The first time I watched a horror movie is burned into my memory. I was a complete horror newbie, having been cautioned against that particular genre for years, so I really was clueless. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was sixteen, and my girlfriend, seeing my lack of horror-film knowledge, brought over a VHS of the original Halloween film — she would do the same with both Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street. And with that, my love of horror movies was born.
I spent my college years exploring the genre, digging into the various subgenres, going through the likes of Evil Dead, Child’s Play (which I cannot stand), George A. Romero’s Dead series, and many, more, refining my tastes. While I love a good (and even a bad) found footage film, a fun 80s slasher, a crazy zombie film, or an eerie haunting movie, I cannot stand torture porn . I won’t go near it, get it out of my face. I love the good, the bad, and the cheesy of most else.
All that being said, this is the first in a mini-series covering and ranking the Big Three classic horror franchises: Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Friday the 13th. They’ve all got their main guy, their star, their big bad, always on the prowl for the next victim.
This time, I’m taking on the Halloween series.
What is this series?
In 1978, John Carpenter, with Debra Hill, was approached by producers Moustapha Akkad and Irwin Yablans to write and direct a film about babysitters fighting off killers (originally, it was called The Babysitter Murders). Carpenter, fresh off of his film Assault on Precinct 13 (which was not getting great reviews in the US, but would be acclaimed in the UK and Europe), was given a shoestring budget of $300,000 (plus $20,000 more just to hire Donald Pleasence to play the crazy-obsessed Dr. Loomis) by Akkad and Yablans to make a film that would change horror cinema forever, putting both Carpenter on the map and making Jamie Lee Curtis a star.
The Halloween film franchise focuses (except that one time when it doesn’t…) on the exploits of white-masked Michael Myers who, on Halloween, stalks through Haddonfield, Illinois in search of his prey. He starts out in the first film just going after a random set of teenage babysitters, but with each successive installment of the franchise Myers’ mythology deepens and becomes more convoluted and strange. Since that first film in 1978, nine more have followed, including a reboot and its sequel, both directed by Rob Zombie, in total grossing nearly half a billion dollars.
Aren’t all Halloween films created equal? Aren’t they all just trash?
Absolutely not. Though, there is definitely some garbage in the series. The Halloween franchise runs the gamut from true art to true garbage, with some absolute craziness wedged in between. I rewatch these films each year, and while I realize that’s maybe a bit masochistic of me, there’s something weirdly nostalgic about revisiting them. With Halloween (the holiday) passing, and the prospect of a new film coming out in the next year (yay!), I thought this was prime time to tackle a ranking of the original films in the series, as I just cannot handle the Rob Zombie films. I have seen them, and I’m just strenuously against them — even as bad as some of the original films get, these aren’t a part of that series.
Needless to say, Spoilers Abound.