This weekend sees the debut of Halloween Kills both in theaters and on Peacock, with fans having waited a year longer than expected to see Michael Myers carve a new path of destruction. Coming off the success of 2018's Halloween, the new film was once again directed by David Gordon Green, who co-wrote alongside Danny McBride and Scott Teems, with this film also seeing the return of stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, and Andi Matichak. As is the nature of a long-running franchise, not only is it important to see how a film stacks up on its own, but also how it fits in with the franchise overall, so we're here to break down how the whole franchise stacks up and what Halloween Kills' place is among the mayhem.
In 1978, filmmaker John Carpenter gave the world the seminal slasher masterpiece Halloween, forever making people afraid of masks, jumpsuits, and overgrown hedges. In the decades since, the franchise has had a few ups and many downs, all while solidifying Michael Myers as one of the most recognizable horror icons in history, right alongside Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, and the Wolf-Man.
Over the course of 12 films, it's easy to lose track of a series' highs and lows, often confusing one sequel with another and remembering an entire franchise as one of mediocrity. Given how famous the character became in pop culture, it's even possible for the casual fan to mistake Myers as '80s horror icons like Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees.
At its core, the story centers around a young boy who murders his sister on Halloween night, only to regularly return to his hometown to prey on people for a variety of reasons, all while Dr. Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasence) hopes for to rehabilitate the disturbed Myers over suffering death or incarceration. Laurie Strode (Curtis) also makes sporadic appearances, sometimes as Myers' sister and other times as merely a happenstance target.
Scroll down to see how the new film stacks up with the rest of the Halloween franchise!
12) Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
Despite being titled "Resurrection," this film ironically marked the end of one of the film's multiple narratives, and for good reason, seeing as it is awful.
One element of the series that was barely explored was that of Michael Myers' actual home, a location which he returned to multiple times throughout the years. A reality TV producer hopes to take advantage of this situation, casting coeds to explore the house on Halloween night for a broadcast going out across the internet. Unsurprisingly, Myers returns home and picks off the coeds one by one until the producer and one contestant are the only ones left.
It's difficult to highlight anything good about this film, as the whole thing felt like a generic slasher film that merely had "Halloween" slapped to the front of its title. Potentially the only thing that could appeal to anyone is devout Busta Rhymes fans get to hear him utter multiple catchphrases with variations of the F-word in them.
The film that preceded this one brought Jamie Lee Curtis back to the franchise after a 17-year absence, despite the actress only being contractually obligated to appear in this installment for a 30-second cameo. Instead, she is hunted down and killed in the film's first 15 minutes, ensuring she would never have to return to the series while also getting rid of the aspect of the franchise that was most appealing to audiences. Well, at least until she decided to come back, again, for these latest films.prevnext
11) Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
To the surprise of many, Halloween 4 was a big success for the franchise, resulting in this film being rushed into production, beginning filming only six months before the film hit theaters.
A year after seemingly being defeated, Michael Myers returns to finish what he attempted to do in the last film, which is kill his niece. Jamie (Danielle Harris) has lost the power of speech after being possessed by a similar evil to that which possesses Michael, causing her to kill her mom, resulting in being institutionalized. Michael does eventually track down his niece, resulting in a typical cat-and-mouse game seen in many of the other installments.
Deciding whether Halloween 5 or Resurrection is the worse movie is difficult, but this film at least feels like a Halloween movie, albeit a bad one. This installment features some series-low moments, including Michael Myers crying at the recognition of Jamie being an innocent member of his family and a sequence in which he escapes authorities by falling into a river, only to be rescued by a hermit that takes care of the comatose killer for an entire year.
In ways both good and bad, this installment introduced the Thorn Cult, which would become an interesting element of the next film in the series, but was underdeveloped and extremely confusing in this installment.prevnext
10) Halloween (2007)
Thanks to films like House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects, musician Rob Zombie was gaining a passionate fanbase for his work horror genre that rivaled the fans of his music in the mid-'00s. Tackling an iconic character might have seemed like a good fit for the filmmaker at the time, but his interpretation of the original story ended up hurting the mythology more than helping.
