Posts Tagged ‘Michael Myers’

31. Halloween 4 (1988)

Director: Dwight H. Little

Starring: Donald Pleasence, Ellie Cornell, Danielle Harris

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once tried to kill off Sherlock Holmes, but his readers wouldn’t have it. So,  Doyle had to come up with an explanation as to why it had only appeared that Holmes and his nemesis, Professor Moriarty, had apparently died together from a fall off a cliff. After the abysmal failure of “Halloween III: Season of the Witch,” the late Moustapha Akkad was left with a similar task to Doyle’s. The final scene of “Halloween II” saw both the psychotic, knife-wielding killer Michael Myers and his ‘Holmes,’ Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence), apparently burning to death in a gas fire explosion at  Haddonfield Memorial Hospital. Although Jamie Lee Curtis had given him an out by declining to return, Akkad was still left with the unenviable task of finding a way of explaining how his series’ other two main characters could have survived.

At the film’s beginning (which was originally to have included an introduction explaining what REALLY happened at the end of Film #2), we learn that neither Dr. Loomis nor Michael Myers had perished in the fire at the hospital. It is now ten years after that brutal night, and Michael is in heavy bandages and lies in a coma at Ridgemont Federal Sanitarium, from where he is being prepped for transfer to Smith’s Grove. The ambulance crew make the mistake of mentioning the existence of his niece, Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris), and Michael suddenly awakens and kills everyone in the ambulance.

Learning of the incident, a heavily scarred Dr. Loomis is quickly on the scene, where he and others find the ambulance lying on its side in a creek, twisted and blood-stained. Although the severity of the wreck makes it impossible to tell who’s who among the casualties, Dr. Loomis knows Michael is not among them. Despite the sheer implausibility of anyone suddenly waking from a decade-long coma with muscles that haven’t atrophied, this does make for a visually exciting beginning. Loomis knows Michael will be heading back to Haddonfield to hunt down his niece, and races to warn Sheriff Meeker (Beau Starr) to be ready for Myers’ impending arrival.

After locating Jamie and her older stepsister, Rachel (Ellie Cornell), Loomis and Meeker are horrified to discover that Michael has annihilated everyone inside the police station. It is at this time that a band of vigilantes from the local bar arrive on the scene and take it upon themselves to track down and kill Michael. This prompts the Sheriff to call for official police reinforcements, blockading Rachel, Jamie, Brady (Sasha Jenson) and Kelly (Kathleen Kinmont) inside the Meeker home. It isn’t long before Michael shows up at the house, killing a deputy, Kelly (pinning her to a wall by shoving a shotgun through her!) and then Brady, and chasing Rachel and Jamie up onto the roof in one of the film’s more memorable scenes.

Both of the girls eventually fall to the ground below, and Dr. Loomis escorts Jamie to the schoolhouse, trying unsuccessfully to subdue Michael. This leads to perhaps the most preposterous scene in the whole movie (and yes, that includes Michael awakening from his coma with full strength and the aforementioned shotgun impalement). The group of vigilantes arrive in their truck to take the girls out of town, and thus out of danger. But Michael has other ideas, hitching a ride on the truck unbeknownst to everyone. From there, he somehow manages to individually dispose of every single one of the vigilantes without the rest of them ever hearing a sound. Never mind that he makes a ton of noise accomplishing this feat. He eventually kills the driver, too, (and in the movie’s bloodiest scene of all) by ripping the man’s neck wide open. Eww.

Rachel takes control of the truck and rams right into Michael, knocking him senseless several feet away. Although she is told to stay in the truck, Jamie gets out anyway and touches hands with her uncle. Sheriff Meeker then arrives with the squad of deputies, who raise their guns just in time to keep Michael from stabbing his niece from behind, sending him crashing into an old mine shaft. No way he’s getting out of there, right? Hey, if he can survive getting freaking burned alive in a gas fire…!

Back at the Carruthers home, all seems quiet. Even Dr. Loomis, although injured from the battle at the schoolhouse, appears to be all right. Jamie’s stepmom decides to draw her a bath. Jamie is still wearing her Halloween costume, which looks strikingly similar to the one worn by her uncle the night he killed his older sister Judith in 1963. Sure enough, Jamie puts on her mask, grabs a pair of scissors from the next room, enters the bathroom and stabs her stepmom. The shrieking alarms Dr. Loomis, who races to find Jamie at the top of the stairs, covered in her stepmom’s blood, and still wielding the scissors. Mortified by the scene in front of him, Dr. Loomis instinctively pulls out his gun, intending to kill Jamie. Sheriff Meeker wrestles the gun from Loomis’s hand and spins around to look up at Jamie. Rachel and Jamie’s stepfather arrive just afterwards. Everyone is in shock. Loomis in particular is both horrified and saddened, crumpling to the floor and able only to utter the word “No!” over and over. It appears that Evil has been passed (rather than destroyed) from uncle to niece and that Innocence has been corrupted once again.

