Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Best and Worst of the Halloween Series

"Now people say to me, 'How could you make such a violent film?' Then I ask them to tell me where they actually saw any violence in [HALLOWEEN]. But the film itself is such an intense experience that people feel that they've been violated."--John Carpenter interview, Fangoria #8, October 1980

Of all the major horror franchises (particularly The Big Four of the 80s), the HALLOWEEN series has consistently wandered off into the most embarrassing of places. Fans of the movies naturally want to see more of them, but there comes a time where credibility is massacred like a cabin full of half-naked teenagers cornered by Jason Voorhees.

That's not to say the dryness, the absurdness of succeeding entries in the other franchises haven't yielded preposterous results, though. For example, the TCM series introduced some bizarre Illuminati-like organization controlling the Sawyer clan. 

Meanwhile, over at Camp Crystal Lake, Jason Voorhees became the most worldly serial slasher without sacrificing his humble beginnings. Over the course of 11 films he battled a telekinetic teen; took a cruise to New York; went to Hell; battled Freddy Krueger, and finally, into outer space!

To give credit where it's due, Pinhead and his inter-dimensional clutch of sadomasochists were the first man-iacs into space.

As for the aforementioned Elm Street, Freddy Krueger stayed mostly the same. Other than a 3D gimmick and one entry depicting the film world and reality overlapping one another, the only thing differentiating one sequel from the next was what sort of elaborate, stand-up comedy routines the filmmakers would come up with for the nightmare sequences.

The HALLOWEEN series took things much farther, piling on one nonsensical contrivance after the other. For 40 years, this particular series sprung a few leaks; and after making things worse, a quick fix was required... more than once. An attempt to dump its signature slasher failed early on; and multiple endeavors that strayed far away from the simplicity of what made the first two movies work created messy storyline's that left no alternative but to start the series over again. Then there's the iconic mask. For most of the sequels, the genius of the Myers mask would change--seemingly from others wishing to put their own stamp on it. Overall, the HALLOWEEN series' disastrous changes were the most noticeable compared to the other franchise movie killers.

Below is a listing of qualities that catapulted the HALLOWEEN series into our pop culture lexicon; and the more retarded instances that begged the question, "What were they thinking?" This is all strictly opinionated, of course; and includes thoughts from my first time seeing some of the early films as a kid.


"There was no inspiration involved at all. [John Carpenter] pretty much puppeteered me through the whole film. John suggested that I add that little cock of my head so that it would look as if Michael was an artist admiring his work."--Nick Castle on playing Michael Myers in HALLOWEEN (1978). Fangoria #88, November 1989

1. HALLOWEEN, nor its heavy-breathing killer, would be the same without that expressionless, soulless mask. After a few different masks failed to properly encapsulate the creep factor, one of William Shatner as Captain Kirk did--once it was spray-painted white and the facial features altered. It would serve as the model for Myers masks in the sequels, rarely capturing the hair-raising capability of the original.

2. Shots of Michael Myers standing stationary is an unnerving image (possibly influenced by similar actions by the Nazi zombies in SHOCK WAVES). The same can be said for the plethora of "He's right behind you!" moments generously spread throughout the picture. It became a staple for the succeeding entries.

"We went back to the old idea of Samhain, that Halloween was the night where all the souls are let out to wreck havoc on the living, and then came up with the story about the most evil kid who ever lived."--Debra Hill, Fangoria #138, November 1994

3. Referred to as 'The Shape' in Carpenter's script since Myers is often obscured in shadow, you do get a gander at his mug during the conclusion (actor Tony Moran). The magic of film restoration and the pause button allows for an even better visual.

4. One of the greatest assets of HALLOWEEN is its music by director John Carpenter. Next to John Williams's music for JAWS (1975), Carpenter's cues are among the most recognizable ever composed. Like JAWS, Carpenter's music enhances the onscreen horror. Outside of Spielberg's movie, it's the only horror film I can watch multiple times and it still gives me the creeps. Years ago I was watching it in an apartment I was renting. On more than one occasion, I kept looking up at the stairs behind me! Listening to the JAWS theme makes me think twice about entering the ocean; the music of HALLOWEEN gives the same feeling; but in this case, it's not knowing what's around the corner in the darkness.

5. HALLOWEEN (1978) is that rare horror film without any dumb moments in it. It's as close to perfection as you can get in this genre. Some fans have made an issue over Michael driving a car, though (something he does in multiple sequels). While it's a reasonable complaint that a kid who has spent several years in a loony bin has never had the opportunity to commandeer one, the script at least acknowledges that he had to of learned it somewhere. Still, if we can buy into Michael Myers being pure evil--a quasi-supernatural force, we can buy his skills behind the wheel.

