Franchise Expansion (or Implosion) is a column that looks at franchises that have new installments or releases forthcoming. In looking at a franchise, each entry in a franchise will be given a review and then be examined as part of the bigger franchise. (i.e., Was this sequel a worthy expansion of this franchise or was it an implosion of sorts?)
Most folks, myself included, go to certain movies around the holidays. However, my favorite holiday of Halloween did not gain a film that genuinely celebrated it until 1978’s Halloween. John Carpenter’s classic slasher flick is rightfully considered one of the best horror movies ever made. It gave us an icon of modern horror in Michael Myers. More than that though, it created a franchise that spanned 11 movies, 4 continuities, and 40 years With the upcoming 11th entry, Blumhouse’s Halloween, set to be released on October 19th, I’ll take a look back at the Halloween franchise. In doing so, I’ll trace precisely how one of the most convoluted movie franchises in history got to the already divisive entry and why we need it. This time around, we’ll look at most 90s movie in this franchise, and the one in which a big movie studio becomes the true boogeyman, Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers! This time around, we’ll look at the most 90s movie in this franchise, and the one in which a big movie studio becomes the true boogeyman, Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers!
In the late 80s, producer Moustapha Akkad proved there was still fresh blood to be drained from the Halloween franchise. Alas, the producer’s intention to put out a new Halloween film annually didn’t last long. After Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) underperformed at the box-office and received a lukewarm reception from the audience; Akkad knew he should take time to evaluate his beloved series’ future carefully. During this interim, major studios took an interest in Halloween as property. By the early 1990s, the rights for the series had come down to a bidding war between New Line Cinema and Miramax.
Despite New Line having become a successful distributor, thanks to the horror genre; Miramax won the bid for Halloween 6. I can only imagine that the notorious brothers Weinstein scoring the distribution rights was due to the fact their company, Miramax and its genre label Dimension Films was purchased by Disney a few years prior. Thus, there were plenty of funds to go around. Intending to release Halloween 6 through Dimension Films, the Weinsteins wasted no time. Along with the Akkads, the various producers on this movie began interviewing screenwriters to develop a screenplay for the film. These writers came and went, only to have their pitches or unfinished scripts.
Miramax golden boys, Scott Spiegel, of Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987) fame, and his pal Quentin Tarantino even made a pitch. Eventually, Akkad approached a young man he’d met several years earlier, screenwriter Daniel Farrands. Knowing that the writer had started by essentially writing Halloween fan-fiction, Akkad invited Farrands to pitch his idea for a sixth picture. According to Farrands, he spent weeks preparing for this meeting. In which he built a notebook containing a basic outline, Myers and Strode family histories, etc.
Farrands’ idea was to continue on from Halloween 5 and try to bring something new to the series. His pitch: Halloween (1978) meets Rosemary’s Baby (1968); an idea which the Akkads and Miramax cottoned to. However, it’s also worth mentioning that everyone was now up against the clock. As a result, Farrands got the job. Around this same time, director Joe Chappelle was hired to helm what was then called Halloween 666: The Origin of Michael Myers.
Farrands began writing the script in June of ‘94 and production on the film began that October. Three months is enough time to deliver a first, maybe even second draft screenplay. Thus, that’s what everyone on-set had when it was time to start production on the film. That’s where the pressure started, as Farrands found himself doing on-set rewrites. In total 10 drafts of the screenplay were written. Over the course of those drafts, Farrands’ vision was dramatically changed by dueling producers and Chappelle. In fact, Chappelle wrote the ending for the theatrical version of this film.
In the end, Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers tells this story. Six years after the disappearance of Jamie Lloyd (J.C. Brandy) and Michael Myers (George P. Wilbur), the town of Haddonfield, Illinois has finally decided to start celebrating Halloween again. There’s even new life in Haddonfield as Kara Strode (Marianne Hagan), and her young son, Danny (Devin Gardner) have moved into Michael’s old house. Just in time for Michael’s return to Haddonfield to finish-off Jamie and anyone else who gets in his way. Now the only people that stand between a Happy or Horrible Halloween are the now retired Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) and Tommy Doyle (Paul Rudd) who’s now all grown-up.
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers proved to a contentious project from the beginning. Understandably, the Akkads felt like this film was theirs to foster. Moreover, The Akkads mostly agreed with Farrands’ take on the franchise’s mythos. But, on the other end of the equation were The Weinsteins and Joe Chappelle. The latter party of which seemed to be in it more for the financials than the creative, in this writer’s humble opinion. Way too many farmers in one pumpkin patch if you ask me.
The problems began when The Weinsteins refused to let Danielle Harris reprise her role as Jamie Lloyd, not wanting to pay her salary of $5,000. Instead, they recast J.C. Brandy in the part. This is in spite the fact that The Akkads, Farrands, and the fans wanted Harris to make a return to the role she originated. Furthermore, as a minor at the time, Harris spent $3,000 in legal fees to have herself emancipated from her parents and declared an adult by the courts so that she could do Halloween 6. Only for Harris to find out the role was no longer hers. While I think Brandy does a fine job in the role, I would have preferred to see Harris return. However, maybe it’s for the best that she didn’t, considering the treatment that the character of Jamie Lloyd receives in this sequel.
