Wednesday, October 17, 2018

40 Years of Halloween - Halloween: Resurrection

Cody's Halloween fandom reaches its breaking point.

With 1998's Halloween H20, Jamie Lee Curtis returned to the then twenty year old Halloween franchise to play heroine Laurie Strode again with not just the intention of taking the series back to its Halloween / Halloween II roots, but also the intention of killing off iconic slasher Michael Myers for good. She gave it a valiant effort, too. At the end of H20, Laurie takes an axe and chops Myers' head off. Sure, his contemporaries Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger would find a way to recover from such a wound, but Myers has always been less supernatural than those two, so knocking his block off would be an effective way of making sure there wouldn't be any more Halloween sequels... And that's why producer Moustapha Akkad made sure a loophole was added into H20. A loophole in the form of odd behavior on Myers' part in the moments before his head comes off, and footage that was shot (but not included in H20) that would show, when a sequel came along, that Myers had switched clothes with a paramedic, crushed their larynx so they couldn't talk, and put the mask over their head.

It took four years for a sequel to come along and confirm that is what happened. Originally the producers had been hoping to get a follow-up into theatres in the year 2000 so the sequel to H20 could be called H2K, but things took longer than expected. It wasn't until early 2001 that the film really got on track, and when the sequel did finally go into production, Curtis was contractually obligated to show up in it. She couldn't close the door on Myers, so within the opening 18 minutes of what turned out to be called Halloween: Resurrection (after some consideration was given to calling it Halloween: Evil Never Dies or Halloween: Homecoming) the franchise closes the door on Laurie Strode (again, having already said she was dead in the no-longer-canon Halloween 4).

Devastated that she decapitated the wrong person, Laurie has spent the last three years as a patient in Grace Andersen Sanitarium, clutching a Raggedy Ann doll like the one she had in the original film, not speaking, and pretending to take her medication. After a couple of nurses do a terrible job of delivering exposition that catches us up on the situation, Myers shows up at Grace Andersen to finish the "kill his sister" mission he has been on for over twenty years.

Laurie is waiting for him, though, and nearly defeats him again... But then he displays some odd behavior that makes her question whether or not she has the right guy this time, and Myers uses her doubt to his advantage. Laurie exits the picture with a knife in her back and a drop from the roof of the sanitarium. It's a moment that completely invalidates the purpose of H20, but the shot of Laurie falling was nicely done. I also like that Curtis chose to plant a kiss on Myers before she takes her dive, simply because it's a callback to a famous behind the scenes picture from the making of the first movie. (Which she replicated during the filming of Halloween II.)

So once Laurie Strode is dead, where does Michael Myers go? Not, as you might expect, after her son John Tate, because Josh Hartnett had moved on to projects like Pearl Harbor and Black Hawk Down. Instead, Myers just goes back home. Problem is, he finds some intruders there.

A story about Myers going after random people is what I wanted from the franchise all along, rather than the "he's after his own family members" path it took after that twist was dropped into Halloween II. Coincidentally, the first (mostly) family-less Myers sequel was brought to us by Rick Rosenthal, the director of Halloween II... Rosenthal signed on after previously attached director Whitney Ransick dropped out, and unfortunately he was no longer in Halloween II mode twenty-one years later. He wasn't trying to replicate the tone and style of John Carpenter's original Halloween with this one. This time Rosenthal got to establish his own tone and style, one that allowed Resurrection to be packed with ridiculous characters and cringe-inducing attempts at humor.

It didn't help that Rosenthal was working from a mediocre screenplay that was written by Larry Brand and Sean Hood and tells a story inspired by modern technology, society's fascination with reality shows, and maybe a bit of the success the found footage film The Blair Witch Project had enjoyed the year after H20 came out.

The characters Myers stalks in this film are in his house because they're taking part in an exploration of the Myers home that's being broadcast live online. This is why another potential title brought up for this one was Halloween: The broadcast is coming to the internet courtesy of Dangertainment, a company run by a guy named Freddie Harris, who's played by Busta Rhymes - the absolute worst thing about this movie. Rhymes' performance is completely over-the-top, full of awful improv that Rosenthal thought was hilarious. I've seen the damage Freddie's presence does to this film compared to the "what if" scenario of, "if there had been a clown jumping around and waving his arms in the background of the final chase in the first Halloween", which is pretty accurate. Although no moments in Resurrection reach the level of that final chase sequence.