6. Doctor Loomis's dialog with Sheriff Brackett while waiting for evil incarnate inside the dilapidated Myers house is a chilling speech, and arguably one of the most memorable in horror. It's hard to imagine anybody else in that role besides Donald Pleasence. No one can roll maddening, half-crazed dialog off their tongue quite like Pleasence.

7. One of horror cinema's great shock moments comes at the end when Michael Myers, after taking six bullets from Dr. Loomis and falling two stories, gets up and walks away. Thinking the Boogeyman is finally dead, there's a sense of relief on Loomis's face that turns to one of cold, hard doom upon the realization that Evil is still out there.

Michael Myers: Nick Castle; Tommy Lee Wallace (breaking into the closet); Jim Windum (falling off the house); Tony Moran (unmasked)

Domestic box office: $47,000,000 (adjusted for inflation: $183,581,200)

HALLOWEEN 2 (1981)

"I think HALLOWEEN 2 is an abomination and a horrible movie. I was really disappointed in it."--John Carpenter in an interview from 1984.

"You have to try hard to maintain the style of the first movie. I wanted [HALLOWEEN 2] to feel like a two-parter. My philosophy was to do more of a thriller than a slasher movie."--Rick Rosenthal interview

1. Even though it's directed by Rick Rosenthal (his first movie), writer and producer John Carpenter's presence is felt from the first frame to the last. Ironically, while Carpenter's HALLOWEEN is praised for its focus on suspense and lack of bloody violence, it was Carpenter who raised the gore quotient for the sequel by shooting some additional kill scenes. Meanwhile, Rosenthal wanted to retain that spooky ambiance without the gore. Reportedly, the two filmmakers had a heated relationship during production.

2. The atmosphere of H2 is thoroughly unpleasant. From the gore, to the darkly lit hospital, to the kid who bites into a razorblade-laced apple, to the sudden death of Ben Tramer (mentioned in the first movie has being set up on a date with Laurie Strode), this sequel is nothing if not mean-spirited.

3. It's a popular opinion that making Laurie Strode Michael's sister was a bad idea; Carpenter chalked it up to a lot of sleepless nights and too much beer. It's Hitchcockian compared to the nonsense to come. The big surprise is foreshadowed, but isn't revealed till towards the end. It's a sensible scripting addition that, despite what some think, kept the series going (from one degree to another), and gave a logical explanation for why Michael Myers was after Laurie Strode in the first place without sacrificing the mystery surrounding the character. Still, the Myers arc should've ended with this movie; not necessarily because of the ludicrous extremes the series ultimately takes, but because his body is totally consumed by fire.

4. The first time I saw H2 was when my father taped it on HBO in '82 or '83. I hadn't yet seen the first movie. I remember my father telling me it wasn't as good as part 2 to him; that it was a slower paced movie. When I did finally see it a short time later, I ended up liking the sequel more than the original, too. It was my first exposure to that nerve-jangling music (by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth). Years later when I purchased the soundtrack to HALLOWEEN 2 (1981), I was listening to it coming home. It was dark and there was a thunderstorm and the rain was pouring down. I kept getting the feeling there was someone else in the car with me.

5. H2 is an example of a sequel done to near perfection--it replicates what made the original so memorable while expanding on the mythos without venturing outside the rules laid down before it. Interestingly enough, the few sequels that stuck to formula ended up making good money at the box office.

6. Director Rick Rosenthal married actress Nancy Stephens during filming. She played Nurse Marion Chambers in the first two movies, and in HALLOWEEN H20 in 1998.

7. The mask is the same one worn by Nick Castle in HALLOWEEN. Oddly enough, the few years of improper storage had misshapen The Shape--rendering the mask even more creepy than before. Dick Warlock's leisurely interpretation of Myers is one of the best. His Michael moves the slowest of all the actors that donned the mask.

8. Additional notes: In magazine pieces at the time, H2 was announced to take place inside a high-security, luxurious apartment complex; and was originally planned as a 3D production. At the beginning, Loomis repeatedly shouts, "I shot him six times!" If you count the number of gunshots, an editing mistake allows Loomis to shoot Myers seven times instead of six.