A young Michael Myers shows a macabre interest in torturing small animals, a sociopathic behavior that's heightened by his abusive family. The young boy ultimately snaps, killing a schoolmate, his father and his sister, forcing him into a mental institution. Over the course of 15 years, Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) tries to get through to the boy, only for Michael to become more despondent. After abuse from the hospital staff, Michael is pushed too far, breaking himself out of the institution to return to his home in hopes of killing the younger sister that escaped his wrath years earlier.
After decades of repetitive narratives, Zombie did explore uncharted territory by venturing into how a little boy could become a monster, but unfortunately, this removed the entire mystique of the villain, which was what made him so compelling. On a filmmaking level, this Halloween is competent and feels like Zombie's unique take on the narrative, but conceptually, the film was flawed from the start.
The standout element of this remake is McDowell's Loomis, as the character in the original films was one of the few constants, with this version giving us more backstory on the complex character.prevnext
9) Halloween H20: 20 years Later (1998)
Given the success of films like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, audiences seemed prime to see a new installment in the seminal slasher series in the late '90s. Additionally, bringing back Jamie Lee Curtis appealed to fans of the original series, ultimately resulting in this flawed, but financially successful installment.
20 years after the horrific events in which her brother killed her friends on Halloween night, Laurie Strode (Curtis) has faked her death, changed her name, and moved to another part of the country. Sadly, it'll take much more than that to stop her psychotic older brother Michael, who stalks her and her son (Josh Hartnett) through a private academy in hopes of finishing what he started two decades earlier.
The biggest strength of this film isn't necessarily the return of Curtis as a performer, but the return of Laurie Strode as a character. Dr. Loomis aside, audiences hadn't connected with any characters quite like Laurie, creating an instant nostalgic connection with the audience. Additionally, this film hints on the trauma Laurie struggles with after that initial confrontation with Myers, something this year's sequel attempted to recreate.
Other than rooting for Laurie, there's nothing exceptional about this installment, with one of the most confusing moments being Curtis' real mom, Janet Leigh, having a cameo appearance. Leigh, famous for starring in Psycho, even got a musical cue that mimicked that film's famous score. This might have just been a clever nod to the audience, but it breaks the fourth wall in a way that completely takes the viewer out of the moment.
Confusingly, this film also ignores the events of the previous three films in an attempt to forge yet another new timeline.prevnext
8) Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
After a Michael Myers-less installment, the filmmakers returned to the core concept that made the first two films a success, while also including some new elements.
10 years after the events of the original film, Michael escapes from a sanitarium to return to his hometown. Meanwhile, Jamie (Danielle Harris) is the orphaned daughter of Laurie, living with a foster family. As Michael tracks down Jamie, he attacks and kills everyone at the police station, resulting in many of the townspeople banding together to rid the town of the threat that once again plagues the community. Sadly, while Michael might have been neutralized, Jamie inherits some of his bad habits, killing her foster mother in the film's final scenes.
The horror elements of this installment are pretty standard, but the exploration of Michael attempting to kill his entire bloodline made for an interesting pivot after the second film. Additionally, the scope of the series was widened when regular citizens got in on the Michael Myers hunt.
Unfortunately, the twist at the end of the film wasn't explored further, but it at least gave audiences a satisfying surprise that teased a departure from repetitive Michael Myers lore.prevnext
7) Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers [Producer's Cut] (1995)
Finally made publicly available to audiences in 2014, the Producer's Cut of the film makes for one of the most interesting sequels, despite the theatrical cut being a forgettable rehash of the familiar cat-and-mouse formula.
After being captured by the Thorn Cult, Michael's niece Jamie gives birth, only to escape the cult long enough to leave the baby in a bus station. Tommy Doyle (Paul Rudd), who Laurie babysat in the original film, has devoted his life to discovering more about Michael, piecing together clues about Jamie's escape and the whereabouts of the baby. When he retrieves the baby, Michael begins to pursue Tommy, who has luckily enlisted Dr. Loomis to save the baby and stop Michael's curse once and for all.
In the Producer's Cut of the film, the leader of the Thorn Cult reveals that an ancient ritual caused a curse to embody Michael, justifying his murderous behavior and driving him to commit his heinous crimes. In the film's final moments, the curse gets passed on to Loomis, forcing him to live with his new violent compulsion.
