Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers Movie Review

Because this was released when I was already nearing the end of high school it wasn't really a part of my horror culture when I was a kid. I watched it once when I rented it with a friend, but honestly that was probably when we were in college, past my cutoff year of 1996 for this October series.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

As incredible as it was that Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers improved upon the quality, or lack therof, of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, that’s nothing compared to Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, the series’ sixth film. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to criticize here, but taken as a whole experience it’s more fun, better written and acted, and scarier than most other horror sequels.

By this point the series really begins to demonstrate a bit of Michael Myers fatigue. Screenwriter Daniel Farrands’ solution to that is to develop a larger back story to explain the source of Michael’s evil. Unfortunately, while adding a deeper thriller element, it has the effect of making him somewhat less frightening. As a specter, a haunting presence who killed indiscriminately and without purpose, he was one of the scariest of all slasher villains.

Halloween 6 is populated with better actors than a film of this caliber has any right to. Paul Rudd made his film debut as Tommy Doyle, the little boy Laurie was babysitting when Michael attacked all those years ago. He intones a sober narration recapping some of the town’s history with Michael and keeps watch over the Myers house, now occupied by another Strode family – aunt, uncle and cousins of Laurie. There is an abusive alcoholic father (so we know we’ll get some glee from his death scene) and a mouse-like mother played by Kim Darby, who demonstrated much more pluck as the teenaged Maddie in True Grit. Their eldest daughter has a son of about seven or eight years and their teenage son seals his own fate by getting horny with his girlfriend. Meanwhile the long-suffering Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence in his final role) has retired although his old colleague Dr. Wynn (veteran character actor Mitch Ryan) tries to lure him back to service.

Six years have passed and Jamie Lloyd has grown up a bit. She should be fifteen, but the actress who plays her looks about ten years older than that. It’s revealed that she disappeared after the events of the last film and it turns out she was abducted by the strange cult of that mysterious man in black, part of a cult of Druid worshippers. We see that man in black again, that strange symbol from Michael’s wrists and a room full of lit candles as Jamie gives birth to a son being offered up for sacrifice. She escapes and makes a distressed plea to a radio phone-in show that Loomis happens to be listening to, which suddenly brings him back into the mix.

The whole subplot of a ritualistic cult that caused the evil within Michael and might now be threatening the young Strode boy helps tie up some loose ends left by the last film, but it’s completely uninteresting and sort of derivative of Rosemary’s Baby. On the other hand, director Joe Chappelle fosters a film that is tonally a bit more exciting and even fun while it’s trying to scare you. It is greatly aided by Rudd’s performance which contains small traces of his signature delivery for modern comedies.

The film stays on track with an effective tone until the finale which involves underground steam tunnels beneath the psychiatric institute, more antics from the Michael cult, and a giant bloodbath of murder. It kind of goes off the rails a bit as if it’s attempting to oversell itself with a grand finale. The thing is, a well-made horror film doesn’t need grandiosity or a big climax to close. The slow burn can be a much better way to wrap things up. Granted, the story involved in this film sort of demanded some kind of big explanation and more than a fade to black. The talent was here for a much better film, but it’s not to be written off entirely.

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