5.13.2008

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

DIRECTED BY
Joe Chappelle


STARRING
Donald Pleasance - Dr. Sam Loomis
Paul Rudd - Tommy Doyle
J.C. Brandy - Jamie Lloyd
Marianne Hagan - Kara Strode
Mitchell Ryan - Dr. Terrence Wynn
Kim Darby - Debra Strode
Bradford English - John Strode
Devin Gardner - Danny Strode
George P. Wilbur - Michael Myers/The Shape

Year - 1995

Score -

THEATER VERSION: 1 Howl Outta 4 [WTF? Vault Entrant]
PRODUCER'S CUT VERSION: 3 Howls Outta 4


The HALLOWEEN franchise has been a real struggle for its fans. The original 1978 HALLOWEEN by John Carpenter was a fantastic film that introduced us to serial killer Michael Myers, who stalked babysitters [primarily Laurie Strode] as an embodiment of pure evil, while his psychiatrist, Dr. Sam Loomis tried to stop him. The lack of explanation over Michael's motives made him a very intimidating and frightening horror icon, as he could be in any town willing to do the same to anyone at any time. While Carpenter had no intentions of making a sequel for the film, HALLOWEEN's financial success and open-ended finale somehow warranted one. In 1981's HALLOWEEN II, the motivation behind Michael's madness was revealed, as Laurie Strode was Michael's baby sister and Michael wanted to repeat what he had done to his older sister Judith. HALLOWEEN II also visibly ended the Michael Myers story, as Dr. Loomis saved Laurie from Michael's terror by setting Michael and himself on fire, creating an explosion that should have destroyed them both. But after the failure of 1982's Michael Myers-less installment, HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH, it was decided that Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis be brought back to life in 1988's HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS.


The sequel was unnecessary and pretty much made to cash in on the declining slasher trend of the horror genre. But HALLOWEEN 4 was a success on many levels. It had a great story, the creepy mood of the original film, and had great characters that you cared about. It was a financial and critical success, revitalizing a franchise that should have ended years ago. This time, Michael Myers was after his niece, Jamie Lloyd, for reasons other than that he wanted revenge on Laurie through killing her daughter. And although the film ended with Jamie taking up the mantle for Michael, executive producer Moustapha Akkad decided that explaining Jamie's actions would be too "cerebral". So he decided to bring Michael back again, in 1989's HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS. The only people Michael got revenge on were the fans, as HALLOWEEN 5 was a failure on every level possible. One of the reasons why HALLOWEEN 5 turned off many people was the foundation of explaining Michael's reasons for wanting to kill his family members. A man in black [not Johnny Cash] entered Haddonfield and began following Michael, even helping him escape prison at the end of the film. So Michael Myers went from an insane man who just liked to kill random babysitters and the people in their lives, to a crying, unsure puppet who needed help from a mysterious dark-dressed man to continue his killing spree.

That leads us into HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS, the fifth installment of the Michael Myers saga. Released in 1995, the film tried to explain Michael Myers and why he does what he does [when it wasn't even needed to be explained in the first place]. Who knows why this step was taken? I'm not sure if it was Akkad or Dimension Films, who had bought the rights to distribute the franchise. Speaking of distribution, it must be said that HALLOWEEN 4 and HALLOWEEN 5 was distributed independently, meaning the films did not need to undergo a test screening to see what needed to be changed. Once Dimension bought the rights, however, the film had to follow the rules of the MPAA and had to be screened. This created a lot of controversy over the film, as the film was screened to 14-year-olds who claimed that the ending of the film "sucked". Since 14-year-olds are the messiahs of the film industry, Dimension decided to change the ending during reshoots of the film. There was a problem though: Donald Pleasance, who had played Sam Loomis for almost 20 years, had passed away before reshoots could be finalized. Since Pleasance was a huge part of the ending and would be needed for the next installment to continue the ending's storyline, director Joe Chappelle decided to pretty much erase Pleasance from the end completely, as well as give the actor a less visible role in the final version of the film. Not only was this unnecessary, but the version of HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS that people saw in theaters was a disjointed, confusing mess of a film that probably had Pleasance rolling in his grave due to his shame that this was his final film. The film was another box office flop and only deepened the hole the franchise was falling into. But thanks to the internet age, there was hope.

