Trick or treat... or die
What are you doing tonight? Trying to ration an evening’s worth of trick or treat candy? Sacrificing an infant goat to pacify Satan? Or maybe just watching EastEnders. If you’re looking for a Halloween scare, chances are you might be looking to watch one of the 11 Halloween movies released to date. But here’s the problem! Some of them are totally rubbish, while some of them are very good – and one of them doesn’t even feature Michael Myers! Well, worry not NME reader, we are here to lend a helping hand…
11. Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007)
Nope, fuck this shit.
10. Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers (1989)
It’s interesting to note that, when asked in 2016 about Rob Zombie’s touchy-feelie presentation of Michael in his two adaptations, John Carpenter first called the industrial rocker-cum-horror director a “piece of shit”. He later added, “I thought that he took away the mystique of the story by explaining too much about [Myers]. I don’t care about that. He’s supposed to be a force of nature. He’s supposed to be almost supernatural.” Quite what Carpenter made of this 1989 instalment, directed by Dominique Othenin-Girard, in which Michael not only takes his mask off, BUT ALSO CRIES LIKE HE’S WATCHING THE FINAL OF THE FUCKING GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF OR SOME SHIT, we don’t know.
9. Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
No film that stars Busta Rhymes as a karate-kicking web producer can ever be said to be completely without worth, and yet the last Michael Myers film before Rob Zombie rebooted the series in 2007 is unquestionably a dud. This you might find surprising, given the direction of Rick Rosenthal (who in 1981 made Halloween II, one of the better movies in a franchise that’s often been treated with total neglect) and that’s before mentioning the films decent premise – teenagers spend a night being live-streamed in Michael’s childhood home. Horror went bonkers for the reality format at the turn of the millennium. My Little Eye, also released in 2002, is an example of a good movie indebted to trends of the time. This sadly isn’t.
8. Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers (1995)
Shot in a freezing Salt Lake City in the winter of 1994, this lore-heavy instalment subsequently underwent a series of reshoots after it tanked with test audiences. Again, this is surprising, mainly because the original edit of the movie – featuring a different ending and loads of subsequently discarded footage – was a much cooler take on the Myers character than what made it to theatres. The binned edit was released, after much pressure from fans, as The Producers Cut in 2014. Elsewhere, Michael’s 6th ride out is notable for being the film that officially introduced the concept of ‘The Curse Of Thorn’ – an explanation for Michael’s relentless desire to kill. It also featured Donald Pleasance as Dr. Loomis in his final ever role. The Worksop-born actor died on 2 February 1995, eight months before the film was released. Well, at least he didn’t have to watch it?
7. Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2 (2009)
Actually, this one is pretty good, though it remains fairly bewildering why a director with literally no chill whatsoever (see Zombie’s 2012 release Lords Of Salem) was given the all clear to helm a horror licence which is all about restraint and breathless suspense! And yet, if you view Zombie’s sequel as less of a Halloween film in the traditional sense, and more what Michael Myers might feel like if he was recruited by the UFC (and it should be noted that the man who played Michael was former WCW wrestler Tyler Mane), then it’s an excellent, thoroughly visceral use of your time.
6. Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers (1988)
Despite sporting the worst mask in any of the films – what is this, The Phantom Of The Opera? – director Dwight H. Little’s film (Little actually made a The Phantom Of The Opera movie a year after this) is really rather good. Workmanlike, but good. As we’ll come to in due course, the intention of Halloween creator John Carpenter and co-producer Debra Hill was to jettison the Michael Myers character and instead feature a different story within each film that revolved around the festival of Halloween, aka The Twilight Zone. Unsurprisingly, audiences were confused by the film’s absence of their favourite character. So, executive producer Moustapha Akkad decided to bring The Shape back, where he’s remained ever since.
5. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
Thanks to her mainstream success in the years since – cheers for that, A Fish Called Wanda – this late ’90s instalment in the franchise was the first to feature Jamie Lee Curtis, as Laurie Strode, in 17 years (she did provide the voice of a telephone operator in 1982’s Halloween III: Season Of The Witch, but it was uncredited, so pipe down nerds). Director Steve Milner’s zippy celebration of all that’s great about slasher movies. Plus the ending is absolutely brilliant.
4. Halloween (2018)
Director David Gordon Green’s film picks up at the end of the first film. So that’s three decades later – and it makes for an immensely fun, very funny, extremely meta reboot. Jamie Lee Curtis is back. She’s as paranoid as Alex Jones passed-out in a marijuana factory. John Carpenter returns for the soundtrack too. And sure, this Michael maybe owes more to Rob Zombie’s take on the character than the Michael who started out all those years ago (just hear those bones crack!) But you might argue that more violent times require more violent villainy. Not only that, but the first 10 minutes, in the psychiatric hospital courtyard, are as scary as the series has ever been.
3. Halloween III: Season Of The Witch (1982)
Director Tommy Lee Wallace helped Carpenter and Debra Hill write this Michael-less Halloween movie (he’d later direct the ’90s It TV series, starring Tim Curry) and a great job the trio made of it too. The story concerns an Irish warlock (played by Twin Peaks’ Dan O’Herlihy) who is attempting to use the mystical powers of Stonehenge to kill Californian children via his novelty toy masks. What more do you want from a movie? Incorrectly, the film is often viewed as a box office flop, due to it being the lowest grossing film in the Halloween series, until that point. And yet this original story still made a cool $14.4m (£11.1m) against a budget of $2.5m (£1.1m). It’s understandable why Michael had to return for the 4th film, but Carpenter and Hill’s idea of stand-alone stories is a great idea that would have been awesome to have seen realised.
2. Halloween II (1981)
Carpenter once described the process of writing Halloween II like this: “It mainly dealt with a lot of beer, sitting in front of a typewriter saying ‘What the fuck am I doing? I don’t know”. Perhaps that explains the introduction of the information that Laurie is Michael’s sister, a detail Carpenter didn’t even particularly like (only adding it because he considered the film’s plot to be approaching the point of being exhausted) and yet also one which formed the narrative arc of most of the Halloween movies to follow. Regardless, it’s an excellent film, which picks up from the cliffhanger of the first movie moments after Michael has fallen. And yet in the words of that French guy from the Highlander movies, “there can only be one!”
1. Halloween (1978)
This is it. The big one. The moment it all started and subsequently the best film in a good, bad and often wretched bunch. Why does the first film still endure? Is it the film’s poignant social critique of the immorality of youth and teenagers in ’70s America? Or is it the film’s reading as a feminist work, in which the lead is played by a young woman establishing herself as a champion in the fight against the patriarchy, as represented by the machismo killing machine she’s forced to confront? To paraphrase creator John Carpenter, “no, it’s just a really, really good story”.
Brilliantly written, superbly shot, with a score as iconic as the genre has ever produced, Halloween is a movie for horror fans, made by a true horror fan. Carpenter has since described the film as “true crass exploitation. I decided to make a film I would love to have seen as a kid, full of cheap tricks like a haunted house at a fair where you walk down the corridor and things jump out at you”. There’s an argument that Halloween isn’t just the best Halloween movie ever made, but the best horror movie too.