Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

Welcome to the ’90s.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Director:  Joe Chappelle
Studio:  Miramax Films
Starring:  Donald Pleasence, Paul Rudd, Marianne Hagan
Tagline:  Haddonfield is Ready to Celebrate Halloween… So is Michael Meyers!; Everyone Knows His Name.  Now, Everyone Will Know the Truth
MPAA Rating:  R
Genre:  slasher, stalker, psychopath, serial killer, masked murderer
Scare score:  B+
Rating:  B

Plot overview:  Six years after the events of Halloween V, we are shown that Jamie (J.C. Brandy) was kidnapped on the night of Michael Meyers’ (George P. Wilbur) escape from the Haddonfield Police Station, and that she has been impregnated while in the captivity of a strange cult.  Shortly after having the baby, which the cult seems to need for a ritual, Jamie and her newborn son escape from the cult’s hideout.  Making it as far as Haddonfield, Jamie is murdered by Michael, but the baby is nowhere to be found.  Meanwhile, Haddonfield is celebrating Halloween for the first time since 1989, believing that they are finally free from the curse of the past.  However, the Strode family (cousins of Laurie’s adoptive family from the first two films) has moved into the old Meyers house, and estranged daughter Kara’s (Hagan) son Danny (Devin Gardner) has been having strange nightmares about a man in black killing his family.  In search of Jamie’s baby, Michael returns to Haddonfield, wreaking havoc on his home’s invaders in the meantime.  Once the troubled neighbor Tommy Doyle (Rudd) finds Jamie’s baby, he realizes he must save Kara and Danny from the curse of Michael Meyers as the notorious killer’s ancient and evil motives are revealed.

Out of the entire series, this sixth installment is the one I am least familiar with.  It is also the one movie that tries piecing together the plots of the previous four movies involving Michael Meyers (*remember, Halloween III = random*), both taking previous plot points and adding some new ones that are a bit forced.  Let’s begin.

The acting is only so so throughout, but I do think that at long last Donald Pleasence shines as the now-retired Dr. Loomis, who has returned to Haddonfield to help fight off Michael yet again.  Unlike in the previous films, he no longer acts crazed, and instead he is calm and knowledgable.  In fact, Pleasence played him as a rather jovial old man this time around, in some ways making jokes about his role in previous movies.  I believe this was Pleasence’s last performance as he died shortly after filming.  The movie is dedicated to him.

I love that Paul Rudd stars in a horror film early in his career.  He plays the approximately 25 year old Tommy Doyle – name sound familiar?  Ding ding ding: Tommy Doyle is the 8-year-old that Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) babysits in the original Halloween.  17 years after the first film’s events, Tommy has clearly been affected mentally by what happened to him on Halloween night.  He now dedicates his time to keeping a close eye on the Meyers’ house and trying to figure out what is the driving force behind Michael’s murderous ways.  Rudd seems very young in the role, both frightening at first and just odd later on.  While his character is supposed to be challenged and paranoid, this distances Tommy from the audience.  Overall, Rudd is okay in this role, but I think he found his calling in more modern comedies.

Our leading lady here is Kara Strode: cousin of Laurie Strode by adoption, estranged daughter of the ill-tempered, heavy drinker John (Bradford English) and mild mannered, timid Debra (Kim Darby), mother of the troubled Danny, and newest resident of the old Meyers house.  The entire Strode family except for John is unaware of the house’s history as well as its most famous ex-resident, Michael.  Marianne Hagan does an okay job as Kara, who spends most of her time angry at her parents, concerned about her son, or distressed about the serial killer chasing her family.  This doesn’t permit much room for personal growth or development, leaving Kara as a pretty shallow (though caring and enduring) character.  Still, she does have her moments of great bravery while facing Michael – but also great stupidity, and I don’t understand how someone could survive the jump from a third story as she does.

