The mood. The setting. The undeniably chilling score. John Carpenter’s “Halloween” defined much of what constitutes the slasher genre, also illustrated in such later ’80s flicks as “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Friday the 13th” ⎯⎯ but it was Carpenter’s skillful direction that paved the way. The story was pretty simple: a psychotic boy named Michael Myers kills his sister Judith in 1963, gets locked up for 15 years, breaks out, returns to his hometown of Haddonfield and goes on a killing spree. Laurie Strode (played to perfection by the original scream queen herself Jamie Lee Curtis, daughter of Psycho’s Janet Leigh) unwittingly becomes his target on Halloween in 1978. Her friends die all around her, and Laurie must use her cunning to outsmart and ultimately defeat the boogeyman.
At the time, “Halloween” was trickled out slowly into theaters nationwide, but before long, a frenzy broke out. The movie went on to gross $47 million and spawn nine sequels, including the Myers-absent “Halloween III: Season of the Witch” and two Rob Zombie’s reboots.
In 2018, Carpenter returns to the franchise as executive producer on a new sequel to be directed by David Gordon Green. Green and Danny McBride wrote the script, which promises to “carve a new path.” Curtis is set to reprise her iconic role as Laurie for one final showdown. Reportedly, the sequel follows the events of the 1978 original film, ignoring all other sequels as canon.
Below, One Country ranks all 10 current Halloween films, from worst to best.
10. “Halloween: Resurrection” (2002)
This try-hard “hip” and “trendy” installment flippantly tosses away the outstanding ending of “Halloween H20” and the series’ most compelling finale for trashy reality TV. Busta Rhymes’ Freddie Harris and Tyra Banks’ Nora Winston run a company called Dangertainment ⎯⎯ and the subsequent film is as bad as it sounds. When Michael Myers tracks Laurie Strode down to a mental asylum (after killing the wrong guy in the previous film), their final confrontation comes with a heavy price tag. Laurie lures Michael to the rooftop, only to struggle to remove his mask, afraid of making the same mistake twice. Michael gets the best of her and stabs her in the back, and her body plummets through the trees below. That’s only the first 15 minutes.
Enlisting a cast of cliched characters and what could have been a cool concept, “Resurrection” has no business being associated with Michael Myers. Sara, Jim, Donna and other college kids must spend one night in the killer’s childhood home to uncover the truth about why he went mad. They forage through a series of fake props and stunts, including a grave of bodies hidden inside the basement wall, in an attempt to be somewhat interesting. The film flips between exhausting, point-of-view shots from the casts’ head cameras and polished cinematography. The script is bad. The casting is predictably terrible, and Michael is torn down to nothing but a punch line. No one asked for Busta’s kung-fu skills either. You’d be best advised to skip this one altogether.
9. Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” (2007)
On paper, Rob Zombie rebooting the original Halloween should have worked ⎯⎯ but the final product is utterly tragic. From the unnecessarily vulgar language, the disgusting rape scene and the white trash backstory to Scout Taylor-Compton’s lackluster performance, the flick is dead in the water from the very beginning. The first half of the movie delves into Michael’s childhood, leading up to the slaying of his older sister Judith. Malcom McDowell provides a serviceable performance as Dr. Loomis, and the exploration of Michael’s descent into madness during the Smith Grove’s Sanitarium years is an enjoyable experience. But in the latter third of the film, Zombie rehashes what we’ve seen before, ultimately discarding what makes The Shape such a terrifying entity. Compton’s performance does get better, particularly when the stakes are raised to such astronomical levels. Plus, she can scream her lungs out, and that’s always crucial to any slasher flick. The only redeeming aspect of the film is bringing back Danielle Harris (the protagonist of Halloween 4 and 5) as Annie Brackett, but too bad she wasn’t cast as Laurie.