Michael Myers: Dick Warlock

Domestic box office: $25,533,818 (adjusted for inflation: $83,949,300) 


"I wouldn't mind making a whole career out of being in just horror movies."--Tom Atkins, Fangoria #22, October 1982

1. Minus Michael Myers, H3 was a huge gamble back in '82. John Carpenter and Debra Hill would only participate if there was no connection to the Myers character. Instead, they hit upon the novel idea of producing a yearly Halloween film with a different story every year. Poorly received at the time, it was six years before The Shape took form again. 

2. As kids who were able to see it at that time, there was a lunchroom conspiracy going around at my school that the guy who kills the lady with the drill was actually Michael Myers. They did miss a golden opportunity for a sight gag showing somebody wearing a Michael Myers mask, though.

3. Science fiction writer Nigel Kneale had his name removed as script author when the request for a lot of gore was made by distributor Dino De Laurentiis. The subsequent death sequences are as spectacular as they are hilariously over the top; and seem more the result of binge drinking than anything Carpenter came up with for H2. Still, the wildly creative gore quotient is big enough to fill in the plot holes.

4. Losing Michael Myers, the series' greatest asset, was a risky move. Another asset in H3 that we never see are Stacey Nelkin's breasts. She teased us in UP THE ACADEMY (1980) and no-showed yet again. I remember in my teen years watching this with a girlfriend and when Nelkin's ample cleavage was unveiled she responded with, "Ohhh, she's going to show those, isn't she?" It's the horror movie way; but H3 broke tradition in another way.

5. Vilified during its original release, an appreciation for H3 was slow in coming. Without the in-title-only association, H3 might have performed better. Over the years, its reputation has, like a fine wine, improved with age. 

6. The three masks seen in the movie became nearly as famous as the Michael Myers mask: a luminescent green witch; a day-glo orange jack-o'-lantern; and a glow-in-the-dark skull. Don Post Studios mass produced them for the films release. If you bought Fangoria at that time, you will remember the advertisements.

Domestic box office: $14,400,000 (adjusted for inflation: $44,767,300)

HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH may have been a massive disappointment to fans but, ironically, the series would veer far away from what made the first movie the sublime horror film it is once they brought Michael Myers back.


1. This much ballyhooed sequel saw not only the return of The Shape, but Dr. Loomis as well. Probably the best thing about this sequel is its atmosphere. The filmmakers capture the spirit of the holiday as good if not better than Carpenter did. There are a few good 'boo' moments, and action director Dwight H. Little pays respect to the Carpenter original while showcasing a nice visual palette. Incidentally, this was the first of three entries where the Shapester makes his escape while being transported to another facility.

2. There's some tinkering done with The Shape--molding into him a level of sophistication normally afforded Jason Voorhees. Myers is always where he couldn't possibly be; and he now has a near superhuman level of strength that is displayed at the beginning when he jams his thumb through a guy's skull.

3. The script acknowledges the Laurie Strode angle, but dispenses with it--creating new characters related to Jaime Lee Curtis's famous screamer. Myers now has a 10 year old niece with which to hunt down and do away with. In addition to Myers' freakish strength and uncanny ability to transport to any location, the ending is pretty dumb where it appears Myers's evil spirit has entered the body of his niece.

4. I saw H4 in the theater with my step-mother and some friends. This was the first HALLOWEEN movie I saw in the theater and it was packed. Anticipation was high for this movie. If you were a horror fan and kept up with all the information in Fangoria and some of the other genre publications at that time, the Return of Michael Myers was a huge deal. I liked the film more at that time than I do now. I also remember foolishly holding onto my wallet and later dropping it upon exiting the theater; and thankfully, it being found and returned to me by another theatergoer. Upon our return home, my step-mother told my dad, "I couldn't believe they didn't show [Kathleen Kinmont's] breasts. I thought for sure they would since they were so big." I remember people were laughing and sighing in disappointment when there was no big reveal. I had just turned 13 earlier that year so I can't say I wasn't let down as well!

5. Considering H3 performed poorly because of the absence of its signature slasher, H4 wasn't a huge success for a series that was bringing him back after a six year hiatus.

6. Reportedly rushed to completion from lack of time and resources, the mask (or masks) Myers wears is a major step down from the Shatner mask of the first two movies; and despite that visage being featured prominently on the poster. The original was genuinely scary; whereas here, Myers looks like a knife-wielding mime.

1988 was a bum year for horror's major franchise players. FRIDAY 7s decomposing, zombie-fied Jason, still confined to Camp Crystal Lake, dueled to the death with a CARRIE-style teen before a dumb ending put him down till the next sequel that had an even dumber ending; NIGHTMARE 4, the one where Freddy came back to life after a dog pisses fire on him, officially launched Krueger's stand-up comedy career. The HALLOWEEN series would soon put these to shame.

