Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995) Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers / Halloween 666: The Origin of Michael Myers (1995) *½

     Imagine being one of the few people who bothered going to see Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers in the theater back in 1989. Imagine being teased for an hour and a half with hints (however nonsensical) that there was more to the Boogeyman of Haddonfield than you’d ever previously suspected— Michael’s runic “þ” tattoo, the Man in Black, etc.— only to have the closing credits start up before a word of explanation was offered for any of them. And then imagine learning that the following year’s Halloween movie, to which the answers to all your proliferating questions had been deferred, was being shitcanned due to the fifth film’s anemic box-office performance. I don’t know about you, but I’d have been pissed.

     As it happened, though, producer Moustapha Akkad really did want to continue the series— it’s just that he also wanted to make damned sure he wouldn’t lose a ton of money doing it. So rather than charging ahead with another sequel, Akkad decided to take a year off to assess the differences between the previous two films, and to see if he couldn’t figure out what had drawn the fans to Halloween 4 but turned them off to Halloween 5. He was therefore in a receptive mood when one of those fans who happened also to be a novice screenwriter, a kid by the name of Daniel Farrands, showed up to a pitch meeting in 1990 with what amounted to a television-style series bible derived from his own exhaustive analysis of the franchise to date. This thing had biographies for all the major characters, a genealogical tree for the Myers-Strode family, exegesis on lore related to the pagan Celtic festival of Samhain (which had been namedropped to no apparent purpose in Halloween II) and the Norse rune thorn (which had been sprinkled all over Halloween 5 to equally little apparent purpose), and who knows what else. As that ought to imply, Farrands was hoping to forge something coherent out of all the half-baked ideas that had attached themselves to the series over the past twelve years (including even a few from Curtis Richards’s novelization of the original Halloween!), retroactively transforming it into something that deserved six or more entries. Akkad loved the idea, and for a moment there it looked like Michael Myers was bound for theater screens once again.

     Alas, it turned out that he was actually on the road to Development Hell. At the root of the problem was the sheer number of parties that owned a piece of Halloween by 1990. Options expired, contracts came into question, lawyers were mobilized, and by the time the dust settled, it was 1994, and the Halloween sequel rights belonged to a Miramax subsidiary called Dimension Films. To put it mildly, the Dimension bosses and Moustapha Akkad did not see eye to eye. Rather than build upon any of the work Farrands had done four years earlier, the studio commissioned a completely new script from a writer named Phil Rosenberg for the film that was now to be called Halloween 666: The Origin of Michael Myers. I’m not sure whether that’s the same Phil Rosenberg who in those days made his living mainly from TV-original suspense and true-crime movies, but whoever he was, Akkad thought his screenplay was total shit. Friction with Dimension notwithstanding, the producer still had enough pull to get Rosenberg fired, although it would be a while before the studio people were willing to listen to Akkad about who should replace him. Evil Dead II co-writer Scott Spiegel, newly ascendant indie darling Quentin Tarrantino, and even John Carpenter himself would be invited onboard over the course of the year, only to have their ideas get the thumbs down from Akkad one after the other. (Some of these rejected treatments were downright bonkers, by the way. Tarantino became fixated on the Man in Black, and proposed to send him and Michael on a road trip of mass slaughter down Route 66, during which the mystery man would gradually explain just who the fuck he was supposed to be. Carpenter, meanwhile, stole a march on Jason X by setting his version on a space station!) Finally, in June, with a locked-in release date looming, Dimension relented, and let Akkad bring back Daniel Farrands. However, we might glean some sense of how happy that made the studio people from the fact that his script went through ten drastically different drafts over the next four months, before the relentless ticking of the clock put an end to the wrangling over this or that aspect of it— and even then, it doesn’t sound like anyone was really satisfied with the state of the screenplay.

     Casting then produced its own set of headaches. Farrands had written in important roles for a now-adult Tommy Doyle and a now-adolescent Jamie Lloyd, and Akkad wanted to bring back both Brian Andrews and Danielle Harris to reprise their old roles. Andrews, however, had gotten out of the acting business after 1987, and no longer had an agent; no one involved in the production of Halloween 6 could figure out how to get in touch with him to offer him the job. Harris, meanwhile, got fucked over during negotiations by the studio, whose accountants saw no reason to pay a teenaged actress anything more than SAG scale for a role that amounted to only a week’s work. And then Donald Pleasence, surely the real star of the series by that point, died right after principal photography wrapped. All his scenes were already in the can, luckily, but Pleasence would obviously not be available in the event that reshoots were deemed necessary after the preview screenings. (He said ominously…) Is it any wonder that Farrands proposed— and Akkad accepted— The Curse of Michael Myers as a replacement subtitle for the film, which no longer dealt with the killer’s origin except in the most cursory way?

