HALLOWEEN FRANCHISE: RANKED

One of the most disjointed horror franchises of all time, featuring no less than three alternate timelines and two re-imaginings. The so-called final chapter, Halloween Ends, just came out so I decided to do a re-ranking of this series.

13. Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

directed by: Rick Rosenthal; written by: Larry Brand & Sean Hood

starring: Michael Myers, Busta Rhymes, Sean Patrick Thomas, Tyra Banks, Luke Kirby, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Ryan Merriman, Bianca Kajilich, Katee Sackhoff, Jamie Lee Curtis

The worst of the worst, Halloween: Resurrection is one of those rare films that manages to be both bizarre and dull at the same time. It feels like a bad teen slasher about this weird new thing they call the internet. Maybe it’s an exceptionally bad script that Dimension Films sloppily repurposed as a Halloween film. It’s full of universally poor performances but given the script, none of the actors ever stood a chance. They basically just stand there saying inane dialogue while some of the least interesting kills of the franchise happen around them. In the first ten minutes, they kill off Jamie Lee Curtis‘ Laurie Strode in a way that makes her character seem unresourceful and weak, an egregious reversal of what happened at the end of Halloween H20, and don’t even get me started on Busta Rhymes. If there was ever a more unnatural performance in a horror film I haven’t seen it, he manages to fuck up every one-liner his character gets and proves thoroughly incapable of navigating a genuine moment. His would-be slapstick with Michael Myers also lessens the threat of Myers. There is nothing redeeming about Halloween: Resurrection. 1 out of 10 pumpkins

12. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)

directed by: Dominique Othenin-Girard; written by: Michael Jacobs & Dominique Othenin-Girard and Shem Bitterman

cast: Michael Myers, Danielle Harris, Ellie Cornell, Beau Starr, Wendy Kaplan, Tamara Glynn

The fact this movie isn’t dead last speaks to how truly awful these entries got. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers thinks it’s an A24 movie. This is the one with all the weird lighting, the one where Michael Myers takes off his mask to cry and we see a single tear roll down his face. This is also the one where the little girl, Jamie, is psychic all of a sudden. This is the one where they kill off a genuinely interesting character from the previous installment ten minutes in, just to replace her with the most obnoxious final girls of the franchise. This is also the one where Dr. Loomis acts like a fucking nutcase for absolutely no reason (in one scene he’s holding up little, twelve-year-old Jamie as bait to an angry Michael). Also when the “comic relief” cops arrive, they have their own Cirque de Soleil theme music (one of the most bizarre choices of the franchise.) All this might sound interesting, but it’s actioned so poorly and without thought, that somewhere, deep in depths of wherever, Ingmar Bergman is gnashing his teeth into a chalky paste. NOTE – There’s a hilarious behind-the-scenes featurette on this where the cast is all unenthusiastically shouting “Get ready, this is gonna be the best one yet!” and you can tell just by the looks on their faces they know what a piece of shit it is. 2 out of 10 pumpkins

11. Halloween 666: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

directed by: Joe Chappelle; written by: Daniel Farrands

starring: Michael Myers, Paul Rudd, Donald Pleasance, Marianne Hagan, Mitch Ryan

After Halloween 5 ended things with a massive jailhouse explosion where Michael Myers is rescued by a mysterious cowboy in a black cape, they sure needed to write their way out of a pickle. Enter a stupid script that ties Michael Myers to some Ancient druid cult that uses him as a killing machine against their enemies, including the only good part about Part 5Danielle Harris. During production, the director and the studio clashed and what ended up being the theatrical cut excised most of the cult footage, delivering a convoluted, nonsensical slasher wrapped around some decent kills. The producer’s cut, now widely available, restores that cult footage and it’s just as bad but for different reasons. Speaking of reasons, there are two for why this is placed higher than Halloween 5 – 1) Because Paul Rudd gives a hilariously self-aware performance that trolls every second of this bloated turd and 2) It actually has a bit of a creep factor for the first time since Halloween II. 2 out of 10 pumpkins

10. Halloween Ends (2022)

directed by: David Gordon Green; written by: David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, Paul Brand Logan, and Chris Bernier

starring: Michael Myers, Jamie Lee Curtis, Andi Matichak, Rohan Campbell, Will Patton, Kyle Richards, James Jude Courtney, Nick Castle