That initial assertion of power set the tone for the rest of Halloween 6’s production. As is their way Bob, Harvey, and their big bosses over at Disney controlled as much as possible. Wielding their power where they saw fit, doing so easily now that they had majority power over Halloween; even more so than The Akkads. Matters only got worse when Donald Pleasence passed away near the end of production, with the actor’s death making a few reshoots required. More reshoots would soon mare the film though.
After turning in the original cut of The Curse of Michael Myers, Dimension Films decided the film needed to be test-screened. Not that there’s anything wrong with such a demand; as test-screenings are common practice with studio films. The problem though is that test-screenings use randomly solicited audience members opinions from these screenings. Mind you; these folks haven’t had to pay to see the film. Heck, they may not even like horror movies. But, everybody loves free stuff, which test-screenings are. In any event, that singular test-screening of Halloween 6 was supposedly disastrous. Most of the audience was reportedly younger adults; many of whom thought that the movie was not gory enough or who hated the ending.
As a result, numerous reshoots occurred, and the movie’s ending was re-written and re-shot by Chapelle. After that, it was back to the editing room where Chapelle and the film’s editor Randy Bricker, heavily recut the film, making all the changes The Weinsteins required. In doing so, the theatrical cut of Halloween 6 became a genuine product of the mid-90s; replete flash-cuts, a soundtrack full of music from the end of the grunge era, and green goo. On the other hand, that initial cut that was test-screened, now known as The Producer’s Cut offers something a little different. The Producer’s Cut of Halloween 6 is slower, darker and moodier. As a whole, it’s much more in line with the first three installments of the franchise. Oddly enough though, no matter which version of Halloween 6 you watch (Theatrical or Producer’s Cut) the movie has the positive and negative attributes.
Since its release, Halloween 6 has gained a cult following, and with good reason. Despite the Cursed production, the movie in review is solid. It is by far the best-made entry in the franchise since Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982). Unlike its predecessors, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) and the aforementioned Revenge of Michael Myers; The Curse of Michael Myers has good production value all-around. The most important of which is the visual atmosphere of both Halloween the film and the holiday. While this flick is most certainly a relic of the 90s, you can still the spirit of Samhain permeate through the screen here.
The acting in Curse is also good. Most of the cast realistically presents their likable characters, thus it makes us easier for we the audience to invest in them. Best of all, Donald Pleasence finally delivers a good performance again. So good in fact that I’m reminded of why I liked Loomis in the first place. It’s actually bitter-sweet to watch as this movie would prove to be the actor’s last.
Alas, there’s one weak link in this cast. That being Paul Rudd in what was his first film (though Clueless (1995) would come out before Halloween 6.) Don’t get me wrong; I like Paul Rudd. He’s a funny, charismatic actor who was cast as Ant-Man with good reason. However, Rudd’s performance as Tommy Doyle is an interesting kind of terrible. What I mean by that is that Rudd delivers his lines with a weird Shakespearean style. While this isn’t distracting in all of the actor’s scenes; there are moments where you could swear Rudd was the worst actor in a crappy middle school production of Shakespeare.
Finally, there’s this film’s screenplay; which is simultaneously its most significant strength and weakness. Farrands tries to do something new with the story for this film. He sets up origins and ideas that could have cared this franchise into the future. Therefore making Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers a Definite Franchise Expansion! By the same token though, the story here is flawed.
How could the screenplay not be considering it attempts to explain the true origins of The Shape? Then there’s the fact that Farrands based his whole idea off of Loomis’ line in Halloween regarding Michael’s being able to drive, “Someone at the hospital must’ve given him lessons.” Now, while that is on some level, a logical foundation for Curse; it’s also a bit of a shaky one. The biggest hurdle this story has to overcome making you buy into the whole Cult of Thorn angle. While the random evil presented in the original Halloween is scarier; I like the majority of the answers we receive from this installment. Although, those answers might have felt more impactful was the third act of this flick not so messy.
As I said, Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers is by no means a perfect film. At its worst, this movie is a messy bowl of Halloween candy that different trick r’ treaters with different ideas have picked through. But, at its best Halloween 6 is a decent, albeit, flawed picture that tried to do something new. Moreover, at its core, there seems to be some true love invested in this picture by The Akkads and Farrands. And sometimes, a little love and creativity can make all the difference. In closing, if you’re turn about which version of this movie to watch, I suggest The Producer’s Cut; which in my opinion, it’s the superior version of the movie in review.
What Happens When A Beloved Horror Franchise Turns 20? Find Out Next Time Around When I Review Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later!
In the meantime, you can also treat yourself to the other Franchise Expansion (Or Implosion) Reviews in the Halloween series-
Halloween II (1981):