Michael Myers: George P. Wilbur

Domestic box office: $17,768,757 (adjusted for inflation: $39,514,900)


"I have a lot of problems with where this film is going. At the core of all these HALLOWEEN films is a very stupid story. I mean, here we have this Michael Myers character. Over the space of four films, he's been hit by more than 500 rounds of gunfire, burned, blown up and thrown down a well, and yet he's still running around. If that isn't a stupid story, I don't know what is."--Donald Pleasence interview, Fangoria #87, October 1989

1. The HALLOWEEN series continued its downward spiral. H5 is considered the worst series entry by many fans. It remains the least profitable of the franchise and contains eyebrow-raising levels of stupidity. It also has a lot of jarring ideas that you will either love or loathe. The title is redundant since Myers has been trying to get revenge (or whatever you'd call it) since the second movie.

2. European filmmaker Dominique Othenin Girard (NIGHT ANGEL) got the H5 gig through Debra Hill. In his defense, he captured a meager amount of a spooky visual climate, but never wrangles the spirit of the holiday. He does succeed in tapping into a meager amount of nastiness that hadn't been seen since Rick Rosenthal's H2 from eight years prior.

3. Outside of a harrowing chase during the finale, the best moment of H5 is the film's unsettling opening sequence. It captures a stunning amount of tension only to lose it right after.

"I'm going to miss playing Loomis. I've been this character for a long time. He's the only continuing film character I've ever played. I will most definitely be sorry to see him go."--Donald Pleasence interview, Fangoria #87, October 1989 

4. Donald Pleasence's famed Dr. Loomis character was originally slated to die in H5. Initially, Pleasence seemed pleased with the script (co-written by director Othenin-Girard), but after numerous clashes with the director, Pleasence later disliked this entry of all the ones he acted in.

5. Horror's special effects heroes, KNB EFX Group were responsible for the most radically different mask of the series--adding long hair and a bigger nose. Bearing a macabre quality, it nonetheless looks better suited for a scarecrow than Haddonfield's most famous slasher. During a sequence where Myers picks up a hot girl for a Halloween date (you have to see it to believe it), he's wearing a different mask (originally a Ronald Reagan mask but this was changed).

6. Michael Myers takes the mask off and sheds a tear at one point. This was the second time you'd get a brief glimpse of his face (seen the first time near the beginning). He also tries out for Nascar for an irritatingly lengthy amount of the film's running time. Elsewhere, somebody thought inserting cartoon sound effects for two bumbling cops was a good idea.

7. In a valiant effort to surpass the silly ending of part 4, one of the dumbest moments in horror history belongs to the ending of H5. If you thought the humiliation of witnessing Michael being arrested by the police and thrown in jail (they even leave his mask on!), only to be rescued by the mysterious man in black with silver-tipped boots (who pops up throughout the movie), was hard to top... the next sequel proudly proclaims, "Hold my beer.."

Michael Myers: Donald L. Shanks

Domestic box office: $11,642,254 (adjusted for inflation: $26,803,600)


1. The series descended further into celluloid Hell with this calamitous continuation. In an attempt to mine territory previously explored in 1981s vastly superior H2, Director Joe Chappelle and Writer Daniel Farrands go off the deep-end, turning H6 into a dark, convoluted soap opera about Druid curses. Michael Myers went from being a boogeyman killing without reason to an instrument of evil controlled by a coven of Celtic alchemists... the Curse of Thorn!

2. H6 had a strong opening (debuting at #2) but took a nosedive in its 2nd week, dropping 66%. There was little to no improvement on what H5 brought to the table. At that time, a barely-seen Producers Cut was available on the bootleg market. This version was considered preferable to the theatrical, but in either form, H6 is cursed from beginning to end.

3. Danielle Harris was originally set to reprise her role as Jamie but both parties could not come to terms on contract details.

4. Makeup effects artist John Carl Buechler forges a mask that goes back to the original conception of Michael Myers even if it's not that great of a design. Still, the Shape is noticeably more brutal here than he's been up to this point. With literally nowhere else to go (how about into space?), you'd think this would've been the death-knell of a once great series.

5. Additional notes: Moustapha Akkad intended to shoot H6 immediately after H5 but the production was delayed for five years due to a legal battle over series rights. H6 had nine different endings written for it.

