After slogging through Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers and Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers, Halloween H20 felt like a much needed breath of fresh air. It completely subverted the Jamie-centric trilogy that preceded it, choosing to focus on the psychological toll the first two films took on Laurie two decades after that first, fateful night. It also represented a divergence from the path that the series had taken, choosing to preface suspense over shock, pointed violence over meaningless rampage, all the while keeping the body count relatively low. The ending, too, was pitch perfect as it provided the logical finale to Laurie’s emotional arc. During a face to face encounter with her helpless brother, she has the option to accept him as such but instead chooses to exorcise the demons that have haunted her for twenty years by decapitating the monster that just won’t let her live peacefully.
As they say: where there’s a solid Michael Myers film, there must be hastily concocted Rick Rosenthal follow up. Halloween: Resurrection is frustrating from the outset because it shows little regard or respect to the extremely satisfying effort it follows; in a heavy handed monologue full of black and white flashback shots two nurses recount that that fateful evening Laurie did not rid the world of her brother, but mistakenly she killed a paramedic (and father of three) that he had switched places with to escape. In an efficient five minutes, filled with over the top shots of that disembodied head, Rosenthal manages to quickly destroy the emotional resonance of Halloween H20 in order to justify a sequel. To make matters worse, the strong female lead we had been following is hastily killed in the asylum in which she resides; and while she puts up a fight, she dies in an unintelligent manner very uncharacteristic of her character. With that, the title card appears and the the next Michael Myers rampage begins.
Equally frustrating is that what follows seems to have learned nothing from the success of its prequel. In a series that is so strongly dictated by satisfying audience expectation (mostly evidenced by the way 3 transitions to 4, and how H20 decides the prior three shouldn’t have existed), this is incredibly puzzling. One of the strong suits of Halloween H20 was that it was the first time since the original that Myers did not kill everyone that lay in his path, and the deaths were mostly off screen; thus, pointed explosions of violence felt like they had more weight. Like his first entry in the series, Halloween II, Rick Rosenthal leaves little to the imagination as nearly every character that encounters Myers is murdered on screen. There are pools of blood everywhere and stab wounds don’t seem to have much effect on the characters (seriously, though, how does Busta Rhymes survive??). For someone that spoke out against the interference during his first foray in Haddonfield, Rosenthal seems content to retread previous steps, even calling back to the excessive gore of that film: bleeding eyes like Myers at the end and Tyra Banks’ character being drained of blood that Sarah will trip in are prime examples of the director referencing work he had partially discredited. Also, it’s hard to speak in general terms when it comes to the subjective nature of fright, but all of these heads being cartoonishly lopped off onto the floor doesn’t quite have the psychological or horrific effect that Rosenthal is going for. Halloween: Resurrection is also incredibly satisfied with conforming to convention. Oddly, however, the final girl does not make it out on her own volition as a strong character; she must be saved by what I believe we can dub to be an egregious use of a “Busta Rhymes ex Machina.”
While it is by no means a good film–and I hesitate to say, but I don’t believe any film that seriously features Busta Rhymes doing Kung Fu will ever qualify as that–what lifts Halloween: Resurrection from being as flat out abominable as Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers is that there does appear to be some sort of semi-coherent thematic material underlying the mayhem. Directly following a film that questioned its own place both within a franchise and the horror genre, Rosenthal picks up the torch and continues to question what it means to partake in this franchise. This begins with the reflexive plot of two filmmakers manufacturing fright to try to reach a wide audience; at one point, when the characters discover his plan, Freddie suggests that “America doesn’t want reality,” and that he must provide “razzle dazzle” in order to be commercially successful. On its own, this would seem to be an interesting critique of the way the Halloween franchise is built more on conforming to the audiences’ bloodlust than exploring emotional nuance, yet, frustratingly, the way Rosenthal uses gore through the film seems to suggest the message is lost on the man who is imparting it. In the film, Freddie is also a filmmaker very aware of the lineage of scream queens his project must follow; when Sarah comically shatters a glass during her first interview, he is incredibly excited. Any reflexivity in this moment, again, is deflated by the fact the way the female characters comport themselves as they are subjected to Myers.
In a sense, this thematic material really hits its stride with the introduction of spectators as Deckard begins to view the live stream with a variety of people at the party. It seems to confirm the bloodlust that audiences have, as the characters are willing to cheer on every kill when they believe it is fake. It even has this cool moment in the beginning where we see a man at the asylum proudly recount all of Myers kills when he is passed the knife, but it is a squandered interaction in the grand scheme of things. When the actual element of danger is introduced, however, the audience begins to sympathize with Sarah and attempt to save her. This really could be an interesting mediation on the horror genre; it reminds me of that Ti West quote I brought up in an earlier post about how over the top violence sometimes encourages (or, at least, risks) spectators to root for the villain, and how he tries to subvert that. Again, however, this thematic thread doesn’t work when Rosenthal proceeds to handle violence in a way that makes the kills more fun than harrowing. Again, this is a film that seriously trots out Busta Rhymes kung fu skills. As frustrating as the final product is, that these elements are present does justify Halloween: Resurrection‘s existence just a little.
It’s also worth noting that Halloween: Resurrection is the first film in the franchise to heavily feature the internet and computers (due to its time of release). While it never reaches a point of epiphany about the use or affect of those mediums, it does show the show hints at the future on the industry. That is to say it’s definitely interesting to see a good amount of characters interacting with and critiquing a production on progress like we do on Twitter, and it’s oddly prescient to watch a group of characters huddled around a computer watching a piece of entertainment. A part of this, I think, may be in response to the release of The Blair Witch Project (Sanchez & Myric, 1999) just a few years prior, as Rosenthal seems to be attempting to recreate Halloween through the lens of a found footage film. Of course, these elements rarely seem to add up to anything.
Halloween: Resurrection ended up being the final Michael Myers film to be produced for about five years, and at that point it was decided that the franchise needed an overhaul and Rob Zombie was the man for the job. Even with its open-ended finale, it does feel like the film represents an ending point of sorts while limping towards to the finish line. It’s not an abysmal film like Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers, but there’s no doubt that it’s a bad film. It’s not a very scary film, it’s not particularly well made, it’s definitely not well acted and it’s not incredibly entertaining. Halloween: Resurrection is also frustratingly shallow despite containing thematic content that could have amounted to something, a commentary on new technology or the audience-producer relationship that has plagued the entire franchise, with just a little more thought. If you’re looking for a silver lining in the whole experience, it’s that Halloween: Resurrection has the second best mask of the series. But, that doesn’t really help much over the course of a 90 minute film that’s probably tied for the second worst low point in the series.
It makes me excited to re watch the Rob Zombie reboots in a way I thought I never would be.