Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
The early-to-mid 1990s were generally not a good era for horror films. The slasher craze of the 80s was dead, and the few surviving franchises were really limping along, creatively and/or commercially. Now in the hands of Dimension Films, who had already begun tarnishing the Hellraiser franchise, Moustapha Akkad pushed forward with a sixth installment in the Halloween series. It would explore the origins of Michael Myers, and follow-up on the events in The Revenge of Michael Myers. It had good beginnings, but what could’ve been a very solid and satisfying film for certain fans, turned into a real mess with an obscured potential. It just goes to show that certain franchises shouldn’t be given to certain studios.
Following six years later, much has changed for our familiar characters. Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) has retired after suffering a stroke during his last encounter with Michael Myers. Almost everyone believes that Jamie Lloyd and Myers died that night. Although, it is October 30th, 1995, and things are about to change further. In actuality, Michael survived, and Jamie (J.C. Brandy) has been held captive by the Man in Black and his cohorts all this time. Jamie has since been impregnated, and is now mother to a newborn baby boy. In an escape attempt, Michael pursues her relentlessly. Meanwhile, shock jock Barry Simms (Leo Geter) holds a radio broadcast about the return of Halloween to Haddonfield, and one of his callers is a panicked Jamie Lloyd, calling out for help. Among those listening are Tommy Doyle (Paul Stephen Rudd) as well as old friends Dr. Loomis and Dr. Terrence Wynn (Mitch Ryan). Of course, it is not long before Michael claims his niece’s life in quite a gory fashion. While the child is lost to The Shape, Tommy soon tracks the baby boy down, and chooses to protect him. Loomis & Wynn soon join the hunt for Myers, but ulterior motives loom in the shadows for some. Meanwhile, relatives of Laurie Strode – including Kara (Marianne Hagan) and her young son Danny – now occupy the old Myers home, and are in danger of Michael’s boundless evil. Tommy, quite obsessed with the truth about Michael Myers, believes he has discovered the origin of his evil, but how this version of the film progresses, it eventually becomes irrelevant.
It is rather easy to see how this entry in the series failed to be a serious success. The main factor is that, after poor test screenings, Dimension Films ordered the third act to be re-shot and much of the film to be re-edited to be a much less intelligible story. However, the original version survives in the bootleg market as “The Producer’s Cut.” In this, the theatrical cut of the film, there’s much left to be desired regarding the plot. What begins as a supposed occult plot surrounding Michael eventually takes a sharp swerve towards some form of genetic cloning, and all things occult are bafflingly washed away. The film also goes for a lot of cheap, false scares which only degrade the quality of the film. Re-casting or dispatching with the character of Jamie Lloyd didn’t win any fans over either. However, Danielle Harris did not like the script, or what happened to Jamie in it. So, she passed, forcing the role to be given to another actress who did a fine job, but the re-casting does affect the impact of what does happen to Jamie here.
What I do enjoy a great deal about this film is what many don’t like – the entire Thorn / occult plotline. Many despise it, but it’s much the same as I like Jason Goes To Hell. It offers up a better explanation than just “he’s evil.” Evil alone doesn’t make you immortal and impervious to injury or pain. There has to be a reason, and after a while, you need to add something more to the stalk and slash formula to keep it interesting. Whether it succeeds or fails depends on how well the explanation is integrated into the established mythos. For me, I think screenwriter Daniel Farrands did a very exceptional job tying all the little bits and pieces scattered throughout the films into a credible storyline. While the entire Thorn mark on Michael in Halloween 5 was purely random, trying to give Moustapha Akkad some thread to continue with into the next sequel, I find it is quite a valid revelation. Like it or not, John Carpenter did set this up, partially, years ago. When filming additional scenes for the network television broadcast of the original Halloween, he introduced the plot twist that Laurie was Michael’s sister. He also introduced the idea of Michael being linked to Samhain in his and Debra Hill’s script for Halloween II. Despite which belief system you categorize it under, Samhain is directly linked with an array of paranormal and supernatural events and rituals. All of which involving the relationship between the living and the dead. Therefore, while none of this origin came from a singular stream of consciousness, it all eventually fit together with perfect logic. If for nothing else, in my honest opinion, it’s a better and more creative origin for Michael Myers than what trash Rob Zombie tried to feed us. I don’t believe in making evil incarnate a sympathetic figure. You shouldn’t feel sorry for evil, but you should respect its power and legacy. The one person who survives throughout these films is the one who respects and never underestimates the evil that is The Shape, namely Dr. Loomis.
The film has a solid setup giving us plenty of mysterious and haunting elements that create suspense. Having the Man in Black haunting Danny Strode was handled nicely, and created a driving plot element which passionately involved Kara Strode. She’s not being randomly stalked. She is fighting for the safety of her son, and thus, naturally forms an allegiance with Tommy Doyle. Bringing back a character from the original film, and developing him down this path is something I’ve always strongly enjoyed. He could’ve been the Halloween franchise’s allegory to Tommy Jarvis from the Friday The 13th films – a young protagonist who has dedicated himself to understand the evil that once stalked him, and seeks to destroy it, once and for all. Doyle is very smartly handled in this story giving the character enough weight to bring credibility to everything he says. Just as how Dr. Loomis could come off as very preposterous if wrongly cast, the same goes for Tommy Doyle. Where Loomis has always brought a dreadful urgency to the plot, Tommy brings a scary vibe of mystique as he explains the truth of Michael Myers. The addition of Dr. Terrence Wynn mixes both of those into a heavy, frightening threat, regardless of which cut of the film you view.
