Halloween is coming on Saturday night, and doubtless among your plans will be the viewing of a scary movie or special. In 1978, John Carpenter and Debra Hill kicked off the modern slasher film movement with Halloween. In the 42 years since, the original film has spawned eight sequels and two re-boots for a total of 11 films and counting that bare the name Halloween. We were supposed to get another this year, but like so many films it was pushed back to 2021.
Still, there are plenty of Halloween films to choose from, but which one is right for you? Well, in this week’s edition of Binge Watch, I’m looking at Halloween films. Not all of them. In the original franchise, I’m skipping the fourth, fifth, and sixth films. They’re fine if you’re a completist, but I’m focusing on our star, Jamie Lee Curtis, who has appeared in five Halloween films and two others that are worth mentioning.
So if you’re looking to dive deep into the world of Halloween, let this week’s exploration be your guide!
About: This is the one that started it all, a night of babysitting gone horribly wrong. This is also, in a lot of ways, an important film. It began a movement. Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and even Scream are all franchises that came AFTER Halloween started it all. And, in a lot of ways, it’s the perfect example of the genre. Curtis is the star here, as young Laurie Strode, a babysitter whose friends have a looser take on the responsibility and, thus, pay the price. It also introduces the world to Michael Myers, the supernatural evil killer who just keeps coming. This has thrills and scares, but by 2020 standards is tame in terms of production. If you’ve never ventured into this genre, Halloween is the perfect starter film.
Halloween II (1981)
About: Success always breeds more in Hollywood these days, but it was no different for Halloween. After a great success in 1978, the key players wound it back for a second stab at it in 1981. This one takes place almost immediately after the events of the first film and finds Strode in the hospital, where Michael is still very much alive and coming for her. Carpenter and Hill wrote the script here, but Rick Rosenthal took over the directing duties. Like most sequels, this isn’t as good as the original, but it’s fine.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
About: Originally, Carpenter and Hill envisioned Halloween as an anthology horror series. While the second film was a direct sequel, the third film, Season of the Witch, embraces the anthology idea. In fact, it’s so disconnected from the world of Michael Myers that in the film Season of the Witch you see characters watching the original Halloween film on TV. Instead, this one has a ridiculous story about Halloween masks and Druids. It’s not a good film, don’t mistake me saying that. HOWEVER, I own a copy because I thought it was such a fun unintentional comedy. It wasn’t a commercial success, however, which is why Michael Myers returned in the fourth installment and has been part of the franchise ever since.
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
About: This is the seventh (yes, seventh) film in the original franchise, and 20 years after the first movie Curtis returned as Laurie Strode. Except, she was going by a different name, working at a private school and trying to forget her troubled past. That, of course, doesn’t pan out as Michael Myers returns to get his sister… The cast here includes Michelle Williams and Josh Hartnett, who plays Laurie’s son. It’s a pretty good and entertaining take on the world, and worth checking out for fans.
Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
About: This is the eighth and final film in the original Halloween franchise. Rosenthal, who directed Halloween II, returns to direct, and Curtis is also back as Laurie Strode, albeit briefly and unhappily for fans. Most of the heavy water in this train wreck is toted by Busta Rhymes and Bianca Kajlich, among others. This film was pretty well proof it was time for the franchise to end. And it did…sort of.
About: Then came Rob Zombie. The singer turned auteur re-booted the franchise with Malcolm McDowell in a key role as Dr. Loomis. Here’s the thing, this re-boot and the ill-conceived sequel Zombie directed were ultra-violent and sexual. But worse yet, they seemed to attempt to psychologically deconstruct why Michael Myers would kill. That doesn’t work, and more to the point that’s not what these films are about. They’re about the supernatural terror of an unstoppable and unknowable killing machine. By trying to humanize Myers and his psychological issues, Zombie actually made the whole thing grosser. This film isn’t good, but it’s better than his sequel, which I declined to finish. You can safely skip these films.
About: Now 40 years after the original comes a new birth of Halloween, which bares the name of the original but is actually a sequel to the original. Yes, you read that correctly. David Gordon Green took the directing duties, crafting a script with the help of Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley. More interestingly, it’s meant as a direct sequel to the original film, as if Halloween II through Resurrection never happened. It features Curtis, again, as an older Laurie Strode who is something of a paranoid recluse—understandable given what she’s endured. He has an adult daughter (Judy Greer) and granddaughter (Andi Matichak). Laurie worries Michael Myers is going to return, but everyone thinks she’s crazy. Then Michael does return, and Laurie is the only one who is ready. This was a solid film and great addition to the legacy, and it’s set to spawn two additional sequels, the first of which should be released in 2021. So if you want the journey to continue, this is a must watch.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.