October 30, 2001
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Every year, right around this time, I start to get a little freaked out. A twig snaps behind me and I jump into the nearest tree. A shutter bangs against a house and I’m a quivering wreck. A car door slams… well, you get the idea.
And I know exactly why I’m like this: One night in 1978, my dad wanted to have a fatherly evening with his two sons. So he took my brother and my 10-year-old self to see a new movie called “Halloween.”
It scared the absolute bejabbers out of me.
First off, it’s a slasher movie, and I was 10 years old. (Thanks a million, dad. No Father of the Year award for you.)
Plus, this epochal horror film is set in a small town in Illinois, and I was watching the movie in Evanston. If they had only chosen Iowa as the location, I would’ve been just fine.
Then there’s the invincible, omniscient killer Michael Myers, who wears a spray-painted Capt. Kirk mask and has more lives than Rasputin: He gets stabbed in the neck (knitting needle), eye (coat hanger), stomach (butcher knife), shot six times, and pushed off a second-floor balcony. But he’s still alive at the end, breathing like an asthmatic Darth Vader and calmly walking the streets of the Land of Lincoln, looking to rid our state of promiscuous teens.
Oh, how “Halloween” wreaked havoc on my youthful sensibilities. I slept with the lights on for years. But now, at the age of 33, I figured it was time to face my fright and finally lay my ghosts to rest.
So using the dubious “confront your fears” technique, I decided to watch all of the “Halloween” movies, all seven of them, in a row. I didn’t care how long it was going to take — for the record, it took 11 hours, 29 minutes — I was going to bury the harrowing memory of Michael Myers once and for all.
Let the healing begin.
The movie begins with that creepy piano music and a slow close-up of a carved pumpkin. “Oooh, scary,” I chuckle to myself, taking a sip of coffee. “This is nothing.”
Then it starts to get pretty chilling. Six-year-old Michael kills his 17-year-old sister after she has sex with her boyfriend (more on this oft-repeated phenomenon later).
Years later, Michael escapes from a mental hospital and drives back to fictitious Haddonfield to inflict some serious carnage.
In one scene, a guy wearing thick glasses and a post-coital grin goes into the kitchen, opens the pantry, and Michael steps out and impales him with a big ole knife.
I can’t help but wonder how long Michael stood there, and what if no one had opened the door? How long would he have stood there, knife in hand, thinking, “Boy, I sure wish someone would come into the kitchen….”
My ironic, flippant little criticisms goes out the window when heroine Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) finds all of her friends dead, with one of them lying beneath a gravestone.
At this point, I’m hiding under my blanket, murmuring, “Thereisnobogeymanthereisnobogeyman.” I feel a wetness in my lap and pray it’s from spilled lukewarm coffee.
And the end, when Michael gets stabbed, shot, pushed over a balcony, and still lives — oh man, I’m freaking out. I’m absolutely freaking.
Best death: The guy who gets impaled and stuck to the wall.
Best quote: “I realized what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply evil!”
Body count: 5
Fake scares: (as in, the-music-starts-racing-then-a-cat-jumps-out-of-the-pantry): 4
With trembling hands and shaken confidence, I put the second “Halloween” in the VCR.
What if I can’t conquer my fears? What if this little experiment ends with me going to bed in Kevlar body armor with all the lights on for the rest of my life?
My dread is immediately put to rest by the cheeseball nature of “Halloween II.”
Everything — from Laurie’s bad wig to the Billy Barty-sized Michael Myers to the bogus-looking red blood — is completely unconvincing and unscarifying.
“Halloween II” is set in a hospital the size of Woodfield Shopping Center, yet there are about three people on staff and no patients (except for Laurie).
We find out Laurie is Michael’s sister. She screams often and limps occasionally (guess that leg injury comes and goes). Michael chases her through the hospital. That’s it. Nothing scary here.
When this ends, I’m back out from under the blanket, lazily munching a doughnut. The score: Michael 1, Me 1.
Best death: The nurse who gets boiled in the hot tub.
Best quote: “He became an obsession with me until I realized there was nothing within him — neither conscience nor reason, there wasn’t even remotely human!” (That’s no typo — that’s the actual quote.)
Body count: 10
Fake scares: 9
“Halloween III: Season of the Witch”
I had heard this movie was bad, but I didn’t know how jawdroppingly, astoundingly, sub-”Porkys” bad it would be.
All you need to know is this: It’s a “Halloween” movie without Michael Myers. This is like making a James Bond movie without 007.
Instead, the bad guys are thin men with bad haircuts wearing ill-fitting gray suits.
What’s it about? Something about Halloween masks and TV commercials that make a viewer’s head rot until grasshoppers and snakes come streaming out of it.
Oh, and a main part of the plot hinges on a diabolical man stealing a massive rock from Stonehenge — and no one notices.
I’m officially winning against the “Halloween” franchise. Michael Myers, bring it on.
Best death: The guy whose head gets twisted off.
Best quote: “You don’t just pull someone’s skull apart without a little lower-arm strength, know what I mean?”
Body count: 15 (but many of them are orange-goo-spewing robots)
Fake scares: 1
“Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers”
Michael’s back, much to my, um, delight.
And although Michael is supposed to be “pure evil,” his target here seems a little cruel even for him: His 10-year-old niece Jamie.
This flick wisely ignores the third debacle and picks up after the second installment, with Michael coming out of a coma to do some more impalin’ and stranglin’ and gas-station-explodin’ and such.
But there’s one problem: At the end of “Halloween 2,” Laurie shot Michael in both eyes — and yet now he sees again.
