HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1989): this one was rushed into production after Part 4's strong box-office opening. And so it inevitably showcases a fair serving of half- and quarter-baked ideas (including a psychic link between characters that was first suggested in its immediate sequel, and a Man in Black skirting around the film’s periphery). And there are plot holes and choppy transitions to help ensure a much-maligned reputation. And that reputation is fair enough. And yet Halloween 5 also has an 'oh fuck it, let's go for broke' vibe, with Loomis, beside himself by this stage, memorably unleashing climactic hell on our suburban stalker via a beam of wood. Similarly vivid is the performance of Danielle Harris as The Shape's niece. I found her a bit 'perfunctory doe-eyed kid' in Part 4. I marvel at her performance in Part 5, a cocktail of palpable desperation, vulnerability and fear. There is a sense of escalation from Parts 4 to 5, with director Dominique Othenin-Girard appropriately taking the prowling camera from (Pana)gliding to the hand-held and oftentimes plain frenzied. That perhaps deprives Part 5 of the cinematic elegance of its predecessors; this is Halloween by way of Tobe Hooper. There is a great deal of stalking, fair to say too much, and yet such things are regularly imbued with creative, offbeat touches. Michael is given more of the blackly playful moments we associate with the original. It feels like the niece is in genuine jeopardy this time out, too, so successfully in fact that the queasy question of cinematic child abuse, a la The Exorcist (1973), raised its head again in critical conjecture. Intriguingly or dishearteningly (depending on your point of view), Loomis begins calling out to Michael with empathy, insisting those murderous compulsions are a relentless attempt to stop overwhelming rage. Ultimately, Loomis appears to be buttering him into a trap – if all else fails, why not try to appeal to a killer’s sense of persecution? – but the niece at least scores a tear. Michael Myers: victim? In short, the film’s all over the place, and the scrappy dog of the series; but it's out there punching – and even scoring points. However guided by creative desperation the film's sense of non-restraint may have been, that quality makes Part 5 a more satisfying entry for me than Part 4

HALLOWEEN 6: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1995): I don't think anyone was fooled into thinking Part 5's cliffhanger contained any creative master plan. But that film's mysterious Man in Black suggested that Part 6 would likely offer a treatise on what appeared to be Michael's No. 1 Acolyte. After all, it seemed entirely borne of reality that a mass murderer would be steadily acquiring some heavy duty acolytes and willing accomplices/enablers. The film that eventuated, though, weaves the cliffhanger into a well-mounted Druid conspiracy tale complete with an unneeded, 'but-hey if-we-have-to-have-one-it's-pretty-good' explanation of why Michael does what he does. It's as though the alchemy of Part III has infected the veins of the Myers universe. Ironic, then, that in positing a rationale for Michael's actions (and Part 5’s positing of Myers as a figure at the mercy of ‘something’ continues), he at times drifts perilously towards becoming as secondary a figure as an android from Part III. That is not to say he is without menace. If you can go with the explanations posited, Part 6 is an enjoyable tale – the producer's original cut, that is – although you can see that by nineties standards, this cut was relatively tame in a stalk'n'slash sense. But the theatrical cut, in seeking to hype proceedings up for that very reason, comes a severe cropper. The attempts to intensify the film - persistent flash cuts, amplified 'stingers', stabbings that sound like guttings & a general Halloween III-level of bodily harm - contrast sharply with (what is left of) Joe Chappelle's carefully built atmosphere, thus rendering the latter version a bore. How fantastic the producer's cut arrived in high definition in 2015. Let this be the official version of Halloween 6

HALLOWEEN H20: TWENTY YEARS LATER (1998): The series first really aggressive stroke of retconning. H20 - Halloween 7 in any other parlance - is a direct, alas 20 years later, sequel to the events of 1978's (and '81's) 'The Night He Came Home'. In a long-running series that spans decades, any new revival will, it seems, be imbued with the styles and preoccupations of its times. It has to capture a new generation of film-goers, rather than depend on long-standing fools, oops, stalwarts like me. The film, though, ultimately seems less a reassertion of the original film's strengths as it does a pitch for legitimacy in the knowing, self-reflexive meta-world of Wes Craven's Scream (1996). In that latter regard, the film has to be considered a success. In the former, the issue is more complex. Like Halloween 4, H20 has all the respectful strokes necessary for a 'general' audience, but has that slight feeling of being warmed over in the process, a feeling exemplified by John Ottman's orchestral overture of the Halloween theme; it's not without merit, but the synthesised beats of versions past jangle the nerves more definitively. Still, Steve Miner effectively orchestrates an extended climactic chase - the kinetics of which continue to impress - proving that a long-standing association with TV's Dawson's Creek ain't gonna suppress his Friday the 13th-honed flair for some good 'ol slasher pursuits. Chris Durand's Michael, meanwhile, faced with some more resourceful victims-to-be than usual, gives us a notably shirtier take on the character. I feel ambivalent about that development; there's a tad less of the spooky supernatural calm on show here. But the menace is there, and that's the main thing. And, of course, it's a pleasure to have Jamie Lee Curtis back, bringing movie star gravitas to her character's 20 years of anxiety-ridden existence. How to reconcile, though, my preference for her sad, haunted cameo in H20's sequel. Speaking of which... 

HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION (2002): the one with Busta Rhymes. Enough said? Hardly. Yes, it rewrites the conclusive strokes of H20, and that is ample reason to reject the filmbefore it has eve reached its second reel. But it does so in a thematically clever way: Michael, it is revealed, has delivered his most diabolical demonstration of 'trick or treat' spirit, offering Laurie a glimpse of closure before pulling the rug out. And, after bringing the family threads to a close in its masterfully dark opening scenes, full of gliding camerawork that would do Carpenter proud, Resurrection returns Myers to the 'purposeless killer'-status of the 1978 original (purposeless beyond solidifying his legend), stalking a group of young adults while they participate in an Internet broadcast from the dilapidated Myers family home. Resurrection even makes a comment on the reliance of backstory revelations in sequels past: all the suggestions here of an abusive home are revealed as a desperate internet hoax to help ensure viewers remain hooked. Meanwhile, the mix of beautifully gothic camerawork with (admittedly dated) grainy cam footage makes the Myers house scenes terrifically enveloping, as is the pounding, echo-chamber dread in Danny Lux's score. I found the young cast as entertaining in their antics as the youthful triptych of 1978. And Busta Rhymes? Well, just as many didn't like the inclusion of one Spielbergian universe (the world of aliens) in another Spielbergian universe (the world of Indiana Jones), so many a Halloween fan struggled with a character - who would seem utterly at home in the Carpenter world of macho posturing (They Live, Big Trouble in Little China) - falling into a Halloween film. I found the merging of universes enjoyable; although I think I'd have preferred the original ending, where the Internet geek saves the girl and Mr Rhymes appears genuinely - rather than showily - contrite for his role in the Internet debacle. Resurrection is campier than many a fan would like, but it is confident in what it is, and, like the original, is an effectively contained piece, making the most with less. Through this latter quality, plus killing off the family links and returning us to the random killer, the series came full-circle in 2002.

1978-1988 / 1989-2002 / 2007-2022

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