A Bloody Good Time 05.22.14: Ranking the Halloween Films
Posted by Joseph Lee on 05.22.2014
From the legendary 1978 original through Halloween: Resurrection and Rob Zombie's takes on the franchise, 411's Joseph Lee ranks the Halloween films from best to worst!
Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)
I'm ranking another movie series this week! Sure, I just finished a three-part series on Godzilla, but that was before Scream Factory and Anchor Bay announced the huge Halloween Complete Collection blu-ray set. So while I was saving a Halloween ranking for later in the year, it's topical now. Cue up that Silver Shamrock theme song and let's get going!
As a caveat, I'm not including the producer's cut of Halloween 6. For one thing, I don't count different versions of movies. For another, it's not any better of a movie than its source material. It fixes a lot of the problems that the theatrical cut has, but it then creates it's own completely new problems. It's nice to watch as a curiosity but if I have to see the Cult of Thorn and someone else playing Jamie Lloyd it really doesn't matter which version I choose.
Five more months 'till Halloween, Halloween, Halloween...
#10: Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
Deciding between this and my next choice for the worst of the series is a really tough call, but I think Busta Rhymes ninja-kicking Michael Myers to save the day is worthy of it being the worst of the series. It's not just Busta either. Nearly everyone in the movie brings it down a notch and it feels like a generic slasher (at the absolute best) that they saddled Michael Myers with to increase name value. Dimension's actually done this with Hellraiser sequels in the past, so if the news broke today that the movie was actually called Resurrection and had nothing to do with Michael initially, I wouldn't be surprised.
The problem is that once Michael has taken care of Laurie, he has no more direction. Maybe the producers wanted to get rid of the "he only targets his family" subplot. Maybe they thought the dread Michael creates can be applied to any movie. I don't know. He doesn't really have any reason to go back home other than to catch people in his home so he can kill them. Michael Myers, much like this movie, lacks direction. It doesn't help that the movie is loaded with stupid moments and made "found footage" annoying years before it became the new craze.
#9: Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
You wouldn't imagine that a film in the original series that not only still feature Donald Pleasance but also Danielle Harris would be this low but Halloween 5 is just a really bad slasher. Not only does it introduce a bizarre "psychic" twist to the plot, but it kills off Rachael in the first twenty minutes. This saddles us with Tina, who we are just supposed to accept as the new heroine without any reason to know or care about her. Sure there's Jamie too, but she doesn't talk for half of the film.
Donald Pleasance tries hard as Dr. Loomis. He tries harder than he should have no matter which of the movies he's in. However they kind of turn Dr. Loomis into a jerk, and he even outright uses Jamie as bait at one point just to end Michael once and for all (and it doesn't work). Maybe if the movie focused more on Loomis starting to lose more and more of his sanity thanks to his obsession it could have been better. Finally, I don't like Halloween 5 because of the bumbling cops and their cartoon sound effects that play whenever they're on screen. Not only that, but they're killed offscreen! That's not fair.
However, it's not all bad. I thought this scene was effective.
#8: H2: Halloween II (2009)
I think Rob Zombie's remake of Halloween gets a bad rap from everyone. However, it's hard to defend his sequel. There are some good parts of this movie that I think get overlooked. Brad Dourif owns the screen nearly any time he's on it as Sheriff Brackett, and when Annie dies his reaction is heartbreaking. The first thirty minutes (involving the pseudo-remake of Halloween II) are great before they're revealed as a dream sequence. The overall level of violence seems like overkill but it kind of fits with Zombie's aesthetic.
However, there is a lot wrong with it. I'm not as big of a hater on Michael's visions as everyone else is (although the visions somehow transferring to Laurie at the end makes no sense). While Malcolm McDowell's performance as Loomis is funny, I find the idea of Loomis becoming a publicity whore a complete butchering of the character. It's like Zombie has these ideas to use for a slasher but shoehorns them into a Halloween movie when they don't fit. That's probably why people hate the idea of a hobo Michael Myers. I also hate the fact that Michael talks in the director's cut. That's more of a nitpick but there's no reason for it. As a slasher it does try some new things and Zombie's got a clear vision of what he wants. However it's not really a good Halloween movie, and Zombie's problem has always been the fact his scripts really need some polishing from someone more experienced.
#7: Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
Like I said above, you can go with either version and they both have their problems. The theatrical version likes to butcher the soundtrack, include random rapid-cutting between scenes and that's just the changes on the surface. In terms of story, it takes an interesting cliffhanger from Halloween 5 (someone actually saves Michael from prison and escapes) and turns it into the Cult of Thorn. It introduces some bizarre supernatural explanation for Michael's evil. This actually gets worse in the producer's cut and is part of the reason it's essentially just as bad.
The film also recast Jamie Lloyd and then kills her off within minutes. The characters that we do get aren't really well-written (including Tommy Doyle, this time played by Paul Rudd) and the story is a mess. It's not completely terrible, as there are some decent moments (Michael chasing Mrs. Strode through the sheets in the backyard is a good one) and Donald Pleasance is once again there to give the film some much needed class.