What would have otherwise been an okay, yet totally unnecessary sequel is made ten times better by its conclusion. No matter how many times I have personally seen it, that final image of 11 year-old Danielle Harris wearing the bloody Halloween clown costume and holding up the pair of scissors in striking position is hard to erase from my mind. I just wish the producers would have had the guts to run full steam with this ending into the next (inevitable) sequel, because I think then that “Halloween 5” could have had the potential to become the most terrifying film in the franchise, or at least the best of the sequels.

“Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” could have benefited from a little MORE restraint in the gore department, methinks. A couple of the deaths in this film are just plain ridiculous (in particular the previously mentioned Kelly Meeker). It’s Zombie Jason of the latter “Friday the 13th” sequels ridiculous. I also wish they could’ve gotten a more imposing mask for George Wilbur to wear in this film. Danielle Harris’s clown mask was scarier than that silly thing… even before the final shot! Still, a very decent entry in one of the greatest of all horror film series.

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Halloween 2 (1981)

Director: Rick Rosenthal

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Charles Cyphers, Lance Guest, Pamela Susan Shoop

When preparing for my 2nd annual October horror marathon, it made too much sense not to pick things up right where I left off in 2014. Conveniently, the first movie on my list does exactly that, both in the sense that it is the first sequel to John Carpenter’s “Halloween” and that it begins immediately where its predecessor ended. Although the two are written by the same people (Carpenter and Debra Hill) and feature Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence as its stars, “Halloween” and “Halloween II” are different animals. “Halloween” was a labor of love, a suspenseful stroke of genius, and stands as an all-around horror classic whose influence can still be felt today. “Halloween II,” meanwhile, is an enjoyable thrill ride that is influenced by the very slasher films which the original “Halloween” made possible.

Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) gives chase to Michael Myers, who has fled the scene after Loomis foiled his attempt to murder Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). Somehow, Myers was able to get up and walk away after taking six slugs in the chest from Loomis’s revolver and falling from a second story balcony. To Loomis, this seems to confirm what he’s been saying for the last fifteen years: Michael Myers is inhuman. The town of Haddonfield, Illinois has already had a rough Halloween night, with three teenagers killed. But Michael is far from finished. After murdering an unsuspecting elderly couple and the curious teenage girl in the house nextdoor, he sets his sights on Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, where Laurie Strode has been taken to recover from her injuries.

This hospital, I should point out, is the last one you’d ever want to go to for medical attention. Forget the fact that a soulless monster is descending upon it. The place is horribly understaffed; the few who are there either show up late for work or fraternize with one another when they should be working. This is especially troublesome when you consider that the place comes equipped with a nursery… which we only see once and afterwards are supposed to forget even exists. I can play along with that. But if the size and dedication of the staff leaves something to be desired, the security in this dump is inexcusably bad. There seems to be only one security guard on call, and he’s watching “Night of the Living Dead” on TV when he should be paying more attention to the surveillance cameras. You know, just in case an escaped mental patient with a butcher knife decides to waltz in the back door. Speaking of which, where’s the police detail that should be guarding Laurie’s hospital room at all times?

Dr. Loomis, who also should have thought to check the hospital first, spots someone wearing a familiar-looking mask walking down the street. Loomis almost shoots him, but the person steps out in front of an oncoming police vehicle, is pinned against another car and burned beyond recognition by the resulting gas explosion. There is no quick way to identify the body until later when inquisitive teens start asking around regarding the whereabouts of their drunken friend, Ben Tramer (the boy whom Laurie confessed to having a crush on in the previous film). While Michael is busy picking off the hospital staff one by one, Loomis is out discovering things about him which, while revelatory to the good doctor, are ultimately detrimental to Michael Myers’ position as a force of nature and personification of Evil. At the elementary school, Michael has scribbled the word “Samhain” in blood on a blackboard, which is meant to provide an explanation for why Michael is so damned unstoppable. Next, Loomis is told of the blood ties that link Michael to Laurie Strode. Not that we needed a reason for why Michael’s been stalking her for the past twenty-four hours. John Carpenter is said to have written this part of the script during a late night drinking session. Whether that’s just a joke or not, I don’t know. Honestly, I think the real reason this was done was because of the popular twist ending to “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Learning of the brother/sister relationship between Michael and Laurie causes Loomis to forcefully insist on the car being turned around, in the direction of the hospital. It is there that this series’ Van Helsing and Dracula have their final confrontation. What’s that you say? There are five other sequels (not counting the unrelated “Halloween III”)?! Well, yes, that’s true, but the continuity of those sequels is all screwed up, and it’s further complicated by the fact… not a theory, but a fact… that both Loomis and Michael die in a gas explosion at the hospital. No matter what “Halloween 4” does to retcon this event, there’s no plausible way around it. The only survivors of this mess are Laurie and a paramedic named Jimmy (Lance Guest), although the latter suffers a rather nasty concussion.

