Saturday, 31 October 2015

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

The genre production and distribution studio Dimension bought the rights to the  Halloween franchise with a lot of baggage as they were forced into making a follow-up to the worst entry in the series at this point - 1989’s rushed ‘Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers’ co-written and directed by Dominique Othenin-Girard. This meant instant doom for the production. It would have been a wise decision to have rebooted here instead, as it would have spared us this trainwreck but with a storyline left dangling for over half a decade the core fanbase were demanding a continuation to tie up the loose ends. Therefore, this monstrosity was what was produced for a sixth instalment (fifth if you do not count the delightful 1982 standalone story ‘Halloween III: Season of the Witch’).

Rob Zombie did not ruin the Halloween mythology with his inept 2007 remake/reimagining and his even more atrocious 2009 sequel to it. He just made matters worse as it was ruined long before by Othenin-Girard’s incompetent contribution. The most abominable element in ‘The Revenge of Michael Myers’ is the needless elaboration upon the mythos that set-up Michael Myer’s unnecessary origin story in this next instalment ‘Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers’. It is a film so bad that the mess it made was ultimately ignored in the passable mixed bag 1998 effort ‘Halloween H20: 20 Years Later’. This was a direct continuation of the Laurie Strode storyline seen in John Carpenter’s masterful 1978 original and its pretty damn good 1981 companion piece 'Halloween II' that retconned the events from the equally mixed bag offering of 1988’s 'Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers' through to ‘The Revenge of Michael Myers’ and the sequel in review here.

I cannot blame completely then first time screenwriter here Daniel Farrands for the disaster that is on screen in ‘The Curse of Michael Myers’ as he had his work cut out for him. Trying to clean up Dominique Othenin-Girard’s colossal mess was always going to be a major migraine of a task. The director had different ideas about who The Man in Black should be that rescues Michael Myers while shooting up Haddonfield’s police station in that entry’s climax. Reportedly, it was an arguably just as stupid concept of him being Michael’s twin brother but Farrand’s take here is so ridiculous it is cringe-making stuff.

The movie picks up six years after the conclusion of that last shitfest outing and the mysterious disappearance of Myers and his little niece Jamie Lloyd. It opens in the secret underground chamber of the Cult of Thorn in the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium where a now 16-year-old Jamie is held captive and gives birth to the son of her uncle. The Man in Black then quickly takes the baby away from her. She manages to escape though with the child with the aid of a sympathetic nurse but The Shape is soon sent out after her. She manages to get to a payphone to call a late-night radio talk show host that everybody in Haddonfield seems to be listening to including of course Dr. Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasance) and Tommy Doyle (Paul Rudd) who was the boy Laurie was babysitting in the original. Hearing Jamie’s cries for help and both believing Michael Myers to still be alive they go out after her. In perfect timing for some more bloody festivities, Halloween has just been reinstated in Haddonfield after a six-year ban and there are relatives of the Strode family now living in the Myers house for Michael to slaughter.

The screenwriter already makes a hash of the back-story with the voice over in the title sequence (the voices of Tommy in ‘The Theatrical Cut’ and Loomis in ‘The Producer’s Cut’) as it tells us Michael Myers killed off his entire family when actually he only ever managed to kill his older sister Judith. Daniel Farrands has also made Tommy an expert on obscure magic who firmly believes and in actual fact that Michael has been inflicted by the Druid curse of Thorn. This is when someone is forced to kill their entire family, as it will save an entire tribe due to a sometimes alignment of the stars on Halloween that forms the shape of Thorn - the exact same symbol we saw on the wrist of both Myers and The Man in Black in ‘The Revenge of Michael Myers’. This causes The Shape to kill for the good of karma… apparently. I think maybe delving into Celtic Druid cults with rituals and incantations and what not that Farrands was taking the druidic theme of ‘Season of the Witch’ to try to help connect it more to the franchise.

He also takes three moments from the series to try to make his ideas feasible. In the first film, there is the matter of when Michael Myers escapes Smith's Grove in one of the institution’s cars. The thing is he was locked up for fifteen years since he was a six-year old boy so how was he able to drive. Carpenter purposely uses throwaway dialogue to justify this by having Loomis say, “Maybe somebody around here gave him lessons”. This is to add to the ambiguity of what Michael really is for the audience’s own interpretation but here Daniel Farrands uses it as part of his unnecessary origin story. Furthermore, the character the good doctor says this line to plays an important returning role here. There is also the scene in which a cemetery caretaker is relating a story to the doc about how a man in another town killed his entire family one night 15 years ago. This was the same time a six-year-old Myers killed his older sister Judith. Third and lastly, Farrands takes from the 1982 sequel 'Halloween II' the Celtic word “Samhian” that is written in blood on a school chalkboard by The Shape. We hear Tommy say this word to him during the climax here… well in the ‘The Producer Cut’ anyway.

