In honor of Donald Pleasence’s birthday, I present to you last year’s ranking of the films of the Halloween franchise. With the new movie coming out two weeks from today, I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ll have a new #3 or even #2 for this list. Until then, let us enjoy the slashing and pay tribute to one of the best horror characters ever to grace a screen: Dr. Samuel Loomis.
In addition to being one of the finest horror films ever made, Halloween also introduced the world to one of the most enduring horror characters of all time: Michael Myers. Silent, relentless, and remorseless, Michael Myers is the boogeyman who lurks in dark corners and underneath beds, waiting with inhuman patience to make you his next victim. Writer/director/composer John Carpenter’s original intention was to create an anthology series, where every movie after Halloween II told a different scary story, but Michael Myers was so popular that he has appeared in 8 sequels/reboots and counting.
In today’s 31 Days of Halloween entry, I’m going to rank these films according to my preference. I’m ignoring the Rob Zombie films, however, because I hated his Halloween remake and refused to watch his follow-up Halloween II. Please leave a comment letting me know what your favorite franchise entry is and/or lecturing me on why I should appreciate Rob Zombie’s version of Michael Myers. It probably won’t work, but you won’t know for sure if you don’t try! Also, this should go without saying, but: spoiler alert.
8. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
Tommy Doyle and Dr. Loomis join forces to fight the Druid cult that cursed Michael with the insatiable need to kill his family members.
This is the 6th movie in the Halloween series and Donald Pleasence’s final film. Pleasence deserved a far better send-off than this muddled mess about Michael Myers doing the bidding of a blood cult, but his performance is reliably charming. Dr. Loomis is an absolute pleasure to watch as he lectures everyone he sees about Michael’s evil, and he pronounces the word “madman” in a way that only a classically trained British actor could. But the Curse of Thorn storyline is ridiculous, convoluted, and decidedly un-scary. I am at this very moment trying to forget that it ever existed. …There. That’s better.
Best Moment: Paul Rudd keeping a straight face as he delivers this line: “I think Michael is under the influence of an evil rune.”
Worst Moment: Literally every other second of the movie.
Excerpts from My Research Notes:
“She left the damn baby in a cabinet in the bus station bathroom. How is that safe?!”
“Creepy Tommy Doyle has a conspiracy theory wall with newspaper clippings. I fully expect to see push pins and red strings.”
“Michael heard A Voice telling him to kill his family on clown costume night. WTF IS THIS SHIT.”
7. Halloween: Resurrection
TV producers livestream an online reality show in the infamous Myers house on Halloween night, not knowing that Michael himself is in the house with them.
This movie can actually be kind of fun if you just relax and go with how stupid it is. Busta Rhymes puts a bunch of idiot college kids in a spooky house and then dresses up like Michael Myers to scare the hell out of them for a profit. There is gratuitous Tyra Banks booty-shaking and a company called DANGERTAINMENT. I mean, I don’t really think I need to explain any more than that.
Best Moment: Katee Sackhoff being her weird jittery self and then getting her impressively lifelike prosthetic head sliced off.
Worst Moment: Busta Rhymes getting not one, not two, but THREE “badass” “catchphrases” at the end of the movie.
Excerpts from My Research Notes:
“Never wear a costume that only makes sense when you’re standing right next to your friend.”
“Fake Christian Slater and Pretentious Philosophy Student get naked in the sadistic playpen.”
“Busta Rhymes kung fu kicks Michael Myers. I REPEAT.”
6. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers
Michael Myers returns to Haddonfield to kill his niece, Jamie, who is institutionalized after having killed her foster mother in exactly the same way that Michael killed his sister Judith back in 1963.
The psychic connection between Michael and Jamie was introduced in Halloween 4, but it played a much bigger part in this movie. As did Tina, the annoying friend of Jamie’s foster sister Rachel, who disappears early on in the movie and not a single person notices or cares. Danielle Harris does a great job with some pretty terrible material, and Loomis earns himself some more Child Endangerment merit badges.
