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Rank and File

Rank And File: The Halloween Franchise

I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… evil.

As the spooky season draws closer to the night of Samhain, horror films become more and more prominent in many households. It basically goes without saying that Halloween is one of the most influential and famous movies to come out. Due to its success, it has spawned multiple sequels, storylines, and remakes between 1978 and today. But the question is, do they hold up? Some may say so, many will say no, and over time a lot of them have gained cult followings. I’ll admit that as bad as some of them get, they have their moments, or the level of fun completely makes up for it. So today, I’m going to do a different kind of Rank And File. Instead of ranking a band’s discography, I’m going to rank every Halloween film as a bit of a holiday special. This will include every single one, so yes I’m including the Rob Zombie remakes, the 2018 film that retconned every sequel, and Halloween III, the one that doesn’t feature Michael Myers. To avoid being biased, these will be ranked on a 50/50 scale of how well they’re written and how enjoyable they are. Because let’s be real, many of these are poorly written but still fun in their own ways. And of course, if you haven’t seen the films, there will be spoilers!

11) Halloween II (2009) “Enjoy the fucking herpes, old man!” – Howard Boggs

The level of excitement that filled me upon this movie’s release was at an extreme high; but the level of disappointment that filled me after viewing it was far higher. People tend to cut Rob Zombie’s Halloween II some slack, but I really don’t understand how. Sure, some of the others are pretty tough to watch, but at least there’s some redeemable quality somewhere! This is absolute shit, pure and simple. Let’s start with the story. Following the end of the last film, Laurie Strode is now living with Annie Bracket and her father, fearing for her life that Myers is still out there and is having a tough time getting past it. Seems harmless enough, except the concept of the ghost family that she keeps seeing is incredibly dumb.

What butchers it is how terrible every character is. Laurie Strode herself isn’t just annoying; she’s unbearable even to listen to speak. Dr. Loomis is a total fucking asshole in every way possible. Michael Myers doesn’t even have a mask half of the time, and my lord, he speaks (though it’s just one word)! Over-the-top gore and death scenes can be cool, but here they’re completely unnecessary and look like they were written by an edgy middle-schooler. The end of the film is a giant confrontation with heavy artillery and closes on an unflattering note. The acting is horrible. The characters are horrible. The plot is mediocre and unoriginal. The only things that aren’t unbearable about this movie are “Weird Al” Yankovic’s appearance on a night show, the heavy metal, and punk references (especially the use of “Am I Evil?” by Diamond Head), and the hilarious death scene of the strip-club owner. But beyond that? This isn’t even a good movie in the sense that it’s entertaining — complete trash.

Final Grade: F-

10) Halloween: Resurrection (2002) “I’m not paying you to be Michael Myers! I’m playin’ Michael Myers!” – Freddie Harris

It’s a pretty popular opinion to think that Halloween: Resurrection is a poorly done movie. My fellow Vault writer Ethan Sturgill describes it as “Halloween‘s response to The Blair Witch Project.” Not a bad analogy, and this is a pretty rough film. But unlike Mr. Zombie’s Halloween II, there are some enjoyable aspects beyond bottom-of-the-barrel details. For one, Busta Rhymes’ character is incredible, and the scenes that include him are entertaining just because of his attitude. Secondly, the intro scene with Laurie in the insane asylum is cool enough, despite the horrible way of describing how Michael survived the last film. Beyond this, it’s not unbearable but is mostly comprised of a run-of-the-mill plot and filled with slasher tropes. The story is about a bunch of college-aged kids being hired to stream their experience in the Myers house live, while Freddie sets up things meant to scare them. Unknown to many, the real Michael Myers is actually back, and the film unfolds as a “eliminate the cast” type Slasher that has been done to death. Truly, this is a bad movie, but at least I can enjoy a little bit of it.

Final Grade: F+

9) Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers (1995) “Enough, of this Michael Myers, bullshit!” – John Strode

This is a tough one for one reason and one reason only; I love it. Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers goes so far back for me, and I always found it to contain some of the scariest scenes. But in reality, it’s a pretty horrid film. The storyline in itself is extremely confusing and overwhelming, mostly thanks to how many times it changed during production. The goal of this was to explain Michael’s immortality, reason for killing, and relate as much as it could back to the original film. It’s based around a curse known as “curse of thorn” that’s traced back to the druids in earlier times of Halloween tradition. It also follows a cult that is interested in Jamie Lloyd’s newborn child, as well as another child, Danny Strode, for genetic experimentation. Laurie Strode’s relatives also live in the Myers house, who all become Michael’s victims during the first half. Too much going on here? I’d say.