     As you may recall, when we last saw Michael Myers (George P. Wilbur, returning from Halloween 4, and becoming thereby the first person ever to play the character twice), he was being sprung from his holding cell at the Haddonfield police headquarters by a mysterious, black-clad man bearing silver-trimmed cowboy boots and a thorn-rune tattoo matching the killer’s own. Now we learn that the Man in Black didn’t just abscond with Michael, but kidnapped his pre-teen niece, Jamie Lloyd, as well. The girl has spent the ensuing six years in captivity to some kind of bullshit pagan cult whose members can’t tell the difference between Celts and Norsemen, which seems to employ Myers as a sort of living weapon. Late this past February or early this past March, this cult had Jamie (now played by J.C. Brandy, from Devil in the Flesh and Pranks) impregnated by Michael, and as we join the story proper, on the night of October 30th, 1995, she’s going into labor in an institutional basement somewhere. The Man in Black confiscates Jamie’s son for a ritual of dedication the moment he’s born, but it happens that Jamie’s midwife (Susan Swift, of Audrey Rose and The Coming) has greater loyalty to her profession than to the cult. Later that night, she not only retrieves the baby for Jamie, but releases the girl from her confinement and shows her how to escape altogether. Unfortunately for mother, infant, and midwife alike, however, Myers is more vigilant than his masters. He catches and kills Jamie’s liberator, and sticks close enough behind Jamie herself to note which direction she goes in the pickup truck she steals from some blue-collar guy who found himself in very much the wrong place at the wrong time during her getaway.

     Clearly Jamie has lost none of the survival skills acquired during her two childhood confrontations with her uncle, because rather than skip town in the all-too-traceable stolen truck, she pulls into the first bus terminal she sees in the hope of securing more anonymous transportation. Alas, the one overnight counter clerk happens to be on break at the time, but Jamie is too resourceful to let that slow her down much. There are phone booths in the bus station, and when dialing 911 yields only an apologetic recording explaining that the local emergency telephone exchanges have been knocked out by the thunderstorm raging outside, she makes a clever and counterintuitive backup play. There’s a radio on the unoccupied ticket counter, you see, on which the absent clerk had been listening to “Backtalk,” the call-in talk show hosted by Chicago-based shock jock Barry Simms (Leo Geter, from Silent Night, Deadly Night and Near Dark). The next time Simms announces the “Backtalk” toll-free number, Jamie calls it, and broadcasts her frantic cry for help all over northeastern Illinois. Then she hides her baby in a supply cabinet in the women’s bathroom, and hits the road again just in time to evade Michael, who has already caught up to her in a van as institutional-looking as the cult’s basement lair. Myers follows Jamie as she pulls out of the bus station parking lot, and continues the pursuit all the way to Haddonfield. There at last, he runs Jamie off the road, and into a farmer’s fence. Myers stabs his niece, and leaves her for dead in a barn, but his newborn son/grandnephew is, of course, nowhere to be found.

     As for Jamie’s distress signal, it was overheard by two interested parties. One of those was Tommy Doyle, the twitchiest weirdo in Haddonfield (Paul Rudd, of all people, in a performance so awful that it’s hard to believe he was ever given the chance to mature into the capable actor we know today). You might remember Tommy as one of the kids whom Laurie Strode was babysitting that night in 1978, when Michael went on his first fully fledged Halloween murder spree, and the experience did not exactly do wonders for the lad’s subsequent social or emotional development. On top of everything else that’s wrong with him, Doyle has been obsessed with Myers ever since, and he’s now one of the strongest adherents to the minority position that the killer is still out there somewhere despite his not having been heard from in just a day under six years. Jamie’s other listener was Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence, whose feebleness here is as shocking in its way as Rudd’s ineptitude), formerly Michael’s psychiatrist, who up until that exact moment was enjoying a quiet and well-earned retirement. Loomis, as we know, is even more obsessed with Myers than Doyle, and the whole reason why he was tuning into so oafish a show as “Backtalk” in the first place was because Simms has been riding a hobby horse lately about some little Illinois hick town where the local authorities have banned Halloween. That would be Haddonfield, naturally. Anyway, that over-the-air phone call from a girl long missing and presumed dead was actually the second bit of unwelcome news to come Loomis’s way on this October 30th. Just moments earlier, his former boss, Dr. Terrence Wynn (Mitchell Ryan, from Deadly Game and Judge Dredd), had stopped by to inform him of his own retirement, and to ask him to come back to work as his successor in the directorship of Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. Loomis was trying his level best to refuse when the voice on the airwaves convinced him that his unasked-for life’s work as the Van Helsing of the Prairie wasn’t yet finished after all.

