Folks, let me start this review with the statement I am a Halloween franchise apologist. I admit after Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, it’s the less glamorous 80s slasher franchise. Those other two series have the more iconic monsters and kills. If you were a kid in the 80s, you liked either Freddy or Jason and passingly accepted there was another slasher named Michael Myers. A guy in a white mask wasn’t as scary as a hulking, hockey masked zombie or a guy who killed in your dreams. I know my appreciation for these films came as an adult.
That said, if I watched these films as they came out, I’d have thought they stunk. Compared to the creative violence in the Friday the 13th films and the perverse humor of the Nightmare on Elm Street films, the 80s and 90s Halloween movies are pretty tame. There’s no sleeping bag kills or a guy getting turned into a marionette via tendons. Case in point; 1995’s Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. Even as an apologist for these films, there is no defense for this film. It’s boring. It falls into a lot of the slasher cliches that Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson’s Scream made fun of the next year. Also in an odd move, this is a very mythology heavy film. The film remains a strange relic of its era that not even a young Paul Rudd can redeem.
The film opens promisingly. A young woman gives birth while cult prepares her newborn in a strange ritual. Then Michael Myers shows up. The problems with this movie start from the beginning because he spends most of the movie as a henchman for this cult. Imagine a Nightmare on Elm Street movie where a secret organization uses Freddy Krueger to do its dirty work. It wouldn’t happen because now your killer isn’t a villain in his own movie. We also get a voiceover in the beginning telling us Michael Myers and Jamie Lloyd haven’t been seen for 6 years. You reader are probably asking “Who is Jamie Lloyd?” You see between Halloween II and Halloween H20 (which brought Jamie Lee Curtis back), Halloween 4 and 5 centered on Laurie Strode’s daughter, Jamie Lloyd. And like any slasher franchise clearing the deck, Jamie gets brutally murdered about 20 minutes into this film.
We then cut to Kara Strode, a single parent, who lives with her son and her parents in Michael’s childhood home. The film expects us to remember that the Strodes are the family that adopted Laurie. Also that Laurie’s dad was a real estate agent. Real estate is a family business. Kara’s son acts strangely and frequently claims to see a strange man. Naturally Kara dismisses these things along with the drawings filled with scenes of violence. This is a slasher movie. Mental health is an afterthought. We’re supposed to feel sympathy for Kara because she’s a single mother and her father is the worst. Unfortunately, Kara is such a generic stock character. She possesses no motivations other than generic “My child!” reactions.
Across the street, a very young Paul Rudd, in his first role, plays Tommy Doyle. Again this movie expects the audience to remember that Tommy is one of the kids who survived the first movie. Convinced Michael will return, Tommy watches and tries to understand Michael. The expectation for the audience is that we should find Paul Rudd’s Tommy to be a heroic figure, concerned for Haddonfield’s safety. Instead he’s really a creep. He skulks around Haddonfield with a weird intensity. When Tommy finally gets to reunite with Dr. Sam Loomis, Donald Pleasance clearly trying his best as he’s dying, we’re supposed to think “Oh, here’s the new franchise hero!” but really the guy is a total creep. Also he’s obsessed with druids.
I now have to bring up druids because this film concludes The Cult of Thorn story. Readers, The Cult of Thorn storyline attempted to differentiate Halloween from the other slasher franchises. This is a mythology heavy storyline attempting to explain why Michael Myers kills. It involves druids and a curse. In concept, this idea is crazier than it’s executed. Given these films came out in the VHS era, it’s a bit of a good marketing ploy too. If you want to understand these films, surely you’ll rent other Halloween films to find out. Only the big draw for 80s/90s slasher movies are the kills, not a complex mythology involving cults. Other than a head explosion and a murder rampage at the end, the kills here are pretty by the numbers. Also none of the cult stuff in the end really matters. There’s a reason why when Halloween H20 rebooted everything, the whole Cult of Thorn story gets dropped.
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers is the conclusion of a couple of things. It wraps up a story that fans, including this one, have to grudgingly acknowledge. It also is the end of an era for this particular kind of slasher. Scream’s release would see that genre take a turn towards meta-humor. The genre would turn away from the killers that were originally box office draws. This film makes a case for why that was probably for the better.