Starring Paul Rudd, Donald Pleasence, Marianne Hagan, Mitch Ryan, George P. Wilbur
Directed by Joe Chappelle
Distributed by Echo Bridge Entertainment
Without prior knowledge of the story, without having read the original script or seen the slightly more cohesive “Producer’s Cut”, it’s almost impossible to tell what in the hell is happening throughout Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers: A young woman gives birth to a child in an underground lair surrounded by mysterious cultists, said woman is revealed to be Jamie Lloyd (now played by JC Brandy, aged well beyond a 14-year-old teenager), who then escapes into the night with her newborn. True to form, The Shape appears out of nowhere just in time to stalk his niece into the night determined to sever his family bloodline once and for all.
As expected, the pursuit leads back to Haddonfield, Illinois, where the long-suffering town has banished Halloween outright in an attempt to finally move beyond the curse of Michael Myers. Some local college students seem determined to restore the tradition (quite insensitively, really, considering only six years have passed since an all-out bloodbath claimed the lives of every police officer and several other teenagers), and they become the target of a particularly brutal Michael Myers, who appears none too happy that an entirely new (and dysfunctional) Strode family is living in his old house.
Dr. Loomis (the great Donald Pleasence) is lured back to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium by an old colleague and friend, Dr. Terence Wynn, just in time for the two of them to discover that Michael has come home to kill … again, and the character of Tommy Doyle (the boy Laurie babysat in the original) also resurfaces, this time in the guise of Paul Rudd, as an emotionally unsettled young man who was never able to move past the childhood nightmares Michael left on his psyche.
As it sounds, there’s a LOT happening in The Curse of Michael Myers. It’s no secret that the fifth killing spree of our beloved boogeyman was notoriously butchered in post-production, leaving audiences with something of an empty shell of a film. Scenes drift through this narrative with no real set-up (what were Wynn and Loomis doing at the hospital when Tommy just so happened to find them?) and the ambitious story isn’t served with even the slightest bit of sense. When the third act kicks in to reveal the now infamous Thorn cult motivation, it’s as disjointed as anything that has come before. It’s compounded by the abandoned laboratory climax, in which we glimpse disheveled fetuses, DNA charts and goop-filled syringes – all of this stuff raising a lot more questions without bothering to bring answers.
”We waited six years for THIS?” someone screamed out as soon as the end credits rolled on opening night. An understandable reaction considering this Halloween’s handling of the ‘man in black’ mystery that kept fans wondering where the series would go in this sixth installment. Even Loomis’ fate is left entirely up in the air at the end. Inexcusable enough without considering this was the final role for the inimitable Donald Pleasence. That Dr. Loomis never had a proper send-off is a genuine missed opportunity for the Halloween franchise on the whole, but Curse’s ending is so slapdash that it remains a genuine shame.
But the biggest surprise about The Curse of Michael Myers is that, for all its flaws, it remains a stable and worthy installment in the series. Yes, the story was shattered into a thousand pieces before release, but oft-maligned director Joe Chappelle succeeds in delivering a film rife with atmosphere and suspense worthy of the Halloween name. Chappelle recreates the thick October atmosphere so prevalent in previous entries: Midwest farmlands, pumpkins on every porch and costumed children traipsing through the streets of this quiet community. It’s the same Haddonfield from John Carpenter’s film – only seventeen years older and more battered. After the debacle of transforming the Myers house into a Gothic mansion in Halloween 5, Chappelle deserves some credit for taking Part 6 back to the aesthetic basics of the original.
There may be some more gore shoehorned into The Curse of Michael Myers than necessary, but it never gets in the way of the suspense. When our heroine spies Michael creeping up on a soon-to-be victim in a Rear Window-inspired moment, it’s a fantastically staged setpiece that breathes new life into the proceedings without reinventing the formula. And there are some genuinely creepy and nightmarish moments spattered throughout as well: when a young boy finds himself pelted with warm red ‘rain’ that turns out to be one of Michael’s stashed victims and later when a murdered cultist spouts off some genuinely unsettling gibberish at our hero before keeling over. These little touches add up in the film’s favor, making it work almost in spite of itself.
It helps that the producers put together a strong cast as well. Paul Rudd is a great Tommy Doyle, and quite frankly, the filmmakers were absolutely stupid to leave him out of all subsequent sequels. Rudd’s character makes the perfect nemesis for Michael, particularly in the wake of Pleasence’s passing, imbuing Tommy with the right mixture of likability and unbalance. Marianne Hagan is the attractive single mom who slowly realizes her son may also be in possession of the “gift” that spoke to Michael all those years ago. She doesn’t have a whole lot to do here, but she’s a sympathetic heroine. George Wilbur’s second go ‘round as Big Mike (he first played the part in Halloween 4) is my personal favorite take on the character. In both films his Myers possesses the same cunning we expect from The Shape, but with a little more edge and brutality mixed in to make him an intimidating presence.
Fans of Halloween 6 tout the Producer’s Cut as the magical “fix all” to the problematic situation of this film. And while that alternate version does restore a lot of the character and pacing to the proceedings (including a scene where Loomis clashes with local law enforcement – WHY was that removed), the final act is quite possibly the most ridiculous incarnation of Michael Myers ever put to film. In that version Michael is stopped dead in his tracks by “the runes of light”, and the mysterious curse of Thorn is transferred to Dr. Loomis. Beyond that, it’s revealed that Jamie’s mystery child was fathered by none other than Michael himself (!?), unwisely introducing not only a hokey, mystical aspect to the franchise, but rape and incest as well. No, the studio was right to remove the bulk of that junk.
What’s left is a severely flawed Halloween sequel – one that doesn’t make a drop of sense but successfully offers up enough scares and suspense to make it worthwhile. We’re a long way from the brilliance of John Carpenter here, but this installment isn’t the disaster it’s often derided as.
The biggest surprise is with Echo Bridge Entertainment’s 1080i high definition transfer. This 1.78:1 (cropped from 1.85:1) framed transfer looks to be identical to the Canadian Alliance triple pack that came out last year, offering deep blacks and crisp colors all-around. Detail is strong, with lots of visual information available on actor’s faces – particularly in close-ups. Environments are also well-defined, opening the image to lots of little intricacies (and making some of the newspaper clippings in Tommy’s room much easier to read). The transfer is also, thankfully, devoid of any severe DNR excess. There might be a bit of noise mixed in with the film grain, but nothing that detracts from the overall experience. While these Echo Brige discs have been varied in quality, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers is a winner in this regard.
And while there’s no excuse for DTS HD 2.0 (especially when the Alliance disc offered a lossless 5.1 track), this lossless track really does get the job done. Dialogue is always perfectly clear, and it’s impressive how nicely the disc handles the audio effects as well. Halloween 6 is loaded with lightning, music stings and other loud jumps and crashes – all of which are well separated and presented. It’s unclear why Echo Bridge can’t outfit their titles with much needed 5.1 tracks, but this is a pretty good listen regardless.
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers makes its U.S. Blu-ray bow in a bare bones package that offers really strong PQ and solid AQ for those looking to continue their Halloween collection on Blu-ray. The movie itself may be more of a ‘fans only’ affair, but it retains enough elements to make this a worthwhile recommendation for us horror buffs.
3 1/2 out of 5
0 out of 5