Screenwriter Daniel Farrands and producer Paul Freeman decided to use the internet and horror conventions to promote the original version of HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS. In this so-called Producer's Cut, fans were able to see what the true vision of HALLOWEEN 6 was supposed to look like. Not only did it make more sense and was a better film as a whole, but the Producer's Cut showed that there was a great sequel underneath the mess that became the theater version of the film. In this review, I plan on discussing both versions and why I feel that the Producer's Cut is the only version of the film you need to see.

PLOT
After the events of HALLOWEEN 5, Jamie Lloyd (now played by J.C. Brandy) is taken somewhere to give birth to her baby. Apparently, Jamie's been kidnapped by some Druid cult called Thorn who wants her baby to be Michael Myers' (George P. Wilbur) last sacrifice. Jamie escapes with her baby, however, causing Michael to go after her. Jamie ends up at a bus station, where he hides her baby before Michael finds her and does great damage to his niece. The baby is found by a grown-up Tommy Doyle (Paul Rudd), who was the little boy Laurie Strode had babysat in the original HALLOWEEN. Still traumatized by that night in 1978, Tommy, who now lives across the street from The Myers House, has become obsessed with Michael, finally learning the motivation behind Michael's madness. He meets up with Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance), reuniting with the old doctor and hoping to gain some help from him and Loomis' colleague Dr. Terrence Wynn (Mitchell Ryan) to stop Michael once and for all.

Unfortunately, Michael returns to Haddonfield, realizing that The Strodes [adopted family members of Laurie] are now living in his house. The youngest Strode, Danny (Devin Gardner) is having nightmares of a man in black telling him to kill. His mom, Kara (Marianne Hagan), is concerned about Danny's behavior, until she bumps into Tommy and begins to put the pieces together. Apparently, Thorn wants Danny to be Michael's successor after Michael kills Jamie's baby to continue Thorn's evil legacy.

REVIEW
The theater version of HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS is a horrible film that will leave you with more questions than answer. It'll probably give you a seizure too with all its quick edits and lack of cohesive flow. However, the Producer's Cut of HALLOWEEN 6 is a must-see if you're a HALLOWEEN fan. While the whole Thorn storyline isn't fully explained in either version of the film, at least the P.C. tries to make sense of this confusing storyline to a tolerable level. It also flows better and makes better use of its characters and story. Let's review the theater version first.


THEATRICAL CUT
I actually saw this film when it was released into theaters back in 1995 and I remember having no fuckin' idea what I had just seen. The story made less and less sense as the film went on. The HALLOWEEN score was given a rock feel [I guess to be hip with the MTV crowd] that doesn't really work. Hell, it's not even used properly in the film, as the music pops up before anything even happens. We also get generic grunge rock songs too in this installment that sound like a wannabe Alice In Chains. Doesn't really fit in a HALLOWEEN film in my opinion, but it didn't bother me as much as the direction to this film does.

Joe Chappelle really did a number on this film, at least THIS version of the film. It's edited and chopped up all over the place, with these constant flashes of Michael Myers or whatever he wants to show us, in between every other scene. While I admire a director's flashy style, as it could make a film feel fresh, it's totally unnecessary in a HALLOWEEN film and actually distracts you from what you're watching. I felt the only time this technique added something to the film was the scene where Kara Strode watches her brother's girlfriend, Beth, get stabbed repeatedly in the back by Michael. Chappelle used slow-mo and repeated the assault a couple of times for emphasis and effect, which I felt really helped make the kill more dramatic. The Producer's Cut version of Beth's death is pretty one-note and it's almost a blur. I also liked the look of the film. The direction and cinematography was really well-done, with dark blue hues and just very gloomy and low-key lighting in most spots. It's a beautiful looking film that sort of has a creepy atmosphere [which is actually felt better in the Producer's Cut], although Chappelle doesn't really create the perfect tone for a HALLOWEEN film. From the words of Marianne Hagan, who played Kara, Chappelle didn't really care how the film looked and just used HALLOWEEN 6 as a stepping stone to get an exclusive contract with Dimension Films. If you watch this version of the film, you totally agree with her. But Chappelle is no hack and he's alot better than that retard who directed HALLOWEEN 5 [his name is not even worth mentioning in this review].

