The Halloween Series
Halloween II (November 1/01)
Set on the same night as the events of the first film, Halloween 2 picks up right where the original left off and follows Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) as she attempts to evade Michael Myers' murderous advances within a dark, virtually empty hospital.
Halloween 2 suffers from the same problem that seems to plague most horror sequels, as Michael Myers has been drained of some of his punch; the character is still ominously creepy yet he no longer has the element of surprise on his side. The first film essentially told us everything we need to know about Myers, he'll kill anyone without hesitation, he's virtually unstoppable, etc, which ensures that he is, generally speaking, unable to become the horrifying figure that he was in the original - primarily because we already know exactly what he's capable of. Halloween 2 also references the first flick far too often - from Myers' animal-like cocked head after dispatching a hapless victim to a sequence right out of the original that features Curtis' character running away from a casually-walking Myers - which certainly affects the movie's overall impact. Halloween 2 would have been far more successful had it attempted to carve out its own niche instead of relying on what worked in its precursor.
That's not to say the film's a complete wash, however. Curtis is just as good as she was in the original, striking the perfect balance of terror and strength. Equally strong is Pleasence, although he does not get to utter his now infamous "pure evil" line once. The movie has been stylishly directed by Rick Rosenthal, but the plodding pace ultimately prevents Halloween II from becoming anything more than a dreary Halloween knockoff.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (December 9/01)
After sitting out part three, Michael Myers returns in this marginal improvement over the second installment in which the character returns to Haddonfield and violently begins pursuing his 10-year-old niece (Danielle Harris' Jamie).
Director Dwight Little opens Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers with some promise, as the film kicks off with an eerily effective montage of Halloween-related elements (carved pumpkins, ghosts on lawns, etc.). It's an intriguing stylistic choice that immediately establishes a sinister atmosphere, though it inevitably turns out to be about the only positive directorial flourish Little brings to the table. The rest of the movie just looks bland - there's nothing scary or ominous about Haddonfield anymore. Where it once was an almost-sinister looking little town, now it just looks like Anywhere USA. Myers isn't quite as menacing as he used to be, either. In the hands of series creator John Carpenter, Myers truly was a boogeyman - he'd be popping in and out of shadows and his choice of victims never felt as random as it does here - but in the hands of Little, Myers becomes just another psycho.
Some of the plot choices are a little questionable as well. Near the end of the film, a gang of redneck hillbillies decides to take matters into their own hands, heading off into the night in search of Myers - armed to the teeth with shotguns. This subplot is entirely useless and seems to only exist to offer up more bait for Myers to sink his teeth into. But without silly subplots like that, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers would probably run about 45 minutes (which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, of course).
Acting wise, this is a pretty strong bunch. As Jamie, the little girl stalked by Myers, Danielle Harris is surprisingly effective portraying a delicate balance between genuine curiosity and sheer terror. She'd appear in the next sequel, before being banished from the series for good. And reprising his character of Dr. Loomis, Donald Pleasance delivers an over-the-top performance that makes sense once you consider that his character has gone completely nuts. Think about it - wouldn't you also go off the deep end if the guy you shot in both eyes managed to consistently thwart death? Given that, this is likely an accurate portrayal of a man obsessed.
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers was a noble attempt to revive the series and inject some originality, but with a concept as thin as this one, no amount of good intentions will ever be enough.
Halloween 5 (July 16/06)
Though most of the Halloween sequels have been rather underwhelming, Halloween 5 is a particularly egregious example of everything not to do within this ongoing franchise. Director Dominique Othenin-Girard - who cowrote the screenplay with Michael Jacobs and Shem Bitterman - infuses the proceedings with a run-of-the-mill slasher vibe, complete with oversexed teenagers and moronic authority figures. The story picks up a year after the events of Halloween 4, as Michael Myers (this time played by Don Shanks) returns to Haddonfield with the intention of murdering his last surviving heir. Said heir, Myers' niece, Jamie (Danielle Harris), seems to have some kind of a telepathic bond with the psychopath, a development that the increasingly frantic Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) decides to use to his advantage - no matter what the consequences may be for little Jamie. Although there are a few decent kills and Michael Myers remains an appropriately creepy figure, there's little within Halloween 5 to set it apart from its mediocre horror brethren. The almost complete lack of a concrete plot certainly doesn't help matters, as the movie lurches from one scarcely-intriguing sequence to the next. The filmmakers, obviously aware of the non-existent storyline, emphasize the Halloween night shenanigans of several teenagers and Myers' inexplicable efforts to kill them. The inclusion of two seriously incompetent cops smacks of desperation, and only highlights the distinct feeling of needlessness that's permeating virtually every aspect of the film. Pleasence's broad yet compelling portrayal of Dr. Loomis, a figure that has clearly gone insane after years of hunting down Myers, goes a long way towards keeping things sporadically interesting, although one can't help but lament the lack of a reference to Myers as "pure evil" (he does, however, spout the following bit of classic dialogue midway through: "I prayed that he would burn in hell. But in my heart, I knew that hell would not have him.")