How is this possible? Is he such “pure evil’ that his eyes regenerate inside his head, or does he just have a really good ophthalmologist?
And what about that “pure evil” stuff, anyway? If he’s so evil, wouldn’t he be trying to take over the world instead of playing out some vaguely Freudian conflict in small-town Illinois?
In the end, Michael kills a bunch of people then gets shot about 50 times and falls down an old abandoned mine shaft. (How very “Scooby Doo,” no?)
But before he’s gone, Michael passes his killer genes on to his niece. Cruel, ugly, and brutally pointless. Yuck. I feel like I need to take a shower after this one.
Best death: The guy who meets his maker via the old thumb-through-the-forehead trick.
Best quote: “We are not talking about any ordinary prisoner here — we are talking about evil on two legs!”
Body count: 14
Fake scares: 3
“Halloween V: The Revenge of Michael Myers”
Well, what do you know — Michael didn’t die when he fell down the mine shaft.
Instead, he floated down a river, where the obligatory shanty-dwelling misfit with a parrot on his shoulder took him in and healed his many wounds.
A year later, Michael repays him by killing him (via the standard strangling-progressing-to-a-spinning-of-the-head-like-a-dreidel). Then Michael heads back to Haddonfield to get ahold of his now-mute niece.
Almost worse than Michael’s new mask (what’s with those smirky thin lips?) is the presence of the hammy, doddering, perpetually overcoat-clad Dr. Loomis. He shows up everywhere — emergency rooms, classrooms, parties — to blather about how he stared into Michael’s eyes and saw “nothing but emptiness.”
I know the feeling.
Michael continues to go after his niece and partying teens, killing a couple who were foolish enough to have sex in a barn. Where does this need to slaughter horny teens come from? Is he some sort of Moral Majority avenger?
The movie ends with a mysterious, black-clad stranger destroying a police station to free Michael from jail. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
Best death: The guy who takes the three-pronged garden rake to the head.
Best quote: “You talk about him as if he were a human being. That part of him died years ago.”
Body count: 17
Fake scares: 16 (Yes, 16!)
“Halloween VI: The Curse of Michael Myers”
This movie tries to explain Michael and comes up with… druids in jumpsuits?
Almost worse than that is the insistence that Michael is out to kill his family, who are merely distant relatives living in his old house. So what if he succeeded? Would he just say, “Ahhh, I’m finally done,” and retire to Idaho to spend his days fly-fishing in a bad mask?
But at least he’s an equal-opportunity killer — he also slices and dices a shock jock who makes Mancow look like National Public Radio’s Ira Glass.
The movie ends with fetuses floating in glowing green tanks and Michael taking several syringes of something to the neck — yet he still keeps ticking.
By the time we discover the identity of the enigmatic man in black (it’s not Johnny Cash), I’m munching dumbly on my second bag of potato chips and mulling a nap.
Best death: The verbally abusive father who gets impaled, then electrocuted, then he explodes.
Best quote: “I really didn’t know Michael Myers lived in my house, OK? It kind of freaks me out.”
Body count: 14
Fake scares: 6
“Halloween H20: 20 Years Later”
As the title notes, it’s been 20 years since the first “Halloween” movie. It also feels like the length of time I’ve been sitting on my couch.
I’m clammy, smelly and covered in Dorito crumbs. My skin is slick and covered with a vaguely Crisco-like film.
Yet continue I must. Slowly, my finger hits the remote control’s PLAY button.
This last one begins as a sequel to “Halloween II,” pretending the next four didn’t happen (if only I could be so lucky).
Michael gets things rolling by killing two teens and a nurse. Turns out the nurse assisted the late Dr. Loomis, so she knows where Laurie Strode lives now.
This leads to Michael driving across the country to track down his sister, played by the she-must-be-getting-a-truckload-of-money-for-this Jamie Lee Curtis.
I wonder, how exactly does Michael drive across the United States? Does he wear the mask the whole time? How does he pay for his gas? Does he listen to the radio? What if he got lost? Would he ask for directions?
Anyway, Michael finds Laurie as the booze-guzzling, pill-popping head of a private school in Northern California.
He kills a couple people, chases Laurie around, blah blah blah.
But the thing is, he’s not scary anymore. He’s not “pure evil” – he’s a lumbering doofus with a moldy potato on his face.
He’s still got some weird thing against partying teens, and dispatches two of them rather callously.
And he’s still impossible to kill: He gets impaled with a flagpole, stabbed repeatedly with large knives, clonked in the head with a fire extinguisher and a big rock, pushed off yet another balcony, and run over by a van — yet he keeps going. He’s the Energizer Bunny of crazed serial killers.
Laurie ultimately delivers a decapitating chop that would seemingly put an end to this cinematic series. But it looks like Michael will get the last word once again. Watch for “Halloween 8″ in theaters next year.
Best death: The teen whose face gets bisected by an ice skate.
Best quote: “What do we do? What do we do?”
“Try to stay alive!”
Body count: 7
Fake scares: 15
It is done.
As the credits roll, I realize I’ve watched them all.
In the span of nearly 12 hours, an entire day has come and gone. Babies have been born, loved ones have been laid to rest, people all over the world have embarked on stupendous and perilous adventures.
Me, I’ve spent 11 hours, 29 minutes eating cold popcorn, drinking tepid Coke from a can, and watching horrendously bad movies — all in the hope of conquering my long-held fears.
But the question remains: Did it work? Am I still going to feel like my heart is going to beat out of my chest when I’m in the dark?
It’s too early to tell, but I do know that Michael Myers doesn’t seem very scary anymore.
But there’s still that little unfinished business to take care of with my dad….