6. Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007)
Many may be surprised that this film made it so high up. Rob Zombie’s take on the original film sees the movie split into two sections – the back-story of Michael, and his eventual break-out and murder spree – with Malcolm McDowell taking on Donald Pleasance’s role as Dr. Loomis to track him down.
There are some things that need to be addressed in regards to this film. Notably, as has been outlined before, Zombie can’t direct dialogue, and in this film we have the prime example in a particularly infamous breakfast table scene. Explaining Myers’ rise to evil is also a negative as it takes away the mystery from the little boy who just suddenly snapped one night. This version of Michael might be any other generic slasher villain with a tragic backstory, one out of a Lucio Fulci gore-fest. Laurie isn’t an incredibly likeable survivor girl in this adaptation either, and most would see it as a disrespectful re-imagining of a film that didn’t need to be touched.
That being as it is, the film still shows off Zombie’s incredible ability to capture images, and offers paintings of violence and mayhem that are as beautiful as they are shocking. The murder-spree is relentless, never giving you any time to breathe, and Michael feels as big and powerful as ever; he has bulked up and he’s a merciless machine of destruction. It’s one of the better directed films in the franchise, with a startling ability to shock and disturb, at least if one forgets to compare it to the original film. Rob Zombie’s Halloween is in no way amazing, but it’s certainly one of the better remakes of classic horror films and definitely more powerful than the original string of sequels following Halloween 2.
5. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
The oddball of the franchise, Season of the Witch is an entirely new narrative that follows on from Carpenter’s plan to make each instalment in the franchise completely different, an anthology series, all revolving around Halloween. Here in this film we follow the attempts to stop a toy manufacturer from using child Halloween masks to bring about the return of Samhain, an ancient Celtic Festival, connected to witchcraft.
There’s no Michael Myers, no Laurie Strode, but the violence and intensity is still there. With a dark fantasy feel driving the film, the all-encompassing evil surrounding the story is palpable. The Silver Shamrock commercial is incredibly memorable and the pumpkin-head death is possibly one of the most shocking deaths in all of horror. The scope of the film is much wider, and whereas the Myers arc is very personal and intimate, with one man after one girl, Season of the Witch is much more apocalyptic, having a feel very similar to what Ringu would eventually attempt to capture.
It’s not perfect in any way, and there are some aspects of the scenario that feel very out of place (I’m still not convinced by the androids), but it’s a good, solid film in its own right that can be respected and liked away from the other Halloween films. If you like your horror a little more psychological and haven’t checked this one out because you think it’s a slasher, you’re in for a little bundle of fun.
4. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
Twenty years after Michael’s attack on Haddonfield in ’78, and disregarding all sequels after Halloween 2, Laurie Strode is convinced that this year, just like every year, Michael Myers will come to finish what he started. This time, she’s right.
It’s important to remember that this was a Halloween film that came in the wake of Scream, also made by Dimension Films, and even in the opening 10 minutes before the titles, you can see its impact. The whole film feels cleaner and tighter. The orchestral arrangements (that I don’t think had been present, or as present, in the scores thus far) add to the scope of the film, and the writing is bordering closer to playful, with more comedy in the film than there had been in previous instalments. It’s a slicker, more polished film, which helps it to stand out from the crowd as something more than a Halloween sequel, but a sequel fully embracing the new school of horror.
All of the acting in this instalment is superb, with Jamie-Lee Curtis returning as a harrowed, post-trauma Laurie in hiding from Michael who she fears is still alive. The final act in the school is well executed and full of scares in all the right places, with a high enough body count to satisfy all the gore-hounds in the audience. It’s simply a well-crafted film, as good a sequel as anyone could hope for, and a much-needed injection of adrenaline back into the franchise.