In the very beginning of the film, we are made to follow around Jamie Lloyd who is supposed to be 15-years-old, but very much looks 20 (at least), as J.C. Brandy was at the time.  I think Miss Brandy plays an infuriatingly irritating Jamie, who we loved so much as a child.  I found myself already uncomfortable with the plot after the first few scenes, partially due to this actress.  Her screams from going into labor surrounded by the cult are unnerving, and I really didn’t like that she was – uh – impregnated in captivity.  The first thing we ask ourselves is whether or not the child is Michael’s, which then presents us with a difficult and incestuous plot – which I will never be a fan of.  All in all, with the role Jamie is given in this film, I can’t blame Danielle Harris for not wanting to return.

Compared to all of the other films so far, which were shot in and around California and Utah, this film does the worse job of hiding that it is not actually Illinois at Halloween.  In an early scene when Kara arrives at college, there is clearly a mountain visible in the background of the shot.  ‘Illinois’ and ‘mountain’ have no business appearing in the same sentence unless other words involved are “There are no” and “in.”  Really terrible job filming and editing if you’re going to allow things like that to slip by.  Can’t say I’m surprised by the lack of an attempt at foliage, dead trees, and fallen leaves, even though it’s supposed to be October 31st in the Midwest.  Can’t say I’m crazy about yet another change to the Meyers’ house either.

Michael is creepy in this film, but he seems almost like a robot.  His mask is pretty awful: the whole thing is too wide, giving him the aspect of a monkey at times; the eyes are really large, and the painted on eyebrows don’t help his cause.  Also, I understand they wanted to introduce plot to bring the whole series together, but this leaves some things very forced, such as in the beginning when they find the symbol Thorn burnt into the hay and Loomis automatically knows it’s “Michael’s mark” – uh, since when?  Okay, okay, plot, I get it.

As for the deaths in the film, they are certainly creative and varied – much more comparable to modern thrillers than to the original Halloween films which were simple slashes.  There is a bit more gore here, which I heard they had to cut down, as well as a very inventive use on the part of Michael who is stepping up his murder game prior to Y2K.  The suspense of the kills themselves, and then later on the innocent family members/ friends (usually the next victim themselves) finding the bodies adds a lot of fun to the movie.

I have a problem in this movie with how Danny just ignores Kara all the time.  Jamie was the same way with Rachel in previous films, and I understand in horror we often rely on the ‘idiot plot’ of everyone acting like idiots, but come on, Danny.  If your mom says stay put, that doesn’t mean that in the next shot we should see you walking into the Meyers’ house alone – PS how did you get there so fast?

OH YEAH, huge problem with some continuity in this movie.  How is Michael omnipresent?  One second he’s in his house, and the next he’s already killing someone else at the local college, when mere minutes have elapsed for other characters.  When Kara’s brother Tim (Keith Bogart) and girlfriend Beth (Mariah O’Brien) are expecting a radio DJ to show up at his house, they somehow find the time to light about a hundred candles and make love (premarital… you know what comes next)- I just don’t get when they had this time.  Furthermore in this scene, as the power is out I don’t get how there is clearly an electric (fluorescent) light working in the bathroom.  In many ways, the movie isn’t as cleanly edited as the others.

So I guess at the end of the day, my main concern comes with Michael now leaving his mark, as we learn what drove him crazy as a child: the need to kill his whole family to purify the rest of his ‘clan.’  What is interesting about this additional plot – that everything would be fine and Michael would stop his murders once his family is gone – is that it puts Michael in a better light; we realize that he is cursed, not  evil by choice, and that there is a simple way for the pain to go away.  More bad guys are added in which I thought complicated the plot nicely as they try to harvest this evil and control Michael – bad idea.

Final critique:  This film is more complicated than it seems.  There was a big idea here that had probably been brewing for years beforehand, and the final question remains: is this the curse of Michael Myers, or the revenge of Tommy Doyle?  Just kidding.  The question that really remains is: does this film deliver?  In the gory, creative, funny kill department, audiences are such to find what they are hoping for.  Those coming from the major Halloween fan base may not approve as much.  One thing that’s certain is that the big plot is forced upon the events of this one movie, and they tend to encroach on what already happened – and shouldn’t be changed – from previous films.  Recommended for anyone interested in a ’90s slasher film that happens to have Michael Meyers in it.  If you scare easily, leave the lights on and bring a pair of earmuffs to be safe during the suspenseful scenes, which are plentiful.