Thursday, November 08, 2007

What's All This Then?: Michael Myers and Halloween, Part Three

Part One
Part Two

If you haven't seen these movies, SPOILERS BELOW.

Halloween: H20

I can see what all the fuss was about. It was about the time of H20 that I started thinking that maybe I should check out the Halloween franchise. Like Michael Myers, just when you thought it was dead, back it comes. And this time with Jamie Lee Curtis returning as Laurie Strode.

It was cool to learn in the Making Of featurette that the movie was actually her idea. It's too bad that John Carpenter and Debra Hill couldn't also be involved, but then, I don't know if I would've enjoyed it as much if they had been.

Maybe it's because I've gotten used to Jamie Lee Curtis playing a certain kind of character, but I was surprised to see Laurie so vulnerable and frightened through most of the movie. Curtis has a powerful presence and even in movies where she's supposed to play someone who's not totally in control of her situation, she gives strength to those characters that lets you know she's going to be okay in the end. In H20, she's a mess right away.

Her relationship with her teenaged son (played by Josh Hartnett in his first movie role) is completely messed up because she's so afraid that Michael will find them that she over-protects him. She can't function in a relationship with her boyfriend because she has this deep secret she can't share with him. The only thing that seems to be going right in her life is her job as dean of a private school where her over-compensating, domineering personality is an asset. (It was great to see Janet Leigh in a supporting role as Laurie's assistant -- and to see her get into her car from Psycho in one scene.) I honestly doubted that Laurie would ever pull it together once Michael found her and showed up at the school.

She does pull it together though, and I love the scene where she sends her son and his girlfriend away from the school, then -- armed with an axe -- locks herself inside the school grounds with Michael. And the ending...

In all the previous movies, I could always see how Michael might have escaped at the end, but not this one. As I watched it -- knowing that I still had Halloween: Resurrection to watch next -- I couldn't for the life of me figure out how Michael was going to come back for a sequel. It would've been the perfect ending to the series. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

My only complaint is that H20 tries to ignore everything after Halloween 2, which is no good for a guy who's just invested six or so hours watching those movies and liking most of them. I don't really understood why they did it either. I mean, I sort of do. They explain that Michael killed his sister on her 18th Halloween (she was 17 years old at the time, but when you do the math it was her 18th Halloween), tried to kill Laurie on her 18th Halloween, and now wants to kill Laurie's son on his 18th Halloween. It's a cool enough explanation for Michael's motives except for two things.

One is that it doesn't explain Michael's coming after Laurie's ten-year-old daughter in Halloween 4. You can see then why they'd want to pretend that never happened. But it also doesn't really explain anything at all. What's the significance of killing 17-year-olds on Halloween night? We're never told. It's just something that ties some of Michael's victims together and tries to explain why he waits until now before coming after Laurie's son. It doesn't explain though why he's never followed up on Laurie in the intervening years.

So, it's a shaky half-explanation and it doesn't add as much to the mythos as it tries to take away by getting rid of 4, 5, and 6. Putting that aside, it's a great movie. If they hadn't tried to do that, it would've been perfect.

LL Cool J as a school security guard was also a nice addition and added a sense of humor that the other movies in the series lacked.

Four out of five dead teens in dumbwaiters.

Halloween: Resurrection

Even though H20 should've been the last in the series, I gotta hand it to Resurrection for explaining how Michael could still be around in a completely plausible way. The writers deserve a standing slow-clap for that one.

The rest of the movie is okay, but it's really two movies in one. The first part wraps up H20, including the character of Laurie Strode. After seeing her emerge victorious from H20 though, it was disappointing to see her discarded so quickly here. She was still cool and her death was very nicely played, but it sucks that she fought through so much in three movies only to go like that. Still... he's Michael Myers and he's not to be screwed with. I'll miss you, Laurie.

Once all that's wrapped up, we go to a reality show where a bunch of college students (including Katee Freakin' Sackhoff!) are competing by spending the night in the old Myers house. Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks are the show's producers and add some humor and sexiness to the mix (though notice that it takes two of them to do what LL Cool J did all by his lonesome in H20).