I also have to blame Chappelle on the chopped up story as well. In this version of the film, there's barely any character development for anyone. Dr. Loomis is now retired, yet we don't know why. Jamie Lloyd is pregnant and kidnapped. How and who's the daddy is never revealed in this version. And then we have the Strodes, who are pretty dysfunctional due to Kara's birth to her son, Danny. Why John Strode [the father] hates his daughter because of it, I have no clue. Why does Danny hear the voices to kill his family like Michael supposedly did when he was younger? It's never explained. Why would Terrance Wynn want Loomis back at Smith's Grove? All these things are left in the open in the theater version of the film. We can't identify with any of these characters at all. Only Tommy Doyle is the really developed one in the film and his character is simple because we remember Tommy being scared of Michael in the first film. We can understand how that incident can mess with a guy's head and we totally sympathize with him. But everything else is a question after a question after another question. Chappelle tries to compensate this lack of development with all these flashy camera tricks and edits that only make the film worse. Plus the exagerrated use of gore is really silly. Especially the electrocution scene that leads to a head exploding. Cool effect but it doesn't make the film more watchable. Totally ridiculous.

Chappelle also wrote the reshot ending of the film after Donald Pleasance had passed away. While the ending to the Producer's Cut is weird, yet sensible in context with the rest of the film, this version of the film gets probably the weakest ending in a HALLOWEEN film ever. In this version, we never understand why Kara is taken to Smith's Grove to begin with [you do in the Producer's Cut]. We see fetuses all over the place [are they clones of Michael? are these fetuses dead?]. Michael also butchers his own cult [never explained what drove him to do that after all these years of Thorn helping him]. And then we have Tommy beating the crap out of Michael with a pipe. Are you trying to tell me that Michael can take multiple bullets and almost burn to death, yet he's vulnerable to some weak pipe bashing? And don't get me started on the ambiguous ending that makes no sense and leaves you scratching your head. It's just a weak and pathetic rewrite for an ending that didn't need to be changed, even if one of the main actors passed away. Just really sad and makes me wonder how HALLOWEEN 6 in this version was ever released in theaters. No one in Dimension actually believed this film was any good, did they?


PRODUCER'S CUT
I bought this version off of eBay a couple of years ago to see what all the hype was about. And I gotta say, this version of HALLOWEEN 6 is worth every penny. If you ever want to see this film, watch this version. This is the version that SHOULD HAVE BEEN released into theaters because this is a good film. There's no guitar twangs here or generic rock songs to waste time. We get the real HALLOWEEN theme with piano and all. And it's used at the right moments to create tension and suspense, really raising the creep factor a few notches.

In this version, Joe Chappelle leaves out the quick flashes and edits and just shoots the damn film straight. Because of it, we get a creepy atmosphere, some really good scenes filled with tension, and some decent character development that actually made me care about these characters alot more than the theater version did. You also learn who Jamie's baby's father is [I'll give you one guess...ew] and why Dr. Wynn wanted Loomis back at Smith's Grove. We even learn why Loomis retired [he had a stroke]. No heads explode. People die differently [for the better]. Kara Strode and Danny Strode have more depth and Tommy Doyle is more believable as someone who understands what drives Michael, actually explaining why Michael does what he does in a manner that doesn't make him sound crazy. You also get more Dr. Loomis, as his presence is very visible here and actually gives the film that HALLOWEEN feel that the theater version sorely lacked. Chappelle manages to cohesively tie all of these sub-plots pretty well and the film actually flows alot better and makes a whole lot of sense next to the version that was released to the general public. I was very much glued to the screen as I watched The Producer's Cut. This version is more story-centric and character driven, which makes it one of the better HALLOWEEN sequels.