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
Much maligned yet quite underrated, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers follows The Shape (George P. Wilbur) as he arrives in Haddonfield to finish off his last surviving relatives - with his efforts confounded on an ongoing basis by Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) and a survivor from the first film (Paul Rudd's Tommy Doyle). Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers opens with an unexpectedly tense stretch revolving around Myers' final confrontation with niece Jamie Lloyd (J.C. Brandy), which effectively establishes a better-than-anticipated atmosphere that compensates for the rather disappointing nature of its immediate predecessor. The film subsequently segues into a perfectly watchable narrative detailing the title character's return to Haddonfield, with the continuing emphasis on stand-alone set pieces - ie Myers stalks and kills an inhabitant of his former house - ensuring that the movie generally feels like an attempt to return to the series' roots. Joe Chappelle's atmospheric, stylish directorial choices heighten the movie's surprisingly involving vibe, while Pleasence's typically sterling work as the haunted Dr. Loomis stands as an obvious highlight within the proceedings (and, it's worth noting, Pleasence's character does indeed refer to Myers as "pure evil.") It's only as Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers moves into its disappointingly tedious third act that one's interest begins to wane, as the entirety of the film's final half hour follows Myers as he doggedly pursues a pair of survivors through the original movie's expansive sanitarium. It's a repetitive and fairly needless capper to an otherwise solid slasher effort, and it's ultimately rather difficult to understand why the film has amassed such an odious reputation in the years since its release.
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later
Unquestionably the best of the Halloween followups, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later follows Jamie Lee Curtis' Laurie Strode - now living under an alias with her 17-year-old son, John (Josh Hartnett) - as she once again finds herself face-to-face with her demented brother (Chris Durand's Michael Myers). Like its immediate predecessor, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later opens with a fantastic stand-alone sequence that instantly establishes an atmosphere of unexpected tension and dread - with the engrossing vibe subsequently perpetuated by the inclusion of several impressively conceived and executed suspense-oriented moments (ie a young mother and her daughter encounter Myers at an isolated rest stop). There's little doubt, however, that the film does suffer from a second act that occasionally feels just a little too uneventful for its own good, with the continuing emphasis on John and his friends' exploits, undoubtedly triggered by the success of Scream a few years earlier, exacerbating the less-than-engrossing nature of the movie's midsection. Such complaints become moot once Michael Myers arrives on the scene, however, as filmmaker Steve Miner does as strong a job with Myers' pursuit of Laurie as one might've hoped - with the pair's initial encounter especially well done and triggering a briskly-paced final half hour that's almost as strong as anything within John Carpenter's 1978 original. The note-perfect conclusion cements Halloween H20: 20 Years Later's place as a superior sequel, and it's certainly not difficult to see why the movie has become a fan favorite over the years.
Halloween: Resurrection (July 4/02)
There's something kind of thrilling about watching a new Halloween movie. As that ominous music begins to play and Moustapha Akkad's name pops up, it's hard not to get a little bit excited about what's to follow. True, every sequel of the series thus far has not been able to live up to the original, but the very idea that Michael Myers is about to resume his unstoppable killing spree is enough to provoke goosebumps. Halloween: Resurrection opens with a final showdown between Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Michael Myers that easily stands as the film's highlight, as Curtis does a fantastic job of portraying the disconnected calm embodied by Laurie. After years of being terrified of Myers, Laurie's finally come to terms with the fact that she'll be pursued by this unstoppable killing machine until the day she dies. And while their confrontation is short lived, it leaves a lasting impression on the rest of the film - which details the bloodshed that ensues after several students foolishly venture into Myers' childhood home. The movie's been directed by Rick Rosenthal, the same man responsible for the second installment in this venerable franchise. That film was dull ripoff of the original, and Rosenthal's apparently learned from his mistakes, because Halloween: Resurrection's plot is certainly unique. But he just can't resist going back to the well on a few occasions, and includes several familiar elements throughout. Most notably, that head-cocking move that Myers does after murdering someone and that oft imitated trick wherein Myers steps out from a completely dark space. But my personal favorite moment of redux comes near the beginning of the picture, when Myers walks right through a closed door (a move which harkens back to the second installment, when he casually lumbers through a glass door). That was classic, and essentially sums up what Michael Myers is all about (absolutely nothing can stop him, not even, you know, physics). Unlike most recent horror flicks, which are self-referential and almost spoofy, Halloween: Resurrection revels in the cliches and absurdities that make horror movies fun. People run up the stairs instead of out the door, clueless security guards say things like "who's out there?" and friends casually sneak up on one another even though a maniac is on the loose. The film's plucky heroine, Bianca Kajlich's Sara, possesses the one trait that's absolutely required in a flick like this: she's a fantastic screamer. There's a scene early on in which she screams so loud she breaks glass; it's as if Rosenthal recognizes this necessary cliche in horror movies and pokes fun at it. In fact, Rosenthal actually does a fairly decent job in setting up an atmosphere of dread and suspense. The filmmaker falters in his overuse of the webcam footage being shot by the characters, which worked in The Blair Witch Project but seems out of place here. Still, he knows what he's doing and isn't afraid to reference other, better horror movies (there's a death sequence right out of Michael Powell's Peeping Tom). I'm making it sound like Halloween: Resurrection is as good the original. Not quite. While that opening 15-minute sequence is brilliant, the midsection of the film drags in a big way. Once those six kids get to the house, they spend far too much time just wandering around and squabbling with each other. Certain key discoveries are made, including a possible (and needless) explanation for why Myers turned out the way he did (ie having it appear as though he's doing all this because of his childhood is not only silly, but it takes away from the mysterious nature of the character). Still, the movie does essentially zip along (provided you're a fan of this sort of thing) and there is a good amount of gore. There's a completely useless subplot detailing the exploits of a teenager who's in contact with one of the unlucky six via a palm pilot, but this is otherwise a fairly focused horror flick. And, of course, the door is left wide open for a sequel. But if this is any indication, that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing...