Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Film Appreciation - Haddonfield: Part III

Jay Burleson braves the streets of Haddonfield, Illinois for a three part, reverse order Film Appreciation look at the Halloween franchise.

Part III covers the first three films... and hints at a new Halloween treat.



In some ways, this is the most maligned entry into the franchise, simply because it broke away from the Michael Myers storyline. As a child, I never understood it, and didn't give it very many viewings. I recently rediscovered the film and found it to be atmospheric and entertaining, but it's still one I hardly think of when it comes to the Halloween franchise.

The most notable element of Season of the Witch has to be the Silver Shamrock Halloween song that plays throughout the film.

To me, it's interesting to think what Halloween III would've been had it followed the Michael Myers storyline. I can remember reading that Carpenter had at one time thought of a story set in a high-rise apartment building in Chicago, where Laurie Strode is living while attending college. I have no idea if this is true or not, but I personally am glad this wasn't the idea they went with. Nothing about an apartment building and Michael Myers gets me excited, at least not when I imagine the way it would've been handled.

But at this time, Carpenter envisioned the franchise living on as an anthology series, using the name "Halloween" to tell different stories set on the holiday. If Season of the Witch had been a success, who knows how many other interesting Halloween-themed stories we would've been fortunate enough to see from the same production crew. Ultimately, the third entry was a failure, and Michael Myers was ushered back in for a return to Haddonfield.

Written by John Carpenter and directed by Rick Rosenthal, Halloween II picks up from where the original Halloween left off, and follows Laurie Strode to the hospital, where she's treated for the wounds she sustained during her first encounter with Michael Myers. It's a pretty solid entry into the franchise, one that many people love, but a picture that I'm just not thrilled by. Honestly, I'd much prefer to watch 4 & 5 as opposed to the second film. The excitement is gone from the first, and the story beats that made the original great are all gone as Michael simply heads over to the hospital to continue his killing and search for Laurie Strode, who we learn is actually Michael's sister.
This one plot point has haunted the poor franchise for many, many years. One simple thing Carpenter threw in to try and add some life into the sequel ended up being the driving force behind every Halloween film we've seen since, except for the bulk of Resurrection, but not even getting away from the family angle could save that film. To make matters worse, Rob Zombie ran with it for his remakes and now the new generation is stuck with the same old story of Michael hunting family members. It's a shame really, and that's not to say there were any other fresher takes on the story, but every sequel put such great focus on Michael killing off his bloodline that the stories never had any life of their own. I'd much prefer that the Halloween series was more open-ended, more focused on Michael showing up in Haddonfield and taking a new journey here or there. I don't mind Michael killing teenagers in Haddonfield, but a few more breaks from repetitive family escapades would've probably made for some more fun and inventive sequels.

As far as Halloween II goes, it's a decent watch, mostly because it's another entry in the series which features Laurie Strode and Donald Pleasence together, but I never was a huge fan of the hospital setting.


Well, here we are, the final one to write about, and the most enjoyable of them all. It's cliche to say, but Halloween jumpstarted the '80s slasher craze and was so well executed that even the critics who would go on to loathe its sequels praised the original.

It's a simple story, one of an escaped killer on Halloween night, but it's the simplicity that makes it work so well. John Carpenter worked hard to make the teenage characters feel real and relatable, so it would be that much more believable when the bad things started happening. Ironically, Carpenter was only doing Halloween because, in his words, he just wanted to work on another film. I'm sure he had no idea that Halloween would turn out the way it did.

The making of Halloween has always been a huge source of inspiration for me. Whenever I am in a creative funk, I turn back to Carpenter and the crew he assembled. They had very little money, no one was expecting anything out of them, and they went off and did the unimaginable with little resources and even less time. They were just a group of young, hungry filmmakers who wanted to make a film. That's the driving force, and the cold reality of most filmmakers that I know, but Carpenter and Debra Hill were able to hit that one in a million shot. It's motivational on many levels, and the film that they were able to complete is legendary on even more.

This film will always be a favorite of mine, and if you haven't, you should read my original Film Appreciation on it. I wish I'd been able to see the film on the big screen for its re-release last October, but I was unfortunately unable to attend.
Luckily, I do have something noteworthy to end this journey to Haddonfield with. The following images are from something that I can't say much about right now, but I will say that they are from a never-before-seen Halloween film, have been taken from a degraded VHS tape (only copy that I know of) and have a lot to do with what happened after Halloween III: Season of the Witch, and before Akkad got around to making Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers.

I'll explain all of this later... when the time is right.

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