Even though I don't like the Man In Black deal and the whole Thorn bullshit, at least the Producer's Cut tries to explain it all in a believable manner. As much as it's unnecessary for Michael to be part of a cult that forced him into everything evil that he's done in his life, at least I was intrigued and interested in Thorn's motives and how this passing of evil from one person to another through family sacrifices was performed. And the ending to this version [which is the original ending of the film] is a WHOLE lot better than the crap given to us in theaters. I won't say what it is, but it doesn't involve Michael clones or Tommy beating Michael with a pipe. Tommy does beat Michael, but it's done in a mystical way that works well with the rest of the story. And the screaming of Dr. Loomis that's heard at the end of the theater version is seen in full here, as we understand what really happened to him when he went to "attend unfinished business" with Michael back at Smith's Grove. The very end is actually pretty interesting and powerful, making me wonder why it was changed. Okay, so Pleasance would have been needed for the next installment if the ending was kept intact supposedly. C'mon, like the producers wouldn't have been able to worm their way out of that one. They did it with HALLOWEEN II and HALLOWEEN 4, didn't they?


BOTH VERSIONS
The acting in both versions are the same pretty much. Donald Pleasance is pretty good in his final acting performance as Dr. Loomis. You can tell the man wasn't all that well to do this film, as his voice was weak and raspy, and he couldn't really walk without a cane. The theater version really butchered the man's performance and made him seem secondary. The Producer's Cut is where he really got some good scenes in and actually felt like an important part of the story. It's really insulting that Dimension didn't respect the man enough to release the Producer's Cut version of the film into theaters, because that would have been a fitting end to his career. Instead, he had to go out acting in an overly edited mess. Shame.

Paul Rudd, who is pretty much the comic sidekick superstar in recent Judd Apatow films, is excellent as Tommy Doyle. He gives a very focused and determined performance, as he's totally believable as a young man who's obsessed about Michael Myers due to his past encounter with him. This was actually the first film Rudd had filmed in his career, but it was released second after his star-making turn in the much better CLUELESS. But in both films, you can tell the guy had potential and would be a major star in the future. He probably doesn't put this film on his resume anymore [I don't blame him], but he's really good in this film.

Marianne Hagan as Kara Strode was pretty good too. She gave a very mature, sensible, and unannoying performance that had me rooting for her survival. She also had a pretty good scene in the Myers House with Michael, even if it was very cliched. But it was nice to see a female lead that was smart, responsible, and pretty tough when it was necessary. So kudos to Ms. Hagan.

JC Brandy as Jamie Lloyd did not impress me at all. All she did was run, cry, and scream. Not the Jamie Lloyd I remember from the previous installments. I think I didn't like this version of Jamie was because the character is associated so much with Danielle Harris that it's hard to watch someone else play the same role. Danielle Harris was supposed to reprise the role in this installment, but Dimension wouldn't pay her the $5000 that she requested. I mean, the budget was $6 million. The studio couldn't give the girl who kept the franchise alive a mere $5000? I don't blame Danielle for not doing this film. It also doesn't help that the Jamie Lloyd character is mistreated, especially in the theater version. At least Danielle is back as Annie Brackett in Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN, while JC Brandy is never heard of again. Sometimes there is justice in this world.

Mitchell Ryan as Dr. Wynn was also very good. He reminded me a bit of Conal Cochran in HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH with his evil monologues, but with more sense. The man was totally wasted in the theater version but gets an extended role in the Producer's Cut that actually makes his character believable and pretty well-written in context to the story. I liked the dude.

The rest of the actors were okay. None of them stood out, except for Bradford English as John Strode. As an abusive husband, father, and drunk...I wanted that bastard dead from the moment he showed up on screen. And sometimes, wishes do come true. Thanks, Michael!

And before I conclude this review, I have a question that really bugged me in both versions of the film: How did the Strode family, other than John, NOT know they were living inside the Myers House? I mean, come on! Kids were putting Michael Myers cut-outs on their front lawn. The neighbors had to have known. Why didn't they warn this family? And Kara's brother's girlfriend knew the place. Why didn't she tell her boyfriend until Halloween night? Just really bothered me as to how these residents of Haddonfield have no kindness in their hearts. Some hospitality!

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE WATCHING BOTH VERSIONS OF THIS FILM

1) If you decide to help save a baby Michael Myers wants to kill, you're probably gonna get stabbed in the back. Of the head, that is.

2) Never look through a telescope in visible sight at your undressing neighbor through your bedroom window. The next neighborhood watch meeting is gonna be a bit uncomfortable.

