Category Archives: John Carpenter

Snake Plissken – The One and Only

Snake Plissken

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Myself, Dominick Cappello, as Snake Plissken at a 2009 Halloween party…
Snake Halloween 09

Eric Whitten, an actor in my short film “Tinieblas,” in Snake Plissken inspired threads…
Eric Whitten in "Tinieblas"

Halloween: Best to Worst


“Halloween” (1978)
The night HE came home. The “Citizen Kane” of slasher movies. Yes, it was preceded by both “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Black Christmas,” but John Carpenter’s “Halloween” is the standard by which all slasher flicks are held to. John Carpenter was truly a one man band; writing, directing, and scoring the film. His collaborator, Debra Hill, was also a vital factor in the success of “Halloween.” John Carpenter’s focus was on the relationship between Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) and Michael Myers (Nick Castle) while Debra Hill contributed the banter between the teenagers, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), Lynda (P.J. Soles), and Annie (Nancy Loomis). For the record, Michael Myers was not intended to be the brother of Laurie Strode in this movie. He, according to John Carpenter, was symbolic of pure evil. A little boy, who without any motivation, murdered his sister with a kitchen knife on October 31st, then escaped from a mental institution fifteen years later to stalk and murder babysitters. Of course, everyone knows that the original mask worn by Michael Myers was a modified Captain Kirk. Awesome. The way that Dr. Loomis describes Michael Myers to Sheriff Brackett (Charles Cyphers) boosted the character into another stratosphere of terror. The children who are being babysat watch Howard Hawks’ “The Thing from Another World,” which was a later remade by John Carpenter in 1982. Anyone who dreams of making a horror movie really needs to study this film, its chilling score, and collection of first rate scares. Annie is killed with a classic jump scare as Michael Myers was lurking in the backseat of her car, while Lynda gets strangled from behind by Myers, who was dressed as a ghost. She never saw it coming, but the audiences did. Laurie Strode became the archetype for the slasher movie “final girl,” even if she dropped the knife when she exited the closet. I know that Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees have their loyal fan bases, but for my money, Michael Myers is the definitive slasher movie maniac. To those who protest the ability of Michael Myers to drive an automobile when he had been institutionalized since he was six, all I can say is that this inconsistency only added to his mystique.

“Halloween II” (1981)
The nightmare isn’t over… as Michaels Myers follows Laurie Strode to a hospital in the fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois. Rick Rosenthal was now in the director’s chair while John Carpenter and Debra Hill remained as producers. This is one of those “Bride of Frankenstein” sequels that picks up right where the first film left off. “Mr. Sandman” performed by The Chordettes was incorporated into the soundtrack. Whenever I hear this song, I think of the “Halloween” movies. Michael Myers (Dick Warlock) acquires a new kitchen knife from a home where an elderly couple watches “Night of the Living Dead.” Dr. Loomis continues the hunt for Myers without Sheriff Brackett because Brackett was devastated by the death of his daughter, Annie. Dr. Loomis witnesses a teenager, who was out trick-or-treating and mistaken for Michael Myers get plowed into by a squad car. People tend to forget that Michael Myers is only 21 years old and could easily be mistaken for a teenager out enjoying the holiday. This film is a lot bloodier than original, which bothers some who felt it was style over substance, but I disagree. In a horror movie sequel, the filmmakers must up the ante with creative death scenes. One nurse gets boiled in a hot tub while another gets a hypothermic needle in the eye. The course of the franchise was forever altered with the reveal that Laurie is actually the sister of Michael Myers, given up for adoption after he was institutionalized. Jamie Lee Curtis, the celebrated scream queen of the late 1970s and early 1980s had already starred in “Prom Night,” where her brother was also revealed to be a killer. John Carpenter claims to have been drunk while penning this reveal, but it was a largely successful plot twist. “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare” and “Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday” were less triumphant in their attempts to create blood ties between the killer and their victims. Dr. Loomis, defying the orders of a state trooper, arrives at the hospital to save Laurie, who spent much of the movie in bed, and he and Myers are (allegedly) killed in a gas explosion. When I was I kid, I saw “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” first, so I didn’t question the implausibility of both Myers and Loomis surviving this raging inferno. The only other character who survives with Laurie was a paramedic named Jimmy (Lance Guest), but only the censored TV version of the film clarifies that he did in fact survive. Lance Guest then starred in “The Last Starfighter,” which was directed by Nick Castle, the original Michael Myers.

“Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” (1988)
John Carpenter’s “Halloween” had countless imitators, “Friday the 13th” being the most enduring of the initial wave, then director Wes Craven reinvented the slasher genre with “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” Ten years after his debut, Michael Myers made a notable return to remind all who the innovator was. Only producer Moustapha Akkad remained from the creators of the original film. John Carpenter and Debra Hill, displeased with the film’s creative direction, sold off all of their rights to the franchise. Michaels Myers (George P. Wilbur) is revealed to have been in a coma for the past decade. While being transferred to another hospital, the news that he has niece stirs the inexplicable rage within him and he escapes. Dr. Sam Loomis, sporting terrible burns suffered in “Halloween II,” knows that Michael will return to his native Haddonfield, Illinois in search of his niece, Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris). Jamie’s mother, Laurie Strode, had been killed in car accident and she is being raised by a foster family and has a strong bond with her foster sister, Rachel Carruthers (Ellie Cornell). Even though Jamie has never met her uncle, he appears in her nightmares. Jamie is initially reluctant to go trick-or-treating because all of the other kids know that her uncle is “the boogeyman,” but she changes her mind and selects a clown costume, similar to what her uncle had worn when he killed his sister in 1963. Dr. Loomis, now teamed up with Sheriff Meeker (Beau Starr), comes to the aid of Jamie and Rachel, while a local posse of beer swillers is on a manhunt for Michael Myers. Despite of all these measures, little stands in the way of Michael Myers catching up with Jamie and many are killed in the process. A lot of these deaths are overly gory, obviously to answer the challenge of the “Friday the 13th” franchise. The authorities eventually gun down Michael Myers and the implication is that he is finally dead. A happy ending? No. Dr. Loomis and the others are shocked to discover that Jamie has snapped and stabbed her foster mother with a pair of scissors. What a disturbing image to close on. Director Dwight H. Little is no John Carpenter, but he still helmed a quality sequel sans a few over the top deaths.

“Halloween: H20” (1998)
Wes Craven once again made slasher movies cool with 1996’s “Scream” and the genre enjoyed a resurgence, which was a bit less gory than what had preceded in the 1980s. The wave of popularity led to Jamie Lee Curtis returning to the franchise that made her famous. The twentieth anniversary of the original “Halloween” was a reboot of sorts as the events of Halloween’s 4-6 were completely ignored, making this a sequel to the first two installments only. John Carpenter politely turned down an offer to direct and Steve Miner, the man behind two “Friday the 13th” movies, was given the assignment instead. Laurie Strode had faked her death and she now teaches at a posh boarding school located in Northern California. Meanwhile, Michael Myers (Chris Durand) breaks into the home which once belonged to Dr. Sam Loomis and kills his nurse, Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens), the only other returning cast member from the first two films. The initial concept was that this would be a copycat killer and not the real Michael Myers, but the filmmakers learned a lesson from “Friday the 13th, Part V: A New Beginning” and wisely stuck with it being the real Michael Myers. Laurie, now calling herself Keri Tate, is quite the burden on her son, John (Josh Hartnett). John resides at his school with his mother, who is also his teacher. She is smothering the poor boy. Ms. Tate’s assistant was played by Janet Leigh, real life mother of Jamie Lee Curtis. Janet Leigh’s character owned the same car she had driven in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” This was the first time that the mother / daughter combo had appeared together since John Carpenter’s “The Fog.” The head of campus security was played by rapper turned actor, LL Cool J, which seems like gimmicky casting, but he was fine for what he had to do. It’s not like they cast rapper who can’t act at all like… let’s say… Busta Rhymes. Foreshadowing. Laurie realizes that this might be the year her brother finally returns because John is now eighteen, the same age that she was in the original. John was suppose to be on a class trip, but he snuck off to enjoy the night with his girlfriend, Molly (Michelle Williams). Michael Myers arrives at the school and kills disposable characters until John and Molly escape. Laurie remains to have a final showdown with her big brother. She stabs him with a kitchen knife and knocks him over a railing and he crashes into a dinning room table, but she knows he that won’t stay down for long and commandeers the ambulance that his body bag was loaded into. She insanely drives off of a hill and Michael Myers gets pinned between the ambulance and a tree trunk. He reaches for his sister’s hand, a rare sentimental moment for him, and she responds by chopping his head off with an axe. Laurie now appears deranged, but she finally vanquished the evil that was her brother… or so she thinks. Some have said that this movie was a return to the spirit of the earlier films, which is true to a degree, but it was also a part of the cashing in on the success of “Scream” trend like “I Know What You Did Last Summer” and “Urban Legend.” These flicks all featured “hot” young talent on the rise. “Halloween: H20” highlighted Josh Harnett, Michelle Williams, and even Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a small part. I enjoyed the blend of new stars with icons like Jamie Lee Curtis and Janet Leigh.

