Five more days till… Halloween : The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

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“When Michael Myers was six years old, he stabbed his sister to death. He was locked up for years in Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, but he escaped. Soon after, Halloween became another word for mayhem! One by one, he killed his entire family, until his nine-year-old niece, Jamie Lloyd, was the only one left alive. Six years ago – Halloween night – Michael and Jamie vanished. Most people believed them dead but I believe someone hid them away. Someone who keeps Michael, protects him… tries to control him. If there’s one thing I know, you can’t control evil. You can lock it up, burn it, and bury it, and pray that it dies, but it never will. It just… rests awhile. You can lock your doors, and say your prayers, but the evil is out there… waiting. And maybe, just maybe… it’s closer than you think!”

- Paul Rudd as Tommy Doyle, Halloween 6

The sixth film in the Halloween series took its sweet time in development, coming almost six years after the fifth film debuted as the lowest-grossing entry in the franchise history. Behind the scenes, however, there were many interested parties attempting to get another sequel off the ground. Legal squabbles over the rights to the film were delaying production, as Moustapha Akkad had somehow let the rights to his life’s work slip, and Miramax bigwigs the Weinstein brothers had slipped in for a piece of the Michael Myers pie. While all of these legal rumblings were taking their sweet time to get worked out, several different writers and directors made pitches for the direction of the next Halloween film, intriguingly including Quentin Tarantino (!) in 1994.
Ultimately, young aspiring screenwriter Daniel Farrands won the opportunity to write the script based on an extensively-researched treatment he put together on his own as a fan. A dream come true for a fan-boy, Farrands seemed to know more about the mythology and seemingly random plot points from previous entries in the series than the producers did and set about attempting to tie it all together with a big satisfying explanation for the many mysteries behind the pale faced stalker.

The sixth film begins abruptly with a replacement actress as the character of Jamie (despite the fact that Danielle Harris wanted to reprise her role so badly that she became legally emancipated at the age of 17 for that sole reason), now aged 15 and giving birth to a child under some adverse conditions. It is revealed (explicitly in the new cut) that the baby is the product of incest with her uncle, and Uncle Mike seems intent on finding the child. And we all know how Michael gets when he sets his mind to something…

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Meanwhile, an elderly Donald Pleasence returns once again for the final time as Sam Loomis, and comes out of retirement after randomly hearing Jamie on the radio trying to warn the citizens of Haddonfield of her family’s return to town. There are a new family of Strodes, distantly connected to the adoptive parents of the original’s Laurie, and even the debut of Paul Rudd as a now grown up Tommy Doyle, the kid Laurie was babysitting that fateful first time that he came home. While Farrand’s tireless research and detailed connections to the past films are certainly respectable, after a while the film just feels bloated and bogged down with inconsequential references that do nothing to advance the story.

We get something for everyone, I suppose. A new group of disposable teens; a family with the sole purpose of gory deaths; a random radio shock jock; Paul Rudd lugging a baby everywhere he goes; a black-robed cult; a strangely placid (and un-scarred) Dr. Loomis — and all of these characters are forever tied to one pale-masked weirdo lurking in the shadows.

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Eventually it is revealed that Michael has essentially been controlled by a cult of Druids for all of these years, suffering under “The Curse of the Thorn”. The symbol of the Thorn was first seen in Part 5, as an unexplained tattoo on the wrist of Michael and his mysterious benefactor in black. In this film it has an explanation : Thorn is an ancient Druid symbol that represented a demon that spread sickness and caused destruction. To prevent this, one child from each tribe was chosen to bear the curse of Thorn to offer a blood sacrifice of its next of kin on the night of Samhain. When the corresponding Thorn constellation appears, Michael appears. The curse explains why Michael is out to kill his family and also accounts for his superhuman resurrection abilities.

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One last thing that always bothered me about this film is the inconsistent movements of Michael Myers, who was played by several different gentlemen this time around. There is a specific scene late in the film where, while not exactly running, Michael is pursuing one of his victims at a rapid pace, something we have never seen him do before. “The Shape” is best remembered for his professional lurking, and slow measured pace while he confidently stalks his victims. As a character that never speaks, who audiences have grown to recognize for years, the decision to have Michael suddenly speed-walking after his victims is laughable and appallingly inappropriate.

Of course, there is no one to definitively blame for the botched handling of this sequel, as the film had two directors, numerous on-set rewrites, re-shoots that took place months later under dodgy supervision, and as many as a dozen potential endings. A classic case of two many cooks in the kitchen, the uneven result is nevertheless a unique and ambitious entry into the series, especially if you look at parts 4, 5 and 6 as one complete story. It is impossible to point fingers in one direction, and Farrands even coined the subtitle “The Curse of Michael Myers” as a joke in reference to the troubled production itself. Ultimately though, in the sequels that followed, ALL of this storyline is dropped and never even mentioned again!

The inclusion in this new set of the long-rumored “Producer’s Cut” was one of the most interesting additions, making this one a must buy for me. After years of poor quality bootlegged versions of the film floating around the internet, we finally get treated to what is said to be a closer version of the story to the script than what audiences ultimately got in 1995. While the original ending is slightly more satisfying than the theatrical ending, by the final scenes of the film it has all become pretty complicated and frankly too silly to care all that much.

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Overall, part 6 of the Myers saga is an ambitious but ultimately very flawed addition to the legacy of “evil on two legs”. While it is nice to see old plot threads followed up on and forgotten characters return, the complicated over-explanation of Michael and his motivations gets taken to a ridiculous degree in this sequel. In either version, the film ends up effectively destroying the mystery and enigma that originally was Michael Myers, and revealing him to be little more than a dog on a leash all these years. I have said it before and will say it again, it is the unknown which is scary. Audiences think they want all the answers, but they really do not. The horror of the original comes from the inexplicable lack of motivation, not from a cult of elderly weirdos in silk coats with high collars controlling the actions of evil.

Although the previous two films in this new set came with some pretty skimpy special features, this disc is crammed full of fascinating bonus items. As mentioned above, both the theatrical and the producer’s cuts are featured here, along with several interviews with various cast and crew and an audio commentary from lucky writer Farrands. Everyone seems to recall the troubled production differently, and while they generally acknowledge the production’s problems they tend to look back upon the film fondly and respectfully. That is, with the exception of Danielle Harris, who in an incredibly candid interview tells her side of the story of her exclusion from the film, and her dissatisfaction with her treatment. Also of interest are some very gory deleted scenes not found in either official cut of the film, and a nice tribute to the late Donald Pleasence, who passed away at the age of 75 during filming.
Both cuts of the film are dedicated to the memory of the legendary actor.

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