     Loomis and Doyle alike spring into action the following morning. The old shrink, together with Dr. Wynn, goes first to Smith’s Grove to gather up every scrap of documentation relating to Michael Myers in the asylum’s files, and thence to Haddonfield in response to a report that a girl identified as Jamie Lloyd was found comatose and badly wounded in a barn on the edge of town. Tommy, meanwhile, concentrates on extracting clues from his tape of last night’s “Backtalk” broadcast, and eventually tracks down the very phone booth in the very bus station from which Jamie placed her call. The girl’s movements about the station are easy enough to trace, because she was still oozing post-partum blood at the time, and in the one really believable detail in the entire film, it seems that no one has mopped the terminal’s skanky-ass floor in weeks. The trail of bloodstains leads Tommy to the women’s bathroom, which he enters without the slightest qualm to discover Jamie’s hidden baby, somehow none the worse for being left overnight in an uninsulated steel cabinet without attention of any kind. Doyle tries to bring the foundling to the hospital— the same one where Jamie is being treated, conveniently enough— but the receptionist at the front desk takes him for a loony, and calls security. Even so, Tommy has time for a chance encounter with Dr. Loomis before he’s rousted, and the psychiatrist quickly makes the correct deduction when Jamie’s doctor reveals the puzzling information that his patient has clearly given birth within the past few days.

     Now that’s easily enough material to serve the needs of an efficiently plotted horror film. Remember, though, that Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers went through ten fucking drafts. No script goes through ten drafts and comes out efficient, and thus we’ve still got two entire other movies’ worth of story to set up, presumably comprised of fossilized bits of previous versions. By a minor mercy, both of Halloween 6’s parasitic triplets are based in the same location: 45 Lampkin Lane, next door to the boarding house where Tommy Doyle rents a room on the uppermost floor. That’s the house where Michael committed his very first murder, and its current occupants are the family of John Strode (Bradford English, from Wolf and Basic Instinct), brother of Laurie Strode’s adoptive father. John is a right bastard, and a cheapskate too. He recently bought the house for a song from the other Mr. Strode, making a point not to mention to his wife (Kim Darby, of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and The People) and kids the reason why his brother could never sell the place for anything like its nominal value, even after seventeen years. The other Strodes will therefore be doubly surprised to learn from Loomis and/or Doyle that a serial killer who’s apt to consider them squatters is almost certainly headed their way right now.

     But for our purposes, the really important residents of 45 Lampkin Lane are John’s twenty-something daughter, Kara (Marianne Hagan, from Stake Land and Dead Calling), her teenaged brother, Tim (The First Man’s Keith Bogart), and her five-ish son, Danny (Devin Gardner). John detests his daughter, for reasons that are never entirely clear, but probably have something to do with the circumstances of Danny’s out-of-wedlock birth. Kara returns the sentiment wholeheartedly, and wouldn’t spend a day under her dad’s roof if she had anyplace else at all to go. Still, even she doesn’t hate the old man as much as Danny does— and since Danny (who significantly is just a little younger than Michael Myers was when he stabbed his big sister to death) keeps having hallucinations in which the Man in Black instructs him to murder his grandpa, John might want to watch his ass around that kid. Tim, meanwhile, is one of the focal characters in the second bonus plot, which concerns his efforts, together with his girlfriend, Beth (Mariah O’Brien), to get Halloween reinstated in Haddonfield. They have an unlikely ally in that project, in the form of Barry Simms. The DJ’s unerring nose for crude sensationalism has led him to lend the power of his celebrity to the kids’ cause, even to the extent of signing on for a personal appearance at the pro-Halloween rally which Tim and Beth have organized on the campus of Haddonfield Junior College. If you ask me, the night of the 31st itself seems a bit late for such an event, but since this is Halloween 6’s most haphazardly developed plot thread, there’s little to be gained from thinking too hard about any of it.

