Look, there’s no point including John Carpenter’s 1978 masterpiece Halloween in an article ranking Halloween films. It’s number one, because it’s far superior to every other film in the franchise without question. Let’s get that out of the way. Carpenter’s creepy-crawly slasher flick was a master class in mood, suspense, and the theory that less is more. Sadly, the flicks it inspired following 1978 had to amp up the gore to get any attention, and that leaked directly into the sequels to Halloween.
Carpenter’s film spawned seven direct sequels, a reboot, and a sequel to said reboot. They are all inferior, we know that, but of the nine films some are much more tolerable than others. At times, the continuing adventures of Michael Myers are barely watchable, other times they are solid entertainment. Let’s try and sort these things out…
9) Halloween II (2009) – Not only is Rob Zombie’s follow up to his own reboot a terrible Halloween film, it is a wholly unwatchable, abhorrent attempt at filmmaking. Zombie’s first reboot was thankfully locked into a plot not his own, so his typical trashy characters and bizarre nonsense was kept at bay. In Halloween II, however, the reigns have been let go. What we get then is a dark, dingy, incomprehensible film, complete with the ghost of Michael’s mother, played by Sherry Moon Zombie (of course), a dream with a white horse, and a color palette that is indescribable. Michael’s mask is barely recognizable, and Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) now follows the tired Zombie trope that all his character must be white trash. Awful, awful, awful.
8) Halloween: Resurrection (2002) – The last entry into the “original” sequels isn’t as aggressively awful as Zombie’s own sequel, it’s just flat, lazy, and uninspired. Jumping on the Reality TV craze that was taking off in the early 2000s, Resurrection puts six one-dimensional characters, or contestants, in the childhood home of Michael Myers. What could possibly go wrong? The forgettable characters are killed off in uninspiring deaths until Busta Rhymes, another relic of 2002, saves the day. The central issue with Resurrection is the fact the entire film takes place in one house. The monotony is crippling.
7) Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995) – This was the first entry into the franchise produced by Dimension, and the slick prod values and vapid storytelling are evidence of the transition. The most notable thing about this sixth Halloween film is it’s credited as the film debut of Paul Rudd, wh plays the adult version of Tommy from the original (Clueless has already been released, but this was technically filmed first). Beyond that, there is literally nothing memorable about The Curse of Michael Myers. The mask looks odd, the murders are dull, and the man in black who was introduced in the fifth film is revealed and is hilariously awful.
6) Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) – Much like the first two films, Halloween 5 is a direct sequel to Halloween 4, continuing the story but without any of the charm or energy of the fourth film. Michael is blown away in 4, falls into a river, and is saved by some strange drifter. It doesn’t take long for Michael to recover and head back into town to finish what he started. His cousin, Jamie (Danielle Harris) is in the hospital after the dark events at the end of 4. Donald Pleasance is back as Loomis, and he is even more of a loon this time around than he ever has been. The nutty performance by Pleasance is the only bright spot of an otherwise drab retread of the better film which preceded it.
5) Halloween III: Season of The Witch (1982) – The second sequel to Carpenter’s original is the only film in the franchise not not star Michael Myers. He is mentioned in the film, but only in throwaway moments. This film focuses on Conal Cochran, a madman who plans on selling his popular Silver Shamrock masks to all the kids – all of them – therein brainwashing them into becoming a murderous lemming army. The plot involves a Celtic curse, Stonehenge, and any number of 50s-inspired mad scientist themes. While Halloween III is decent in its own right, it feels like a film exclusive to the franchise for obvious reasons.
4) Halloween (2007) – Rob Zombie’s reboot is his best film as a director. This is not meant to be a compliment more than it is a process of elimination. Zombie’s horribly unhinged violence is on full display here, and when Michael Myers attacks Laurie Strode and her friends his decision to uncontrollably vibrate the camera is beyond distracting. We also get 45 minutes of backstory we never really needed or wanted. Nevertheless, the aesthetics are good enough, and Michael is more imposing than he had been in quite some time. It was a competent reboot, but necessary? That’s another story.
3) Halloween II (1981) – Picking up right where Carpenter’s film left off with Laurie Strode being transported to the hospital, Halloween II is somewhat competent as a sequel. Carpenter, who produced the film, was the one who requested the violence be amped up to compete with the slasher flicks that had been released since his original film. Michael’s plodding gait is a device now, not an ominous threat. The increased gore erases the suspense from which the first film was built, and instead becomes a series of elaborate kills. And at least the film has some creativity in that department, namely the hot tub that somehow can get hot enough to boil human beings. Overall, Halloween II is a pale comparison to the original, but that’s really the status quo for all these films.
2) Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998) – Halloween “Water” has nostalgia on its side. Ignoring the four sequels between Halloween II and itself, Halloween Water brings Jamie Lee Curtis back into the fold. Now, Laurie Strode has changed her name and moved to California where she is the headmistress of a boarding school and a functioning alcoholic. Can’t blame her for that. She also has a teenage son (Josh Hartnett in his film debut) who becomes a target of Michael Myers once he returns. The film does a good job of building suspense, and is wisely the shortest entry into the franchise. The gore is toned down, and the suspense is built on a solid foundation.
1) Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) – For all of its flaws and issues, Halloween 4 still manages to have fewer flaws and issues than any of the other sequels. One of its strengths is the addition of Danielle Harris as Jamie Lloyd, Michael’s troubled cousin. It hearkens back to the original film, which was the story of a disturbed young child more than anything else. Jamie even dons the signature clown costume in the film’s bleak and daring finale. Michael Myers is more menacing here than he had been since the original, and Donald Pleasance had not yet gone off the rails like he did in the follow up.
Header Photo Credit: Halloween Love