Monday, October 24, 2016


"In order to appease the gods, the Druid priests held fire rituals. Prisoners of war, criminals, the insane, animals... were... burned alive in baskets. By observing the way they died, the Druids believed they could see omens of the future. Two thousand years later, we've come no further. Samhain isn't evil spirits. It isn't goblins, ghosts or witches. It's the unconscious mind. We're all afraid of the dark inside ourselves."
-Dr Sam Loomis, Halloween II

Original art by Townes Murr (12)
Past the halfway point in the first sequel to John Carpenter's beloved horror classic, HALLOWEEN, Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasance) says the above words in reference to the word "Samhain" written in blood on a blackboard in the school. This scene was fairly minor, but pointed to a possible supernatural explanation for Michael Myers-as opposed to the original film where Loomis certainly believes Michael to be pure evil, but the connection to the holiday of Halloween seems more coincidental than ritualistic. The bloody "Samhain" hints towards something deeper, but at the end of the film it's a plot thread that is left unresolved. 

HALLOWEEN III; SEASON OF THE WITCH is expressly about Paganism and the roots of Halloween or Samhain. There's no connection to the first two films (in fact, we see a TV advert for the original in the background of the bar Tom Atkin's character is drinking at, seemingly confirming this is a different universe, but, hey, what if it's just a movie based on the earlier events?) and there was never meant be. Carpenter and producer Debra Hill had conceived SOTW as a way turning HALLOWEEN into an anthology series. Those plans were dashed by critical and fan backlash, of course. 'Where's Michael? We don't want anything new or original..!' Which is too bad, because it has taken over 30 years for SOTW to get some of the respect it deserves for being a legitimately creepy and original story. If it had come out instead of HALLOWEEN II or just under the title of SEASON OF THE WITCH it would have likely been a much bigger movie. 

So with the anthology concept in the toilet, producer Moustapha Akkad brought back Michael for HALLOWEEN 4; THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS. Written by Alan B McEllroy and directed byDwight H Little, RETURN brought us to a high security facility where Michael, in a coma since the end of II, is being held. The time has come to transfer him (why???) and enroute he kills the attendents and escapes, making a b-line for Haddonfield, with Dr Loomis hot on his trail. Though critics disliked RETURN as well, the film did a good job of bringing back Michael and was a well crafted story. We learn that Michael's sister and object of his murderous rage, Laurie Strode, has died in a car accident and her daughter, Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris), has been adopted by the Carruthers family. When Loomis reaches Haddonfield to warn the police, things go crazy. Michael massacres everyone at the police department while a lynch mob of locals hunt him down. This gives RETURN a slightly different flavor from I and II, people remember 'the night HE came home' and they're not going to sit back and let that shit happen again. It's not a perfect movie, but there's a lot to love and it sits nicely next to the first two. Plus, for me, it was the brand new when I first got into horror films. The issue covering the film was the first Fangoria I ever bought, those two factors might color my enthusiasm for RETURNS, but only a bit, since the film still holds up well.  

At the end of RETURNS we see Michael shot to hell before he falls down a mine shaft and a deputy throws dynamite down with him. Michael has, of course, survived. He made it out of the mine and to the shack of an old hermit, where he returns to his coma for exactly one year. he awakens on the next Halloween and kills the hermit and heads back to Haddonfield. I liked the hermit bit a lot, because it was a throw back to the BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, where the monster is taken in by the old blind man. So with Michael back in Haddonfield a year later and again going after Jamie, it seems like business as usual, until a mysterious man in black gets off the bus in Haddonfield. Jamie is now mute and living in a special children's hospital after being traumatized by the events of RETURN, including the murdering of her adoptive mother. A psychic link between her and Michael has emerged, as opposed to her becoming a killer as hinted with the ending of RETURN. She knows Michael is coming and Loomis, desperate to end the madness, exploits her psychic link, and uses Jamie as bait to lure Michael to his old house. Loomis is backed up by Sheriff Meeker and a police force, who surely wanted revenge themselves for all their fallen brothers in the last film. Naturally, nothing goes according to plan; half the cops are tricked away, basically leaving Loomis and Jamie to fend for themselves against Michael. In the end, Loomis is finally able to beat Michael down, before having a stroke. Then Meeker is able to arrest Michael-a first for the series. Instead of Michael being believed dead and disappearing, we see him in chains in a jail cell, awaiting the National Guard to take him away. Then the man in black arrives at the jail and kills everyone, blowing Michael's cell door off. the last thing we see is Jamie finding Michael's cell empty. Roll credits. 

After the biggest What The Fuck moment of the franchise to date, we have a six year time jump for THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS, conceived by screenwriter Daniel Farrands after several attempts were made to get HALLOWEEN 6 to the big screen. Unfortunately for Farrands, a die hard, well-versed HALLOWEEN fan, and franchise fans in general, when CURSE finally arrived it was a boring, plot hole ridden, neutered affair. This was due to a lot of unnecessary behind-the-scenes drama, re-shoots, and an end product that was a half measure and a poor excuse for a sequel. It was known among fandom though that there was a different version out there, with 43 minutes of additional footage and a completely different ending. This is what's called 'The Producer's Cut.' There is also a director's cut, which is mostly the theatrical release with added gore. 

The theatrical cut reduced the set up from REVENGE to a minor plot point which mostly fizzled out by the end and even the CURSE in the title seemed a generic, tacked on title. The Producer's Cut on the other hand, takes us back to 1989, when the man in black breaks Michael out of jail and we see both Michael and Jamie being kidnapped by the man in black and some henchman. They've held Jamie all this time, waiting for the stars to align and letting Michael rape and impregnate her with a child destined to be Michael's final sacrifice, before the curse that has given him his strength and invincibility would be passed on to another child and Michael would cease to be. 