6. Incidentally, John Carpenter and Debra Hill attempted to take back control of the series around this time, but lost the rights in a legal battle with Moustapha Akkad. Carpenter's idea for H6 was... "If you can't kill him, what do you do? You send him up into space, except he goes up there and ends up on a space station."--John Carpenter, Fangoria #138, November 1994

"The first [HALLOWEEN] still remains the best. I thought II also had its share of fine moments. Part 4 seemed to make some steps back to getting things on track. But 5? It was just rubbish."--Donald Pleasence during filming of H6, Fangoria #147, October 1995

7. Sadly, Donald Pleasence died before the film was released to theaters (although his presence would be felt in succeeding sequels). A double was used for scenes requiring him during the reshoots. The series had survived this long without Laurie Strode but was about to herald her return.

Michael Myers: George P. Wilbur (A. Michael Lerner in reshoots)

Domestic box office: $15,116,634 (adjusted for inflation: $31,762,300)

HALLOWEEN: H20 (1998)

"This is very much like the first HALLOWEEN. That movie was beautifully told and so is this one... I never saw 4,5, or 6 and, quite frankly, HALLOWEEN 2 stinks. It's a terrible movie. I should never have done it. The only reason I did it was out of loyalty to John and Debra. But it was definitely a mistake."--Jaime Lee Curtis, Fangoria 176, September 1998 

1. After drowning in mediocrity for a decade, this sequel gets the series back on track (even if it's only a temporary fix) by pretending H4-H6 doesn't exist. Jaime Lee Curtis felt the time was right to return to the role that made her famous and even tried to get Carpenter on board as director. According to Moustapha Akkad, Carpenter wanted too much money so Steve Miner (director of FRIDAY THE 13TH 2 and 3) took the chair. Curiously, the Return of Laurie Strode had a better reception than Myers himself enjoyed ten years earlier.

2. The best sequel since H2, the opening sequence with Nurse Marion Chambers (last seen in H1 and H2) is more impressive than the whole of H6. The build-up to the meeting between Strode and Myers is intense as is their sibling rivalry during the conclusion. The last scene where Myers, pinned between a truck and a tree, is decapitated by Strode is one of the great, modern shock moments in horror.

3. Originally, the filmmakers had intended on bringing the character of Dr. Loomis back. This was abandoned as was a cop character (to have been played by Charles Dutton) tracking Michael Myers. This leaves the film to revolve entirely around Curtis as the main protagonist, although the cop character would crop up in the 2018 reboot.

4. The success of the annoying SCREAM series was instrumental in H20 getting the prestigious treatment it did. Moreover, the SCREAMs ushered in the dull promotional style for horror movie posters that this film, and the next one, goes with. Even so, without Wes Craven's wildly popular slasher, H20 may not of been as good as it is, if it even got made at all.

5. Reportedly, the filmmakers went back to the Shatnerian visage for The Shape mask. Unfortunately, we're back in clownish territory again. The main issue is the eyes are too big. Myers loses that air of the supernatural and becomes a regular guy with a butcher knife. It's not the worst design but not the best either. In some shots it looks sufficiently eerie, but others it gives the impression Myers is possibly wearing big red shoes.

6. This was the first HALLOWEEN film I saw in the theater since RETURN in 1988. We all had a great time seeing it as seemingly everyone else in the packed theater. I remember feeling this was a great way to end the series...

"You've got to see this movie to decide if this is the end of the HALLOWEEN series or not. I don't know how they could go on with it. We tie everything up. This movie is about as final as you can get."--Director Steve Miner, Fangoria 176, September 1998

Michael Myers: Chris Durand

Domestic box office: $55,041,738 (adjusted for inflation: $107,266,800)


1. When I heard there was going to be ANOTHER sequel in this series I assumed that, taking into consideration that Michael Myers was DECAPITATED in the previous movie, the only way to do another one was to now pretend H20 never existed (a concept that became a regular occurrence with this series). It goes without saying the method of Myers' resurrection is incredibly stupid. Starting off on a clumsy foot in its explanation of The Shape's survival, the film does manage a shocking opening sequence (itself not entirely bereft of stupidity) where Myers tracks his sister Laurie Strode (now in a mental institution) for a final face-off with her--ending that storyline in the process.

2. Jaime Lee Curtis's contract stipulated if they did do another sequel, she would make a cameo appearance (despite Steve Miner's assertions, Malek Akkad stated at the time they had always intended on doing another one!). Curtis reportedly liked Larry Brand's initial script so much, she wanted her role expanded for the opening sequence.