While all this is indeed a load of bollocks, ‘The Producer’s Cut’ that was recently released on Blu-ray is the ever so slightly less awful version. The originally released ‘Theatrical Cut’ is an incoherent nightmare that sacrificed key dialogue scenes in favour or more gory set-pieces but due to the incompetent editing other dialogue scenes remain that are rendered meaningless as they refer to events that never happen. If you have yet to see this movie and are curious to check it out despite my negative criticism of it, then I highly recommend you watch ‘The Producer’s Cut’ first. Then see how a terrible piece of filmmaking was made even worse by ‘The Theatrical Cut’ that includes an operating room massacre that does not make one bit of sense as to why it happens (or what the surgical procedure was for that matter) and a completely different ending. Oh of course there is the extra gore as well but the kills are uninspired and boring in both versions. One thing that remains confusing regardless of what version you are watching is the impregnation of Jamie by Michael Myers while the Cult of Thorn held her captive. If Michael murdering his entire family is their objective then why do they order him to grow fruit from his lions when he was so close to finishing the job? This makes no sense at all.

SPOILER ALERT - Another difference is the demise of Jamie as she has two completely different death scenes in each version - one at the hands of Myers in 'The Theatrical Cut' and the other at the hands of The Man in Black in... well you know in what cut. One of the bright spots in 'The Return of Michael Myers' and ‘The Revenge of Michael Myers’ is little Jamie played by Danielle Harris who was easily one of the most talented child actresses of her generation. Unfortunately though, due to a dispute over salary she was unable to reprise her role, her replacement J.C. Brandy makes the now 16-year-old character seem just like a piece of slasher fodder, and we feel nothing in what should be an emotional goodbye. Oh yeah, and just like her uncle escaping Smith’s Grove before her, Jamie has picked up the instant ability to be able to drive. - END OF SPOILER Speaking of The Man in Black, his identity can be seen coming a mile off when a minor character seen briefly in one scene in the first film is brought back here and featured from the outset in a large supporting role.

Other negative aspects include bad acting all around with the exception of Pleasance and Rudd, weak characterization, banal dialogue and the inability of director Joe Chappelle to generate one bit of suspense and tension. I do not know what the producers were thinking either by bringing back George P. Wilbur - one of the worst stuntmen to play The Shape. Reasons of which I go into in my feature review - 'Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) and the Resurrection of a Franchise'. The last time the mask looked good as well was in 'Halloween II' '81. The only other positive aspect I can think of is that I appreciate the cinematography and dark lighting technique for inducing a creepy atmosphere… that is your lot.

Any over-explaining of something that should not have even slightly been explained at all by rewriting the entire mythology is a misunderstanding of what was originally conceived. Part of the brilliance of John Carpenter’s original movie is the lack of back-story as Michael Myers kills without motivation, as he is simply pure evil. Everything seen in it IS the story and trying to do away with its ambiguity by making up explanations in reasoning for Michael's actions giving him motivation is a convoluted continuation of what was originally a splendid simple little piece of filmmaking that was perfectly ended by its ambiguous closing moments. This needless elaboration is a travesty of epic proportions that demystifies Carpenter’s ingenious creation - an enigmatic malevolent evil incarnate. As well as making up an origin story for Myers that makes him less scary focusing more on all this Druid cult bullshit and featuring him less makes him even less scary.

It is painful to sit through this rot as it rapes the sublime simplicity of John Carpenter’s original masterwork. In addition, while it is very fitting that this would be the last screen appearance of the late great genre veteran Donald Pleasance returning to one of his most famous roles it is just unfortunate it had to be in such a massive turd like this. ‘Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers’ is the most confusing and one of the most unsatisfying of the Carpenterless and soulless corporate cash grabber sequels. Wretched stuff.

* out of ****

Dave J. Wilson

©2015 Cinematic Shocks, Dave J. Wilson - All work is the property of the credited author and may not be reprinted or reproduced elsewhere without permission.

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