The Producer's Cut is so ridiculously superior that it vexes me the theatrical cut ever saw the light of day. One thing it does is give us an actual Thorn Cult, which is not so different from the pagan cult that uses a toy factory as a front for it's nefarious plans in SOTW and ties back to the bloody "Samhain" Michael leaves behind in II. Michael is also given a purpose and an explanation. This part many fans balk at (including Carpenter) because they liked the mystery of why Michael is doing all this anyway, or that he's simply the embodiment of pure evil. I think that's fine for I, but we can't have a single sequel without some explanation that can be built on with each successive chapter. If all we had was a mute indestructible killer for eight films no one would give a shit, so why the hate for evolving the story? I've never understood that. 

At any rate, now that we have the Producer's Cut officially available (it was passed around by bootleggers for years) we can take in 4-6 as a whole, their own trilogy within the franchise, not unlike FRIDAY THE 13TH PARTS 4-6. The Producer's Cut actually wraps up what we'll call the Jamie Saga. In the theatrical cut Michael kills Jamie in the opening minutes of the film after she has escaped with her baby and hidden it away. In TPC, she survives that attack, at least for a while longer. Meanwhile, another character from I returns, Tommy Doyle (Paul Rudd), the little boy Laurie was babysitting on that original Halloween night. He suffers from PTSD, obsessively hunts for Michael, and tries to convince others that Michael is still out there. He's also the only one who finds Jamie's baby before trying to contact Dr Loomis. Loomis has spent the last few years in retirement, recovering from his stroke when he's approached by his old colleague, Dr Wynn, who wants Loomis to return to the hospital to take over as administrator. His offer though, has to take a backseat when he hears Jamie pleading for his help on a radio call-in show. So Loomis and Wynn head to Haddonfield. From there, we are introduced to a young boy named Danny who is hearing "the call," the same call that Michael heard the night he murdered his older sister back in 1963. So we're getting a sense of legacy here and a seemingly end to Michael's mission. 

By the time all the pieces are in place, we've seen the Thorn Cult, we've seen Michael under their control, the man in black is back, we know they wanted to sacrifice Jamie's baby, and crazy Tommy Doyle is seemingly the only person who knows what's going on and what it might take to stop Michael. It's the widest scope storytelling wise that we've been treated to so far. We still get some classic HALLOWEEN stalk and slash, but it feels less by-the-numbers. Eventually, the cult gets the drop on Tommy and Loomis and get their hands on the baby, Danny, and his mom, Kara. Wynn reveals himself as the man in black and the head of the Thorn, before drugging Tommy and Loomis. When they come too, they chase Wynn and company to the hospital to save the day and stop Michael from sacrificing the baby and from Danny sacrificing his mom. None of this occurs in the theatrical cut. It all has something to do with DNA and there's no robes and altar cult, just a bunch of doctors, who Michael massacres in the hospital for some reason. In TPC, we get treated to pagan ritual and a very different face off between Tommy and Michael. Frankly, it's more satisfying the way Tommy defeats Michael using runes in TPC vs fighting Michael in the theatrical. In the end, Tommy escapes with the baby, Kara, and Danny, while Loomis stays behind to put an end to Michael once and for all. The theatrical version ends vaguely, Michael's probably alive and he probably just killed Loomis. In TPC, Loomis finds Michael laid out in the hallway. He unmasks him, to discover that Wynn has been put in Michael's clothes. As Wynn dies, he grabs Loomis's hand and transfers the curse, which manifests itself as the Thorn symbol appearing on Loomis's wrist, mirroring the mark we see on Michael in REVENGE. And then we see Michael escaping dressed as the man in black. 

It's fairly brilliant. Wynn is dead, which would likely cause the cult to fold, Michael has escaped again, this time free of Wynn's influence, and the next creative team to take over could take Michael in a whole new direction-as they do in HALLOWEEN; H20. the problem with that film, though is the way they pick and choose what to keep from the last three films. primarily the part where Laurie dies in a car accident, but it's revealed they she faked her death and started a new life. H20 is a fairly great film, except there is no mention of Jamie at all and everyone acts as if there's been no sign of Michael in twenty years. In the actual timeline, CURSE happened just two years earlier and there's no way Laurie would have missed the news of the three major events of RETURN, REVENGE, and CURSE. Had those three films been referenced even in the least it would give more foundation to her ongoing fear of Halloween night.
I can understand the decision to ignore 4-6 to clear baggage for Laurie's return, but the film spends too much of the first half of the film beating us over the head with how damaged Laurie still is, but gives us a fantastic climax where Laurie faces Michael, kicking ass and finally bringing their story to a very final end when she chops his head off. It's done. Come back from that, Mike! Of course, the next film RESURRECTION pisses all over this with a stupid plot twist that reveals that it wasn't Michael's head that got cut off, blah blah puke. RESURRECTION is literally the worst film in  the franchise and one of the worst films I've ever seen. No more words will I waste on it. 

So, yea, I love the Jamie Saga and we're very, very lucky to have TPC available to bring it to a proper close. At this point HALLOWEEN will be limping along toward a new sequel under Blumhouse with Carpenter returning in a producer's capacity. It's pretty clear they aren't interested in reviving anything from the Thorn, opting instead to return to the tone and mystery of the original. Fine, I'll watch it enthusiastically. For fans of the Jamie/Thorn Saga Farands and Philip Nutman (author of the excellent zombie novel WETWORK) continued the story through a Chaos Comics mini-series and later Devil's Due Publishing, which connected CURSE with H20 and beyond, including what would have been Farand's pitch for the eighth film, which would have been fantastic and would NOT have featured Busta Rhymes fighting Michael.         

(Special thanks to my son Townes for providing some Thorn inspired original artwork!)

No comments:

Post a Comment