3. There was talk of turning Bianca Kajlich's Sara character into the new Laurie Strode for multiple pictures if the series continued. This didn't happen so we were spared a potential repeat of H4-H6 foolishness.

4. The film did get creative by tapping into social media--using a "reality show" template, body-cameras, and surveillance cameras as gimmicks. It was a nice touch that added a modicum of ingenuity to what was Myers seventh slaughter-thon. 

5. RESURRECTION is possibly the most derided film in the series despite the utter scraping of barrels in H5 and H6 and the trips to the outhouse when Rob Zombie takes over. In all fairness, Busta Rhymes having a kung fu fight with Myers is one of the low points in a series that periodically reveled in them.

6. If you're a fan of Kung Fu movies, you'll recognize Chang Cheh's THE DUEL (1971) playing on the television in Busta Rhymes's hotel room.

7. One of the few high marks of RESURRECTION is the Michael Myers mask. It looked a lot like the one from the first two movies, but with more pronounced features. One of the best designs even if the film is panned by most.

8. Additional notes: Rick Rosenthal had directed 1981s H2 twenty years earlier. A Loomis-inspired character named Donaldson was part of an early draft but was later removed. Director Rosenthal replaced original director Whitney Ransick.

Michael Myers: Brad Loree

Domestic box office: $30,354,442 (adjusted for inflation: $47,752,100)


1. The worst horror movie of 2007 and one of the worst ever made. There's virtually nothing good to say about Rob Zombie's version. The first half is an origin story that could've been titled 'The Firefly Clan in Haddonfield'. It removes Myers as the nightmare of suburbia, and the quasi-supernatural qualities along with it. In its place, Zombie transforms him into long-haired trailer trash--a young sadist whom we're supposed to identify with. The remainder is a cliff's notes version of Carpenter's original--heavy on the F-bombs and infantile dialog. Malcolm McDowell portrayal of Loomis makes one pine for Donald Pleasence. It's less McDowell's fault than it is the excruciating dialog the director has given him to say.

2. Utter garbage from beginning to end, Rob Zombie's asinine take on the material unwittingly follows in Joe Chappelle's H6 footsteps--resulting in two vacuous versions--one of which ended up being "leaked" online. Reshoots were ordered; and what was released to theaters didn't improve on much.

3. Danielle Harris (child actress of H4 and H5) returned to the series, co-starring in both of Zombie's seasonal slashers as Annie, the character originally played by Nancy Loomis.

4. The filmmakers did at least deliver an impressive mask for Giant Myers (Tyler Mane is near 7 feet tall) to wear.

5. Zombie's remake was profitable compared to the previous few movies. This was likely due to people being curious as to what the singer-filmmaker would do with the material since, realistically speaking, Carpenter's seminal film was the polar opposite of what RZ had done before. By the time his version hit theaters in August of 2007, horror fans got the exact same type of movie he'd done two times earlier.

Michael Myers: Tyler Mane

Domestic box office: $58,272,029 (adjusted for inflation: $77,413,700)

HALLOWEEN 2 (2009)

1. Rob Zombie's dumb sequel to his horrific remake is as moronic as before. This time around Zombie depicts Michael Myers going into full-blown vagrant mode--barely wearing his mask. He even talks--uttering the word "Die!" at the end when confronting Malcolm McDowall's 2nd--and worst--interpretation of Dr. Loomis. The way Zombie's scripts excrete the 'F' word, I'm surprised Myers didn't say, "Fucking die!"

2. Scout Taylor-Compton went from playing Laurie Strode as a teenager faking orgasms while fingering donuts in front of her mother to playing a basket case who says the F word a lot.

3. Zombie's H2 does have something his first HALLOWEEN doesn't have and that's a memorably intense sequence. The chase in and around a hospital is one of the most ferociously grim scenes in modern horror cinema. A shame the rest of the movie never comes close to matching it.

4. Zombie's H2 has two different versions just like the mess he made in 2007. 

5. Uniformly rejected by most fans, the low returns indicated we would all be spared the completion of a Zombie trilogy with Homeless Myers, crazed hillbillies, and a deluge of F Bombs comin' at ya' in HALLOWEEN 3D.