     In any case, the rally’s true purpose is much the same as the party’s in the preceding film. It’s ultimately just here to inflate the body count once the movie works up to full steam. As Myers closes in on the latest last representative of his bloodline, and as Loomis closes in on Myers, Doyle tries to sell anyone who’ll listen on his crackpot theory of what’s really going on here: far from being just an unusually tough knife-crazy with a hate-boner for his relatives, Michael Myers is the latest product of an ancient Druidic spell whereby prosperity for the community as a whole is bought by cursing one very unlucky family to destroy itself by breeding a singleminded, unstoppable murder machine. Tommy’s on the right track, of course, but what even he doesn’t realize is that the cult behind Michael has decided it’s time to pass the curse along to a new scapegoat family. Nor has he reasoned out the broader implications of his theory for the populace of Haddonfield…

     The trouble with attempting to make retroactive sense out of a decade’s worth of ad hoc, single-use backstory revisions, designed only to provide fig-leaf justifications for one more sequel to a movie that should never have had any sequels to begin with, is that the closest you’ll ever come to sense is mere “sense.” That is, you might be able to account in your new schema for every unconnected twist and turn of the franchise you seek to rationalize, but the result will inevitably bear more resemblance to a crazoid conspiracy theory than to a deliberately constructed fictional narrative. And that is indeed the tenor of Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers, to the extent that I’m honestly a little disappointed Farrands couldn’t find some way to put the Man in Black on that grassy knoll in Dallas on November 22nd, 1963. I mean, he’s got the boots for it and everything! Factor in the side effects of all those script drafts, and it gets even worse. For example, Michael is evidently supposed to become just an ordinary man if he ever succeeds in eliminating all his kin, right? And the cultists want to let that happen now, so as to shift the curse to the Strode family via Danny, right? So what was the fucking point of breeding Michael with his niece to create a baby to be ritually sacrificed? Why add the extra step when they could just let Michael kill Jamie, like he was trying to do in the first place?!?! Also, I cannot consider Farrands to have adequately resolved the issue of the Man in Black— and not merely because his identity, once revealed, is so absurdly unconvincing on a physical level. If the spell cursing the Myers family was cast for the sake of community prosperity, then surely it should follow that the Man in Black, a pivotal figure in the cult, and possibly even its actual leader, must belong to the same community as them. But the first thing you’ll notice about him, once you finish scoffing at his true face, is that he isn’t even from Haddonfield! The last implausibility that I want to call out is arguably no one’s fault, but is no less ridiculous for that: There is simply no way to accept that Wynn would see Loomis, broken-down shambles of his former self that he is, as a viable successor at the helm of Smith’s Grove, or still less that the Man in Black would consider him equal to the more sinister responsibilities that he ultimately attempts to foist on the doctor. No one who watches Halloween 6 will be surprised to learn that Donald Pleasance was dead before the final negative was ready for printing. Shit, I’m not entirely convinced he didn’t die before all his scenes were shot, but then insisted on coming to work anyway until the job was done.

     Of course, Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers doesn’t just have the feel of a wackaloon conspiracy theory. First and foremost, what Farrands has done here is to transform the whole franchise into the tale of a supernatural conspiracy. To be sure, there was precedent of a sort, insofar as that’s the kind of movie that Halloween III: Season of the Witch was, too. In one sense, it was a bold (if questionable) move to assimilate the main sequence of Halloween movies to the style of a film that was regarded at the time as the franchise’s shameful, three-headed attic baby, but from a different perspective, it was also just about the laziest, hackiest thing that could have been done with the series in 1995. The slasher movie was as weary and used-up as poor Donald Pleasence by then, and Farrands was certainly right to seek a new direction. But to seek it in copying “The X-Files?” Please. Truly it’s a sad state of affairs to see a sequel to the film that set the standard for horror in the early 80’s clumsily chasing the coattails of the TV show that was doing the same for the mid-90’s. I note, however, that Farrands was not alone there. Kim Henkel had the same idea at almost exactly the same time, larding Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation with half-assed conspiracy nonsense in an attempt to pretend that time hadn’t passed that series by, either.

     Nor are its “X-Files”-isms the only way in which in which Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers scrambles after relevance that remains always just a bit beyond its grasp. Look closely at Barry Simms. About 60% Howard Stern and 40% Morton Downey Jr., Simms is so desperately timely that he became dated practically at the moment of his invention. Nor does it help that he continues hanging around long after he’s performed his one legitimate function in the story by inadvertently helping Jamie get the word out to both Tommy Doyle and Dr. Loomis about Michael’s continued survival. The rest of his plot thread— the bad end that befalls Tim Strode’s movement to Make October 31st Spooky Again— quite simply belongs in some other, much sillier, much more lighthearted movie. Hell, it might even belong in a parody of the Halloween series. If anything speaks to how totally Halloween had lost its mojo by 1995, it’s that right there. The test audiences that came to Halloween 6’s preview screenings evidently thought so too— but that’s a story for another review



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