Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995) Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995) **

     “Hang on,” you say, “can this be right? Is El Santo really posting two reviews for the same movie in a single update?” Yes. Strange as it may seem, that’s exactly what I’m doing, the reason being that the alternate cuts of 1995’s entry in the Halloween series differ so drastically that they really do deserve to be treated as separate films. And stranger still, that’s so even though the immediately obvious divergence doesn’t occur until the start of the third act. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s take a few minutes to establish how this screwy state of affairs arose in the first place.

     If you’ve read my review of Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (which you really should do before tackling this one), then you already have the gist of its tortured development and production. Even after Halloween 6 was completed, though, its travails were not at an end. In light of what a pain in the ass it had been to get that movie made, the leadership at Dimension Films thought it wise to conduct preview screenings to ensure that they finally had it right. The test audiences did not return the desired verdict, however. No, the people privileged to get the first peek at Halloween 6 were generally of the opinion that it sucked— which, to be fair, it did. But on top of that, they’d come in expecting a Halloween movie, not some meandering crap about Druids and incest and the transference of family curses. The Curse of Michael Myers was, in its way, every bit as unacceptable to its intended audience as Halloween III: The Season of the Witch had been thirteen years earlier. The studio people were rightly horrified. All those lawsuits, all those script drafts, all those fights with Moustapha Akkad, and the end product was something they couldn’t even use! Obviously the only thing for it was a round of major reshoots, and nevermind that the top-billed star had just been lowered into his grave for real.

     The changes that transformed Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers into Halloween [no numeral]: The Curse of Michael Myers basically fall into three categories. First, the version that went into general release was markedly shorter than the one that got jeered off the screen by preview audiences (88 minutes total running time versus 95), and more than commensurately quicker-paced. For the most part, that was achieved less by removing scenes or plot threads in their entirety than by never allowing any single one of them sufficient room to breathe. Secondly, virtually every one of the kills was redone to increase the gore quotient, yielding a level of grossout and sheer cruelty that no mainstream slasher movie had dared attempt since the subgenre began taking serious flack from professional finger-waggers circa 1985. For instance, what was originally a grievous but not even quite fatal knife-stabbing got turned into an almost indescribably vicious mechanized disembowelment via some farming contraption whose true purpose is beyond my ken, while an electrocution that was pretty over-the-top to begin with now ends with the victim’s head literally exploding. And finally, practically the entire third act was scrapped, and everything pointing too explicitly toward the original endgame rigorously scrubbed from acts one and two (with a couple glaring, baffling exceptions, which we’ll talk about later). The result of all that surgery still wasn’t a good movie, nor in the end was it a successful one. It was, however, at least recognizably a Halloween sequel, and it did achieve the lofty triumph of being not materially worse than Halloween II.

     Again, the first two thirds of the story are the same in outline. Shortly after giving birth to a son on whom a bullshit Norse Druid cult has unspecified but surely evil designs, Jamie Lloyd (J.C. Brandy) escapes from the captivity in which she spent the past six years, and flees to her hometown of Haddonfield with Michael Myers (George P. Wilbur)— now revealed to be an instrument of said cult— in hot pursuit. Myers kills her (the biggest change to this part of the plot), but not before she has a chance both to hide her child in a bus station bathroom and to get the word out about Michael’s continued survival via the call-in radio talk show hosted by Barry Simms (Leo Geter). Because the subject of the show happened to be the burgeoning debate over whether or not to end Haddonfield’s Myers-inspired ban on the public observance of Halloween, Jamie’s call was heard by both Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence, one last time), the killer’s former psychiatrist, and Tommy Doyle (Paul Rudd), a young recluse who survived a childhood encounter with Myers thanks to the courage and fast thinking of his teenaged babysitter. Loomis and Doyle alike investigate Jamie’s re-emergence in their respective ways, and are each led by their findings to the family currently living in the house where Michael committed his first murder back in 1963. One member of that family, twenty-something college student Kara Strode (Marianne Hagan), has a boy of her own (Devin Gardner), who is exhibiting signs of developing homicidal tendencies much like Michael’s, and there’s at least some indication that the cult controlling Myers is somehow behind that, too. Myers arrives in town, and immediately starts showing the pro-Halloween faction led by Kara’s brother, Tim (Keith Bogart), and his girlfriend (Mariah O’Brien) just how wise their elders were to put the kibosh on that holiday around here. Then Jamie’s baby, which Tommy discovered, and has been trying to protect ever since, falls into the cultists’ hands despite his, Kara’s, and Loomis’s best efforts, and The Curse of Michael Myers turns into a very different movie indeed.