This one takes a major narrative swing and fails miserably, making it feel like less of a Halloween movie than even Halloween III. It’s one of the most boring, suspense-free installments of the series and like Halloween Kills it desperately tries to give layers to characters and events that don’t really have any. Halloween Kills at least delivered on what we go to a slasher movie to see — good kills, a bit of suspense — but this one doesn’t even deliver that. It’s hard to imagine a time Michael Myers was less intimidating and threatening except for when Busta Rhymes was playing Laurel & Hardy with him. It has a really surprising and well-constructed opening and an ending that campily but effectively delivers the goods. The middle 90 minutes though is an absolute slog to get through. More thoughts coming on Monday with my full review. 3.5 out of 10 pumpkins

9. Halloween Kills (2021)

directed by: David Gordon Green; written by: Danny McBride & David Gordon Green

starring: Michael Myers, Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Thomas Mann, Anthony Michael Hall, Charles Cyphers, Robert Longstreet, Jacob Keohane, Kyle Richards, Nancy Stephens, Jim Cummings

Halloween Kills is hands down the most violent Halloween movie outside of the absolutely grotesque Rob Zombie entries, but that doesn’t make it a good movie. That doesn’t even make it a movie. This installment is convoluted and scattered, without a satisfying beginning, middle, or end. It kind of just spouts off for an hour and forty-five minutes before finally, stopping. Some of the kills are good, but a lot of the comedy falls flat. Some of it straight up feels like unfunny deleted scenes from Eastbound & Down (especially with the neck brace guy from The Righteous Gemstones and his lover, Michael McDonald). I felt constantly disengaged by this one, it seems like this movie exists only to try to contextualize why we love the Halloween franchise, and 80s horror franchises in general, and compulsively re-watch even the shittiest entries. It’s convinced there’s something deeper there than mere nostalgia, but there’s really not. The original Halloween was a (perfectly executed) bare-bones genre exercise that had no concern with character development besides the most one-dimensional basic shit they had to do to establish the teens as realistic. It also didn’t mean or try to mean anything in the context of current socio-political issues (which is almost surprising given Carpenter’s strong political streak throughout his filmography). The movie was just about a random psycho chasing you. If these filmmakers love these movies so much and want to pay homage to what Carpenter did, why don’t they just make their own bare-bones genre exercise instead of dump-trucking elaborate mythos nobody asked for into a derivative slasher sequel template? It’s shot really well though. 4 out of 10 pumpkins

8. Halloween II (1981)

directed by: Rick Rosenthal; written by: John Carpenter and Debra Hill

starring: Michael Myers, Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance, Dana Carvey, Nancy Stephens, Charles Cyphers, Lance Guest

I understand why a lot of fans enjoy this sequel, but I’m really not one of them. It takes all the thrills and suspense out of the original to create something more in keeping with a Friday the 13th movie. Sure, there are a couple of creepy scenes but Michael Myers is goofily robotic in this one and is not even remotely intimidating. The narrative decision to make Michael, Jamie Lee Curtis‘ brother is so dumb even John Carpenter regrets it. We get a couple of good kills like the hot tub nurse dip or the magical scalpel, and we get a good deal more blood than the original, but the menace is gone. Objectively, this might be a better “film” than the next two on this list, but I resent it because it set in motion the gore-over-scares template. 4 out of 10 pumpkins

7. Halloween (2007)

written & directed by: Rob Zombie

starring: Michael Myers, Malcolm McDowell, Scout Taylor Compton, Danielle Harris, Brad Dourif, William Forsythe, Sheri Moon Zombie, Ken Foree, Bill Moseley, Leslie Easterbrook, Richard Lynch, Danny Trejo, Sid Haig, Dee Wallace, Tom Towles, Udo Kier, Skyler Gisondo

