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The Horrors of Haddonfield: A Complete Halloween Retrospective

Few films garner a strong enough impact to merit a “clasc” label. Even fewer obtain followings large enough to warrant the making of seemingly infinite sequels. John Carpenter is one of the very few in this buness who can lay claim to both accomplishments. Though HALLOWEEN began as a small independent feature, it’s now grown into an undeniably successful franchise, and with the pending release of HALLOWEEN III, it doesn’t appear HALLOWEEN’s momentum is anywhere near slowing.THE BEGINNING 1978

In 1978 John Carpenter and Debra Hill poured the artistic cement that would act as a foundation for what would ultimately become labeled horrors slasher sub-genre (there were a few excellent slasher films preceding Carpenter‘s work, but all failed to grab the attention that HALLOWEEN captured), a now pivotal piece of the cinematic related horror puzzle. HALLOWEEN, was a low budget (the entire production cost around $300,000) independent shocker meant to bring the boogeyman to the foreground, and terrify the inhabitants of plush suburban neighborhoods who had previously lived under the pretense of comfort and security. It worked well; Carpenter’s masked monster Michael Myers sent shockwaves through viewers, filmmakers and critics alike, spawning multiple sequels, and an overnight interest in slashers. Box-office numbers also illuminated the film’s success as it grossed over $47 million dollars worldwide, rendering it one of the most profitable independent pictures ever made.


1981 saw the release of HALLOWEEN II, which both Carpenter and Hill returned to pen, while Rick Rosenthal stepped in to direct. Picking up exactly where the first film left off, HALLOWEEN II epitomizes what a sequel should be; a coheve, directly related follow up to its predecessor - an extenon of the original story, if you will. Rosenthal, though still quite green at the time captured many of the same elements that helped make Carpenter’s original so terrifying. The locale is (for the most part) the same, the atmosphere is the same, the (surviving) characters are the same, and while Myers’ history is never explored in depth, the storyline feels like a genuine attachment of the original. Still one of my favorite sequels of all time, HALLOWEEN II is a piece of art to be respected, and a must have for any horror collector.


When the idea of releang a third HALLOWEEN installment surfaced, John Carpenter expressed clear interest in the project. He also had a few new ideas to toss around in the hopes of distancing the franchise from the expected staple Michael Myers. Rather, Carpenter‘s initial idea was to take HALLOWEEN in a completely different direction, incorporating unique stories into each future franchise entry, rather than the Psycho-Stalks-Teen approach which had catapulted the original, (and sub-genre in itself) into a completely different league. Unfortunately for John Carpenter (who acted as producer on this film), his plan backfired as HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH was greeted by the lowest box-office earnings of the (then) three HALLOWEEN films released, and picked up a slew of negative criticism along the way - earning a quick Flop stigma among critics and casual fans. Funny, years later the film has now become a cult clasc with a following that’s damn near inconceivable. For my money, it’s still one of the finest of the franchise.


After the financial failure of SEASON OF THE WITCH, decions were made to reintroduce the recognizable shape, Michael Myers into the storyline. Financially it was a reasonable move as HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS did outperform it’s direct predecessor, (even if only by four million dollars according to box-office statistics), and over time it‘s become one of the franchises preferred sequels. Interestingly enough, HALLOWEEN 4 is in a sense, really a remake of sorts. There are of course differences, but many of the elements intact in the original are put on display here (though receiving far less embrace and creating a far inferior impact), and I believe it made for a more enjoyable film. Despite the more modern surroundings and overall mannerisms, there’s still a true sense of nostalgia within this fourth HALLOWEEN entry.


Just one year later writers Michael Jacobs, Dominique Othenin-Girard and Shem Bitterman crafted a tale relative to Halloween 2 in the sense that it’s approached as a direct sequel to its immediate predecessor, Halloween 4. Unfortunately a rushed job (all around) lead to an assortment of technical mishaps, mediocre theatrical embrace and a dose of plot holes that (ironically enough) practically demanded another sequel - just to clarify some of the anine mysteries introduced within the picture. Around that time HALLOWEEN’s longtime producer Moustapha Akkad had increangly expressed interest in releang a HALLOWEEN feature each year around October. After the botched final result that is known as HALLOWEEN 5, Akkad wisely decided it may be more intelligent to take a cautious approach, and at least give future HALLOWEEN projects the chance to work themselves out.


x years after the murky HALLOWEEN 5, writer Daniel Farrands gned on to pen the xth chapter of the HALLOWEEN franchise, which was directed by the (then inexperienced) Joe Chappelle (note that Chappelle has gone on to direct a few quality genre offerings including HELLRAISER: BLOODLINE and PHANTOMS). Farrands did an impresve job adding new elements to the story while clarifying random enigmas left to ponder in the wake of the previous film. It’s not a seamless script, but given the boots asked to fill, respect is due. Though HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS opened theatrically to less than $9 million dollars - a strong debut from (now super star) Paul Rudd, and admirable attention to detail helped to eventually win fans over. The alternate veron of the film which began surfacing shortly after the films video release also sparked a noticeable increase in interest. Sadly, Donald Pleasance would not live to see the eventual following and added interest the picture earned, as he died while shooting the film of complications stemming from heart surgery.


