Friday, October 19, 2007

What's All This Then?: Michael Myers and Halloween, Part Two

Part One

If you haven't seen these movies, SPOILERS BELOW.

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

At the end of Halloween II, it looked like Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis were both burned alive. Fortunately for the franchise, that wasn't actually the case, so here we are several years later and Michael escapes captivity again and decides to go after Laurie Strode's daughter, Jamie Lloyd (named after Jamie Lee Curtis, no doubt). Even the considerably less resilient Dr. Loomis managed to escape the flames.

Since little Jamie is only ten years old, we need another teen-aged girl for Michael to menace. Fortunately again (funny how these things work out), Jamie is a foster child to the Carruthers family who just so happen to have a teen daughter named Rachel.

Laurie Strode is said in this movie to have died in a car crash, but we find out in Halloween H20 that she faked her death. Kind of a jerky thing to do, leaving her daughter to a foster family instead of taking her into hiding with her. Of course, H20 wants to ignore the three movies I'm talking about today so that Jamie doesn't even exist in them, but it's not that easy as far as I'm concerned. I'll talk more about that next time though.

I liked the element of Michael terrorizing a younger child. Not because I'm sadistic, but because I knew that she wasn't going to die (that's against the rules of these things) and I enjoyed watching her match wits against this hulking man who's arguably childlike in his mental development.

Speaking of "this hulking man," I was a bit confused at the DVD documentaries on this movie and the next one where they kept referring to Michael Myers as The Shape. That's not something he's ever called in the films, so I got curious about where that came from. According to Wikipedia (for what that's worth), "Some fans and even cast and crew of the films sometime call the character The Shape, which is what some of the actors playing the character are credited as. This dates back to the script for the first film in which Michael Myers is referred to by name only twice, in the beginning and end scenes; at all other times, with the exception of dialogue, he is simply referred to as a 'shape' due to his face not being visible." So, the way I figure it, calling Michael "The Shape" is the Horror Nerd equivalent of referring to the Marvel Universe as OU812 or whatever it is that Marvel Nerds call it.

The relationship between Rachel and Jamie was really sweet. Rachel isn't played as a complete saint who willingly sacrifices her whole social life to take care of poor, troubled Jamie. She does sacrifice, no doubt, but she has to be reminded occasionally by her dad that that's the right thing to do. Which is nice, because it makes her even more heroic when we realize that she's actually giving something up to watch over her foster sister. And for Jamie's part, she's not just a frightened, little girl. She's also very sweet and funny. I really enjoyed watching the two of them interact.

I haven't mentioned Dr. Loomis much because frankly his role here is the same as it always is. He runs around telling everyone how dangerous Michael is and shows up at the end to freak out and preside over Michael's apparent demise.

The cliffhanger to this one was cheesy, but amazingly effective. It was cheesy because Michael abruptly goes from being simply deranged to being this supernatural force whose Evil Essence can be transferred to Jamie when she touches his supposedly dead body. That's dumb. But seeing her reenact Michael's opening scene from Halloween with her foster mom made me really anxious to see Halloween 5 and find out what was going to happen next.

Four out of five shotgun blasts to the chest.

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers

Unfortunately, the payoff to 4's cliffhanger is lame. Jamie hasn't gone completely evil and her foster mom (inexplicably referred to as her step-mom all through this movie) isn't even dead; just injured. Jamie hasn't spoken since the incident though and has been committed to the mental wing of the local children's hospital.

Michael, who obviously didn't die last movie (I mean, it wasn't even convincing as you were watching the last movie), has spent the last year letting an old hermit nurse him back to health. But it's Halloween night again, which means that Michael suddenly decides to kill the hermit he's been living with for a year and go looking for Jamie again.

Dr. Loomis is still around, and he of course (because he's just about as crazy as Michael, I've decided) interprets Jamie's reoccurring dreams about Michael as evidence that Michael's still alive. Which just provides further excuse for Loomis to run around raving about Michael in yet another Halloween movie. Really, Loomis is tiresome, but not as much as he deserves to be just because I actually like Donald Pleasance in this role. I didn't care for him as Blofeld in You Only Live Twice and he's unconvincing as the President in Escape from New York, but I like him in these movies. He's annoying, but he's also always right about Michael, so I cut him some slack.

Rachel Carruthers is back briefly in this one, but she's killed pretty quickly. The new teen screamer is Rachel's friend Tina who also has a really sweet relationship with Jamie. Unlike Rachel, who was sort of bookish in the Laurie Strode tradition, Tina is a partier. She's the kind of girl you expect to be killed quickly in slasher films because she's always ready for sex and nothing sets off a psychopathic killer like a girl who's just had or is having or is intending to have sex.