Fans weren't happy with this version of the film at preliminary screenings, resulting in the film being heavily edited to create a film more in line with past films feature scenes of Michael stalking and killing victims. Sadly, Donald Pleasence passed away after the initial production wrapped and before the reshoots could occur, resulting in an incredibly underwhelming sendoff for the revered character in the released version.
The theatrical cut of this film is pretty abysmal, ranking around Halloween 5 levels, but this Producer's Cut at least shows that the minds behind the series wanted to organically move on from Michael Myers, even if fans weren't ready for that. Sadly, we'll never really know how this ambitious concept could have changed the franchise permanently.prevnext
6) Halloween II (2009)
Zombie returned to the franchise two years after his remake, as his first Halloween film was a financial success and earned him another go at the character where he was allowed to take more liberties with the narrative.
A year after the events of the previous film, Michael's whereabouts are unknown, but he's presumed dead. Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton) has been attempting to recover from the events of the run-in with her brother, all while plagued with memories of the murder spree. Michael eventually catches up with Laurie, causing them to have a fatal confrontation, taking a mental and physical toll on them both, changing their lives forever.
With the Michael Myers origin story taken care of, this installment was free to be a more straightforward entry into the saga, in which Michael merely traveled from Point A to Point B, killing people in his path. A vast improvement on this film over many of the other films in the series is the addition of cinematographer Brandon Trost, making it the best-looking film since Dean Cundey's work on the original film.prevnext
5) Halloween Kills (2021)
Blending the immediacy of the original Halloween II with the ideas of vigilante justice from Halloween 4, Halloween Kills marks another example of the best version of a somewhat formulaic narrative that audiences could hope for.
After believing to have killed Michael Myers, Laurie, Karen (Judy Greer), and Allyson (Andi Matichak) head to the hospital to recover from their intense encounter. Myers, however, escapes the inferno, managing to continue wreaking havoc on the town, though as word spreads about his return among the town, they embrace a mob mentality in hopes of taking matters into their own hands after the local police force seemingly proves their ineptitude.
Arguably the most brutal entry in the series, Myers appears to kill without much rhyme or reason, embracing the chaotic nature of his motivations introduced in 2018's Halloween. Given that we already know Halloween Ends is on the way next year, Kills very much feels like a middle chapter that feels it doesn't need much of a resolution, resulting in what feels like his streak of murders from the previous film along a suburban street stretched out over the length of a feature film. There's little narrative excitement or surprises, but if you merely want to see Myers in full-on rampage mode alongside compelling cinematography and a pulsating score from John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel Davies, then Halloween Kills hits all the notes.prevnext
4) Halloween (2018)
Ignoring the events of all previous sequels, Halloween feels like a sequel and a reimagining all at once, ultimately delivering a satisfying sequel that feels like it was 40 years in the making.
Following that fateful night when a teen-aged Laurie was targetted by a masked monster, with the emotional impact being far more difficult to handle than the bumps and bruises she suffered. Laurie's constant desire to protect herself has ostracized her from her family and ruined marriages, leaving her alone to hope that she can one day cross Myers' path again. Luckily, Laurie gets that chance when a prison transfer goes wrong and the two end up face to face in a memorable confrontation.
Director David Gordon Green honored Carpenter's filmmaking style, with each tense scene lasting long enough to make the viewer feel uncomfortable. Carpenter's fingerprints can be felt throughout the film, not only because he crafted the film's score, but also through countless references to both the original narrative and its many memorable shots.
One of the film's most effective elements was erasing the continuity of Laurie and Michael being siblings, which leads to some cumbersome explanation of how they could confront one another after 40 years. Additionally, the film has plenty of fresh faces that become fodder for the killer, with half of the film feeling like a continuation of Laurie's story and the other half feeling like a re-telling of the original, but with less interesting characters.
