Countdown to Halloween: The Legacy of Michael Myers Part 10
In anticipation of the upcoming sequelboot of the Halloween franchise, in which every entry but the first are to be eliminated from canon, I decided to give one last look at the whole series before it is banished into the Soul Stone for good. As it currently stands, the Halloween series has a pretty crazy continuity, complete with alternate endings, ridiculous retcons, and an unrelated anthology entry about magic masks that fill kids’ heads with bugs. There’s a reboot and a sequel to the reboot, both of which have multiple conflicting endings of their own as well. It’s a glorious mess, so there’s really no reason to treat any future story developments as anything out of the ordinary. No, Michael Myers has never made it to outer space, nor has he dueled with another horror heavy (although Halloween vs Hellraiser did almost happen) but he’s certainly been around the block enough times to merit an investigation into just what has kept this killer alive for so long, and just why we are now throwing most of his work in the canonical trash. I will be watching the entire series in order of release, starting with John Carpenter’s seminal 1978 classic which, for my money, remains one of the finest fright films ever made. Check out the whole series here!
“Family is forever”
Director: Rob Zombie
Writer: Rob Zombie
Stars: Scout Taylor-Compton, Malcolm McDowell, Sheri Moon Zombie, Brad Dourif, Danielle Harris, Margot Kidder, Mary Birdsong
Michael Myers played by: Tyler Mane, Chase Wright Vanek
Plot: Having been orphaned by the events of Halloween night two years prior, Laurie Strode is now struggling to cope while living with Sheriff Brackett and his daughter. Meanwhile, Dr. Loomis, drunk on the celebrity status obtained from his run in with evil, returns to Haddonfield to make a buck from his notoriety. Unfortunately for he and Laurie, Michael Myers has returned to put the finishing touches on his gory family reunion.
Review: After having severely disliked Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake way back when it saw it in ‘07, I never really gave his sequel the time of day. I certainly didn’t see it in the theater, and if memory serves, I only saw it in pieces in the intervening years. I do remember noting that it was an improvement, but was not moved either way. If I’m being fully truthful, I think that revisiting this film may have actually been my first time seeing it front to back uninterrupted. This time around, I LOVED it. Holy shit, Rob Zombie not only corrected everything stylistically wrong with his previous outing, but he also managed to blend his hyper-aggro style with the artfulness of Carpenter’s original film.
It’s tough to draw a line between tasteless excess and gleefully hardcore gruesomeness, and as much as I hate to invoke the “I’ll know it when I see it” protocol, I have to do so here. This is a cruel, brutal movie, but there’s a tangible artistry that was painfully missing from Zombie’s previous rodeo. There’s very little of the jarring shaky cam which made the previous film feel so amateurish. It’s been replaced with clever scene blocking, and dips into surreality which, I’m assuming, are meant to be referential to the dream sequences Laurie experiences in the 1981 sequel. And since Michael also dips into hallucinations which he shares with Laurie later in the film, Zombie is also presumably referencing the mental bond shared by Michael and Jamie in Halloween 5. Yet with all of the references occurring throughout the film, none feel superficial or like they’re just empty tags.
Zombie has reworked existing mythology to serve the narrative of his own movie. It’s borderline brilliant. Heck, even the opening 25 minutes of stalk-and-slash at the hospital, an obvious nod to the original Halloween II, turns out to be a dream sequence. This serves to inform Laurie’s difficulty processing the intense trauma which has plagued her life while brilliantly giving us a banger of a first act. Granted, Zombie’s handling of mental health is ham-fisted to say the least, but he’s found a tone that doesn’t require tact or accuracy. He’s having fun, thus, so are we. By the time we reach the midpoint, when Captain Clegg and the Night Creatures are jamming out at the greatest Halloween party I’ve ever seen, it becomes clear that Zombie’s love for Halloween the movie is matched only by his love for Halloween the holiday. Maybe it’s his channeling of that which makes this unlikely sequel so enjoyable...
The handling of Loomis is almost entirely opposite that of any other iteration, and we’re lucky to have someone as game as McDowell in the role. After having survived the first film, he’s now embracing his status as both Michael Myers’ former psychiatrist AND his victim, using it to push book sales and develop his own fame. He’s an image-obsessed horn dog constantly at odds with his sensible publicist, Nancy (perhaps my favorite character in the film), and it’s his ego which allows him to justify the ways he exploits Myers’ victims for personal gain. It’s through his book that Laurie finds out of her familial connection to Michael Myers, as well as the lengths to which Sheriff Brackett went to hide this fact from her. What makes him so different from Pleasence’s take on the character is that here, Loomis is extremely confident that Myers is dead, often to the point of anger. Pleasence’s Loomis would NEVER assume that Myers is mortal. Never! What’s funny is that both versions of the character behave in ways so reckless as to result in multiple casualties, but for opposite reasons — McDowell due to ego, Pleasence due to fear.
In the hallucinations that Laurie and Michael share, Mama Myers refers to the need for a “river of blood” to help keep the family’s presence alive, which solves the issue I have with so many of the sequels. Namely that if Myers is on a mission to kill just his sister, why the hell is he so interested in killing randos? This new development, told through Mama Myers being both the angel AND devil on Michael’s proverbial shoulders explains it all pretty sufficiently. Young Michael also tags along in a mostly silent performance which adds to the imagery (that clown costume is the tag the keeps on giving throughout all Halloween timelines). Fun fact: Daeg Faerch shot most of his scenes for this movie, but had aged so noticeably that production ultimately re-shot everything with a new actor. While I don’t see why the young Michael character couldn’t be teenaged, I’m glad that the replacement occurred. I really do not care for Faerch’s energy. I don’t know why.
