Sunday, 16 October 2011

Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers

1995
Dir. Joe Chappelle

Six years after she and her psychotic uncle Michael Myers were abducted from the Haddonfield police station by the mysterious Man in Black, Jamie Lloyd and her newborn baby go on the run again with Myers’ in hot pursuit. Meanwhile, relatives of the family that adopted Laurie Strode have moved into the old Myers house and befriended Tommy Doyle, whose obsession with Myers’ leads to the discovery of a family curse that drives the killer to violently eradicate his bloodline – which is bad news for the Strodes. Teaming up with Dr. Loomis, they set out to stop Myers and the cult that protects him once and for all, yada, yada, yada.

With Miramax having purchased the distribution rights to the Halloween franchise, it was their intention to give the flailing series something of a reboot and to release further instalments through its newly established genre arm, Dimension Films. Following in the wake of the leaden Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers - complete with its ambiguous open ending and hints of Druidic/Runic mythos, writer Daniel Farrands really had his work cut out trying to tie up loose ends, resolve inconsistencies within the plot and move the Myers saga into fresh territory. Origin stories had become popular in slasher films around this time, when all other concepts had pretty much been exhausted. Two years prior to Halloween 6, Friday the 13th’s unstoppable killing machine Jason Voorhees had his vaguely supernatural origins explored in Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday, and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare gave Freddy Krueger a post-modern make-over. Even the original slasher, Norman Bates, was given a prequel (Psycho 4: The Beginning) charting the instigation of his murderous psychological hang-ups.



Halloween 6 may not be the most successful sequel to Carpenter’s classic slasher, but like Halloween III before, it must be given credit for its ambition to move the series in a new direction. Opening with the revelation of Jamie and Michael’s fates after the ambiguity of Halloween 5’s ending; it proceeds to explore what it is that drives Myers’ bloody killing sprees. The answer? Druids. Well, sort of. You see it is revealed that Myers is effectively trying to wipe out his whole bloodline as he is inflicted with the curse of Thorn, a demon-spread ‘sickness’ in which an individual is forced to kill his entire family for the good of society at large. According to Celtic legend one child from each tribe was chosen to be inflicted with the curse of Thorn and to offer a blood sacrifice of its next of kin on Samhain. The sacrifice of one family meant sparing the lives of the entire tribe. A druidic cult (led by the Man in Black introduced in Part 5) has apparently been watching over Myers to ensure no one intervenes with his mission. It is also revealed that a specific alignment of stars in the shape of Thorn, which occurs only at Halloween, instigates Myers' murder sprees. We’ve come a long way from the simplicity of Carpenter’s original chiller which presented Myers’ as a pretty motiveless killer.

While arguably ridiculous, Farrands’ script and the answers it provides works to link up all the prior films and create some kind of continuity for the series. Granted, it isn’t immensely successful (Really, Farrands? Druids?), but when one recalls certain instances from the other films, it does form a vague consistency. For example, the scene in Halloween where the caretaker of the graveyard tells Loomis about a man who slaughtered his entire family at the same time Myers’ killed his sister, and the scene in Halloween II in which someone has scrawled the word ‘Samhain’ in blood on the wall of a school, it links things up within the mythology of the series. Sort of. The use of Halloween’s pagan/druidic origins in Part 6 also echoes similar themes and ideas from the third Halloween movie – and while it didn’t feature Myers – there are still irresistible thematic connections to the rest of the series highlighted by Farrands’ script. The revelation of the Man in Black’s identity also links back to an earlier film.