We’re seven entries in and we’re not even at a good movie yet. Rob Zombie‘s vicious remake of Halloween is an extremely mixed bag in ways most Zombie films are. Zombie has a clear vision as a director and he knows how to communicate things visually, but the trade-off is that his writing is terrible complete with obnoxious dialogue that makes every character into the same beer-chugging, shit-spewing, potty-mouthed hillbilly he loves to write. He’s a great music supervisor and movies are always competently shot, occasionally beautiful but never in this movie. The cast is a mixed bag with Malcolm McDowell really hamming it up (in a good way) as Dr. Loomis and Brad Dourif managing to create an actual human character. Sheri Moon Zombie actually feels well cast for a change in one of her husband’s movies and Scout Taylor-Compton is pretty abysmal as Laurie Strode. The director’s cut includes an unnecessary rape scene, of course. 4.5 out of 10 pumpkins

6. Halloween II (2009)

written & directed by: Rob Zombie

starring: Michael Myers, Scout Taylor-Compton, Danielle Harris, Malcolm McDowell, Brad Dourif, Sheri Moon Zombie, Weird Al Yankovic, Caroline Williams, Duane Whitaker, Chris Hardwick, Margot Kidder, Dayton Callie, Richard Brake, Richard Riehle, Octavia Spencer, Daniel Roebuck, Bill Fagerbakke, Jeff Daniel Philips, Mary Birdsong, Mark Boone Junior

Has the distinct honor of being both the most graphically violent Halloween movie and the most avant-garde Halloween movie. Rob Zombie‘s uneven, obtuse, and barely conscious follow-up to his bland remake is actually a bit of a step up. The writing and dialogue for these characters is still terrible and the potty-mouth trucker prose is amped up even louder than it was in his previous movie. It’s not even that the language is foul, it’s that the language paints such a vividly raunchy picture you can almost taste it. It’s like a 14-year-old trying to shock you to the point of saying something. The visuals on the other hand are frequently impressive and emotive. This is art-house Halloween, and part of me admires Zombie going so far off the deep end to make this his own. It’s packed with a mixed bag of performances – Malcolm McDowell is not as good as he was in the previous one, his Loomis inexplicably becomes a sociopathic fame slut after publishing a book on Myers. Scout Taylor-Compton reaches new levels of grating in what is maybe the most off-putting acting of the entire franchise, but she’s somewhat supported by a conveyer belt of solid character actors. It’s no surprise Brad Dourif and Danielle Harris steal the show as Sheriff and Annie Brackett, two well-drawn characters that belong in a better, more sensitive film. All in all, this is rough but there are some diamonds here. 5.5 out of 10 pumpkins

5. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

My favorite Halloween sequel as a child, mostly because of the amount of ADVENTURE that’s happening in this one. We get Michael chasing someone on a roof, being involved in a high-speed car chase, and even getting shot at by Proud Boys with assault rifles. Also, because the protagonist was someone my own age at the time, I instantly related to her more than Jamie Lee Curtis or Tom Atkins. Jamie Lloyd (played terrifically by Danielle Harris) is the best lead the series has ever had outside of Jamie Lee Curtis, and she’s a little girl. The actress who plays her step-sister, Ellie Cornell, is also quite good. Dazed & Confused‘s Sasha Jensen is also in it. Even with all that, there’s a lot I dislike about this sequel. Mostly, if Halloween II introduces the concept that Michael is basically Jason Voorhees, a supernatural killing machine that can’t be killed, then Halloween 4 solidifies it. This is a shame because it trades actual suspense for ridiculous ways to kill people, and thinks we won’t notice by adding a bunch of explosions (and that admittedly exquisite power line worker death) but really it’s just putting newspaper over spilled milk. Sooner or later…it’s gonna get stinky. 5.5 out of 10 pumpkins

4. Halloween (2018)

directed by: David Gordon Green; written by: David Gordon Green and Danny McBride

starring: Michael Myers, Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Toby Huss, Omar J. Dorsey

