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362 More Days Until Michael Myers Strikes Again

We may be through with Halloween, but the Halloween movies don't have to be through with us. Yes, it may be a few days past All Hallows' Eve, but good horror movies can be enjoyed all times of the year. Of course, not all of the movies of the Halloween series are good, but the first three are unique in their own special ways.

Halloween (1978)
Written By: John Carpenter & Debra Hill; Directed by: John Carpenter
Let's face it -- if you have not seen any of the Halloween movies, you probably don't think of them as much more than typical slasher movies. But, the original Halloween is a freakin' masterpiece. The story isn't much more than "There was an evil boy who got let loose and we're trying to find him but he's going around and killing people", but the way it is executed is nothing short of masterful. From the creepy score (the now-famous 5/4 piano riff, composed by John Carpenter himself) to the shadow-filled cinematography, to the camera angles coming from the perspective of Michael Myers, to the simple tension building as the film moves on, the movie is definitely a lesson that the "less is more" rule in horror is always best. And the conclusion to the film is fantastic -- Dr. Loomis shoots Myers and lets him fall to his assumed-to-be death. But Michael disappears, and we see the many houses in the neighborhood from his perspective, then cut to black, set to the creeptastic score. Not just a great horror movie, this is just a great movie.

Halloween II (1981)
Written by: John Carpenter & Debra Hill; Directed by: Rick Rosenthal
The second movie in this series gets a bit of a bum rap for being an inferior film to the first. And, while I won't say that as a film it measures up to the original, I think it is very effective as a horror movie and really an interesting experiment in sequel-making. Taking place immediately after the events of the original Halloween, Halloween II on paper seems a little bit like Michael Myers fan fiction. But, rather than treating the viewer to the same movie for a second time, the horror starts immediately and doesn't let up for a second. So, we can assume that at the end of the first movie, Myers survies and probably wreaks havoc on the rest of the neighborhood, but do we really need to see all of this? In a way, yes. In the context of the first film, this movie works as the flip-side to the original's slow-building tension -- it is relentless in its horror and doesn't stop for a second. We do learn a little bit more backstory, but for the most part, our characters are merely chased by Michael Myers and just can't seem to kill him off. Most unsettling is the film's conclusion, which will cause you to never hear the song "Mister Sandman" the same way again.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Written and Directed by: Tommy Lee Wallace
After the success of the first two films (critical and financial for the first, and financial for the second), Carpenter and gang decided that the Michael Myers storyline could go no further and switched gears completely with the third film. It was a great idea, then, that they would make this franchise into an anthology, with Halloween-themed movies with different stories every year. Unfortunately, there are a couple of major flaws in this idea. One, it's difficult to justify shifting gears completely after having already made two films with the same central storyline. Two, this new movie is a complete train-wreck. The general premise of the film is that a corporation makes Halloween masks for children that melt their heads and turn them into bugs, or something. Add in some men in suits who come around to strangle people and a heavy dose of unnecessary "gross-out" horror (let's rip a guy's head off! That's scary by itself, right?) and you get yourself a mess. It doesn't help that near the end, the nefarious evil corporate president makes sure that the audience knows his exact motivation for his evil tactics (see, Halloween used to be very scary and children used to die back in the olden days!!! Something something his heritage!!!!! Oooooh, scary!!!!!!!!), a plot device that seems to be heavily featured in today's crappy horror movies (Dead Silence, anybody?). Cumbersome plot details and a hodge-podge of elements make this movie an unfortunate disaster.

It's a shame because after this movie, Michael Myers returned and made the series into what it eventually became known for -- simple slasher films with little-to-no redeeming value. However, it's hard to find fault in the first two films. Today's horror directors and writers could learn a thing or two by watching the first two Halloween movies back-to-back.

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  1. Blogger Brigitte | 10:06 AM |  

    oh man, I can't WAIT until next halloween. and I agree that these films can be enjoyed year round. I also kinda wanna give the other Halloween's in the series a shot...

  2. Anonymous Anna | 1:16 PM |  

    Blurgh, biggest mistake EVER was seeing Halloween ON Halloween with you, Brigitte. Movie was great, hanging out with you was great, but that night, all alone in my cavernous apartment in that dangerous neighborhood, was TERRIFYING.

  3. Blogger chris | 5:59 PM |  

    I haven't seen the second one in a while, but I REALLY don't like what I remember. I agree the premise is interesting, having it start right after the events of the first movie, but I felt the whole point of the first movie's ending was to leave it inconclusive, forever living in that night. With Halloween II negating that, the mystery and eeriness is lost.

    It would have almost been better to have it completely severed from the first's storyline so that the events of the first aren't tainted by the audacity of the second.

    I should give it another go though and see if my mind changes about it. Surely it's a masterpiece in comparison to the third one.

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