Michael Myers: Tyler Mane

Domestic box office: $33,392,973 (adjusted for inflation: $40,872,400)


"This was as good as I've seen since we did the first movie."--John Carpenter

1. Yet another restart for this series--now pretending 1981s HALLOWEEN 2 onward never existed. Jaime Lee Curtis returns for the fifth time. John Carpenter returns for the third time in a capacity other than directing. Nick Castle, the man who played Michael Myers behind the infamous mask in the 1978 original returns as well. Craftsmanship likewise returns to HALLOWEEN. It's been 20 years since the last genuinely great sequel and this new one repeats that film's gimmick.

2. There's nods to other films in the series including numerous homages to the original; the masks of H3; and, among others, a similar bathroom sequence to the one from H20. There's even a below-the-belt jab at the plot reveal of Michael and Laurie's family ties from 1981s H2. Ultimately, the movie feels a lot like a revised version of Steve Miner's HALLOWEEN H20 from 1998.

3. Jaime Lee Curtis's interpretation of Laurie Strode is very similar to how she played the character in H20; albeit with long, frazzled hair, a vast arsenal of weapons and a booby-trapped house.

4. The Dr. Sartain character is a welcome interpretation of Dr. Loomis (even down to the actor sounding a lot like Donald Pleasence!) till a wildly erratic plot twist towards the end ruins the characterization.

5. The mask is extremely good. Since it's supposed to be the same one from 40 years earlier, it bears the sort of tattered, weathered look of the mostly forgettable Rob Zombie duds. The blackened out eyes helps in evoking a sense of supernatural evil behind the mask.

6. The way the film ends, there is definitely room for another sequel. At this point, any attempt at finality (such as H20s Myers decap) will result in some scriptwriter finding a ludicrous method of resurrection; or the series can simply wipe the slate clean and start over again.

Michael Myers: Nick Castle

Domestic box office: $132,338,410 (as of October 30th) 


Sunday, October 21, 2018

Son of Frankenstein (1939) review


Basil Rathbone (Baron Wolf von Frankenstein), Boris Karloff (The Monster), Bela Lugosi (Ygor), Lionel Atwill (Inspector Krogh), Josephine Hutchinson (Elsa von Frankenstein), Donnie Dunagan (Peter von Frankenstein)

Directed by Rowland V. Lee

The Short Version: Beautifully shot sequel in the ongoing FRANKENSTEIN series from Universal is arguably the most lavish and best acted of the series. Overflowing with a baroque style echoing the Expressionist cinema of Germany, it's as much a painting come to life as it is the third resurrection of the monster. Rathbone's Frankenstein and Lugosi's crazed crooked-necked hunchback vie for the top spot while Karloff's creature feels like an incidental character. For fans of Uni-Horror, it's a top class fright flick pairing two genre heavyweights and production values to match.

Baron Wolf Von Frankenstein, the son of Henry Frankenstein, moves his family from America to his father's castle in Europe--much to the disdain of the local villagers who haven't forgotten the nightmare wrought by Frankenstein's hellish experiments. Living below the castle in the family crypt is Ygor, the late patriarch's former assistant who miraculously survived a hanging after the court sentenced him to die. Wolf also finds his father's lumbering, murderous creation has likewise survived, but remains comatose. Desiring revenge on the eight jurors that sent him to hang, Ygor convinces the young Frankenstein to revive the monster; unaware that the demented hunchback wishes to use the Monster to kill those who've wronged him.

Traditionally, sequels are lesser affairs compared to the films that beget them. In regards to 1931s FRANKENSTEIN, this is not the case; the films get better with each succeeding entry--reaching an artistic zenith rarely seen in a 'part 3'. It would seem extremely difficult to top--much less match--Whale's BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), but director Lee achieved just that with this second, even more expensive sequel. After SON, things did begin to slouch comfortably into 'B' movie territory. 

After a successful re-release of some of their top horror titles, Universal decided to revive their Franken-franchise for a third go-round; bringing back some old faces and attaching some new ones. Universal wanted Peter Lorre in the title role, but he turned it down--reportedly because he had tired of villainous roles. However, incoming director Rowland V. Lee preferred Basil Rathbone--whom he'd worked with previously. In a surprising turn--refreshing that it is--the role of the son as played by Basil isn't the madman with the God complex as portrayed by Colin Clive in the previous two films.

Rathbone does flirt with his father's scientific obsession although he never descends into madness over it. His eventual scientific pursuits aren't for personal gain, but to bring legitimacy to his father's work. Colin Clive's Frankenstein wore his insanity like a tailored suit. His son, on the other hand, is a stubborn man seduced into picking up where his father left off; embarking on an ill-advised mission to bring some respectability to the family name; this upon discovering his father's creature is still alive--and quite immortal--if in a comatose state after an accident.