3) Jamie Lloyd's postpartum blood stains were still at the bus station since the night before. Janitors just don't take their jobs as seriously as they used to!

4) When your son draws a picture of your family dead, it's time for him to see a psychiatrist before life imitates art. Or take him in for an exorcism. Just in case because you never know...

5) Don't ever live in the Myers House. Michael will have an axe to grind with you. Literally.

6) The constellation Thorn is behind Michael's killing spree and his motivation to murder his kin. Thorn is also the reason why crappy HALLOWEEN sequels are made. So really, who is Michael really killing?

7) The little girl dances as it rains red on her. Wait a few years, sweetheart. You're not gonna enjoy yourself when it starts to rain red...DOWN THERE.

8) Michael always picks the largest knives. There's the root to his evil: Michael has a boy-penis. I see now why he wears a mask. You know, to hide the shame?

9) Michael Myers lost his virginity to his niece, Jamie. I guess incest is a game the whole family can play in the Myers household!

10) Never call Michael a pussy. No need to remind him [and us] about HALLOWEEN 5. We're all still a bit sensitive from that crap.

THE FINAL HOWL

HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS is a horrible, or very good, film depending on the version you watch. Unfortunately, the only legal version you can rent is the theatrical cut. If you're a fan of this film and really want to see how this film SHOULD have looked, check on eBay for the Producer's Cut. From what I hear, this item is more rarer than ever to get due to Dimension Films striking sellers with copyright laws. Maybe they're finally willing to release the true version of this film after much demand. Us HALLOWEEN fans can only hope. But until then, I believe the Producer's Cut is worth digging up. I think there are some clips on YouTube. Check them out!

4 comments:

  1. You are 100% right about HALLOWEEN 5 being a failure on every level... That is why it is far and away my favorite one.

    JM

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  2. Give J.C. Brandy a break ... It's not her fault that Danielle dropped out . I've actually seen her in many tv shows and films and not only is she good she has a really big character range. Look her up on youtube I read an interview with her somewhere she said Joe Chappelle always wanted her crying ... he had her carrying a 20 pound sandbag where the baby was supposed to be ... also she said he wanted her bawling over the baby in the bathroom scene ... and she said to him ..." Come on ... I haven't even looked at my baby yet please, just give me one peaceful moment with him" ... He disagreed but she begged him for one take her way and in the end I guess she won that argument for that scene - SHe said that was the only scene where she got her way. She also said in the same interview that she had only seen the first three Halloween movies when she booked the role. She didn't know anything about the character ... only what the director told her. I admit I have been a fan of JC's since I saw her on an episode of Kindred The Embrace but of course would have rather seen Danielle in this role - they are so different ... and if you look on their imdb pages they are actually friends ... Other then that I really only liked the producers cut of this film.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think the original PC version ending is so intriguing that I cant help to wonder What could have been?
    I mean, Im not going to spoil it for anyone, but is really good and keeps you guessing on what the next installment could be about.
    Now that I think about the original Halloween series, my favorite slasher franchise, is the series of what could be but wasnt:

    -Halloween 1, 2 and 3: the beginning of an anthology of horror movies set up in Halloween-but it didnt go well
    -Halloween 4: Im not spoiling the ending, but lets say that we could have a new killer here.
    Halloween 6: Yet again, with no spoilers, lets say that either: roles change here; or Michael changes outfit, Im maybe along here but I dig what he wears here so much than the hobo stuff from H2; or we get a new killer. (Seriously someone who can write should write a novel about what followed the ending of the PC.

    DAmnQuilty

    ReplyDelete
  4. I agree with what you said. It would have been a very interesting way to continue the series in a way that wasn't really all familiar. I'm still in the belief that HALLOWEEN II should have been the final installment. But I do love HALLOWEEN 4, especially the ending that was pretty much ignored in the terrible HALLOWEEN 5. And I agree about HALLOWEEN 6. Not the biggest fan of the storyline, but at least the Producer's Cut attempts to make it work, which it does decently. The ending is pretty cool and an interesting take on the Michael Myers story. We can only guess what happened afterwards. I'm sure it would have been better than HALLOWEEN RESURRECTION or maybe even HALLOWEEN H20 [but I do like that one].

    Thanks for the cool comment! :)

    ReplyDelete

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