the previous film, that being a barely passable John Carpenter impersonation for Revenge and Zombie just brought the same sleaze he brings to everything. However, Revenge does have a memorable scene with Michael Myers behind the wheel barreling across a field toward his prey and Zombie’s 2nd had the superior ending between them.
6 – Halloween III: Season of the Witch
Here, we find the odd duck of the family – the divisive Myers-less film in the franchise. This was the last film (before the upcoming one) in which John Carpenter had any involvement with, and it marked a failed effort of his to re-imagine the Halloween series as an anthology – each sequel being a different sinister tale surrounding the holiday. Maybe it would’ve succeeded if not for a bugshit crazy plot that needs to be seen to be believed – a description simply will not do. Regardless, fans hated it and it bled out half of Part 2’s box office revenue as a result. Yet, without the burden of carrying the Halloween brand on its back, Season of the Witch stands as a pretty damn good 80s horror movie that is unapologetically original. A warning though to those who have not seen it – this movie contains a fictional commercial jingle so infectiously catchy, you may sing it on your deathbed in a fevered delirium, if that sort of thing might bother you.
5 – Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
We arrive to the top half of the series with this 1988 effort to reconcile for the sins of Season of the Witch. Michael snaps out of a nearly decade-long coma upon hearing that his niece is now living in Haddonfield after Laurie’s death in a car accident (who will go on to appear in 3 more movies despite dying again in the 2nd one, having a different kid in the 1st, and yet a different kid in the 3rd – there’s some continuity issues here.) With Donald Pleasance’s beloved Dr. Loomis again in pursuit, Myers manages to spread chaos all throughout the panic-stricken town in this worthy successor to the original two films. While Carpenter’s lack of involvement is noticeable, Return aims to mimic his presence the best it can, and largely pulls it off.
4. Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later
Eager to wash off the stank of Curse, producers threw together this 20th anniversary commemoration of the series by bringing Jamie Lee Curtis back to the role that made her famous – despite having killed her off 3 films earlier. In fact, they were so eager to make this happen, they were willing to pretend all 3 of those movies never existed, which is, by now, a proud franchise tradition. While it definitely qualifies as a distinctly 90s slasher in the vein of Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, it deftly pays homage to its roots, emphasizing the dread and tension in Michael’s stealthy nature, relentless homicidal drive, and nebulous undefined evil. Also, H20 boasts, bar none, the best ending of the whole series, which would have ranked it higher on this list had Resurrection not brainlessly pissed all over it.
3. Halloween II (1981)
While opting not to return behind the camera, John Carpenter co-wrote the screenplay to this first sequel, marking the last time he would have any involvement with the character of Michael Myers. By his own admission, Carpenter’s biggest influence for this effort was an old pal by the name of Budweiser, so that may explain why the movie feels somewhat lazy and derivative, with him attempting to copy the success of other films that had copied the success of the original Halloween. Despite that, it stands apart from many of the other early 80s slashers simply by retaining some of the original’s super-suspenseful pedigree. Moving the two-prong cat-and-mouse dynamic between Laurie Stroud, Michael Myers, and Dr. Loomis from a sleepy suburban street to the wider venue of a city hospital provides the story with ample set pieces to bolster Myers’ legendary villain status, and picking the action up from the moment of the original’s conclusion starts this one off with some momentum. While not quite on par with its predecessor, this outing doesn’t fall that short.
2. – Rob Zombie’s Halloween
No doubt a controversial pick for second best, this remake was blasted as absolute blasphemy when it was announced. No fan gave a tutti-fucking-fruity of a damn whether they liked The Devil’s Rejects or not, this was going to be the worst thing ever. And then it wasn’t. Zombie demonstrated that if Halloween needed anything, it was a full makeover – a complete departure of the trappings of the previous 7 Myers movies, even if it meant getting his trademark hellbilly grease all over everything. And it worked. It was smart to have this re-imagining stand far enough away from the original that a straight-up comparison is generally out of the question. A great portion of this distance is attributable to Zombie’s decision to focus on Myers as a genuine character and an exploration of what makes a man a monster. While Zombie had nothing much new to say with his sequel but hello to a fat paycheck, this is the rare horror remake that actually deserves some love (just don’t hug it – you’ll get hellbilly grease all over you.)
1. John Carpenter’s Halloween
It would be a bold move to put any of the other films at the top of this list, but that’s just not possible with any credibility. This is the movie that launched a thousand ships – shaping American horror for an entire era and launching John Carpenter’s Hollywood career where he would go on to make more films that would have lasting influences. It’s true that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Black Christmas, and the Italian giallos came first, Carpenter managed to concentrate all the dread and menace of those forerunners into a lean and mean package, and drop it in the lap of an American audience grappling with the fear and paranoia of rising violent crime and a seeming epidemic of serial killers. It went on to become the most successful independent movie and most profitable in comparison to budget of all time, and remained so for over 20 years (before being dethroned by The Blair Witch Project). It’s hard to imagine a self-proclaimed horror fan who hasn’t seen it and, while its conservative approach may seem dated to modern audiences, it remains to many the perfect cross-section of slowburn horror and the slasher genre. And now, 40 years later, the Boogeyman is still walking among us.