8. Rob Zombie’s “Halloween II” (2009)
Taking place one year after the events of Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake, we find Laurie Strode and her friend Annie Brackett attempting to pick up the pieces. Both have been forever traumatized and are dealing with the pain, nightmares and grief in drastically different ways. Laurie’s psyche begins to deteriorate throughout the film and while the examination of her mental state and connection to Michael Myers look good on paper, poor dialogue and scene set-up bogs down an otherwise compelling narrative. Scout Taylor-Compton’s performance is considerably better for the material she is given, and her vulnerability is raw and lives right on the skin. Zombie gets credit for veering into completely uncharted territory and not rehashing the 1981 “Halloween II”. Instead, he does offer a compelling dissection of recovery which ultimate ends in more bloodshed and comes to a fitting end. But, again, he somehow has to include Sheri Moon Zombie in the film as a sad attempt to be “artsy.”
7. “Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers” (1989)
A year after the blood-curdling ending of “Halloween 4”, which offered a fresh new direction for the series to go, the producers said “nah” and made Jamie Lloyd a mute with a psychic connection to her uncle. Yawn. Worse yet, they kill off Rachel Caruthers within the first 15 minutes. The heroine who outsmarted Myers at literally every turn in the previous movie becomes dumber than a box of hair. The movie then shifts into flashy, MTV-era slasher with bright costumes, the annoyingly-chipper Tina and a smorgasbord of other fodder characters. You actually begin to root for Michael to kill them all, and he does, eventually. Rumor has it, the movie was so boring the producers went back and slipped in scenes of the mysterious Man in Black to give it a much-needed boost. But it still sucks.
6. “Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers” (1995)
The two things the sixth installment has going for it were…atmosphere and Paul Rudd’s film debut as the creepy and obsessed Tommy Doyle (one of the kids Laurie was babysitting in the first film). It legit feels like a Halloween movie; Haddonfield is spooky, drenched in Myers lore, and the cinematography captures the hellish essence of the holiday fairly well. But the storyline had become so muddled it was hard to follow. Laurie’s father’s brother’s family moved into the old Myers house, which had been renovated and put up on the market. Of course, it couldn’t be sold to anyone with half a brain.
Jamie Lloyd from the two previous flicks is killed off within the first 20 minutes (I’m sensing a theme here), and her baby Stephen is the sole living survivor, giving Michael another reason to slaughter a bunch of meaningless characters. The Man in Black is finally revealed to be Dr. Wynn, a long-time colleague of Dr. Loomis who makes his final “Halloween” appearance. Loomis has long given up the chase of Michael and written a manuscript detailing his many demons. Meanwhile, Michael slaughters some college kids, and the method behind his madness is unmasked. He has been cursed with Thorn, and a cult keeps feeding him and bestowing him enviable power. Sounds cool, right? Nah. While the film has some creepy moments ⎯⎯ Mrs. Blankenship’s monologue about the history of Halloween is particularly effective ⎯⎯ it is mostly a schlocky, half-baked idea to appeal to the post-grunge, mid-90s generation. Even the main title theme is given an electric guitar makeover.
5. “Halloween III: Season of the Witch” (1983)
OK, once you separate this one from the series, it’s actually a decent, moody, highly-suspenseful ’80s flick. A company called Silver Shamrock Novelties is making three Halloween masks: a witch, a pumpkin and a skull. Owner Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy) approves a series of hypnotizing commercials to lure in kids to their TV sets at the stroke of nine on Halloween night for a special giveaway. In reality, heads will explode and snakes and other ghoulish creatures will spring from the masks. Tom Atkins plays Dr. Daniel Challis who stumbles upon the horrific plan, and along with Stacey Nelkin’s Ellie Grimbridge, he attempts to stop the mass murder of millions of children. But as he gets closer to uncovering the diabolic truth, it becomes evident he might not have the power. The final frames are among the most disturbing, as Challis screams into the phone “STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT!” The ending remains a dark mystery, and we may never know what exactly happened that fateful night.