Freddie and his producer Nora (Tyra Banks) pick a group of local Haddonfield University students to be the ones to explore the old, abandoned Myers house. There's fame-hungry Jen Danzig (Katee Sackhoff), who is often very reminiscent of the overly exuberant Tina character from Halloween 5; Sean Patrick Thomas as Rudy Grimes, a culinary student who pretty much only talks about food; Daisy McCrackin as Donna Chang, the sort of character who will school you on the difference between "continually" and "continuously", while also mentioning that Myers "embodies the politics of violence embedded in pop mythology"; Thomas Ian Nicholas as Bill Woodlake, who basically only exists to hit on Jen; classic rocker wannabe Jim Morgan (Luke Kirby), who sets his sights on Donna; and our new heroine Sara Moyer (Bianca Kajlich), a meek girl with a scream that can shatter glass, who is first introduced sitting in a classroom and playing with her hair like Laurie Strode used to do.


Sara has something of an online relationship with someone she knows as Deckard, not realizing he's teenager Myles Barton (Ryan Merriman), who got his screen name from Blade Runner. Even though a friend drags him to a costume party on the night of the live stream, Myles still finds a computer he can watch the broadcast on at the party. When Myers starts attacking people in the house, he's able to communicate with Sara and help her navigate to safety. He was supposed to play a slightly bigger part and become more involved in the climactic scenes, but Rosenthal chose to enhance Busta Rhymes' role and give him some of Myles' moments.

Unlike the versions of the Myers house seen in Halloween 5 and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, the house in this one was actually built on a stage to look like the house used in Halloween and Halloween II. Once the college students get inside that set, Halloween: Resurrection actually turns into a somewhat serviceable slasher movie for a while. The characters are largely useless and the stuff they go through in the house is totally pointless, because it's all stuff that was set up by Dangertainment (thankfully, there are no dark secrets about Myers' origin to be found in here), but they get stalked and slashed up just fine.

New Michael Myers performer Brad Loree did a good job playing the slasher, a major improvement over the Myers in H20. I would have been glad to see Loree return to play Myers again, if this timeline had continued on beyond Resurrection.

A Halloween sequel where the victims have web cams strapped to their heads is not something I ever would have gone ahead with, but that's not really what drags the film down. The execution of that idea, the script and Rosenthal's direction, along with the casting of Busta Rhymes, is what makes this the worst film in the franchise as far as I'm concerned.

Not surprisingly, Myers manages to avoid being caught on the cameras in his house for the most part, but when he does show up on computer monitors around the world the viewers (represented by the people at the party Myles is attending) tend to think it's all a show being put on. They do get to see quite a show in the end, when things descend into utter absurdity and Freddie starts busting out martial arts moves he apparently learned by watching films starring fictional action hero Wat Chun Lee. Although Freddie didn't make it out of the Myers house in the draft of the script that's online and was wheeled away badly injured in the first cut of the movie, Rosenthal makes him the hero in the finished film, letting Rhymes off with lines like "Trick or treat, motherf---er" and saying Myers looks like a "chicken fried motherf---er" after he's strung up in electrical wires and caught in a fire. Since he survives, Freddie learns the lesson that he never should have tried to exploit Michael Myers, that "killer shark in baggy ass overalls".

The script was a bit fancier with its descriptions of Myers - when he gets caught in the electrical wires, the scene description says his body is "held up by the cables in an eerie tableau, arms spread cruciform like a dark messiah of the new millennium."

Also because Freddie becomes the hero, Myles doesn't get to show up at the Myers house to give Sara a hand, so she never gets to learn the true identity of her internet buddy. That story just kind of gets dropped so Freddie can get more screen time.


Rosenthal had trouble figuring out how to end Halloween: Resurrection, even beyond reshooting scenes to replace Myles with Freddie. One potential ending had Myers attacking a CSI technician who shows up at the house. Another had Sara accomplishing what Laurie failed to do, planting an axe in the face of the real Michael Myers. The final ending leaves the door wide open for a sequel, as the burnt Myers is taken to the morgue, still wearing what remains of his melted mask. As soon as the coroner opens the body bag, Myers' eyes pop open...

He was still out there as of the ending of this movie, but like Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers this is an open-ended installment in the franchise that would never get a follow-up. The series shifted gears again after this one.

I hated the Freddie character, but when I left the theatre from seeing Halloween: Resurrection on opening day I was mildly satisfied with it at first. I liked some of the things it did, like leaving behind the family aspect, and liked that straightforward stretch of stalking and slashing in there... But the more I thought of it, the more I grew to dislike it. H20 had disregarded parts 4, 5, and 6 in an attempt to return to a higher quality, and now it had paved the way for this, which is significantly worse than 4, 5, and 6? And Laurie Strode goes out in this trash? I went from seeing the film as "good, except" to a disaster.

Resurrection really marked the end of me having an intense interest in the Halloween franchise. I had been big on the series for several years, but my fandom took a hit with the release of H20 and bottomed out in the days following the release of Resurrection. No matter what has been discussed for the franchise since, I've never been able to stir up a great deal of enthusiasm for it. After this I watched the previous movies less and less, and didn't even go see the next two Halloween films in the theatre.

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