One of the first missteps the Halloween series took happens in the first act of the beloved classic. Sitting in her class, Laurie listens to a teacher drone on about the inevitability of fate. When viewing just the first film, this interaction feels like a fairly small moment that doesn’t amount to much of anything by the time the Shape disappears back into suburbia. Maybe it’s just a suggestion that the night couldn’t have gone any other way, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be making a profound statement on the interaction between the characters or the development of the series. When situated in the franchise, it becomes a harbinger of the way the franchise would progress and devolve. Rather than being the blank slate and force of pure evil that is externalized by his featureless mask, the narrative of the Shape would evolve to become that of Michael Myers. Over time, Michael Myers’ story would become intertwined with fate and mythology. His moves became more calculated, his kills more precise and tactical, as well as a sampling of victims that were by no means chance encounter.
The sixth installment of the long running franchise was released in the wake of the most tedious and mundane installment that had been released at the time. That film, The Revenge of Michael Myers, felt transitional more than anything. It introduced mysterious elements but never followed through with the focus or explanation they warranted. There was a sense that something larger could have developed, but these moments ended up bizarrely out of place in a below-average slasher film that just happened to feature one of the horror genre’s most iconic antagonists. Picking up on these minor details, Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (Chapelle, 1995) becomes one of the most ambitious, sprawling and weird entries in the series. From its disorienting, druidic opening to the frenzied finale, it attempts to capitalize on the diverse set of moments that have preceded it to cement a finite, Michael Myers mythology with some of the most daring twists since Halloween II (Rosenthal, 1981) revealed that family was everything. Unfortunately, this attempt at a left turn and the establishment of a fully fleshed, quasi-cinematic universe never translates on screen: Halloween VI is an abhorrent mess.
If any horror film typifies the danger of revealing too much about a villain, it’s Halloween VI. The antagonist was the most frightening at the commencement of the franchise, when he represented evil incarnate. There was no reasoning with the Shape or talking to him, there was no baiting him to a new location or a trap. There was only the slight chance of survival, as character met Michael Myers on his terms. Then, with the addition of a twist in the sequel, Michael Myers developed a loose raison d’etre that would propel his action for the rest of the series and ground him in something more tangible and human. While this was a mistake, it didn’t sink Halloween IV nor was it the main cause of the failures in Halloween V. In fact, Michael Myer’s humanity and mythos only truly becomes a weakness the more Chapelle attempts to explain it. The basic idea is that this ceremony we see in the beginning is an ancient, Celtic tradition, linked to a rune that the Dr. Loomis suggests is Myer’s calling card despite the fact he never actually left it behind during his rampages. Powers that are above him, including the mysterious man in black, call out to a cursed Michael Myers to kill off all of his family on Samhain as this act will be one of the purification and betterment of the community. Director Joe Chapelle briefly entertains the idea that (main victim) Kara Strode’s son Danny is hearing these exact same voices, but this serves more as a means to reveal more about the antagonist then to suggest any thematic venture about the cyclical nature of sacrificing the individual for the community. Perhaps this is a part of the reason it’s so problematic: the concept of sacrifice doesn’t seem satisfying on the level of the narrative, nor is it ever extended in a meaningful enough way to justify its presence.
To speak informally: it’s a pretty lousy conceit that actually makes the antagonist less effective then before. In the process of over explaining why these events have come to pass, Michael Myers becomes less scary as he completely ceases to represent evil. It’s a bold strategy to try to neatly retrofit your entire franchise into a neat package, but Halloween VI represents too much of a lack of pay off that doesn’t really make much sense to respect that move. The film is pretty nonsensical in other ways as well: for example, how on earth is Tommy the first person to notice all of that blood splattered in the bus station? How is it that the baby cries just in time to be saved by the person that lives across from the Myers house? How does the farmer not hear his powerful machinery grinding up Jamie? When the film introduces something interesting, it doesn’t follow through on it, much like Halloween V. There’s the concept put forth that Halloween has been banned in Haddonfield, and that the children are rebelling to bring the holiday, but rather than questioning why we, as a culture, celebrate Halloween or why it’s important to save, the film moves right back into the Myers plot. Frustrating, I believe, is the word. Even if an audience member can overlook these flaws, they’re left with a set of superficially stereotypical characters (the abusive husband! the quiet wife! the loud radio guy! the people that have sex!) so aggravating it comes as a relief when Michael Myers finally pops out of the darkness to do them in. Maybe his dark overlord is really doing the world a favor by sparing it of these individuals.
It may seem superficial to dwell solely on narrative problems, but the film’s lack of stylistic dynamism encourages that.Despite clearly being the work of different hands, this often gives the series continuity even as authorship changes. Halloween VI lets go of many of these: the point-of-view and over the shoulder shots and the breathing don’t really factor in, while only maintaining the humorous misdirection and jump scares. For most of his kills, Myers appears out of the black abyss behind characters. One thing that Halloween VI does introduce is the use of quick, disorienting montages; at first, these serve as a means to root the film in its past. It’s a moment that makes sense within the larger goals of the work. However, as the film progresses it serves mainly as an attempt to try to confuse the viewer as it reflects the pacing and fright of the events.
I don’t want to dwell on Halloween VI too long because, to be honest, there really isn’t all too much to say about it. It’s just another entry, and it’s an ironic one as a series that finally attempts to be bold once more gets burned for doing it. It’s also a thud of an ending to the post-Carpenter, Jamie centric trilogy; one that is emblematic of the most cynical read of the series: that there’s no real reason to Parts 4, 5 and 6 beyond making money. If there’s any silver lining in this, it’s that Halloween H20 is next, and it reflects a rebirth for the franchise that seeks to learn and move beyond the failings of this set of films. If there’s a downside, it’s that Rob Zombie didn’t learn from these three films when he was remaking the original.