3. Halloween 2 (1981)
Immediately following the events of the first film, Laurie is rushed into hospital as Dr Loomis and Sheriff Bracket are hunting down Michael Myers. With a higher body count and the knowledge that the formula works, the second film takes the slasher movie method and elevates it from the first film, giving us plenty of scares and memorable scenes whilst staying faithful to the original.
Almost everyone in the film is great, aside from one or two characters that are almost purely written in for knife-fodder (the hospital security guard isn’t going to win any Oscars, no offence intended). The only real complaint is that Michael’s body language (something I inspect in every film) is radically different to the first film – it’s a slow and laborious approach, completely different to the Michael from the original, which was deliberate, yes, but he could also move when he needed to (think of his crouching, defensive stance atop the stairs in the Doyle house, or his fairly swift descent down them). This Michael is much slower, and I think a little less scary as a result, but not too much.
The film is still well-constructed and well paced. Everything falls nicely into the slots it needs to. The direction is still excellent, the music is good, the writing is top notch. If you need to see how the follow-up to a good film should be done, this is your main case study.
2. Halloween (2018)
Set 40 years after the first film, Laurie remains forever scarred by the fateful night and has brought up her daughter, Karen, in a delusion of target practice and gun training. Now a hermit not far from Haddonfield, Laurie’s preparation for a reunion with Michael is needed as the killer escapes and returns on Halloween night in 2018, hunting three generations of Strodes, including young Allyson.
The movie is delightfully 21st century. The silhouettes, the camerawork, the direction; everything is slick and polished. The performances, including Jamie-Lee Curtis’ reprisal of Laurie, are great, and they each help to bring the franchise right into where it needs to be. The references to the original film are countless and each work to highlight the blurring of Laurie and Michael into respective doppelgangers. There are some strange moments of comedy, whether intentional or not, which do detract from the overall fear in some scenes, but it’s not too distracting when it matters most.
There’s also a fairly high body count, which allows some analysis of the killing tactics of this version of Myers. There are several instances where he will leave one person alive and kill another, which both de-mystifies him and, somehow, makes him scarier. This Michael Myers chooses who he kills. It’s a cold, scientific Myers, but still one that manages to put the scares on, and this contrasts with the warm passion that still burns in the Strode family despite their difficulties, despite their troubles. Halloween (2018) is the perfect sequel for the right time.
1. Halloween (1978)
Was there ever any doubt which film would top the list?
One of the godfathers of the slasher genre, the original 1978 film revolutionised horror cinema forever. The film introduces the terrifying figure of Michael Myers, escaping from the asylum to continue his killing spree 15 years after murdering his sister. Chasing Jamie-Lee Curtis and pursued by Donald Pleasance, the film’s relentless attack on quiet suburbia, far away from the gothic castles of old, hits right at the core of modern paranoia, a direct attack on western civilisation.
The acting is perfect, with everyone (including the kids) performing their socks off. Each moment of the film is phenomenally executed and gives birth to some of the most iconic images in cinema. From the beautiful opening POV steady cam shot to the final montage of Haddonfield with Myers’ breathing, it grips your throat and never releases your windpipe. Myers comes in, stalking, watching, and strikes for maximum impact. The mask has never been beaten, the acting of all 5 (yes, 5) actors helping to create the unique body language of the stalker that can snap and rage in seconds.
Halloween didn’t invent the slasher film, but it proved that it consistently worked. It grounded the tropes, the themes and motifs, and it gave us one of the most iconic scores in cinema. It still terrifies today, and if you have the chance to see it at the cinema then you absolutely should go. It’s an experience that can’t be replicated by any film in any setting. It’s a true one-off; an tremendous masterpiece.
Be sure to support the other platforms he contributes to, at:
- Breaking Principles: Passive Characters in ‘Vivarium’ (2020) - April 16, 2020
- Plot Reveals vs Plot Twists – When They Work and When They Don’t - March 7, 2020
- Shot For Shot: Safe-Theft Scene in Hitchcock’s ‘Marnie’ (1964) - October 27, 2019