The violence in this movie is stark and deeply upsetting, but unlike the previous film, it’s not employed as an endurance test for the viewer. The gleeful slasher vibe that the earlier Halloween sequels tried to embrace without departing from Carpenter’s less explicit style has finally been captured here. This is unmistakably a Halloween movie — perhaps the best Myers-based entry since the original — but it also fulfills the promise put forth by Zombie’s previous work in the genre. In fact, Zombie brought so much of his own flavor, and created such a successful marriage of source material and modernity, that he managed to make something that should be impossible not just possible, but awesome: he took Myers out of his mask and even gave his adult form the ability to speak. Throughout the bulk of the film The Shape’s stabs are accompanied by growls and grunts, and when he finally comes face to bearded, maskless face with Loomis, he yells “DIE!” And you know what? It works. It’s earned. It’s awesome.
Both Weird Al and Octavia Spencer are in this, the latter playing a character named Octavia. Al survives. Fun fun fun.
Best Kill: My favorite kill actually happens mostly off screen. Young Annie Brackett is home alone under the guard of a red-shirt sheriffs deputy. No one knows that Myers is alive and local, so she’s mostly just miffed that her dad has sent protection to shake up her relaxing night at home. Alas, Michael Myers does indeed appear. He executes the cop and breaks into the Brackett home. He begins terrorizing Annie. As he chases her, the film moves into choppy slo-mo. Annie flees in soundless terror. Soon, the film cuts into abstract visuals as we listen to the sounds of a knife puncturing flesh as Annie begs and moans and screams. We find out in the next scene that she isn’t dead, but close to it. She then dies in Laurie’s arms just a few minutes later. Soon after, her father finds her body, and as he mourns, we cut to footage of family home videos of her as a child. It’s heartbreaking, brutal, and the perfect example of the artfulness that Zombie has applied to this entry. My apologies, I can’t find a clean video of this. Just watch the movie. It’s great.
If we’re talking about kills that are fun for the sake of how explicitly violent they are, then nothing beats Myers’ dispatching of three hillbillies who mistake him for a trespasser. They beat him with a baseball bat and, well, he doesn’t take it lightly. Check it out:
Best Line: I’ve got two. The first is just the way that Loomis refers to Weird Al. He regards him as “Mister Weird.” It’s great. The second is fun because of the way it’s used to transition between scenes. We all know that Michael Myers likes to eat dogs, and Zombie’s take on the character is no different. That said, he has a little bit of morbid fun with it. Sheriff Brackett is arguing with Laurie and Annie about his diet. The women are advocating for vegetarianism to which he responds, “Man was meant to eat meat! We, all of us, have a little caveman in us.” We then cut to Myers preparing and eating a dog for dinner. HA!
Worst Line: Loomis is downright abusive to his assistant, and even though his character has become an unforgiving egotist, a few pieces of dialogue go further than I am willing to believe his character is capable of. First, when his assistant expresses distaste over his business methods he responds, “When I want your opinion I’ll beat it out of you.” Fuck, Loomis, that’s cold.
Another time he is having a passive back and forth with his assistant and, well, it’s pretty ridiculous.
Loomis: Are you a clam digger or something? And I don’t mean that in the lesbian sense.
Nancy: You mean ‘carpet muncher’ first of all...
Dr. Loomis’ Health: Well, as indicated by the previous section, he’s become quite the monster. As defensible as his idea of how the business of celebrity works (“I’m selling the sizzle, not the steak,” he remarks), it doesn’t give him the right to forego basic rules of integrity. What’s sick is that the way he handles himself in the realm of true crime/journalism/celebrity has become par for the course in the years since this film came out. But as for his health, he seems okay. McDowell is a remarkably fresh-faced older man, and he really seems to be having fun injecting Loomis with a spryness that Pleasence never could. Unfortunately for this version of Loomis, just after his arc is completed and he decides to accept some responsibility for the exploitation of Haddonfield’s woes, Myers kills him HARD.
Mask: Zombie has actually kept an eye on continuity regarding Michael Myers’ now rotten, cracked, ostensibly very smelly mask. Zombie has also given consideration to the effect of Myers’ eyes being visible. At least one eye is always visible, and before long, he’s wearing no mask at all. Dude has a thick, also presumably smelly beard that slightly humanizes Myers while serving as a second mask. It is impressive how well Zombie has forged a new path with the character without betraying what makes him so scary (especially considering how badly he fucked it up in the first go ‘round). I’d like to note that in the earlier sequences, while Myers’ mask is still mostly in one piece, he kinda looks like Jack White.
Lore: This is the end of the road for Michael Myers until later this week when every ounce of it is trashed in favor of the latest entry, and what a way to end my trip through every piece of official Halloween media in existence. This movie was excellent in a vacuum, and now that almost a decade has passed since its release, it feels like an appropriate end cap to it all (at the time of release, it was absolutely posited as the final film — who could’ve predicted that Danny McBride would reboot it once more?). Myers is definitely dead, as is Loomis. Depending on how you read the ending, Laurie is either dead or in a mental institution, and it seems that in either case it’s (relatively) happily so. I prefer to read it as her being dead, her brother’s murderous mission to reunite his family now complete.
So now that this fascinating odyssey into the world of Michael Myers is finished, here is my ranking of the Halloween movies, all included:
Halloween III: Season of the Witch
Halloween II (09)
Halloween II (81)
Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers
Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers