35 years ago on October 25, 1978 the film Halloween came out. John Carpenter capitalized on a growing trend entering the horror scene. Though he wasn't the first to take on a film such as this, some had come before, he arguably did it the best. The film inspired a generation of filmmakers and movie audiences who carry on the tradition.
The series opens up with 1978's Halloween, written and directed by John Carpenter. The film opens up with six year old Michael Myers murdering his older sister. In present day, or to us 1978, Michael has spent the last 15 years of his life in a mental institute under the care of Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance). Escaping the night before Halloween, he looks to finish off his family, targeting his younger sister, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis).
In the third instalment, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, we find no sign of Michael Myers. It is the only film in the series that has nothing to do with the franchise. It is also the last of the films to have John Carpenter attached, as producer. Written and directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, the film film tells the story of a Halloween mask making company utilizing the magic of Stonehenge to bring chaos and demonic forces back into the world.
Jamie and Michael's fight continues into Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, written and directed by Dominique Othenin-Girard. Jamie is now in a children's home after murdering her mother at the end of the previous film. She has gained a sort of psychic connection with Michael. Again, Michael returns to finish the job he started in the previous film and kill Jamie.
Halloween H20, directed by Steve Miller and written by Robert Zappia and Matt Greenberg, celebrates the 20th anniversary of of the franchise, bringing back the original target Laurie Strode. Laurie has faked her own death and changed her name to hide from Michael. She has a child and works at a posh private school and continues to live in fear, to which those closest to her feel is unfounded. Michael returns, terrorizing Laurie, her family, and friends.
The final film in the original series is Halloween: Resurrection, directed by Rick Rosenthal and written by Larry Brand and Sean Hood. Laurie Strode's story concludes in the film about six college students who spend the night at the Myer's family home for an internet reality show. During the night Michael comes home.
The sequel to Zombies Halloween, Halloween II is similar in fashion to the original Halloween II, but is not a remake. It has the same premise as it, but isn't as soon after the first movie, and isn't set within the hospital. Both of the films are written and directed by Rob Zombie.
First lets get the third movie out of the way. It is a Halloween movie, even if in name only. The film is easily the worst of the bunch. It comes across as though someone was trying to capitalize on the success of the first two Halloween movies and didn't do a good enough job. It doesn't make sense in the context of the series,. Though, at the time there wasn't a franchise yet and maybe the people had know idea that it would become what it is today.
On the other side of the coin, Rob Zombie gives us the remake and its sequel, which takes a much different approach to the story. These two films bring the focus to Michael. Trying desperately to create a more in depth picture of the madman underneath the mask. We spend far more time in his first movie developing the back story of Michael.
It comes across as though Zombie is pushing for a sense of empathy to the character. It isn't unthinkable to create an empathetic villain in a movie, even a horror movie, but with an iconic character that has been built on senseless violence it is but futile.
This turn in the franchise is less on Zombie and more a reflection on the turn in horror cinema. Characters built within a film are no longer meant to be developed, but rather simply be cannon fodder. The audience is presented two dimensional characters whose sole purposes are to be dismembered by a monstrous foe. The blessing of Zombie's films, within the context of modern horror is that, though the characters aren't as developed as Michael, they aren't simply there to just die.
Another thing that the franchise does so well is create a dynamic between those that fear and those that don't believe. Its a very old story, that of the bogeyman and whether the bogeyman is real. Humanity itself is full of a sense of fear. Much of that fear undefinable, unseen and unformed. Its a fight between believing in this fear and not believing in it. Halloween, and many other movies similar to it, put a face to this fear and force the audience to face the fear of something we're not quite sure exists.
In the films this is easily represented through the skepticism of so many characters in whether or not Michael is alive or dead. Dr. Loomis is the perfect example of those that fear and the struggle to convince those around him that what he fears is real. Like so many in real life, Loomis is taken as someone struggling with the stress of what has come before, believed to be unfounded in his fear. Though in the series Loomis' fear is vindicated, with extreme results.
Halloween is one of those horror movie franchises that balances the fun of a slasher flick with the ability to reflect on life. It harnesses the fears people have and embodies them into Michael and his trademark knife. It creates serious movies, without taking itself too seriously, where others of its ilk have gone down a path of being slapstick.
35 years later we have a horror dynasty in the Halloween franchise. The name Michael Myers, his face, an odd looking Captain Kirk Halloween Mask, and the kitchen knife are all very recognizable today, even to people who haven't seen the series.
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