So what do I enjoy about this? Well, the chase scene at the beginning after Jamie Lloyd escapes the cult is not only horrifying but executed quite well. The dysfunctional family has some pretty legendary deaths, including a head explosion. Paul Rudd’s character portrayal of Tommy Doyle grown-up is a nice touch. And lastly, this mask is among the most startling. But as I said, the story itself is a mangled mess, the characters are pretty annoying/stupid, and the curse of thorn/cult gimmick was just a bad idea. In 2014, a director’s cut edition was released. It’s not that good either, but I found the storyline in this to make a lot more sense — worth watching for the fanatics of this franchise.

Final grade: D+ (theatrical) C- (director’s cut)

8) Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers (1989) “Fortunately we’re lousy cops. – Deputy Nick

My theory on why Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers sorta dropped the ball is because of how rushed it was. While Halloween 4 was still being wrapped up a year prior, this one was already in the works. With more time, I think this could have been a great film. But instead, we get a film with a decent plot that’s ruined by the telekinetic link between Myers and his niece, and it started introducing the thorn sign and “man in black,” which would lead to the bigger problems in Halloween 6. Oh, and the Myers house in this one looks nothing like it does in any other film, reflecting an abandoned castle rather than a small-town suburban home. If you throw out all of that nonsense, it’s actually not a bad film.

The plot takes off with the end of its predecessor, where Michael is blasted by gunshots and dynamite, only to fall into a coma for a year. He is nursed back to health by a hermit, before waking up, killing the hermit, and pursuing Jamie Lloyd. The aura projected in this one is well-done, utilizing candles, ancient-looking decor, and a solid score. Michael’s appearance is intimidating, and his kill scenes are a lot of fun. The ending confrontations in his home are haunting (especially the laundry chute part), and there was a lot of potential overall. Unfortunately, the plot flaws are too glaring to ignore, and it’s not exactly original. I recommend watching this one at least once.

Final grade: C

7) Halloween: H20 (1998) “You’re not allowed to have little off-campus lunches, John!” – Keri Tate (Laurie Strode)

Alright, I’m gonna be honest. Halloween: H20 is just as reliant on fun as Halloween 5, , but it gets a few more points because the plot doesn’t include ridiculous telekinetic bullshit and it’s far more consistent of a film. This ignores every sequel back to the second film from 1981 and follows Laurie Strode twenty years into the future, where she still deals with trauma and PTSD. Going under the new name Keri Tate, she lives with her son, raising him in a sheltered atmosphere. He eventually grows tired of it, and just when she seems to be getting over it, her brother comes back for another night of slaughtering. I’ll give it this; Strode’s fearlessness here and the Scream-like effects and score help it stand out from the others. A lot of the dialogue is entertaining, and it also includes rapper LL Cool J as a campus security guard. The intro scene in Haddonfield is well-done, and the outskirts-bathroom scene is chilling. As for the rest, I’m rather indifferent. The truth is, I actually enjoy watching the two previous movies to this, but at the end of the day, this is a better film.

Final Grade: C+

6) Halloween (2007) “I think you’ve created quite the masterpiece of a monster off the blood of this town, because monsters sell books!” – Sheriff Brackett

I’ll admit that my soft spot for Rob Zombie’s first Halloween stems from it being the first film in the franchise I’ve ever seen. And quite frankly, it scared the living piss out of my 12-year old self. There’s some garbage to sift through here for sure, but I actually think the plot was fine. The first section details Michael’s dysfunctional family life and shows the roots of his psychopathic ways when brutally murdering his family. It then follows him into his days at Smith’s Grove, some child and adult years. After that, the rest isn’t much different than what the original gave us, save for the modernization and some slight layout differences. Laurie and Annie are far more likable in this film than in his follow-up, the score and soundtrack are solid, and Michael’s adult character is far more menacing. The issues here are the unnecessary over-the-top language, sex, and gore the happens to any film Rob Zombie ever touches. It also has a very sleazy feel to it, and the acting isn’t exactly great. I get it, some of these things ruin the mystery that the original film gave us, and it certainly isn’t anything essential. But since I seem to have a hot take in almost every ranking, consider this the main one here.