In 1998 Director Steve Miner (see FRIDAY THE 13TH 2, HOUSE, WARLOCK and many more) managed to get the train back on its tracks with HALLOWEEN: H20, the seventh film in the series. An impresve screenplay penned by Robert Zappia and Matt Greenberg allowed for the return of Jamie Lee Curtis’ role of Laurie Strode (who legally changed her name to Keri Tate in an attempt to avoid her nasty older brother). However, the mandatory cast of trendy youngsters perpetuates the inevitable wrath of Michael Myers, who’s returned to put an end to Laurie Strode’s existence once and for all. For the franchise in general, H20’s release was a brilliant, and very tactical decion. HALLOWEEN: H20 is the second highest grosng film of the franchise, and some conder the film to be one of the three best sequels akin to the HALLOWEEN legacy.


Well, maybe Laurie Strode will, finally. Unfortunately Laurie’s death within the opening reel of HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION seems as though it should be the final culmination of Michael’s lifelong goal. Such is not the case; writers Larry Brand, Sean Hood and director Rick Rosenthal (who also directed HALLOWEEN II, as previously noted) guide viewers through an annoyingly myopic trek of blood and guts. Blood and guts of victims who bare no relation to Myers, might I add… which kind of blows a lot of Myers’ (believed) focal intentions out the window… right? Well, anyhow we’ve got the trendy cast on full display here, and a super human Busta Rhymes to solidify just how abstruse this script truly is. I’d like to be able to say this RESURRECTION installment somehow fits previous storylines in some way, but this film isn’t about creating any form of tangible tale, it’s mply a platform degned to close the chapter of Michael Versus Laurie. Sadly, that’s really all the film is good for, and even more sadly - this is the last HALLOWEEN film Moustapha Akkad would produce, as he was tragically killed in a suicide bombing in 2005.


2007’s reinterpretation of John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN was both written and directed by relative newcomer Rob Zombie. While all the excesve vulgarities we’ve already come to expect from Zombie are exhibited here on prominent display, there are a lot of great elements this picture has to offer. Zombie himself stated he wanted to shed light on Michael’s past, and a history that was never fully explored in any previous installments. Herein lies the success, as viewers are treated to a comprehenve look at the early years of a mysterious mad man. While the remainder of the film boasts no groundbreaking material, the gnificance of Zombie’s accomplishments cannot go unrecognized. Neither should the fact that Rob’s take on the masked menace is the highest grosng Halloween picture to date, pulling in over $58 million dollars at the box office.


When I say the vions continue, I mean it in quite the literal sense, as Zombie’s H2 was cluttered with awkward dream sequences that played filler far better than substance. Here the train jumps the tracks, as the mysterious Myers has been suddenly transformed into a grunting, wandering nomad, searching for Laurie Strode, as one would expect. For reasons unbeknownst to me, Zombie opted to alter nearly every personality on display, and fans didn’t exactly take kindly to the maneuver. Zombie’s second celebration of Halloween night pulled down a mediocre $33 million dollars domestically. The poor reception promptly led to Zombie’s franchise departure.


A third installment in the rejuvenated franchise has been tapped for 2012. Very few hard facts have surfaced at this point, though there’s been discuson of approaching the film as a found footage feature, shooting in 3D, and even completely abandoning the new genes Rob Zombie cemented. Where we end up remains to be seen, though one certainty exists: Franchise fans will still clamor for another glimpse of the terrifying shape come next year.
Matt_Molgaard Wednesday 10/05/2011 at 01:24 AM | 83822
Great article and very interesting read.
Pinhead Wednesday 10/05/2011 at 08:18 PM | 83854
Great article... Halloween (1978) is still my favorite horror film of all time.
skykey0506 Wednesday 10/05/2011 at 09:27 PM | 83861
glad you guys are diggin it!
Matt_Molgaard Wednesday 10/05/2011 at 09:31 PM | 83862
This is awesome! Totally worth my time. :)
horror3747 Friday 10/07/2011 at 05:30 PM | 83973
This is awesome! Totally worth my time. :)

glad ya dug it

got completely lost in the fold.
Matt_Molgaard Monday 10/31/2011 at 09:33 PM | 86212
This is something that's always been on my mind but I've kind of just "gone with it" because to think about it for too long is kind of lly... Anyhow, does The Shape know his mask is a William Shatner mask? I mean, did he specifically choose it BECAUSE it was Bill Shatner? Or it was just white and creepy and just within reach. I mean obviously he prefers it because it's the only one he wears. Like Jason's mask... It's a hockey mask, hides his face... Here's a question: Who the fuck plays hockey at CAMP? lol
Jonny Sicko Tuesday 11/01/2011 at 02:28 AM | 86235