RANKING THE HALLOWEEN FRANCHISE FROM WORST TO FIRST
Halloween is one of the most classic, iconic horror movies of all time. It gave us a true slasher icon in the form of Michael Myers and spawned a massive franchise with ten entries to date. Like all horror series, the Halloween films have their hits and misses. There are some great entries, some fun but uneven entries, and some that just don’t work the way that they should.
That happens to any franchise that goes on as long as the Halloween series has. There have been so many wildly different directions taken, which is kind of amazing in and of itself, because the character of Michael Myers is so simplistic and raw at the beginning of that series. It starts out as something that is almost destined for repetition.
But as the franchise went on, it fought as hard as it could to avoid that kind of repetition. Entries have strived for something different with both excellent and not-so-excellent results and have also tried to take it back to the original formula with varying degrees of success. Ultimately, it’s just a fun slasher series with the typical highs and lows that plague every major slasher icon.
Michael Myers is an enduring character who has lasted thirty-eight years already and will sure continue on for years to come. He is, as Dr. Loomis said, purely and simply evil. As many different directions as it takes, the franchise will always come back around to its boogeyman.
More than any other entry in the series and possibly any major franchise sequel in recent memory, Halloween: Resurrection fails by just completely and totally feeling like a movie by committee. It is trying so hard to hip and current that it completely forgets to craft interesting and memorable characters. It kills off Laurie Strode after her major kickass comeback in H20 in the opening scene, in a sequence that kind of feels like an afterthought. Busta Rhymes gets a lot of flack for it, but he’s the only one in the whole thing who looks like he’s having any fun. This version of Michael, however, is terrific and intelligent and I would really have loved to see this portrayal in a better feature.
Halloween II (2009)
I fully admire Rob Zombie’s decision to just totally do his own thing with Halloween II. There are some interesting ideas, interesting performances, and at times it is genuinely visually stunning. There are some great individual moments in Halloween II. The opening is stellar. But the story requires huge leaps in logic to even half work. As a whole, the story does not function at all because it requires both the hero and villain to be psychic without drawing any attention to that. It can’t require ESP to make sense while simultaneously patting itself on the back for being such a realistic portrayal.
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
There are two wildly different versions of Curse of Michael Myers, but neither of them is much better than the other. While it gets major points for being the last performance of the late, great Donald Pleasance, there are so many problems with it. The idea of the cult is fundamentally challenging to the entire concept of Halloween. Michael works best when he’s not overtly explained. However, Paul Rudd gives a very sincere performance and there are some kill sequences that really standout. It’s a massively convoluted slasher, but the slasher elements still work.
Rob Zombie’s Halloween takes a unique approach. While there are notable flaws, I appreciate that he took the basic concept and completely did his own thing with it. That’s what a remake should do. It’s overtly realistic where Carpenter’s original was supernatural. The original was scary because Michael was lurking in the shadows. This is scary because it places you directly inside his head. Still, it doesn’t achieve everything it sets out to do. Too many of the characters don’t stand out from one another. There are characters in the Halloween story that don’t gel with Zombie’s style and he has noticeable difficulty with them because he struggles with writing characters outside his comfort zone. But even still, it has a terrific cast along with an innovative structure and some excellent production design.
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers
Halloween 5 almost functions better as a giallo flick because it is so style over substance. The story doesn’t really make sense. Jamie Lloyd is a mute after her encounter with Michael the previous year drove her to stab (but not murder) her foster mother. She has a psychic link with Michael that’s unexplained and totally abandoned by the end, and on that same note she stops being mute halfway through the film. There’s an unexplained man in black and an unexplained tattoo on Michael’s wrist, both of which were just left for the next one to clean up. The movie ends with Michael in jail which is completely ridiculous after Halloween 4 saw him murder the entire police station between scenes. But Donald Pleasance gives it his all as a totally driven, harder-edged Loomis and the Halloween atmosphere is genuinely amazing.
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
Halloween 4 is a legitimately great slasher sequel. It might be the best at recapturing the tone of the original. It has the greatest seasonal atmosphere and one of the best openings of the whole series. Danielle Harris gives one of horror’s best child performances. Michael Myers is a powerhouse in this movie and Rachel is a likable protagonist with echoes of Laurie, but one who also manages to stand on her own. Loomis gets some of his very best lines. The only real problem with this one is the notoriously bad mask. But it’s a new mask and it is a cheap mask we literally watch Michael steal from a dime store, so at least it makes some story sense. There’s not much to take issue with in Halloween 4, it’s just not as great (in my mind, of course) as the other entries on the list.
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later
H20 is for sure the most stupidly titled Halloween. It is totally and completely of its era. There are ‘90s tropes all over this thing. It totally ignores the previous three movies. Well, actually, it kind of acknowledges Halloween 4, but people still like to give it crap anyway. But what Halloween H20 actually is, is an earnest and sincere survivor’s story. This is a realistic portrayal of one woman who could never get over this terrible thing that happened to her. Jamie Lee Curtis’s return performance as Laurie Strode is so, so good. The moment when she picks up an axe and locks herself in the school with Michael as the iconic theme kicks in still gives me chills to this day. Yes, the feature has mask problems, but at least a couple of them are genuinely decent masks.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch
It might not be any part of the Michael Myers story, or in any way related to that entire world, but Halloween III is still a part of the franchise and as such it’s an excellent one. This was part of a trio of “Kill Your TV” horrors in 1983 along with Videodrome and Poltergeist. It’s about an evil mask maker who wants to kill the children of the world when they tune into his big giveaway on Halloween night while wearing their Silver Shamrock masks. It’s a totally different kind of film, which helps it feel fresh. It’s tech horror and body horror at the same time. The score and cinematography are so good. It shouldn’t be judged based solely on the fact that Michael isn’t in it.
Halloween II (1981)
Dean Cundey is the true unsung hero of Halloween II because this sequel picks up exactly where the first left off and his cinematography makes sure that it keeps total visual consistency with the original. Everything about it feels consistent with the first and that might feel like a small compliment, but it’s not. This sequel was made years later and the fact that it manages not to look like it is astonishing. Michael is just as scary this time out, even if he’s more of a traditional slasher villain. There are some gruesome, iconic kills. Dick Warlock’s performance as the shape is superb and underrated. People point out that it is stiff and robotic, but at times it’s almost mime like. The returning cast is terrific. There’s so much good that it almost makes you forget this is the world’s most understaffed hospital.
At the end of the day, there can be only one. In this case, the original truly is the best. Accept no substitutes. Halloween is one of the most effective, well-crafted horror films of all time. It remains effective to this day, as evidenced by the fact that the last few years have seen it return to the big screen in October as almost an annual routine. It’s expected to see it playing again around this time of year and I love that. Because it still works. The score works. The cinematography is groundbreaking. It’s so simplistic, yet so streamlined and genuinely well-written. Michael Myers is so unnerving in this original movie because you’re given nothing about his character and motivation. All you know is that he killed his sister at the age of six and then sat in a room staring at a wall for fifteen whole years. Sometimes overthinking a story isn’t the answer, and Halloween will always be fundamental proof of that.
Here’s to hoping everyone has an amazing and safe Halloween!