Best Moment: Loomis badgering an already traumatized child and using her as bait for a psycho killer.
Worst Moment: Every minute of Tina’s existence.
Excerpts from My Research Research Notes:
“Michael isn’t even trying to hide now. He’s standing behind, like, 3 leaves.”
“WHY IS NO ONE ASKING ABOUT RACHEL?”
“Hay-sex. That seems like it would be, at best, uncomfortable and itchy.”
“Michael waits a couple of minutes, because he is a drama queen, then strolls on out of the burning car.”
5. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later
Laurie Strode, living in California under an assumed name after she faked her own death to try to escape her brother, must face off against Michael Myers again when he hunts her down on Halloween.
Mercifully, H20 basically pretends that 4-6 never happened. (I actually kind of dig 4, which I’ll discuss in a moment, and parts of 5, but I’m glad they’re not considered canon.) H20 is a fairly standard slasher, but Laurie is completely over Michael’s shit, so she has more agency than your typical Final Girl. At the end of the movie, she does what everyone who’s ever watched a slasher flick wants the Final Girl to do: she cuts off the killer’s damn head. Michael’s head flies off, and the credits roll. Y’all, I cheered and pumped my fist. My notes at this point just read: “Laurie. Fucking. Strode.”
One thing that still bothers me, though, is Adam Arkin’s performance. He keeps popping up at the precise moment when The Real Killer would be popping up if this were a whodunit, and he is weirdly cagey and creepy throughout the movie. Even his death looks suspiciously fake. I honestly thought Laurie was going to take off Michael’s mask at the end of this movie, Scooby Doo-style, and find Adam Arkin under there instead of her brother.
Best Moment: Laurie chopping Michael’s head off.
Worst Moment: Adam Arkin being an unnecessarily creepy red herring.
Excerpts from My Research Notes:
“Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets an ice skate to the face. Nice.”
“A REST STOP?! You are just asking to get murdered.”
“I’ve always wanted a dumbwaiter.”
“Laurie goes to finish the job, but LL Cool J fucking stops her. WORST SECURITY GUARD EVER.”
4. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
Michael Myers returns to Haddonfield to kill his niece, Jamie, with whom he shares a psychic connection.
I’m no fan of the psychic connection storyline (Michael Myers is scary enough on his own – you don’t need to add curses or psychic links or other supernatural things to an already perfect horror character), but Halloween 4 is a decent sequel, and Danielle Harris deserves a lot of the credit for that. She was the rare child actress who could play an engaging and sympathetic kid without coming across as annoyingly precocious. There are some good scares in this movie, and the ending where Jamie picks up the slasher mantle from her uncle is fun in a popcorn flick sort of way.
Best Moment: The mirror scene. As Jamie walks out of her bedroom, we see her reflection in all 3 panes of the mirror on her dressing table; right after she leaves, lightning strikes and we see Michael reflected in just the far right pane of the mirror.
Worst Moment: Michael killing the family dog. Stop killing dogs, Michael, damn.
Excerpts from My Research Notes:
“Some jackasses leave Loomis in the dust hitchhiking because Michael blew up his car. I hope they die.”
“Who opens the door for trick-or-treaters wearing just a t-shirt that says ‘COPS DO IT BY THE BOOK’?”
“Loomis’s face when he takes a swig of liquor – God I love that man.”
“PUT ON SOME GODDAMN PANTS.”
3. Halloween II
Michael continues to stalk Laurie, stabbing and slashing his way through the hospital where she was taken immediately after the events of the first film.
I have a horror confession to make: I hate – HAAAAATE – that they retconned Laurie into being Michael’s sister. Adding the family angle takes away part of what makes Michael Myers so scary. He’s the boogeyman! He doesn’t just hunt down and kill his boogeyfamily…he kills because that’s what he is. Evil. Random, unstoppable, terrifying evil. This is a fine movie, but I think it would be just as good (better, honestly) without the secret sister subplot.