Another character in the film is also ambitious, if for a darker, insidious purpose...

Bela Lugosi's raucous, show-stealing turn as Ygor, the elder Frankenstein's broken-necked assistant, is the very definition of deranged. Ygor takes advantage of Frankenstein's naivete for his own ends. Wolf wishes to redeem his father's work while Ygor secretly wishes to use the Monster as an instrument of revenge against the eight jurors that hanged him. Once Wolf makes the Monster well again, Ygor controls him with a flute-like instrument--sending the creature out into the night to kill. The true monster of the film, Ygor is calculatingly evil. Frankenstein was misguided; Ygor is an outright murderer.

Arguably Lugosi's best performance, he would reprise the part of Ygor in the next sequel, THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN (1942). The actor would instill the same ferocity into his role even if the budget and production values can't measure up. On a related note, the character of 'Igor' is often associated with FRANKENSTEIN (1931) despite that film's unhinged hunchback bearing the name of Fritz (as played to perfection by Dwight Frye). SON is the first movie to utilize such a character bearing that name.

Boris Karloff underneath Jack Pierce's incredible makeup is synonymous with both the FRANKENSTEIN series and the character of the Monster in general. He returns for the third and last time as the mad scientist's stitched-together experiment. Sadly, he's not on-camera that much; and what footage there is, it's basically a run-through of his reactions from the previous entries with little of the pathos of the previous two films. Karloff's noted tiring of the role would mirror that of Christopher Lee's disdain for donning the Dracula cape "just one more time" in a series of Hammer sequels that gave him little to do but snarl at the camera.

Master monster maker Jack Pierce's Franken-appliance is as good as before, but it's his Ygor makeup that both repulses and horrifies. With his bent, broken neck, rotted teeth and wild eyes, you can almost smell the stench of death oozing from Lugosi's lips whenever he speaks his lines. Without the astonishing makeup of Jack Pierce, SON OF FRANKENSTEIN--and a great many other Uni-horrors--wouldn't be the influential classics they remain seventy years later. 

He wasn't as venerable as Karloff and Lugosi, but Lionel Atwill was equally adept in horror film roles having done his fair share of them in the 1930s and 1940s. Among the notable titles on his resume include DOCTOR X (1932), THE MYSTERY IN THE WAX MUSEUM (1932), MURDERS IN THE ZOO (1933), MARK OF THE VAMPIRE (1935), MAN-MADE MONSTER (1941), THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN (1942), FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943), HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1944) and HOUSE OF DRACULA (1945).

Well known for portraying villains (made even more pronounced by his deep voice), Atwill excelled in good guy roles like SON's Inspector Krogh--the one=armed policeman who lost his arm to the Monster as a young boy. The part of Krogh was among the spoofery found in Mel Brooks's classic comedy YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974).

Rowland V. Lee directed both Basil and Boris again in the same year's TOWER OF LONDON--a heavily horror tinted historical drama about Richard III. Rathbone is the hunchbacked Richard while Karloff is his bald-headed decapitator. Vincent Price is among Richard's victims--drowned in a vat of wine. Price got his turn at playing Richard of Gloucester in Corman's own B/W remake in 1962. The horror of his version was even more palpable; even if the monochrome photography was an odd fit nestled between Corman's color adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe's works.

While the famous line of "It's alive!" is uttered once more, the sound of "It's a hit!" was heard in theaters across the country. SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939) was a huge success--ensuring the celluloid lineage didn't stop with the SON. And while the level of quality would deteriorate, the entertainment value would live on in four more sequels.

Originally, SON OF FRANKENSTEIN was to have been shot in color, but the decision to film in more moody B/W won out, although some test color footage with Karloff as the monster was shot. The B/W photography is among the best of any horror film with impeccable lighting and shadows draped over virtually every sequence. The influence of German Expressionist cinema is evidenced throughout as well. Lee's film is a veritable painting come to life; a beautiful, macabre picture in motion.

A gamble that paid off (even if they didn't roll the dice again in terms of budget), Universal captured lightning in a bottle with this third Frank flick. Brilliance abounds in this, the longest of the series (approximately 100 minutes in length). One of Universal's best in their long line of Golden Age Horror Pictures. It's not only alive, but the horror lives on all these years later.

This review is representative of Universal's Frankenstein Double Feature DVD paired with THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN (1942). Specs and Extras: Full-frame presentation; Production notes; cast and crew information; running time: 01:39:20
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