OK, this should have been live for Halloween itself, but real life got in the way. Sorry. Anyway, onwards we go….
So, in the late 1990s, Dimension decided to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the franchise with the cunningly titled Halloween H20. The main selling point for this film was the long awaited return of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, who had been in hiding under a new identity since the events of Halloween 2 (hence everyone believing she was dead). Wisely ignoring the Thorn nonsense from part 6, this film is the effective real sequel to parts 4 7 5 (more on those in a moment). The plot has Laurie working as a headteacher at a remote boarding school. Naturally Michael Myers turns up and starts to hunt Laurie and her teenage offspring, plus assorted students. As well as being a 20th anniversary celebration, this film was intended to cap the series off, with laurie finally killing her brother once and for all at the end. Yes, well, we know what happened with that plan. Anyway, this is a pretty damned good entry, especially in the post Scream world, with just enough knowingness to keep fans attention, but not so much that it becomes a post modern bore (like Scream 3 for example).
It was a tough choice between this and part 4 as to which order to put them in. In the end, I decided that PArt 4 was the marginally stronger of the pair. Now, those who know the franchise know that Parts 4 & 5 were filmed back to back and make up what is in effect 1 continuous story following Michael Myers as he tries once again to kill his remaining family members. Featuring a return to Haddonfield, numerous easily offable teens, some returning characters, and a protagonist you truly feel is imperilled, these films are pure stalk and slash at its mid 80s finest. The advantage of telling the story over 2 films allows for a bit more character growth than you would normally see, and expands on the mythology somewhat (Haddonfield has effectively banned Halloween from being celebrated), and in a far better way than Part 6 tried to.
Realistically, there was only ever going to be one choice for the number 1 slot, wasn’t there? A masterpiece of low budget exploitation cinema, Halloween set the template for Friday the 13th and its ilk to follow. Teens in peril from a mysterious masked/unseen assailant, disbelieving adults, cute if slightly annoying children, and carefully mounted set pieces. What sets Halloween apart from its begotten is the almost total lack of gore effects. Sure, you see characters get killed, but there is almost now blood at all. Where Halloween succeeds the most is in its atmosphere. Using the limited budget as a positive tool, John Carpenter crafts a masterpiece of suspense. The widescreen photography is somehow claustrophobic, with your eyes continually drawn to the screens edges as you look for a moving shadow, or a twitching branch. And the eerie smoothly gliding steadicam shots from Myers pov are the icing on the cake. This is especially notable in the legendary opening scene which appears to have been done in 1 take (it wasn’t, if you pay attention, you can see the cut when Michael puts the clown mask on).