Best Moment: The jack o’ lantern revealing a skull inside at the very beginning of the movie.
Worst Moment: Retconning which window Michael fell out of when Loomis shot him. That’s just irritating.
Excerpts from My Notes:
“‘Tell the sheriff I shot him!’ ‘You don’t know what death is!’ LOOMIS 4-EVA.”
“There’s a dude watching Night of the Living Dead. Gotta love the public domain.”
“Laurie doesn’t want to be unconscious. She’s the only non-idiot in this town besides Tommy and Loomis.”
“Time to find the bodies!”
2. Halloween III: Season of the Witch
After a patient is mysteriously murdered in the hospital, his doctor investigates the patient’s final days and uncovers a plot by the CEO of a novelty toy company to murder every child in the country in a mass Celtic blood sacrifice on the night of Samhain.
When I am on my deathbed, which will hopefully be a very long time from now, I will beckon my family closer so that I can impart some final wisdom. They will lean in, and just before I take my last breath, I will whisper, “Halloween III is way better than anyone gives it credit for.”
This movie has it all: the perfect Halloween countdown song, which is also the perfect murder countdown song; Tom Atkins fighting the severed robot arm of his former lover; an annoying little boy getting his face melted and then somehow turned into all the bugs and snakes in the world; Tom Atkins fighting the headless robot body of his former lover; and a toy company performing a ritual sacrifice by murdering every child in the country. Y’all, Halloween III is amazing. Granted, this movie came out before I was born, so I didn’t experience the “Where the hell is Michael Myers?” phenomenon. BUT. This movie is a classic, and it’s truer to John Carpenter’s vision of an anthology series than any of the later sequels.
Best Moment: Every time the Silver Shamrock jingle plays. “One more day to Halloween, Halloween, Halloween, one more day to Halloween – Silver Shamrock!”
Worst Moment: Every time the Silver Shamrock jingle plays. I love it, but it is definitely an earworm.
Excerpts from My Notes:
“There’s a skateboarding ballerina with a pumpkin mask on. I like the cut of her jib.”
“Tom Atkins kills the Druid Droids with the mystical microchips and then the stolen Stonehenge rock blows up the factory.”
“BAM. All the kids die. Awesome.”
Fifteen years after he murdered his older sister, Michael Myers returns to his home on Halloween to kill again.
I mean, obviously the original gets the #1 spot. This movie is nearly perfect. (Yes, nearly. In my incredibly humble I-am-not-John-Carpenter opinion, Michael taking off his mask to reveal an inexplicably deformed face was a misstep. It didn’t make sense – how did he become Quasimodo by just sitting and staring at the asylum wall for 15 years? – and it made that moment far less scary. The boogeyman has no face! That’s why the blank mask works so well.)
Halloween is always scary no matter how many times you’ve seen it. The direction is genius. (Insert obligatory reminder to check out Black Christmas if you haven’t already, because Bob Clark did some genius proto-slasher directing of his own four years before Halloween came out.) The theme and sound effects are brilliant (John Carpenter really can do it all, can’t he?), and Jamie Lee Curtis is the perfect scream queen. Her Laurie Strode is smart, cautious, responsible, resourceful (check my girl out with that knitting needle attack!), and relatable. She can also scream her ass off, which seems like it should be easy to do but in reality it is not.
Best Moment: Pretty much the entire movie, but my favorite part is when Michael’s mask slowly materializes in the doorway behind Laurie. It gives me chills every time.
Worst Moment: The mask reveal, which is a very minor quibble. I only included it for symmetry’s sake.
Instead of excerpts from my notes, I want to leave you with this thought, fiends. One of my favorite aspects of this movie is the lesson that the adults will never help you. The cops can’t do anything, the parents are nowhere to be found, and the only adult neighbors that are home just turn off their porch lights and go to bed when they hear a teenager screaming for help. No one is coming to save you.
So grab your knitting needles and your wire hangers, kiddies. No one is coming to save you from the boogeyman, because no one can save you from the boogeyman.