Final Grade: B-

5) Halloween (2018) “He can speak, he just chooses not to.” – Dr. Sartain

Ah yes, the film that retconned every sequel, including the initial one from 1981. Halloween takes place forty years after the original film from 1978 and takes the plot in a direction unrelated to any other. Thus, the brother/sister plot is lost, and it instead details Laurie Strode’s life following the events. It begins with two journalists trying to make a podcast, visiting Michael at Smith’s Grove, hoping to get him to speak. Shortly later, when the patients are being transferred, the bus crashes, and Michael escapes. After killing the journalists and retrieving his mask, Michael pursues Laurie, her grandchild Allyson, as well as the entire family and anyone in his path. Throughout this, it focuses on Laurie’s paranoia, her background of raising her daughter in an overly-protective manner, and, ultimately, her obsession with killing Michael. The film ends at Strode’s backwoods-home, where they trap Michael in the basement and set him on fire. The film then closes on a cliffhanger.

Really, I could describe homages to just about every other film that I found in this, but that’s an entire article within itself. The truth is, this is a solid story and I do enjoy watching it, but the things that made me love the 1981 sequel top this one by a little bit. For starters, there’s a little too much comedic relief here. I also find just about every male character repulsive and annoying. Though none of the films really scare me anymore, this is among the least scary and relies on jump-scares more than any. I’m being a little biased, because the atmosphere of the old ones will always top any of the new ones. I won’t deny that the story here is better than the brother/sister story, but I found that one far more enjoyable and it spawned loads of fun films. I like this movie, but it does not out-do certain classics.

Final Grade: B

4) Halloween II: More Of The Night He Came Home (1981) “Amazing Grace, come sit on my face…Don’t make cry…I need your pie…” – Budd

The film that John Carpenter was reluctant to make was one that I found to be a bit scarier. Halloween II: More Of The Night He Came Home picks up with the cliffhanger of the original film where Michael walks away after being shot. It continues the first-person point of view from him at the beginning until he finds out that Laurie Strode is being taken to the hospital. He then makes his way there, out to kill her and anyone who gets in his way. During this time is when it’s revealed that Laurie is Michael’s sister, a part of the plot Carpenter didn’t really want to add. This is also what would lead to all of the different storylines following its release. After he finally catches up with her, she is chased out into the parking lot right when Dr. Loomis arrives with his assistant and an escort. One final confrontation is made, before Loomis causes an explosion where Myers and himself are engulfed in flames. The film ends with the assumption that both died, until that is revealed untrue by Halloween 4.

The biggest issue that people have with this is adding in the whole brother/sister plot. While I agree that it somewhat tarnishes the unknown factors of the original, I don’t think it was that big of a flaw. My only problem with this film is how unrealistically empty the hospital is. The idea was to make it scarier by having it seem so empty and dimly lit on a generator, but have you ever really seen a hospital that wasn’t crawling with people 24/7? That aside, the synth-dense score here is creepier, the kill scenes are some of the best, and it was overall a fantastic way of finishing off the night — essential viewing in my book.

Final Grade: B+

3) Halloween III: Season Of The Witch (1982) “In the end, we don’t decide these things, you know; the planets do! They’re in alignment, and it’s time again.” – Conal Cochran

If this article was written decades ago, putting Halloween III: Season Of The Witch this high would be considered a crime. But now that it has such a cult following in more recent years, it’s hardly a hot take at all. This is that infamous film that doesn’t feature Michael Myers, as John Carpenter had planned on making the Halloween franchise an anthology series. So this is centered around a company called Silver Shamrock that produces Halloween masks that are being sold all over the country. On Halloween night, when the mask is on, and you view the television after the “horror-thon,” the microchips in the back of the masks cause the ones wearing them to die, resulting in insects and snakes crawling out of the mask. When protagonist Dr. Daniel Challis catches onto something funny involving a death at his hospital (where the patient was holding a Silver Shamrock mask), he travels to the factory with the victim’s daughter, and this plot is slowly revealed to them. All of the employees also turn out to be robots under the control of Conal Cochran, whose goal is to reduce the population with child sacrifice based off of some old witchcraft and Halloween ideology.