While all the Strode family drama was quite unnecessary, it at least has some bearing on the story and the characters. It creates enough emotional turmoil for Kara which makes her more vulnerable and emotionally open for an audience to connect with. However, on the down side, I definitely get that John Strode is not meant to be likeable in the least, but he actually comes off as far too stereotypical, dumb, and tiresome. He’s a dull thud of a character that I just wanted to be rid of, and if the film spent less time with him, I would have been perfectly all right with that. That is really the only character which fell flat for me. Actor Bradford English just didn’t seem like a very solid fit for this role, and does little with it for anyone to take him very seriously. He comes off like a bull-headed buffoon. Even the crass shock jock character of Barry Simms is vehemently unlikeable, but he’s supposed to be, and Leo Geter hit the role perfectly on the mark.
Now, what further drives this away from the tone of a Halloween film is the excessive gore. The splatter level here is more akin to that of a Friday The 13th film. The Halloween films have, generally, been more focused on atmospheric horror than shock gore. I can only fault director Joe Chapelle for a good measure of this. He was the one Dimension Films called on to re-shoot sequences for Hellraiser: Bloodline. Thus, essentially butchering everything that film had left going for it after the Weinstein’s kicked Clive Barker and original director Kevin Yahger off the project. He’s clearly not a filmmaker who strives to fight for his vision or establish his own identity. He does what the studio wants him to do, even if it means butchering his own film or someone else’s. Chapelle also perceived Donald Pleasance’s performance as “boring,” and cutout several of his scene from the film, further showing Joe Chapelle’s lack of sense for good talent. Clearly, there was a good movie under all these re-shoots and re-edits that Chapelle deserves some credit for, but he really loses a lot of that credit and respect due to his track record with this film and others.
Fortunately, the acting rises far above anything that might be lacking in the director’s chair. Donald Pleasance, as always, delivers what had always kept this film series so unique. He provides a dramatic and emotional weight which brings an honest credibility to the film, despite what strange turns it might take. Paul Rudd and Marianne Hagan bring equally real and solid performances. Rudd fashioned a definite eerie quality for Tommy making it quite apparent that he’s had a weird time of it since Halloween, 1978. I always find myself especially intrigued by his character, hoping that a subsequent film would follow him in more depth, but that really became a dashed hope. Beyond just the change of direction in the franchise, Paul Rudd emphatically made it known he’d never work with these filmmakers again. He signed onto what was supposed to be a high caliber suspense film, but the studio ultimately decided to take the low road. That being said, aside from my previous comments, there’s hardly a weak link amongst the cast. Mitch Ryan was a welcomed addition adding some extra strength and stability. He does an immensely effective job in his plot twisting role as Terrence Wynn.
Lastly, George P. Wilbur returns as The Shape. He previously took on the role for Halloween 4. The performances are about the same, but he gets to do more walking here. You see more of his movement, but it doesn’t have that natural fluidity that Nick Castle had in the first film. It seems everyone who portrays Myers always tried to emulate the robotic and rigid performance of Dick Warlock. I cannot explain this approach as I believe Castle’s more natural movement made Michael seem more eerily human, and in a way, more frightening and relentless. He seemed to move with more purpose, more determination, and thus, showed he was more motivated.
Alan Howarth, a frequent collaborator of John Carpenter’s, and the man responsible for the scores of Halloween 4 & 5 returned here. He takes things in a different direction this time out. This is a much heavier score with the synthesizers regularly slamming into the soundtrack with a more overbearing presence, at times. The familiar themes of the series have a more atmospheric or polished synth sound, which I do enjoy. It gives this film more self-identity that works, but there are undesirable elements of this score. The music in the climax is overwhelming with shredding electric guitars in a very 80s pop-metal style. It’s like a second rate Eddie Van Halen wannabe took over the scoring job on the film and did a terrible job at it. This is not scary or suspenseful. It’s just obnoxious Now, this is something exclusive to this cut of the film. It was another decision made by people less interested in creating a coherent and effective horror film, and more interested in just making whatever’s going to give them one extra dumb dollar – even if only makes the film worse.
Thankfully, the film is shot very well, in most part. The cinematography has a serious approach with focus on dramatic weight and eerie atmosphere. The lighting creates some uneasy moodiness. The bleak visuals create a sense of foreboding and unease. You get the feeling all the way through that this is a film that is taking itself seriously with intense, unrelenting horror, and a storyline that’s supposed to have dire consequences. I really love how the film was shot. It takes the blue tones of the first and fourth films, and adds an extra layer of depth and grit to enhance the more grim tone of this film. I give much praise to cinematographer Billy Dickson on this production.
Generally, I feel this version of the film is less fascinating than its bootlegged counterpart. Based on its own merits, the film boils down to a mindless slasher with a messed up plot progression which ultimately negates itself. While it does have strong acting and solid production values, the studio heads botched it all up to cater to stupid fourteen year olds who wouldn’t end up being able to see the film in theatres anyway. The whole film seems meant to build up towards answers and revelations regarding the origin of Michael’s evil. Sadly, it’s all thrown out to introduce a new ending which makes no sense, and doesn’t bother to explain itself. I’m not one who demands that all mysteries be solved, and all questions be answered thoroughly and definitively in a film, but things need to make some degree of coherent sense. Simply said, the fact remains that this ending does not fit to this story. It washes away all plot points and hints at answers the film establishes, and introduces brand new ones which come to no light. It’s a cliché, shallow, and hollow conclusion to a film which laid the seeds for so much more. Satisfaction, at least for me, does not come from this version of Halloween 6.