     The two variants of Halloween 6 basically offer you a choice between quarter-assed mysticism and half-assed mad science. The plot twists so loathed by the preview audiences had it that Loomis’s friend and former boss at the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium— Dr. Terrence Wynn (Mitchell Ryan)— was secretly the leader of the Thorn Cult, and also the previously faceless Man in Black who came to the defeated slasher’s rescue at the end of Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers. He was for all practical purposes the current administrator of an ancient Celtic curse whereby prosperity for the people of Haddonfield was secured at the expense of the Myers family, which was doomed to destroy itself by producing Michael. And for reasons that never made any kind of sense, Wynn was attempting to get out of that business by the threefold means of (1) allowing Michael to complete the extermination of his bloodline, (2) transferring the murder-curse to the Strode clan via Kara’s ritual sacrifice at the hands of her son, and (3) recruiting Dr. Loomis (voluntarily or otherwise) to become the new killer kid’s handler. In this second version, however, there’s no real Thorn Cult at all, let alone any authentic ancient curse or functional Druid magic. Wynn is still the evil mastermind operating in the shadows, but now his conspiracy has to do with building upon Loomis’s realization back in 1970 that Michael Myers was “purely and simply evil” by isolating the gene that makes him so— which Wynn and his colleagues have speculatively designated not by one of the Greek letters conventionally used for such purposes in scientific circles, but by the Norse rune thorn (þ). Jamie Lloyd was abducted not to tie off the Myers bloodline, but because she, as Michael’s niece, was the only other person whose chromosomes could reasonably be expected to harbor an unexpressed copy of the gene Wynn sought. Her forced impregnation, meanwhile (and note that it’s never clear in this version who the father is, even if there’s also nothing explicitly denying Michael that role), was a deliberate bid to replicate the accident of her uncle’s monstrous birth.

     There’s just one little problem with that wholesale revision to the film’s basic premise: Director Joe Chappelle had shot a ton of footage depicting Jamie’s enslavement by and escape from a cult, and for whatever reason (maybe J.C. Brandy was already busy with some other gig?) the studio didn’t include any of that first-act material on the list of scenes to be done over. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers never offers any explanation for why Wynn and the rest of the Smith’s Grove staff sometimes like to dress up as Viking Druids and paint runes on newborn babies— all we ever get is one nonsensical line in which Wynn snarls to one of his robed subordinates, “You can take that thing off now— Halloween’s over.” Similarly and even more perplexingly, Dimension didn’t have Chappelle reshoot the conversation between Tommy and Kara laying out Doyle’s theory of Michael’s Druidic origins, and his hope that the key to stopping Myers at last might lie in the power of benevolent runes to counter the malign influence of þ. That setup paid off stupidly in Halloween 6, but at least it paid off. In Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, runic white magic is never spoken of again, and any viewer who never saw the original cut (which was just about all of them until fairly recently) was left to wonder what the fuck Tommy was talking about.

     Another thing that had to change with the ostensible conversion of Wynn’s conspiracy from ritual magic to grotesquely unethical breeding program was Michael’s role in the endgame. Originally, Wynn lost control of him after Tommy disrupted the ceremony in which Myers was supposed to kill his infant son/grandnephew, while Kara’s little boy killed her and thereby gathered Michael’s supernatural evil into himself. Ditching the cult meant ditching the dual sacrifice, which meant ditching the reason for Michael to start biting the hands that fed him. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers solves that problem in a rather startling way, by having him turn on the Smith’s Grove staff with no provocation whatsoever. It sounds like it couldn’t possibly work, and probably it shouldn’t work, but it’s actually my favorite thing about the wide-release cut of this movie. That’s because for the first time since 1978, Myers is murdering for no fucking reason, which was the thing that made him so scary in the first place. Granted, it’s a jarring development in the context of this story, and for that matter in the context of the whole series as it had evolved since 1981. But it’s so good to have something like the old Michael Myers back for just a few minutes that I’m not about to complain. I’m also going to buck what seems to be the majority opinion by saying that I kind of like the final showdown here. I don’t think I’ve ever seen two characters gang up on a slasher like this before, and it’s thematically fitting that one of the few people who ever escaped Michael should take the lead in defeating him (if only until the next sequel). And on a meta level, it’s also fitting, given the embarrassing game of catch-up that Halloween had been playing with Friday the 13th ever since the two properties became franchises, that Myers should get the most decisive beatdown of his career to date from a kid named Tommy who doesn’t look like he should be able to take him.



Home     Alphabetical Index     Chronological Index     Contact



All site content (except for those movie posters-- who knows who owns them) (c) Scott Ashlin.  That means it's mine.  That means you can't have it unless you ask real nice.