Moronic / Iconic, Part Three: All Bent Out of The Shape
By Desmond Reddick
19 March 2007 — For Jason Voorhees, it was a measured decline from scary to ridiculous. For Freddy Krueger, it was the quick shift from scary to hilarious. Michael Myers, from the Halloween film series, is perhaps the most interesting case of the bunch. Myers' history is spotted with plot confusion and continuity issues. But, it can be altered through selective viewing to make the Halloween series the greatest horror trilogy ever produced. I've been rather negative in the past two columns, so the following is my treatise on how to fix the Halloween franchise.
On Halloween night 1963 six year old Michael Myers donned a mask and killed his sister for no reason. He was institutionalized and put into the care of Dr. Sam Loomis (the amazing Donald Pleasance). Loomis, instead of taking the medical approach that says everyone can be treated, truly believes that Myers' is evil. This is the conceit the entire series is built on: Myers exists not only as a murderer but, as he is called in the films, a "Boogeyman" or "The Shape".
Years later, Myers escapes the asylum to stalk the teenage residents of the fictional town Haddonfield, Illinois — especially Laurie Strode. In what I cumulatively consider to be some of the scariest scenes put to film, Strode keeps seeing Myers in the distance. The scene with the shrubs is particularly terrifying. (Speaking of Strode, director John Carpenter made a casting coup when he hired Janet Leigh's daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis who would go on to define the term "final girl". Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho made Janet Leigh horror's most famous victim, and now her daughter has claimed that role.) Strode fends Myers off long enough for Dr. Loomis to shoot Michael several times. Michael disappears at the end of the first film, setting up the supernatural aspect of his abilities.
Michael returns in what has to be horror's greatest sequel. Moments after Laure is taken to the hospital for shock and trauma (incurred in the first film), Michael begins to stalk her again. In this film Myers is as merciless as ever, never more evident than in the "walking through the glass door" scene. Halloween II not only lived up to first film, it kept up the menace that Myers posed. It also introduced the plot devices of Laurie Strode being Myers' sister and the whole confusing Samhain thing. This film, penned by the writers of the first, put closure to Myers' story. However, the Halloween franchise wasn't finished.
In the single most honorable move a studio can make, they intended to continue the series with one-shot films based on the holiday. No more Michael or Laurie, just creepy tales about Halloween. Halloween III: The Season of the Witch, was supposed to be the first of such films (and still resides on my "Most Criminally Underrated" list of films), however, reception to Season of the Witch. So the studio scrapped the one-shot idea in favor of brining the Michael Myers cash cow out of dormancy.
Of course, they carried on with tripe. The fourth, fifth and sixth installments of the series brought both Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis back from the grave! Dr. Loomis, alive?! This time they operated under the premise that Laurie Strode perished in a car accident; clearly, Jamie Lee Curtis did not sign on for these films, so Laurie Strode's daughter became the final girl henceforth. In a nutshell, these films were weakly delivered and very poorly written. But Hollywood had to try nonetheless, because, like I said, the franchise was a cash cow.
Then, it was like the clouds parted: Jamie Lee Curtis pitched a film to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of Halloween. Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later was the result. As it turns out, Laurie Strode did not die in a car accident; Laurie Strode faked her own death to go into hiding (as the headmistress of an upper class private school). She lives alone with her 17 year old son awaiting the inevitable return of her brother. Of course, Michael stalks Strode's son in an effort to force her out of hiding, and the film becomes a struggle between the killer and the definitive final girl for a battle to the end.
H20, combined with the first two films, make for a near perfect horror trilogy. The only continuity issues would be that, after Halloween II, there was no need for Strode to fake her death. But I digress. These three films make an interestingly complete story for the Strode / Myers dynamic. It combines an exciting sense of family horror with very close ties to Psycho (Janet Leigh even pops up in H20, driving the same car she drove in Psycho). It is self-referential without being silly or heavy-handed. I propose that the films in the middle be erased from human memory and Halloween, Halloween II and H20 be considered the only films in the series from now on. Together they watch like an epic novel, tracing the main character from naïve beginnings to a fully self-realized woman. Taken as the only three films in the series, the supernatural aspect of Myers is toned down but not extinguished, and the convoluted storyline is almost entirely fixed.
When the series returned with its eighth film, Halloween: Resurrection, the studio banked on the stupidity of the viewing audience and the ending of the previous film was cheapened. Jamie Lee Curtis returns only through a condition of the deal she signed from the previous film, and you're treated to the thespian brilliance of one Busta Rhymes. All in one film! Sarcasm aside: we're just pretending this sucker never existed... just like the middle films in the series.
As reports of the Rob Zombie-helmed remake (call it a re-imagining if you like, Robert) come in, along with script reviews, reports of a talking Michael Myers portrayed by the giant Tyler Mane (Sabretooth in X-Men) make me weary. Myers is scary as the silent killer, but has little chance of escaping silliness if he speaks. Not to mention the fact that Myers could really be anybody behind that mask, that's why they call him The Shape. If he is 6'10", 300 pounds, he will lose that anonymity and become Jason. Part of Myers' charm is that he can walk into a bedroom wearing a sheet and the girl in bed will think he's her boyfriend being flirty. Making him anything other than average-size ruins that. Plus, if Zombie includes that trippy disco dance scene he likes so much, I'll wretch.
Myers is the crazy man down the street, your brother playing a very inappropriate trick on you, the silent stalker you think you see across the street or in the rear view mirror, everything you fear about mankind rolled into one body. Watching the three films I have directed you to watch will portray Michael Myers in that way. Make "the night he came home" worthwhile.