4. “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” (1988)
Now, the movies finally get good. Set 10 years since Michael’s first rampage, we find out Laurie Strode actually died in a car accident 11 months prior, and her niece Jamie Lloyd (portrayed by the excellent Danielle Harris) is in the care of her foster parents and foster sister Rachel Caruthers (Ellie Cornell). She continues having nightmares of her blood-thirsty uncle Michael Myers, and her new family puts on a brave face for the wide-eyed little girl. When Michael is being transported from Smith’s Grove, one of the paramedics lets it slip that he has one last living relative ⎯⎯ and boom! We have a movie. He spends half the film heading to Haddonfield to pick up where he left off and the other half picking off unsuspecting victims. Technically, Rachel is the lead protagonist, who ends up foiling Myers throughout the entire movie, from that treacherous and tense rooftop scene to the nerve-wracking truck showdown. What makes Rachel so compelling is she is astutely aware of her surroundings and can think on her feet in the most dire of situations, much like Laurie Strode before her. And that ending is one of the best moments in horror history.
3. “Halloween H20” (1998)
Jamie Lee Curtis returns as a broken Laurie Strode, and we are taken inside her troubled mind. 20 years after the original, Laurie has assumed a new identity in Keri Tate, the headmistress of a very posh, secluded private school in Northern California. She doesn’t have a daughter named Jamie Lloyd, but she does have a son named John, who resents living under his mother’s watchful eye his entire life. Keri is a functioning alcoholic and has a burgeoning romantic relationship with Will Brennan (Adam Arkin). With the opening scene, there is a satisfying throwback with the return of Nurse Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens), who appeared in the first two films. It might have taken 20 years, but Michael tracks Keri/Laurie down to the school that Halloween. The entire staff and students, except for John (Josh Hartnett), his girlfriend Molly (Michelle Williams) and friends Sarah (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe) and Charlie (Adam Hann-Byrd), take a trip to Yosemite National Park that weekend, leaving the campus virtually at Michael’s mercy.
While polished and in the post-Scream era, “Halloween H20” harkens back to the simplicity of the original movie. But instead of Laurie/Keri continuing to play the victim, she decides enough is enough and confronts her monster. The last 30-35 minutes are an absolute thrill ride, and Laurie (fittingly) ends the horror once and for all. (Let’s just pretend Resurrection never happened, m’kay?)
2. “Halloween II” (1981)
John Carpenter never had any intention of making a sequel. He has gone on record saying the first film presents a complete story. This is Hollywood, however, and they knew they had a cash cow to milk for all eternity. So, Carpenter grabbed a six-pack of beer and got to writing the follow-up. Instead of seemingly rehashing the same story, he includes a twist: Laurie Strode is, in fact, actually Michael Myers sister. Gasp! It all makes sense! The reveal is embedded in a throwaway scene with Dr. Loomis and Nurse Marion Chambers, but the film generally works as a darker, more brooding and ominous feature, picking up exactly where the first one left off. Laurie Strode is taken to the area hospital (perhaps the worst-lit hospital ever!), and she lies around for half the movie. It is definitely a slow burn, as Michael tracks her down and slowly kills off the hospital staff. Most of the new characters are devoid of personality, except for maybe Jimmy and Janet, who meet pretty grisly ends.
Again, the payoff comes in the last 20-25 minutes when Michael catches up to Laurie. All hell then breaks loose, and Laurie and Dr. Loomis are trapped inside one of the emergency rooms. “It’s time, Michael,” Loomis stated, matter of factly, a twinkle in his eye. The explosive ending will leave you reeling (and cheering).
1. “John Carpenter’s Halloween” (1978)
Nothing beats the original. Intimate and moody, Carpenter struck a gold mind. From long, drawn-out camera pans (including the opening sequence during which a six-year-old Michael stabs his sister) to the totally campy but relatable dialogue and Michael Myers’ methodical stalking of babysitters, “Halloween” set the bar ridiculously high for slasher films. And there is virtually no blood whatsoever. The entire atmosphere is built on tension and keeping the viewer guessing. So, a guy has a knife? You don’t need to see it to be scared. Michael is left in the shadows for much of the entire film, and only within the last five minutes are you given a brief glimpse of the man behind the mask. When Dr. Loomis peers over the balcony at the end, after shooting him six times, there is an uneasiness that sets in as the camera flashes, and Michael is gone. That is terrifying.