Ranking The Halloween Films

My ranking of all ten Halloween films before I watch the latest instalment.

The latest Halloween film, catching up on Laurie Strode and the murderous Michael Myers 40 years on from the original and ignoring every other sequel, is out now and… I haven’t seen it. The fact is that I’m an obsessive completionist and while I had seen the original multiple times and the latest film is wisely disconnected from the rest of the series, I felt the urge to watch all ten previous Halloween films before I sat down to watch the latest instalment. What a terrible, terrible idea that was. It’s safe to say there’re a few bad ones. In fact, they’re all bad apart from maybe two or three but they’re all different kinds of bad and so to make wasting my time on them as meaningful as possible, I’ve decided to rank all 10 films in the franchise. All the timelines, spin-offs and reboots. Every film starring Michael Myers (apart from the new one) ranked. Oh, and the one with the Halloween masks that turn children’s heads into snakes using Stonehenge magic.

10 – Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

Halloween 6 doesn’t make sense. No seriously, it doesn’t. The film introduces a convoluted mythology including an evil cult which go under-explained, there are huge leaps in logic and character motivations are a complete mystery. Why does Michael Myers turn on the cult who have secretly been aiding him this whole time and what was the cult’s ultimate goal? We just don’t find out. Apparently, there’s a ‘Producer’s Cut’ out there which actually explains the plot but the theatrical version is completely incomprehensible. Apparently test audiences weren’t happy with the original version so a lot of the film was reshot but Donald Pleasence – in his fifth and final appearance as Dr Sam Loomis – died before the reshoots, so his scenes remain as they are even though they don’t connect properly to the rest of the film. The editing is atrocious, making the behind-the-scenes problems totally apparent, with random shots of Michael or a knife spliced between every other scene and confusing time jumps. The film starts well with Michael hunting his niece Jamie and her baby while a mysterious cult watches on and it actually looks pretty good too. But the further into the running time, the more it unravels and the ending is shockingly awful. A young Paul Rudd can’t save it and Michael has no presence in the film. Sure, he turns up every now and then to kill someone (at one point he electrocutes someone so much their head explodes) but he’s not scary or threatening; it’s hardly a horror film. It might be one of the worst films I’ve ever seen because it’s barely a film. I’m shocked it was released in a such a state.

9 – Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

I’m not a huge Halloween fan but my affection for the series has grown over the past week or two during this watch through and Resurrection pissed me off, so I can only imagine how mega-fans feel about the film. The sad thing is that the opening has potential. The first 15 minutes are easily the best and see Laurie Strode – Jaime Lee Curtis back for her fourth Halloween film – locked away in a mental hospital, just like her murderous brother Michael Myers once was, waiting for one last battle. It’s a good sequence but then she’s suddenly and unceremoniously killed off and the real movie begins. A real bad movie. A new reality show is being filmed from the inside of the Myers household and steamed live on the Internet, but it turns out Michael never left and he’s waiting beneath the home in his deadly lair. It’s so much a product of its time it’s now embarrassing to watch. Resurrection was clearly influenced by The Blair Witch Project and the “Found Footage” genre, and every other line has some reference to email, chatrooms and webcasts. There’s something deeply unsettling about seeing the Halloween franchise mix with the early 2000’s aesthetic and music; or maybe there’s just something deeply unsettling with the early 2000’s aesthetic and music in general. The film is totally farcical and feels like a spoof, especially when Michael is defeated by Busta Rhymes doing Kung-Fu. It’s a worse film than ‘Curse’ but I’ve got to put it one better just because it’s comprehensible. But that’s the only thing it has going for it.

8 – Halloween (2007)

When the convoluted continuity and the multiple timelines get too confusing: reboot! Rob Zombie’s reboot of Halloween is just a really horrible and nasty film. What was a fun slasher series took a dark and depressing turn and I felt icky after watching it; it’s dripping with the torture-porn style that defined mid-2000’s horror. Looking past the awful dialogue and repugnant violence, Zombie tried to take the franchise deeper into the psyche of Michael Myers. I don’t mind exploring Michael’s childhood – if you’re going to reboot Halloween then you might as well take a different route than the original – but the take that we get just isn’t that interesting. The opening shows us that Michael was bullied and had a truly horrible dad and sister but apart from that you don’t get much more than what was in the original. It takes Rob Zombie 25 minutes to do what John Carpenter managed to do in one shot. The scenes with young Michael in Smith’s Grove, being interviewed by Dr Loomis, are much more interesting and I like the exploration into Michael’s fixation with masks. And then, about 40 minutes into the film, we get the remake of Halloween proper and it’s bad. The worst mistake Zombie makes is having Laurie be a totally unsympathetic and unlikable character. In fact, everyone’s unlikable except for Loomis and Danny Trejo in a small cameo. You want Michael to kill everyone but then when he does the kills aren’t fun, just nasty. The saving grace is the portrayal of Michael in the film’s second half. He’s well shot, looks good and they included the heavy breathing from the original which is just as effective as the classic music.