Reprising his role as Myers’ former psychiatrist is Donald Pleasence in what was to be his last ever role before his death. Looking painfully frail, Loomis is relegated to the sidelines as new characters are introduced to further the story along. The character of Jamie Lloyd is also sadly relegated to the sidelines. In fact she isn’t even portrayed by Danielle Harris (due to the actress’ resentment of the treatment of her character and issues over her salary, Harris declined to reprise the role). Jamie (portrayed in Part 6 by JC Brandy) was the heart of the prior instalments and had become popular with fans. She gave the series a relatable heroine to follow on from Laurie Strode. That she is given such a weak send off in this one seems like a smack in the face too. The rest of the cast consists of the usual knife fodder – in this case, relatives of Laurie’s adoptive family, the Strodes. There has always been an underlying notion of families having an inherent corruption and rottenness throughout the Halloween movies. Parents are often absent and siblings are murderous. In Halloween 6, the Strodes are a dysfunctional family with a tyrannical patriarch. The ‘final girl’ is downtrodden, single mother Kara (Marianne Hagan), a psychology student whose young son, Danny, has dark dreams and hears voices telling him to kill (it is hinted that he’s being groomed to replace Myers at a later date as the Thorn inflicted parricidist). At least Farrands has populated his script with believable characters as opposed to the usual sexed-up teens. In fact, while the Halloween movies (like all slashers) have featured their fair share of sexed-up teenaged knife fodder, the protagonists of the sequels to date have been a little girl and an elderly psychiatrist. The heroes in Halloween 6 are similarly offbeat - a young single mother and a nervous wreck, scarred by his encounter with Myers when he was a boy.

The nervous wreck is Tommy Doyle, the young boy Laurie babysat in Halloween. Now a young man, Tommy (Paul Rudd) is essentially set up as the new Loomis, complete with an unhealthy (but useful) obsession with the Myers, the Strodes and Haddonfield’s bloody history. It is he who reveals Myers’ ‘affliction’ with the curse of Thorn and its druidic origins.



Stylishly directed by Chappelle and boasting some rapid-fire editing that has become common place in horror films now, this instalment is much darker in tone too; there is little humour, knowing or otherwise. At one stage however, a radio DJ speculating on the whereabouts of Myers makes a quip about him being in space (the location of several instalments of other rapidly expanding and ludicrous horror sequels such as Hellraiser, Friday the 13th and Leprechaun). The same DJ wants to broadcast his show from the Myers’ house – an idea that would later form the basis of Halloween: Resurrection. A party-goer in one scene is also dressed as Freddy Kreuger and Phantom of the Opera is glimpsed on a TV. Halloween 6 is also peppered with appearances from horror veterans such as Susan Swift (Ivy in Audrey Rose), Leo Geter (Silent Night, Deadly Night, The Stand and Near Dark), Kim Darby (Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark) and Mitchell Ryan (Dark Shadows). Interestingly, much like Jason Goes To Hell, the film does briefly explore what kind of effect a killer like Michael Myers has on the reputation of a community. Halloween has essentially been banned in Haddonfield since Myers and Jamie disappeared.

The bulk of the story follows Myers as he offs the Strodes and various other residents of Haddonfield in an attempt to get to Jamie’s baby as Tommy and Kara try to stop him – learning more about Thorn as they go along. There are a number of fairly tense scenes (the stalking of Kara’s nervous mother; an encounter with a motionless Myers lying at the bottom of the stairs) and the third act unravels as a tensely prolonged chase sequence which contrasts with the rest of the film as it takes place in brightly lit hospital corridors where Myers is seen in all his glory. One of the most disturbing scenes doesn’t even feature the demented killer. Dark domestic drama is mined to distressing effect when, sitting down to a family breakfast, Kara’s father shows his true colours and further develops the Halloween films’ dysfunctional family theme.



With its arguably laughable druid subplot, outlandish and nasty violence and gaping plot holes (see below), Halloween 6 is a rather uneven affair and at times glaringly misjudged (Foetuses in lab jars? Really?). The ending, once again, seems to have been designed solely to make way for yet more instalments. However it still possesses a few redeeming qualities – the main one, not to sound too contrary (or crazy!), is Farrands’ attempts to tie up the flagging series and inject something fresh back into it. Whether or not you agree with me depends on your willingness to accept where he tries to bring the story. Druids and all.

The Producer’s Cut.

Spoiler Alert…

Halloween 6 suffered from a highly problematic shoot. After preview screenings proved unsuccessful, reshoots were ordered by the studio and what had already been filmed was re-edited, completely excising various scenes and causing more than a wee bit of confusion. The final cut of Halloween 6 that was released into cinemas is very different from the original, intended cut of the film – bootleg copies of this version - "The Producer's Cut" - are widely available online, though to this day it has never been officially released. Scenes featuring key dialogue were removed and replaced with more moments of graphic violence and gore, effectively discarding most of the cohesion of Chappelle and Farrands’ initial vision. Sadly, Donald Pleasence also passed away and his last scenes were never reshot.



