61 Days of Halloween- Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers

Paul Rudd in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (Universal)

OK, so what is the deal with part 6 in a super-long horror franchise? Previously, I was surprised by how out of the blue good Friday the 13th: Part 6 managed to be. Well, here it strikes again.

The first thing that needs to be established is that part of what makes this work is the fact that rather than revealing a previously unknown branch of the Myers or Strode family tree here we go back. This film involves Tommy Doyle many years later. Tommy had long ago been discarded from the series and had come to be a non-entity. To bring him back as a character who has become obsessed with studying Michael Myers and what makes him tick is so ingenious you wonder that it didn’t happen before.

After all it was Tommy’s prodding who introduced the concept of the boogeyman into the films in the first place. Another good thing is that it does finally resolve the Jamie Lloyd storyline, which is commendable because they could’ve thrown that away. Granted it was a little quick and brazen considering how huge an obstacle she was but it at least it was dealt with.

Part of what makes this film interesting is that it goes beyond the fact that Michael is just looking for a blood relation and examines the question why Halloween? It searches for and finds answers previously intimated in Part II with the allusion to the ritual of Samhain.

Not only that but it makes bigger societal commentaries with a shock jock character and also with the misguided and scarily cabalistic worship that Michael has inspired in some.

Right off the bat the first two kills in this film are gruesomely fantastic and likely to garner an audible reaction and it sets the tone for the rest of the film.  

It follows thru on so many things in the past that were left dangling and executes its own plot so well it’s hard not to like this installment in the series. Part of how the shock jock fits into the film is that he is bringing Halloween back to Haddonfield after it has been banned. It also through some tongue-in-cheek humor lampoons where the series could but does not go and makes it very entertaining.

While this is the first film in a while to try and expound on the psychology of Michael Myers it does carry through another valuable constant and that is Dr. Loomis. His being retired at this point and being drawn back in while a standard tactic when combined with these factors works to great effect.

It was also a fitting swansong for Donald Pleasence in the series that the film was dedicated to his memory and the last hint of him we have is through voice over and not a visual. Granted this is a decision likely forced upon the production it ended up being fortuitous and as classy a farewell as one could expect from a slasher franchise.

While this film takes the story more into the outside world than any other had it doesn’t feel in any way disingenuous but rather a natural evolution of the story. Nothing is rehashed and it is probably the most startlingly original installment to the series barring the progenitor.

This one is definitely worth viewing and giving a chance. Do not judge it by where it falls chronologically.

8/10

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61 Days of Halloween- Halloween II (1981)

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Halloween II (1981)

Halloween II (Univeral Pictures)

What is interesting to note about the second Halloween film is that much like the Friday the 13th series it rewinds and replays the end of the previous film. This film does so to great affect because it doesn’t go back too far or splice it up it only backtracks the necessary amount to be able to continue the story in exact chronological order. So in the world of this film it is still October 31, 1978 and the film does a tremendous job in creating a very believable continuity in all aspects.

Much like the first film, and many horror films, there is an homage on a TV and you see clips from Night of the Living Dead.

Part of what makes this film interesting is that it starts with the media not yet having released that it is Michael Myers. So his legend is not yet re-popularized, which does mean you need to make a leap of faith when you see that someone is walking about dressed like him. The first seems to indicate the jumpsuit is acquired from a trucker. This potential hole aside the scene is still tremendously effective because later you do see the medical examination of the charred corpse and also because it ends up being Bennett Tramer, Lori’s crush who is merely mentioned in the first film.

This is also the first real taste you get of the vilification of Dr. Loomis. The police show a lot of, if not infallible, patience in the first film. Here Myers affects them personally and they lash out at Loomis.

The flow of news that’s being disseminated is very well handled from news stand ups to snippets overheard from a boom box. It reflects the widening of Myers’s scope. While this widening is well handled it’s part of what makes this film not quite the first. While it is very chilling throughout there was a certain sense of claustrophobia that was created by focusing on two babysitting assignments on either side of a street in the first film that is better and absent here.

The cinematography in this film is perhaps even better than the first. An advantage of the changed scope is that Dean Cundey is given a wider variety of canvases upon which to paint.

What propels the series in this edition is the twist it provides. It provides Michael both in the original and in this installment with motivation that goes beyond just simple revenge. It is also different as it provides a twist to the nature or identity of the victim as opposed to the villain.

There is more, however, which makes this a truly special film not only in horror but in the realm of sequels. This film also has an iconic moment, more a concept really, and that is finding the word “samhain” written in blood on an elementary school chalkboard.

What is perhaps best about the character of Lori Strode is that she always seems to very genuinely connect with the audience, which is not merely a function of her being played by Jamie Lee Curtis. It is also due in part to the fact that she very often reflects the audience’s thoughts: “He is the Boogeyman,” or in this film “Why won’t he die?” and because it’s Jamie Lee Curtis it sounds like a genuine question and not a punchline from an Austin Powers film.

Lori is also able to distract Michael long enough to get him offguard by showing she knows who he is. In what could’ve been a move that took it over the top Michael is shot in the head and blood runs out of his mask’s eye holes and represent the tears he cannot shed. It does work, however, because his action belies that seeming representation of emotion. However, he was stopped when he saw he was recognized.

This film also makes Loomis, despite all the failings he’s had whether they were his fault or not, its hero as he manages to stop Michael (or so it seems) even in the final confrontation there is a great image and moment to be had.

While it doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor it does do right by the story, concept and its characters.

8/10