There was never any way that “Halloween II” could have hoped to be better than the original. Not when you sap all the mystery out of the Bogeyman and make it possible for him to die. Not when the majority of the cast is more memorable for how they die than for who they are. In the strictest sense, “Halloween II” really is just another slasher film. However, it is an early 80’s slasher film and, although there were excruciatingly terrible entries even during that period when the genre was in its prime, “Halloween II” is among the better ones. Donald Pleasence is terrific. The murder sequences, not as iconic as the ones from “Halloween,” are still highly imaginative. My favorite is the double murder of Karen (Pamela Susan Shoop) and Budd in the hydrotherapy room. While Budd is dispatched quickly, quietly and behind a closed door, Karen’s death by scalding hot water is prolonged, brutal, and hard to watch… just as it should be. If you’ve seen “Halloween” but have somehow managed to skip this one, just remember not to set your expectations too high and you should be fine. If you’re one of the few left who has never seen “Halloween,” watching “Halloween II” first is still an option because you’re never made to feel as though you’ve missed out on important details. Either way, only diehard fans of the series need continue on from here.

Halloween (1978)

Director: John Carpenter

Starring: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, P.J Soles, Nancy Loomis

What is the creepiest part of hearing the story of a child who kills? Is it simply that this young person snaps, killing fellow students, teachers, police officers, or even family members? Or, is it because we hardly ever find out the reason why they did it? Evil personifies itself in anyone who can remorselessly move from room to room and murder defenseless human beings at will, but it is especially chilling when there is no clear motive. If they don’t take their own lives or aren’t killed by police in the end, rehabilitation is possible, yet seems unlikely. More often, it is the case that your best bet is to keep them locked up and pray they never get out.

One such child is Michael Myers. In 1963, on Halloween night in the small town of Haddonfield, Illinois, Michael murdered his older sister, Judith with a very large kitchen knife. He was only six years old at the time. He would spend the next fifteen years of his life at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, under the psychiatric care of Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence), until making his escape the night of October 30, 1978. Something in Michael has kept him focused, thinking of nothing but returning to Haddonfield. Dr. Loomis spent the first eight years of their time together trying in vain to reach Michael. Nothing ever came out of those attempts, since Michael never speaks. During the other seven years, Loomis had come to accept that this young man was not a man at all, merely a monster to be hidden away from the rest of the world. Now that Michael is once again free, Loomis feels it’s his responsibility to see that he is stopped before more people join Michael’s sister in death.

On October 31, 1978, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her friends Annie (Nancy Loomis) and Lynda (P.J. Soles), unaware of the danger that is drawing near, are making their plans for the evening. Both Laurie and Annie are stuck babysitting but, because Laurie is the only one without a man in her life, she ends up with both kids sitting on her parents’ couch watching 1951’s “The Thing from Another World” on television. For no apparent reason, these three young ladies are to become Michael Myers’ next targets. Silently, but efficiently, Michael kills Annie, Lynda, and Lynda’s boyfriend, Bob. As Michael begins his relentless pursuit of Laurie, Dr. Loomis closes in to save Laurie from the same fate as her friends.

Because there are sequels, it’s no secret that Michael gets away without killing Laurie. But it’s the way he escapes death this time which is thematically relevant. After firing six shots into Michael and watching him fall from a second story window, Dr. Loomis looks down at the lawn and finds that Michael is gone, as though he had vanished into thin air. What this is meant to represent is that Michael, being a physical manifestation of Evil, cannot be killed because Evil never dies. Donald Pleasance plays this scene perfectly, as the expression on his face can mean one of two things: Either he is surprised to find that Michael is gone, or everything has happened exactly as he expected it to. If you’re going by the sequel, it’s the former, but here it could go either way.

Though technically not the first of its kind, “Halloween” draws from films like “Psycho,” “Black Christmas,” “Bay of Blood,” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” to create a whole new type of horror genre: the slasher film. The “Friday the 13th” series of movies would never have come to be without the success of “Halloween.” Dozens of other movies owe their existence to the John Carpenter classic, including the Rob Zombie 2007 remake. Despite these facts, “Halloween” remains an almost bloodless thriller unlike so many of its copycats. This was one of the first horror movies I ever rented from Blockbuster Video (RIP), and watching it for the first time is an experience I’ve never forgotten.

Even director John Carpenter has gone on record admitting that “Halloween” would not be half as effective without its score, for which Carpenter himself was responsible. Acting as an additional character in the movie, the music of “Halloween” is as effective as that of “Jaws” in the way it alerts you to the presence of the monster, building the tension as it closes in on its victims. Today, the “Halloween” theme is so ingrained in our popular culture that there are people who use this piece of music to aid in learning how to play the piano! Lighting was also key. Much of the action in Halloween takes place in darkly lit rooms. This allows Michael to pass in and out like some sort of spectre, even entering one room literally wearing a white sheet. All of this further adds to the legend that Michael is something a little less than human.