Frustrating because ultimately this movie does so much right that the stuff it gets wrong, and it’s some major stuff, really bugs you. First of all, David Gordon Green wisely ditches the whole Cult of Thorn bullshit that plagued 4, 5, and 6, what came in Halloween H20 and Halloween: Resurrection, and even Halloween II‘s the brother/sister contrivance. It simply takes place in a universe where only the first film happened, forty years later when Michael escapes his psychiatric prison and Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) plagued with PTSD, has become a paranoid survivalist. Michael comes back to Haddonfield to terrorize the town once again including Laurie’s estranged daughter (Judy Greer) and granddaughter (Andi Matichak). James Jude Courtney gives us the best Michael Myers and the movie focuses on his creepy movements just as much as the gore. Halloween 2018 gives us more suspense than pretty much any of the sequels, but a lot of the suspense is undercut by the awkward humor. It’s a distracting mix of laughs and chills that ultimately dulls its edge. We also get a completely unnecessary evil psychiatrist character the film’s overloaded narrative just can’t support. The teen characters are solid but show promise of being just a tad more interesting. It sucks this doesn’t live up to its full potential. 6 out of 10 pumpkins

3. Halloween H20 (1998)

directed by: Steve Miner; written by: Kevin Williamson

starring: Michael Myers, Jamie Lee Curtis, LL Cool J, Michelle Williams, Josh Hartnett, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Jodi Lynn Keefe, Adam Hahn-Byrd, Janet Leigh, Adam Arkin

I’m probably the biggest Halloween H20 defender I know. I can’t help it, I just really enjoy this movie. First of all, it’s not a great movie, but it’s a fairly good one, and compared to most of the other sequels, it’s prime rib. Most of this is due to Jamie Lee Curtis’ franchise-best performance as Laurie. It’s a surprisingly realistic portrait of a middle-aged woman handling trauma. She’s not an extreme survivalist like in Halloween 2018, she’s a successful private boarding school dean who has distracted herself from the trauma with work. It makes sense she’s a teacher because she’s a natural protector, it’s in her nature. This one keeps what happens in Halloween II but negates all the Cult of Thorn crap from 4-6. When Michael Myers, who were supposed to believe was just hanging around after the big fire of Halloween II, returns to find Laurie, he sets his sights on her newly 18-year-old son (Josh Hartnett) and his girlfriend, Michelle Williams. There isn’t much suspense in this movie and while it’s one of the least scary entries in the series, it’s actually inhabited by realistic characters, decent performances, and one hell of a satisfying ending that’s Laurie Strode’s biggest badass moment. 6.5 out of 10 pumpkins

2. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

written & directed by: Tommy Lee Wallace

starring: Tom Atkins, Stacey Neiman, Dan O’Herhily

I make no apologies for loving this movie because it knows exactly what it is. It’s not high art, it’s not logical in any way and it’s not even really a Halloween sequel, not in the traditional sense. It’s a fun, dumb, very creative, and technically well-polished campy 80s horror movie that’s unfairly maligned by fans. They feel it has no business existing because it doesn’t feature Michael Myers or even follow a slasher movie template. I’d argue that perhaps this is the only Halloween sequel that has any business existing in the first place. It explores something entirely new – both a new narrative and new themes that are ultimately more in keeping with Carpenter’s anti-fascist sentiments. Basically, the plot follows an evil toy company trying to murder America’s children on Halloween because the CEO (Robocop‘s Dan O’Herlihy) is this evil Irish wizard who resents American children for being spoiled. He uses a stolen piece of Stonehenge to magically power this machine that activates microchips in kids’ Halloween masks, making their heads explode into snakes and bugs, killing them quite painfully and ridiculously. It’s out there but it’s a fun, low-stakes movie with a solid leading performance by Tom Atkins‘ naked ass. 7 out of 10 pumpkins

1. Halloween (1978)

directed by: John Carpenter; written by: Debra Hill and John Carpenter

starring: Michael Myers, Donald Pleasance, Jamie Lee Curtis, Charles Cyphers, Nancy Loomis, P.J. Soles

It’s tempting to call Halloween a miracle, but it’s really just the result of putting a highly skilled technician, intelligent enough to know his limitations, behind the camera. With a budget of only $300,000, Carpenter saves a bunch by not having to rely on special gore effects because there’s really no blood or carnage to the kills. Halloween is all about the lead-up to the kill, the stalking dance of a mysterious evil force. It also helps that none of the female characters seem inauthentic, they’re obviously written by a woman (producer/co-writer Debra Hill) and that lends to the terrifying realism. This is about as simple as movies get but it takes a genius to realize simple executed perfectly is more effective than a movie drowning in a sea of its own ambitions. 10 out of 10 pumpkins

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