“Rob Zombie’s Halloween” (2007)
Rob Zombie has progressed as a filmmaker. I didn’t think too highly of “House of 1,000 Corpses,” but “The Devil’s Rejects” was a vast improvement. Zombie’s remake (or re-imagining) of John Carpenter’s “Halloween” is probably his best effort yet. This was the first entry in the franchise following the death of producer Moustapha Akkad. The first act chronicles Michael Myers (Daeg Faerch) at age 10, murdering his sister (Hanna R. Hall) and his verbally abusive step-father (William Forsythe). Michael’s mother (Sherri Moon-Zombie) is devastated by her son’s actions and eventually commits suicide. The vulgar interactions between the members of the Myers family indicate to me that Rob Zombie’s unique talents may have been better served on “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or “The Hills Have Eyes” remakes. One thing that I will say to Zombie’s credit is that he is a genuine fan of the original film whereas Michael Bay, who has produced remakes of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Friday the 13th,” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” was most likely only motivated by cashing in on the marquee value of these franchises. Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) escapes from the asylum at the age of 25 and the rest of the movie is a more intensely violent retread of the original classic. One major deviation was the characterization of Dr. Sam Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), who actually capitalized on the Myers family tragedy with a book. Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) also talks dirty in front of her foster mother (Dee Wallace). Rob Zombie states on the DVD audio commentary that Laurie couldn’t be as much of a prude as she was in 1978, but there are limits. Again, I don’t think that Rob Zombie can depict all of that normal, somewhat dull life in the suburbs, but you need that calm before the storm. A little humdrum before the killings. Because of the imposing stature of Tyler Mane, who spent time as a grappler in World Championship Wrestling, it was less believable that Michael Myers could blend in as a teenager out celebrating Halloween. Sheriff Brackett was played by Brad Dourif, the voice of Chucky in the “Child’s Play” movies, and his daughter was Danielle Harris, a veteran of this series, having portrayed Jamie Lloyd in Halloween’s 4 & 5. Dee Wallace had starred in some iconic horror movies in the 1980s like “The Howling” and “Stephen King’s Cujo.” Ken Foree from “Dawn of Dead” also cameos as a trucker, so Zombie was paying tribute to not just John Carpenter and “Halloween,” but an entire era of the horror genre. This films ends with Laurie, not Dr. Loomis, shooting Michael. Brain matter splatters all over her face just before the end credits roll. A cover of “Mr. Sandman” by Nan Vernon was used, which was a nice touch. The strongest elements of this film revolved around the young Michael Myers and his loving mother. In fact, the entire movie should’ve been a prequel, depicting Michael’s teenage years in the asylum, leading up to his escape in 1978. My opinion only.

“Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers” (1989)
This sequel is a companion piece to “Halloween 4,” the same way that “Halloween II” was to the original. By the way, why did they switch from roman numerals to regular numbers after part three? This fifth installment, directed by Dominique Othenin-Girard, had a made for TV vibe. Something that today would debut on The Chiller Network or FearNet. Michael Myers (Donald L. Shanks) turns out to have survived the last film and was swept away in a river. He was then found by a hermit and his unconscious body was kept in the hermit’s shack until the next Halloween. WHAT!? Why would this hermit keep the body of a stranger on his table for a whole year? Did the hermit have his meals at the table with the body? On second thought, I don’t want to know what deal was with this guy. Meanwhile, Jamie Lloyd is being treated at a children’s clinic and has not spoken since she brutally attacked her foster mother with scissors the year before. Dr. Sam Loomis serves as her personal physician. Rachel Carruthers is still close with Jamie and visits her often despite what transpired between at the end of the last film. Michael and Jamie now share a psychic link and Jamie senses when Michael kills Rachel, also using scissors. Michael’s weapon of choice was usually a knife, so maybe the scissors were an homage to Jamie? With Rachel dead, Michael targets her friends, who were an annoying collection of stock 1980s slasher movie teenage victims. Dr. Loomis sets a trap in the Myers house, using Jamie as bait, which leads to a bit of a continuity gaffe since this house in no way resembles the house used in the first two films. After a pretty scary scene in a laundry shoot, Michael removes his white mask and reveals his face to Jamie. Some people hate this scene, but I thought it was a decent. Michael is then captured by Dr. Loomis in a net. How very Looney Tunes. Dr. Loomis collapses on top of Michael, evidently suffering a heart attack. Michael is incarcerated, but is busted out by the mysterious “Man in Black,” who appeared earlier in the film. This bizarre set up for the next sequel led to many outlandish theories including Michael Myers being launched into outer space be the government. Moustapha Akkad admitted that it was a miscalculation to release “Halloween 5” in theaters at the same time “Halloween 4” was being released on home video. The character of Jamie Lloyd returned for the next sequel, but was not played by Danielle Harris. Danielle Harris was a worthy successor to Jamie Lee Curtis and became as important to the franchise as Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence, returning for the Rob Zombie’s remakes in the role of Annie Brackett.

“Halloween: Resurrection” (2002)
Okay, so that was not Michael Myers who got decapitated in the climax of “Halloween: H20.” He switched places with a paramedic. Laurie Strode, now ridden with guilt over taking an innocent life, is confined to a sanitarium. Michael (Brad Loree) locates her and kills her in the opening sequence. Laurie Strode bites the dust that quickly? Obviously, this was merely a contractually obligated appearance on the part of Jamie Lee Curtis. It was clever how Michael pinned the murder on an inmate, who was a serial killer aficionado. The rest of the movie was about a reality show producer and kung fu enthusiast, Freddie Harris (Busta Rhymes), organizing a live internet tour of the Myers house on Halloween night, hosted by college students (Bianca Kajlich, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Katee Sachoff, and Sean Patrick Thomas). So, this was like a cross between a found footage flick and a standard slasher movie. An interesting blend, but the final result was underwhelming to say the least. Tyra Banks played the assistant to Busta Rhymes, in what was a glorified cameo. I recall seeing footage of her in the trailers that was not in the final cut. Overall, this movie was not even remotely scary. Busta Rhymes gave an atrocious performance. If we should’ve learned anything from “Alien Resurrection,” it’s that the “resurrection” subtitle signifies that the franchise is already dead. Michael Myers is electrocuted after Busta’s big one-liner, “Trick-or-treat, mother fucker!!!” The final scene at the morgue drives me crazy. Even though director Rick Rosenthal had already helmed “Halloween II,” he seems to have confused Michael Myers with Jason Voorhees because Michael died and then came back to life. Michael Myers cannot be killed, he either escapes or at the best is put into a coma, resting up for the next sequel. If you don’t count Rob Zombie’s two remakes, then this was the final chapter in the “Halloween” saga. Not exactly the most fitting swansong.