#6: Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998)
This movie had the best intentions, even if it has some problems. Most of the problems are from the slashers of the late nineties and their ability to cast a bunch of twenty-somethings that aren't interesting at all. Considering some of the directions the other sequels go in, this is hardly a dealbreaker. The acting manages to pull it up at times, from Josh Hartnett, Jamie Lee Curtis (obviously) and even LL Cool J doesn't do a terrible job.
The film only acknowledges the first two films as canon and ignores the entire Jamie Lloyd saga. This is both good and bad. It's good in the fact that we don't have to worry about the Cult of Thorn nonsense. It's bad in that Jamie Lloyd was a strong character in her own right and shouldn't be forgotten. But it's a solid sequel with a great final battle between Laurie and Michael that shows how far she's come compared to her first appearance. H20 isn't anything special, but it's not nearly as bad as some of other entries in the series.
#5: Rob Zombie's Halloween (2007)
I'm sure the fact that Zombie's Halloween isn't ranked last is already going to bother the people that seem to hate everything he does. I am not one of those people and even though Halloween is my favorite horror film ever (spoiler alert), I gave this remake a fair chance. It's solid. It would probably be regarded better if it weren't a remake of Halloween and were instead Zombie's own take on a slasher movie.
I like the approach to give some backstory to Michael without actually explaining anything about why he's evil. The abusive redneck home life does not explain anything, in spite of what some people would have you believe. He's still killing animals, he's still beating his classmates to death in the forest. When we get back to Haddonfield, we get the original on steroids and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's not a subtle, sure, but it's a solid slasher with strong performance from Malcolm McDowell, Brad Dourif and Danielle Harris.
I'm not going to try to sell anyone on this as you've already made up your mind about it. I'm just explaining why I like it and it's not as bad as everyone says it is.
#4: Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
I used to hate this movie. When I was growing up I thought this was the absolute worst only because Michael Myers wasn't in it. When I grew up and matured, I saw it as it's own movie and it's actually pretty good. There is some goofiness in it, but that's part of the charm. You still get good performances from Tom Atkins and Dan O'Herlihy as well as some decent special effects and chilling moments.
If Halloween III wasn't called Halloween III, it would be regarded as a cult classic. It's finally getting some of the appreciation it deserves but there are still some who, like I did as a teen, hate the movie because it has no Myers. Those are the same people that caused Michael to come back for movies like Halloween 5 and Halloween: Resurrection. The intent was to turn the series into an anthology with a Halloween theme, years before Trick 'R Treat tried it. Shame on you, 1982 movie-going public.
#3: Halloween II (1981)
Halloween II is another movie that holds up incredibly well. I still have some problems with it, but I can overlook those problems and enjoy it as a strong sequel to a classic horror film. Donald Pleasance is still good, Jamie Lee is still good and Michael is still a threat. It adds some gore and stock characters, but there's nothing completely wrong with that in a slasher. I think if anything, it would have been worse to try to be Halloween again as you'd be opening yourself up to more scrunity. Not only that but it's a tough act to follow.
Halloween II also sets its story in the same night as the first film, which I'd like to see more of in sequels. It also introduces the "Laurie is Michael's sister" plot point that would take over the entire series after that. There are some who hate that bit of information and some who don't mind it. I'm in the latter. Even though the hospital used in this film is surprisingly empty, the idea of Michael stalking around a hospital is a good one.
#2: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
I've never been shy in saying that this movie is a tad overrated. I still think it is, but that's because it's status as a slasher film tends to get hyped up by the horror community. Don't get me wrong, Halloween 4 is a good movie and is definitely the best of the sequels. It's just not quite as good as its reputation. I don't have any real problems with it (other than Michael's mask and increased strength), I just find it not as good as other slasher movies. It's weird to explain.
But overrated doesn't mean bad. In this case, it's really good. From the opening credits (which are amazing) to the final moments of seemingly passing the torch, Halloween 4 gets a lot of things right. Danielle Harris, even at that age, proved to be a strong actress and we immediately care about her as she is almost defenseless against Michael Myers. Not even her adopted sister Rachel or Dr. Loomis really prove to be enough. I also like the way Myers is killed, and if there were any point in the series where it should have done away with Michael, this should have been it. But instead we got Halloween 5. Bummer.
#1: Halloween (1978)
Really, what else can I say? It's Halloween. It's the best slasher of all time and my choice for the best horror film of all time. I consider it a perfect film that works on every level. It's scary (and still is at times) because it focuses on scaring the audience, not suddenly shocking them or grossing them out. The score, the acting, Carpenter's direction, all of it works. It's just a tremendous horror film that deserves every single bit of praise it's received over the years.
I'm glad that two years ago I had the chance to see this movie in a theater. I've said it before, but for a horror geek like myself, nothing beats hearing The Shape breathing or that theme song over the audio system of a crowded theater of like-minded fans. I can only hope that one day I get to see more of the classics in a theater as they were meant to be seen. It really is the best way to watch a movie, especially one as great as the original Halloween.
Closing Logo courtesy of Kyle Morton (get your own custom artwork and commissions at his Etsy account)
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