Wednesday, October 9, 2013
HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1995)
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *drama*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *cosmological*
After HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH failed at the box office in 1982, the franchise returned to the familiar menace of Michael Myers for two quickie films, released within a year of one another. I screened these long ago and did not have the chance to review them prior to rescreening the sixth film in the series. I remember both films as no more than adequate time-killers, in which the filmmakers attempted to give Myers a new opponent, his niece Jamie Lloyd. The fifth film in the series also failed to show a significant profit, so the franchise didn't come out with another installment for another six years.
The backstory of CURSE as summarized on Wikipedia suggests that writer Daniel Farrands, a noted fan of the franchise, was on the right track in trying to come up with some way to deepen Michael's rather sketchy nature. Since no one had successfully managed to use Michael as a metaphor for pure evil as John Carpenter did in the first film, perhaps the next best thing would have been to give the hulking shape some simpler raison d'etre. Farrands picked up on some of the pagan references in the series-- particularly movie #5-- and hypothesized that Michael was the incarnation of a demonic power set loose by an ancient, but still extant, pagan cult. Under this power, the demon-haunted being was driven to kill all members of his family in what might be described as a scapegoat ritual, designed to keep other families safe from the demon.
However, the history of the film suggests so much behind-the-scenes conflict that it's impossible to judge whether Farrands' angle would have borne fruit. The basic plotline doesn't suggest much in the way of complexity, though: after Michael succeeds in finding and killing Jamie Lloyd, he's drawn to a new victim: Jamie's baby. For good measure the Horror of Haddonfield also goes after the Strode family that originally adopted his sister Laurie. In essence this HALLOWEEN follows the same plot-logic as an old action-serial, where the baby is a *maguffin* that both heroes and villain pursue.
Though there are various character conflicts that might have developed into genuine drama, even Tommy Doyle-- a now-teenaged version of the child from the first film-- comes off as flat and uninteresting. The pagan cult seeking to manipulate Michael might have made at least as good a villain as the character of Cochran from the third film, but the script wastes time keeping them in the shadows. The ending as filmed is all but incomprehensible, and can only be sorted out by referencing the summaries of Farrands' original script-- though that, too, sounds like at best small improvement.
Though HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13TH are frequently lumped together in terms of their genre, my survey of the first eight FRIDAYs suggests that the filmmakers on that series took a little more care to please the audience that did the HALLOWEEN filmmakers. Even the worst FRIDAY films show some concern for building on the mythic figure of Jason Voorhees. In contrast, HALLOWEEN's sequels allow the Michael Myers character to become more and more of a cipher. It's true that Michael is supposed to be without affect, but he's not supposed to inspire that reaction in his audiences!