If you really think about it, that’s a pretty ingenious plot that nobody will admit is unique. It’s also super fucking dark, and the similar scoring to Halloween II was just icing on the cake. The imagery in this one is some of the most disturbing of all, such as Marge’s face deformation after falling victim to a microchip misfire. Some of the acting is questionable, and there’s certainly a fair amount of cheese, but overall I consider this a fantastic film standing alone. Tons of fun, and one that everyone should view as its own entity, rather look down on it because of the film’s title and not tying into the Michael Myers story.

Final Grade: A-

2) Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers (1988) “If you don’t find him in four hours, I’m sure I will.” – Dr. Sam Loomis

Originally meant to continue Carpenter’s anthology series, this was going to be a ghost story. But after the severe backlash from Halloween III, it was decided to bring back Michael Myers for good, and this would be John Carpenter’s last involvement with any of the franchise until 2018’s Halloween. Following the explosion at the end of Halloween II, Michael Myers goes into a coma for ten years. Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers starts off introducing Laurie Strode’s daughter Jamie Lloyd through nightmares. Meanwhile, Myers comes out of his coma and brutally slaughters everyone transporting him back to Smith’s Grove from Ridgemont Sanitarium. Loomis tracks him back to Haddonfield, and the plot unfolds when Michael pursues Jamie and everyone involved with her. The climax takes place when Michael makes his way into Sheriff Meeker’s home, killing everyone there save for Jamie and her foster sister Rachael. They’re taken away by a lynch mob until the state police arrive, but they soon realize that Michael is hot on their tail. It ends with them blasting Michael with heavy artillery before Jamie makes an impulsive attempt to murder her foster mother, much like Michael did to his sister.

This is a pretty flawless plot. It’s easy enough to follow, it makes sense, and the way it was executed was magnificent (I’ll fight you on this). The biggest issue people have is that the mask looks a bit silly. However, I actually think that adds to the spookiness of it. I’ll admit, using the original mask for the movie poster is quite misleading. My only problem with it is that nobody could have survived the fire at the end of Halloween II. Myers and Loomis display burnt hands and Loomis’s face has some serious scarring, so at least they didn’t ignore the fact entirely. Bucky’s death scene at the electric plant is a monumental moment, and again, the kills here are some of the greatest. It’s unfortunate that the movies following this butchered the hell out of this timeline because I truly think Halloween 4 is a masterpiece. Essential viewing.

Final Grade: A

1) Halloween: The Night He Came Home (1978) “Two roadblocks and an all points bulletin wouldn’t stop a five-year-old!” – Dr. Sam Loomis

It shouldn’t have been too difficult to figure out that the original film tops the list. It also cracks my top five films of all time. Halloween: The Night He Came Home details the story of a child psychopath that murders his sister in the very beginning before the movie really takes off, set in 1963. It then jumps forward to 1978, where it shows him escaping the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, where his doctor, Dr. Sam Loomis, tries to find him before he kills more people. Michael stalks a girl by the name of Laurie Strode who he sees drop a key off at his abandoned house, as well as her friends Lynda and Annie, Sheriff Bracket’s daughter. Meanwhile, Loomis warns Sheriff Brackett of Michael’s escape, and the two join up to find Myers together. When night-time approaches, Michael begins taking victims while Laurie babysits Tommy Doyle and Lindsey Wallace. After hearing nothing from her friends, Laurie goes looking for them in Lindsey’s home, to discover her friends’ dead bodies as well as Myers himself; she barely escapes his reach. He then chases Strode across the road, where she has the kids hide and tries to fight him off again. Dr. Loomis arrives just in time, where he fires six direct shots at Michael, knocking him off the balcony. When they look, Michael is gone, and the movie ends on a cliffhanger.

Something very important to realize about this film is that when it was released, the brother/sister plot had not been written, and it was intended to tell the story of a sinister psycho stalking babysitters without much of a motive. I also hardly consider this a slasher film; the franchise certainly evolved into that, but really this focuses more on the element of stalking and suspense. The gore is minimal, and there are only four on-screen kills. The expressionless face, the lack of gore, and the mystery behind him are what make this film as monumental as it is. The whole concept of Michael Myers was meant to represent fear, and how it never fully goes away (signified by the breathing during the closing credits). The first-person perspective that is used for a lot of this gives Michael a more realistic persona and adds to the level of scary. This film is brilliant, and even without any of the sequels, it makes a fantastic story of its own from start to finish. The couple sequels that follow are loads of fun and essential as well, but the story at hand is great enough without them, and they’re ultimately an afterthought. This is the most essential film, and if you watch no other, view this one on its own.

Final Grade: A+

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