“Halloween III: Season of the Witch” (1982)
The night no one comes home. Yes, some do defend this flick, directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, by stressing that one can simply overlook the absence of Michael Myers and still appreciate the film based on its own merits. To that I say, even if this was a stand alone movie and not part of a franchise, it was still lacking. All that was cool and memorable was the Silver Shamrock jingle. Dr. Dan Challis (Tom Atkins) sets out to expose a cult, lead by Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy), that has smuggled a piece of Stonehenge into the United States, which on Halloween night will emit an energy beam into a TV broadcast and anyone viewing the broadcast while wearing a Silver Shamrock Halloween mask will have their heads decomposed into insects. Oh, and this cult also has androids serving as bodyguards and they turn the protagonist’s love interest (Stacey Nelkin) into an android. WHAT!? How could anyone still think this movie is critiqued unfavorably only because the story does not involve Michael Myers? It was a slapdash effort whether it was part of the “Halloween” franchise or not. Masks, bugs, and robots? Sorry, but this screenplay makes virtually no sense. There could have at least been some continuity with the two previous films. The setting could have remained the fictional Haddonfield, Illinois instead of Northern California. And what if one of the three masks manufactured by Silver Shamrock was the signature Michael Myers mask? Or, have a character who is somehow linked to the previous films? Dr. Challis could have been a protoge of Dr. Loomis? Maybe he works at the hospital from “Halloween II”? Unfortunately, the filmmakers made a point of letting the audience know that this was a separate universe because the original “Halloween” was playing on a TV. This attempt by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, who still served as producers, to turn the “Halloween” franchise into an anthology was quickly abandoned because it was poorly executed.

“Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers” (1995)
Michael Myers (George P. Wilbur) and Jamie Lloyd (J.C. Brandy) have been missing for six years now. The “Halloween” franchise has always been good at incorporating the actual passage of time in between films into the stories. Jamie escapes from her captors with her baby on the same night she gave birth. It is not clarified who the father is, but some speculate that it is Michael Myers. George P. Wilbur had already played the role in “Halloween 4,” but he looked a lot more jacked up in this sequel. Halloween had been banned in Haddonfield since 1989 and the old Myers house was now occupied by the Strodes, relatives of the family who adopted Jamie Lee Curtis after the Myers gave her up. It seems like the filmmakers were stretching to connect this flick with the original. Paul Rudd makes his feature film debut as Tommy Doyle, the adult version of the kid Laurie Strode was babysitting in the original. Why is he suddenly the protagonist? The filmmakers never pulled the trigger on sending Michael Myers into space. That concept was resurrected in another slasher series as Jason Voorhees blasted off in “Jason X.” Dr. Sam Loomis has finally retired, giving up the hunt for Michael Myers, and working on a manuscript. Michael tracks down Jamie and unceremoniously kills her, but he cannot find the baby. Dr. Loomis resumes his search for Michael with the aid of a colleague, Dr. Terence Wynn (Mitchell Ryan). The mystique surrounding Michael Myers is peeled away further as Tommy, who is also caring for Jamie’s baby, uncovers the motivation for his killing sprees, “the curse of thorn.” Dr. Wynn is revealed as the “Man in Black” from “Halloween 5” and responsible for corrupting Michael when he was just a boy and nurturing the evil within him. The climax takes place in Smith’s Grove, the same mental hospital that Michael escaped from back in the original. Michael turns on his puppet masters without reason. This movie finally gives him motivation to kill, then they have him kill without a motive. Why? Dr. Wynn could have become abusive of him or something, then the audiences could have been rooting for Michael. Michael gets beaten with a pipe and appears to bleed green, which is really strange. Dr. Loomis remains behind as the other protagonists flee and the movie ends with the implication that Michael kills Loomis off camera. It happened off camera because the ending was re-shot after Donald Pleasence had passed away. In the original ending, Dr. Wynn charged Dr. Loomis with becoming Michael’s new caretaker. Neither ending is all that great, but this lackluster effort on the part of director Joe Chappelle was at least dedicated to the memory of the late Donald Pleasence.

“Rob Zombie’s H2” (2009)
I wish to be a blogger who never uses the phase, “worse movie ever,” but I am seriously tempted to do so with this abomination. I’ll be straight and to the point. Having Michael Myers murder at the behest of visions of his dead mother’s ghost is a total rip off of the relationship that Norman Bates had with his mother, which had already been bootlegged to a degree by Jason and Mrs. Voorhees. I guess that Rob Zombie was just looking for any excuse to prominently showcase his wife. Also, the climax was a little too reminiscent of “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” by teasing the audience that Michael’s last living relative will take up his mantle. And I’m not really sure how to feel about the “Weird” Al Yankovic cameo. A tad better than Busta Rhymes I guess. I hope that this is not how the “Halloween” franchise ends. Maybe there can be a reboot that isn’t a remake of the original film?

Trick or Treat