The Shape of the “Halloween” Franchise: Ranking the “Halloween” Series from the Dullest Knife to the Sharpest Blade!

In celebration of Scream Factory and Anchor Bay’s “Halloween: The Complete Collection” on Blu-ray, the Phantom of the Ville attempts to rank the bloody saga of Michael Myers!

Happy Halloween, Louisville trick-or-treaters, it’s the Phantom of the Ville here with one of toughest jobs I’ve ever had to tackle while toiling in the Louisville Halloween laboratory. The “Halloween” franchise is my absolute favorite horror movie series, and the task of ranking them in some sort of descending order is like being forced to rank your favorite children. There are things I love about even my least favorite series entries, and I find all of them worth re-watching and re-evaluating on an annual basis.

In anticipation of Scream Factory’sHalloween: The Complete Collection,” which hits store shelves on Blu-ray on September 23rd, I’m going to attempt to put my love of the “Halloween” franchise into some kind of perspective and evaluate each film as it works or doesn’t work in the context of the whole 36 year history.

Let’s start carving pumpkins, shall we?

10) “Halloween: Resurrection” (2002): The director of the original “Halloween II” (1981), Rick Rosenthal, returns to the franchise to orchestrate this follow up to the box-office success of “Halloween: H20: 20 Years Later” (1998) with admittedly mixed results. Rosenthal attempts to bring Michael Myers into the modern world of reality television, Internet podcasts, smart phones and “found footage.” While I actually enjoyed the subplot involving a high school computer wiz carrying on an Internet relationship with the film’s heroine and his attempts to help her escape the Shape via online texting, I can’t with good conscience excuse Rosenthal’s horrible mangling of Jamie Lee Curtis’ last screen appearance as Laurie Strode. Neither can I excuse the scenes of Busta Ryhmes putting the kung-fu beat down on Michael Myers. I will give the movie props for giving us the best Michael Myers mask in the franchise since “Halloween II” (1981).

9) “Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers” (1995): The theatrical cut of “Halloween VI” is a confusing mess. Thankfully, Scream Factory’s new boxed set will allow fans to finally see a good print of the legendary “Producer’s Cut” known in horror fan circles as “Halloween 666.” Nothing will ever make this entry a great film, but at least the producer’s cut follows up on the Cult of Thorn plot introduced in the theatrical cut, but dropped for some reason in post-production. This film will be remembered for introducing movie audiences to Paul Rudd, who will soon be known as Marvel’sAnt Man,” as grown up Tommy Doyle, the little boy being babysat by Jamie Lee Curtis in the original film. It also features the charming last screen performance of genre legend, Donald Pleasence.

8) Rob Zombie’sHalloween II” (2009): Rob Zombie’s rushed and pasted together follow up to his first re-imagining of John Carpenter’s classic is trashy, depressing and nihilistic to the core. That means Rob Zombie’s fans probably love it. I think that it’s at least more stylistically consistent than his first effort, probably due to the fact that he had much more freedom and creative control, and wasn’t forced to try and re-create the storyline of an established classic. Even though I think the opening hospital sequence is the best scene in the movie, I have to ultimately deduct points for wasting nearly the first entire act of the film on what is essentially just a false nightmare/dream bait and switch gag.

7) Rob Zombie’sHalloween” (2007): Rob Zombie was given the unenviable task of re-making a universally agreed upon horror classic. It didn’t work out so well for Gus Van Sant (“Psycho” 1998), but Zombie at least was given the opportunity to put his own signature spin on it. The first half of the movie chronicling Michael Myers’ twisted and abusive childhood is actually quite good, in spite of my own personal feelings that this part of the Shape’s background is better left unknown. It’s in the second half, where Zombie is contractually obliged to present a condensed version of the best scenes from the 1978 original that the re-make pales in comparison. Tyler Mane makes for a suitably towering, terrifying killer and Malcom McDowall is an inspired choice to play the Donald Pleasence role of Michael Myer’s chief nemesis, Dr. Sam Loomis. I think Zombie puts a noble effort into modernizing the “Halloween” franchise, but I can’t help but also think that his style would be better suited to “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

6) “Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers” (1989): This sequel was admittedly rushed by producer, Moustapha Akkad, to capitalize on the box-office success of “Halloween 4” (1988) and to get it into theaters the very next year for Halloween. Directed by neophyte Swiss director, Dominique Othenin-Girard, it directly follows the events of “Halloween 4,” but makes several odd creative choices that don’t seem to mesh with series history. For example, under Othenin-Girard’s creative vision, the Meyers’ house is suddenly depicted as a decrepit, Gothic mansion instead of an ordinary suburban house and Michael Myer’s chooses methods of murder more consistent with Jason Voorhees than his usual stalk-and-slash modus operandi. Donald Pleasence delivers his most unhinged performance of the series, however, and has seemingly become as crazy as his adversary in his long pursuit.