(Speaking of which, why is it that teen couples always have such screwed up relationships in these movies? It's always the same: the guy is a total self-centered, drunken butthole and the girl constantly reminds him of it and calls him names, even as she's taking off her shirt for him.)

Anyway, back to Tina. Though she likes to drink, smoke, and fool around, she's written against type in her devotion to Jamie. She visits Jamie at the hospital all the time and talks to her like a normal person, even though she knows Jamie's not going to answer her. It's very endearing.

The cliffhanger on this one is just as good as on 4. Partway through the movie a guy gets off the bus in Haddonfield. We never see his face, but we know he's cool because he wears a black duster and black, silver-tipped cowboy boots. And we know he's mean 'cause he kicks a dog as soon as he's off the bus. When the police actually capture Michael Myers, we see the mystery man go into the jail and then we watch helplessly outside as chaos erupts inside. There's screaming, gunfire, and explosions, then Jamie goes inside to check it out and finds Michael's cell empty with the bars all mangled, leaving a gaping hole.

Who is the mystery man? What does he want with Michael? Why does he have the same tattoo as Michael? Why is that mark also scratched into a wall in Michael's house? Stay tuned!

Four out of five pitchfork impalements.

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers

This one's most notable for starring Paul Rudd as Tommy Doyle, the kid Laurie Strode was babysitting in the first Halloween. Thanks to Friends, Anchorman, The 40 Year Old Virgin, and Knocked Up, Rudd can pretty much make me laugh just by standing there. Not that this is a funny role for him, but the fondness was already there and I was eager to see him try to kick Michael's butt.

Michael's victim this time is a relative named Kara Strode who's moved with her family into the old Myers house. It's never really explained how these Strodes are related to Laurie Strode, which is kind of frustrating, but between their last name and their new home, they're destined for trouble.

We learn early on that the mysterious man from 5 was a member of a Druidic cult (gotta work that Halloween connection!) and that Michael is their servant-assassin. He was possessed almost from birth by an evil spirit called Thorn that now threatens to possess Kara's son Danny. Also, Jamie -- who I guess was also taken by the mystery man at the end of 5 -- has been raised for the last several years by the Druids and was raped by them in order to produce a child that they could sacrifice. When Jamie escapes with her baby, pursued by Michael, she manages to get the child into Tommy Doyle's hands and the battle lines are drawn. The rest of the movie is Tommy, Kara, and Dr. Loomis (who for some reason no longer has the nasty burn scarring that he's been sporting for the last two movies) trying to keep Danny and the baby safe from Michael (also no longer scarred) and the Druids.

Unfortunately, the Druids aren't really that scary. They are at first, but we eventually realize that they're just businesspeople who hope to use the occult to tap into whatever power Michael has. Just how that's going to work isn't really explained. And Michael's basically acting as their flunky diminishes him. He'd be a good flunky to have, no doubt, but it's sad to see him reduced to that.

Fortunately, he doesn't stay that way for long. Pretty much as soon as we learn the true, disappointing identities of the Druids, Michael decides he doesn't want to work for them anymore and starts hacking them apart. At that point, the movie gets really good again.

Three out of five electrocuted deejays.

Next time: Laurie Strode returns in H20 and Resurrection.


Anonymous said...

I'd never seen parts 4/5 before either- despite buying them on dvd last year. I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed them, and that the series was (essentially) still opting for suspense over excessive gore.

I still haven't seen part 6, although I do think Halloween is better as an 80's property. (Even if the first was a few years early for the decade!)

Are you still going to review H20, Resurrection, and Zombie's remake?

Michael May said...

Absolutely. This week sometime for sure.

I'm curious about what you mean about Halloween being better as an '80s property. I don't necessarily disagree with you, but I'm not sure I understand what you're saying.

Then again, I haven't seen all the other '80s slasher franchises... yet.

Anonymous said...

There's a simplicity to the 80's sequels that I feel is more effective, whereas the later films just seemed to try too hard to be edgy or modern. For example, I like H20 and Resurrection but feel they'd rather be (at times) more 'Scream' or 'Blair Witch' than Halloween.

However, this is not to say I think the series doesn't still work in modern day. I haven't seen the new one yet, so it may be just as effective as the earlier films.

Michael May said...

Ah! Gotcha. And I do agree. Which is all I'll say until I write the review of the remake, but my feelings about it definitely tie in to what you're saying here.


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