7 – Halloween 2 (2009)

My reasoning for enjoying the remake’s sequel more than the remake, despite it being a worse film, is that it’s just so incredibly weird. The decisions Zombie makes are truly bizarre but I’m glad he made them, from the opening 23-minute-long dream sequence, Michael’s trippy music video-style hallucinations of his dead mother and a Twin Peaks-inspired white horse, cameos from Chris Hardwick and ‘Weird’ Al, and Dr Loomis as a completely different character to what he was in the first film. Now he has taken advantage of the killings for business reasons, writing a tell-all book and making jokes about PG Tips teabags. I think I love this film. Okay, thinking about it I don’t love it but it’s fascinating to watch despite the lack of quality. Issues from the first film remain, like Laurie being incredibly annoying and doing nothing but scream and shout the whole time and there’s plenty of bad shaky cam. It’s almost not a Halloween film. Zombie just used the first film as a jumping off point to launch his own horror character/mythology under the guise of Michael Myers. I doesn’t work but boy, he sure did try.

6 – Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)

‘Revenge’ is the Halloween film that just exists. It’s not of the good quality of its predecessor or the bad of its successor. It’s just a bit rubbish. It’s pretty hard to discuss it because very little actually happens. The wider mythology is teased but doesn’t get explained until ‘Curse’ (if you can call that an explanation), the usually reliable Pleasence is off somewhat and there’s the very strange inclusion of a goofy pair of cops who are accompanied by some out-of-place jaunty clown music which I just couldn’t believe was actually playing and I had to rewind it just to make sure I wasn’t insane. The plot sees Michael return to Haddonfield a year after his previous rampage, once again after his niece Jamie and her adoptive sister’s friends. That’s the odd thing about the story: Michael kills the sister Rachel – who was a big part of the previous film – early on for shock value to show that nobody is safe but then we are supposed to believe that young Jaime wants to save her sister’s friends for the rest of the film. It was a mistake to kill Rachel; she should have been a main character again. I will praise the film for the confrontation at the Myers home at the end and it brings back Michael’s creepy breathing that disappeared from the franchise after the first film. Overall, it’s the most forgettable entry of the franchise but contains nothing unbelievably terrible. Although the film even struggles with basic maths because it says the events of the first film took place 12 years prior when it was in fact 11 years.

5 – Halloween 2 (1981)

Like with ‘Revenge’, Halloween 2 is a film I don’t feel too strongly about and is merely okay. Which is a shame considering John Carpenter and Debra Hill were involved and wrote the screenplay, even if they did so begrudgingly because the studio wanted a sequel even though they didn’t. Like a lot of the sequels, it starts off really well. Picking up straight after the first film, we again see Michael stalk the homes of Haddonfield, shot in long POV takes like the original’s prologue and with an incredible version of the theme tune. It’s when the action moves almost exclusively to a hospital that the film becomes dull. The hospital workers we follow while Laurie is asleep are pretty uninteresting and get killed off predictably and slowly. Once Laurie awakens and is again chased by Michael, the film picks up and Loomis chasing after Michael is great. The film is notable for introducing the familial connection between Laurie and Michael and I quite like it. Michael has always been a conflicted character in my eyes. On one hand he’s supposed to be pure evil – credited only as The Shape – and acting as the Bogeyman and yet he’s given a human origin story in the very first scene of the franchise and is referred to as “Michael” so him having a personal connection to his victims works for me.