5) “Halloween: H20: 20 Years Later” (1998): Jamie Lee Curtis makes a triumphant return to the role of Laurie Strode in this fun and exciting sequel that picks up her story 20 years after the events of “Halloween II” (1981). Director Steve Minor ( “Friday the 13th Part 2”) borrows a style consistent with the new breed of post “Scream” slasher films of the mid-90’s to good effect, and delivers a rock-‘em-sock-‘em, audience pleasing horror film. Laurie Strode, now a mother of her own son and a teacher at a private California school, struggles with alcohol and night terrors as she still lives with the scars of her encounter with her psychotic brother. The return of Michael Myers on Halloween night gives her one last chance to defeat her demons forever. I like this little movie quite a bit.

4) “Halloween III: The Season of the Witch” (1982): What? I love this little B-movie, and it has never bothered me one bit that it has nothing to do with the legacy of Haddonfield or Michael Myers. It was John Carpenter’s original idea to create a series of films to release each October 31st that would use the orange-and-black holiday as the background for a variety of different stories, but the studio insisted the film be released as “Halloween 3,” angering an entire generation of horror fans who felt cheated at the theater. Well, if they had bothered to read their “Fangoria” magazine like good horror fans do, they would have known well in advance that this was never intended to be a Michael Myers slash-fest! Wonderful Don Post witch, jack-o-lantern and skull masks play a key role in a modern Druid cult’s plans of Halloween sacrificial slaughter, and beloved character actor, Tom Atkins, must try and stop the madness. Don’t fight it! “Halloween III: Season of the Witch” is too much fun to ignore.

3) “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” (1988): Ten years after the release of the original box-office blockbuster, and six years after the box-office failure of “Halloween III,” producer Moustapha Akkad decided to give the fans what they wanted. It’s my opinion that “Halloween 4” comes the closest of all of the sequels and reboots to capturing the shadowy mood and measured pace of Carpenter’s classic. It also introduces two of the most appealing characters in the series in actresses Ellie Cornell and Danielle Harris. They were girl-next-door horror heroes worth caring about and rooting for. Donald Pleasence is wonderful, as usual, and the script is tight and suspenseful. This terrific little sequel gets almost as much play in my DVD player each Halloween as the original.

2) “Halloween II” (1981): John Carpenter reluctantly (and by his own admission, under the influence of much alcohol) wrote a sequel to his 1978 low budget thriller under pressure from both the fans and the studio, and given his reservations about continuing a story he thought was already finished, I think he wrote a great little sequel! Taking place immediately following the events of the original, Laurie Strode is taken to the Haddonfield Memorial Hospital where the Shape follows her to finish the grim task he started. This was the first “Halloween” film I was able to see in theaters, and nostalgia probably plays a part in my unconditional love of Michael Myers’ first return to the silver screen, but the heart can’t be denied! It’s not perfect. Jamie Lee Curtis becomes more of just a screaming victim here than the smart horror heroine we met in the first film, but the dark hospital hallways in this movie still scare me today.

1) “Halloween” (1978): Surprised? I know, I know. There’s very little to say about John Carpenter’s efficient, effective narrative that hasn’t been said. It’s a model of simplicity and perfection. I give as much credit to cinematographer, Dean Cundey, as I do to Carpenter for creating an atmosphere of stark terror with his use of shadows and blue nighttime hues. I think one of the reasons this film continues to scare and fascinate us nearly 40 years after its release is Carpenter’s theory on evil as it exists in our own backyards, and indeed, perhaps even inside ourselves. There are hints of the supernatural at work, but they remain murky and unexplained. Michael Myers remains an unknowable mystery. Is he the boy next door gone wrong or is he driven by some evil, supernatural force? It’s these questions (questions that Rob Zombie’s films either fail to ask or seek to definitively answer) that keep us coming back to re-examine the puzzle pieces.

The Phantom of The Ville

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