The reality show is an interesting angle because it very much brings the franchise into the 21st century. Cell phones and the Internet are other, crucial elements to the plot. Unfortunately, that's all that's really interesting in this part of the movie. The characters are all stereotypes, though some (especially Sean Patrick Thomas') are nicely acted. And boiled down, this part of the movie is just Michael stalking and killing a bunch of teens in a spooky house. Nothing we haven't seen before.

Two out of five kisses on Michael's mask.

Halloween (2007)

I appreciate what Rob Zombie tried to do here. As I said in Part One of these reviews, we don't get a lot in the way of motive for Michael in the original Halloween. Zombie corrects that here and succeeds in turning Michael into a sympathetic character. I loved Daeg Faerch as young Michael. It was heart-breaking watching him turn from this sweet, but troubled kid into a withdrawn, violent monster.

But as I also said in Part One, our not knowing Michael's motives makes him unpredictable and that much more frightening. That's another flaw with H20's "18th Halloween" explanation. If Michael only goes after relatives on their 18th Halloweens, that lets the rest of us off the hook. If we can understand -- even just a little bit -- why Michael does what he does and what brought him to this place, it lessens our fear of him.

Now, Zombie does a lot to replace any fear that knowing Michael's motivations took away. Tyler Mane, who plays the adult Michael, is freaking huge. His size, plus the fact that you never see his face, makes him menacing as hell. He doesn't need to stand around and watch his victims for a while to increase tension. He increases tension just by being in the room.

That said though, I really missed the tension-building scenes from the original Halloween. Zombie spends so much time on Michael's origin story that he has to hurry through the Halloween-night massacre. It's a violent, gruesome mess and in keeping with what today's horror audiences are likely looking for, but I don't find screen violence and gore nearly as scary as the idea that someone may be in my house, just watching me.

So, while I appreciate Zombie's attempt, I don't think that it improves on the original much. Except that the acting is infinitely better. Brad Dourif alone makes any movie better.

Three out of five beatings with a big tree branch.


Anonymous said...

Even though it's one of the best sequels, I agree that H20 could've been much better by embracing 4-6. For one, they missed a great opportunity to have two popular characters (Laurie, Jamie) team up to face Michael.

But setting all continuity aside, which film do you feel works best as a direct sequel to the original: Halloween 2, Halloween 4, or H20?

I always felt H20 worked best, but now feel that part 4 may be a stronger contender. I guess it mainly depends on whether you think Laurie is more effective as a simple babysitter or as a sister. As you suggested, there is a greater menace to an unreasoning boogeyman vs. a crazed sibling.

Incidentally, there's also a nice documentary available called, "25 Years of Terror". It's a 2-disc set that covers the entire Halloween series. Best of all, you can often pick it up fairly cheap. I found it on sale at Best Buy for about $5 last year around this time.

Michael May said...

Ooh! Thanks for that recommendation. I'll look into that.

My reflex answer to your question about the best sequel was Halloween 2 just because it picks up right where Halloween left off, but then I thought deeper about it and I see what you're saying. Either 4 or H20 could've picked up after Halloween just as easily and Halloween 2 is by far the weakest movie of the three.

I'm torn, but I think I'm going to have to go with 4 as the best. A huge part of my positive reaction to h20 was because I'd seen Michael kill people and escape death himself so many times that watching Laurie behead him was surprisingly cathartic. If that had been the next movie after Halloween, I don't think I'd have been as strongly attracted to it.

4, on the other hand, is simply a good movie with an excellent cliffhanger. And I really like the character of Jamie.

A Jamie/Laurie team-up in H20 would've been hard to explain, but so fun to watch (especially since Laurie abandoned Jamie, but chose to raise John [Josh Hartnett's character]).

Billy McLaughlin said...

The reason Michael hasn't searched for Laurie before is because he believes her to be dead until the death of Dr Loomis. This allows Michael to break into Loomis' house in search of information about Laurie, although he doesn't actually know she's still alive.
Also, as in comments above, if H20 were to embrace all of the sequels, then they couldn't have had Jamie in this film for she had already been killed at the start of film 6. And lastly, it wasn't Johns 18th Halloween that was highlighted, it was his 18th birthday which has father had belatedly sent a card for - thts why the 18th card sat on the fireplace when events kick off


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