Halloween Movie Franchises: John Carpenter’s Halloween

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 23rd October 2012.

On October 25 1978, a low budget slasher film made its debut in US cinemas. John Carpenter’s Halloween was produced for a paltry sum of US$325,000 and eventually grossed $55 million at the box office worldwide. Introducing masked serial killer Michael Myers to popular culture, no babysitter was safe in this classic horror flick.

Halloween starred a young Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, Michael’s sister and the object of his (murderous) intentions. On the killer’s trail was Donald Pleasance as psychiatrist Dr Sam Loomis. Complete with a spooky piano melody, composed by Carpenter himself, the movie is genuinely creepy and still provides “watch through your fingers” scares decades later.

The original Halloween spun off seven sequels, and was rebooted in 2007 by musician turned film director Rob Zombie, which in turn spawned a sequel. To date, the franchise has generated over $366 million worldwide. Not bad for a series of films featuring a lead character wearing a Captain Kirk rubber mask sprayed with white spray paint.

Each entry of the Halloween story was released on or around, not surprisingly, Halloween, thus beginning not one, but two traditions: scary movie franchises released at Halloween; and scary movie franchises released at Halloween with diminishing returns.

Three years after the original, Michael Myers returned in Halloween II. Picking up immediately after the events of the first film, Myers survived six bullets from Dr Loomis’ gun to continue stalking Laurie.  The following October, Halloween III: Season of the Witch was unleashed on unsuspecting fans. Intended to shift the franchise into an anthology of unrelated horror films, the film features a plot to kill thousands of children at Halloween with deadly latex skeleton, witch and jack-o’-lantern masks. How are the masks deadly? They have evil powers because they are each embedded with a tiny chip of Stonehenge. Insert your own sound of crickets chirping here.

Unsurprisingly, Myers was resurrected in 1988 for Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. Unfortunately, this and the next two sequels all hail from the late eighties, a period that was not kind to horror franchises. With box office returns shrinking, desperate film companies churned out substandard, low budget Freddy, Jason, Jaws, Chucky and Halloween flicks.

In 1998 the series peaked again as Jamie Lee Curtis returned for Halloween H2O: 20 Years Later. With an original star onboard, the film picks up the Laurie Strode storyline again, finding her hiding from her now infamous brother at a posh private school. Of course, Myers tracks her down and mayhem ensues, but at least the storyline had some weight due to Curtis’ presence, unlike the cast of unknown victims from the previous sequels.

Four years later, the original Halloween canon concluded with a disappointing whimper, as Myers returns to his childhood home to find it the subject of a Big Brother-like television show. After so many brushes with death, serial killer Michael Myers is finally sent to hell by the incredibly terrible acting of rapper turned “actor” Busta Rhymes.

I’m not a big fan of the Rob Zombie reboot so I won’t discuss it here. I have no interest in back story or motivation when it comes to my movie killers. Call me old fashioned.

For a real Halloween treat this, er, Halloween, grab a copy of the original, er, Halloween on blu-ray and relive the mother of all slasher films in high definition. Next week, I’ll discuss more recent movie franchises to also capitalise on Halloween releases. Boo!

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Published in: on October 23, 2012 at 11:11  Leave a Comment  
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