While Halloween H20 depicted Laurie as suffering from PTSD and moving on with her life, this sequel does the character a disservice by depicting her as a quasi-Rambo survivalist, never really giving the character her dues in the emotional realm. This film feels like it's playing the Halloween series' greatest hits, while ultimately feeling like a palate cleanser for the series' more embarrassing entries.prevnext
3) Halloween II (1981)
While many of the films in the saga had to create ways in which Michael Myers could escape and return to Haddonfield, the first sequel, which came out three years after the original, picked up almost immediately after the first film ended.
To recover from her injuries, Laurie goes to a hospital, where many other of the night's victims were also recovering. Unfortunately, Michael overhears on a police radio that Laurie is at the hospital, resulting in him heading there to attempt to kill Laurie once again. Laurie learns that Michael is her older brother, finally explaining why he was so motivated to kill her, revealing the methods of his madness.
For those who thought the first film took too much time getting to the more horrific elements, Halloween II expedites the horror by serving as an almost immediate continuation of the previous film's horrors. The hospital setting creates some compelling claustrophobic moments, while also handicapping Laurie in ways that make her escape that much more difficult.
Despite the film's many strengths, it's also responsible for giving us one of the worst things in the franchise, which is the familial connection between Michael and Laurie. Carpenter, who wrote the film with Debra Hill in hopes of retaining some sort of creative control on the film, has regularly confessed his disdain for the film and the choice for the long-lost brother reveal. If that element were removed from the film, it would be a much more effective narrative that followed in the footsteps of its predecessor.prevnext
2) Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
In more ways than one, Halloween III is the most unique sequel in the series, only finally being appreciated to the degree it deserves in recent years.
This film completely diverts from the Michael Myers mythology and instead explores the nefarious motivations of a mask-making company. When a man dies in a hospital while clutching a Halloween mask, a doctor (Tom Atkins) heads to the source of the novelty in hopes of getting answers about the mysterious circumstances. During his investigation, the doctor discovers a master plan to distribute the masks to children and, when a wearer hears a specific jingle on the TV, results in the death of anyone wearing it. In hopes of saving hundreds of children from certain death, the doctor must find a way to stop Silver Shamrock and their catchy jingle.
John Carpenter has gone on record multiple times to explain that his goal with Halloween was never to explore the mythology of Michael Myers, but to explore an element of the holiday as the basis of a horror movie.
Unfortunately, fans went into Halloween III expecting the continuation of the Myers saga, resulting in the course-correction of Halloween 4 and its emphasis on Myers. That film's success solidified the need for Myers to appear in all the films, but were Halloween II to have not included Myers, audiences potentially would have been treated to a wide variety of Halloween-centric tales.
While Halloween III doesn't possess the same sense of dread as the original film, the story is highly entertaining and Dean Cundey's cinematography, combined with Carpenter's all-new score with Alan Howarth, makes for an incredible looking and sounding Halloween tale.prevnext
1) Halloween (1978)
Given the amount of films Halloween inspired, it's oftentimes easy to forget how effective the original film still is 40 years later, until, of course, you watch it and are reminded just how good it is.
15 years after a young Michael Myers killed his older sister, he escapes an institution and begins to make his way back to his hometown of Haddonfield, IL. Meanwhile, Laurie Strode and her teenage friends are all celebrating the holiday in a variety of ways, from babysitting to getting drunk and sleeping together. All day long, Laurie sees a masked man around town, but considering many people are wearing a mask for the holiday, she thinks she might be imagining things. Sadly, she realizes her fears are rooted in reality, as this masked man sets his sights on her, leading to a near-fatal encounter.
Considering the impact this franchise has had on the world of pop culture, it's hard to separate well-known plot points from the franchise and what the original film actually explores.
No matter who you are or where you live, at some point, you've come across a person who gives you an unsettling vibe from nothing more than their appearance. Rational people know this feeling merely exists in our heads, but Halloween explores the idea that you have good reason to be afraid of the creepy person you see around town or across the street, regardless of whether he's a vengeful relative or driven by a supernatural curse.2comments
This concept, combined with Cundey's cinematography and Carpenter's minimalist, unsettling score, helps cement the original Halloween not only as the best of the franchise but as one of the greatest horror films of all time.
What are you favorite Halloween films? Let us know in the comments below or contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter to talk all things horror and Star Wars!prev