4 – Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (1982)

Halloween 3 is one of the strangest films I’ve ever seen. It’s not bad per say… okay, scratch that, it is bad. In fact, it’s pretty damn terrible, but enjoyably and fascinatingly so. At this point in time, Halloween was to be an anthology series with the producers wanting each film to be a different horror story set on the creepy titular holiday. After Season of the Witch however, they decided to return to Michael Myers which leaves the film as the odd one out of the franchise. And boy is it odd. It sees a doctor track down a factory of novelty Halloween masks after the death of one of his patients who was holding one and raving about it when he died. It turns out the masks have a chipping of Stonehenge (which was recently stolen!) within them which will kill the kid wearing it when a specific television advert plays on Halloween night, turning their brains into snakes, killing anyone else close by. The perpetrator of such a crime turns out to be an Irish Druidic cult leader businessman who has an enforcement squad of Westworld-style robots. Seriously, that’s what the film’s about. And even with all that craziness, the weirdest thing about the film is that the protagonist is a middle-aged male doctor played by Tom Atkins. This is 80’s horror, the domain of the scream queens, and the decision to go for Atkins as the lead baffles me. It’s complete rubbish but I’ve placed it here on my list because it makes for a fun watch and it’s trying to say something about big businesses and consumerism. It fails in that regard but at least it was reaching for something greater than its slasher contemporaries.

3 – Halloween: H20 (1998)

Simplicity is both H20’s greatest strength and weakness. On one hand it was wise to ignore the complex and convoluted continuity of sequels past and embrace its more streamlined slasher roots. And yet on the other hand its disappointingly shallow and character work is exchanged for scares. The film sees the return of Jaime Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, making her first appearance since Halloween 2, and this is the perfect place to explore just how that terrifying night twenty years ago shaped her as a person, but it’s not as deep as I would like. She has nightmares and hallucinations of Michael and there’s one clipped mention of alcoholism but that’s about it. It’s hard not to view the film as a missed opportunity – one hopefully this year’s similar sequel will not also fall prey to – but looking past that it’s an enjoyable slasher flick. It’s silly and schlocky but in a way that’s quite charming – LL Cool J as an erotic literature-writing school security guard comes to mind – and it maintains a steady distance from the pure ridiculousness of ‘Resurrection’. Overall, the film is very slight but what’s there is good; as a revenge slasher film it’s pretty fun.

2 – Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

Halloween 4 is the biggest surprise of my watch through all 10 Halloween films and is by far the best sequel (so far). While even some the worst Halloween films have had fairly good openings, the opening for ‘Return’ might be the worst part of the film. It’s still good but the central conceit of the sequel takes a bit of explaining. It turns out Michael and Dr Loomis survived the fiery explosion at the end of the second film. Ten years have passed and Michael is in a coma before awakening on Halloween night to go after Jaime Strode. Jaime is Laurie’s 8-year-old daughter who is living with her adoptive family after Laurie died in a car accident between movies. Once the backstory is out of the way however, the film is a fast, fun and entertaining romp. It’s well directed and Donald Pleasence gives his best performance as Dr Loomis, trumping his previous efforts and being even more manic in his hunt for Michael. Speaking of good performances, Danielle Harris plays the young Jaime and gives one of the best child performances I’ve ever seen. Sure, the film gets a bit silly at times with the aged Dr Loomis having to swan dive over some barrels to protect himself from an exploding gas station but it knows the tone that it’s going for and is enjoyable throughout, including its moments of silliness. It embraces the slasher genre that the first film helped spawn and the ending is brilliant, even though the sequel completely ruins it. I really do love ‘Return’ and it might get a place on my list of horror movies I have to watch during the Halloween season every year – along with the original.

1 – Halloween (1978)

Were you expecting something else in the number 1 spot? What’s there to be said about the original Halloween that hasn’t already been said a million times before? Its simplistic brilliance has yet to be matched with Carpenter’s direction, memorable score, tight screenplay (with Debra Hill) and the performance of Jaime Lee Curtis all being pretty damn perfect. I admit, as a dumb millennial, I might find Halloween 4 to be the more watchable movie, but there’s no denying the excellence on display in the original. No subsequent film has come close to portraying Michael Myers in such a terrifying light. He’s “The Shape”. Pure unstoppable evil and the scenes with him stalking Laurie in broad daylight are among the most effective horror ever captured on film and his murderous rampage in the film’s final act never disappoints. One of the most influential films ever made, regardless of genre.

Have you tortured yourself by watching every single Halloween movie? If so then what’s your ranking and where do you think I went wrong? Let me know in the comments and geek out with me about TV, movies and video-games on Twitter @kylebrrtt.

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