This results in dialogue sequences which allude to events never actually depicted because of re-edits. In the Producer's Cut, Jamie is not killed by Michael's attack in the barn; she is killed later on by the Man in Black after having a dream about how she was imprisoned in Smith's Grove and impregnated with Michael's child. There is also a flashback to Halloween 5 that shows Jamie and Michael kidnapped by the Man in Black. In the theatrical release, Myers is defeated by Tommy who tranquilizes him and beats him with a lead pipe. In the Producer's Cut, Tommy defeats Myers in an arcane ritual with rune stones, which, within the existing context of the film, works much better. Wynn then finds Myers paralyzed by Tommy's runic spell while Loomis ushers Tommy, Kara, and Danny to safety. When Loomis returns he removes Myers’ mask only to discover a mortally wounded Wynn, who grabs his wrist before dying and transfers his role as Myers’ caretaker to Loomis. Myers, now dressed in Wynn's Man in Black outfit, is seen walking away. In the theatrical version, Loomis rescues Tommy, Kara and Danny and goes back into the hospital to find Myers – who has butchered Wynn and the cult members during a never-explained surgical procedure. The last shot reveals his mask lying on the floor; his body nowhere to be seen. We hear Loomis scream off-screen – either because Myers’ has attacked him or because once again, the killer has eluded him. It is as infuriating as it sounds!

6 comments:

Caffeinated Joe said...

Confusing is a good way to describe this film. Just seems like it is all over the place, to me. Probably my least favorite film in the series, barring Zombie's remake/sequel duo.

Caffeinated Joe said...

Confusing is a good way to describe this film. Just seems like it is all over the place, to me. Probably my least favorite film in the series, barring Zombie's remake/sequel duo.

kelvingreen said...

All this exploration of Michael's origins is very comic-booky and undermines the original film, but in a way it also complements it; the first Halloween positions Michael as a force of nature, something beyond the ken of normal folk, so all this stuff about curses and druids and constellations fits in a strange way.

I've never seen the other cut, although I've only ever seen 6 on TV, and the TV version incorporates some of the bootleg apparently. I should track it down one day.

Fred [The Wolf] said...

Great review for a really troubled film. I watched the theater version at the movies back in 1995 and not knowing what the hell I had just watched. It's not the worst sequel out there but just really oddly told. I actually own this on VHS, but I own the "Producer's Cut" on DVD. I think the PC is much better and actually flows in a way that I get what the film was trying to tell. If you could ever get your hands on it, I think it's worth it - even though I hear it's pretty expensive now. I bought year on eBay years ago for $10. I reviewed this film a little over 4 years ago and compared both films. It was a pretty interesting comparison and watch. Luckily things would get back on track with H20.

John Baxter said...

Great review of a tough film to summise. Even know I don't know where I fall on the matter. I like the attempt to add a level of cohesion to all that preceeds it. It was, perhaps, an idea that is good and bad in equal measures. A level of understanding of the origins adds to the films but perhaps demystifying Myers makes him less of an unquantifiable boogey man.


I really want to watch these films now.

James Gracey said...

@Joe Yeah, it is pretty all over the place. Like I said though, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It’s not a great film, but I do admire the attempts to tie everything together and bring the series in a new direction. It feels tighter than Parts 4 and 5 somehow. Still fucking ludicrous though! ;)

@Kelvin I too found all the stuff about curses and druids and constellations fitting in a strange way. Came quite out of nowhere – but bearing in mind the messiness the series had fallen into, I guess there was nothing else for it! Except maybe not making anymore entries!

@Fred[The Wolf] I really must try and seek out a copy of the Producer’s Cut. Though I can’t see myself spending any significant amount of money on it! My copy of Part 6 was purchased from Amazon for less than £2. Just about right, I’d say!

@John Yes, my favourite aspect of this film, as baffling as it was, was the attempt to add a level of cohesion to all that precedes it. Like Kelvin says above, it adds an oddly comic-book vibe to proceedings that kinda works. And kinda doesn’t! And yes, it definitely demystifies Myers. So many slasher sequels eventually demystified their bogeymen by exploring their origins. While this is cool (from a geeky fan-boy perspective), it rarely does justice to the original material.