Collins’ Crypt: Happy Birthday, HALLOWEEN 6!
I don't know if you guys know this yet, but I am a really big fan of the Halloween series. So it's probably not much of a surprise that I still remember the theatrical release date of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers off the top of my head - September 29, 1995, or exactly 20 years ago today. It was two decades ago (oof) that I finally got to see a Halloween on the big screen, having only seen the first four films* via cropped VHS tapes that were watched over and over, especially during that time of the year. I've told the story before on this site, about how the theater actually carded me for the first time ever and I had to call my mom (at home, as we were dropped off by my friend's mom - and this was the pre-cell days) to drive to the cinema just to give the OK for us to see it - it was like I had to EARN my way into that theater for something so magical as seeing Michael Myers on a 40 foot screen.
But as all fans know, no viewing of Halloween 6 could be described as "magical". It was my first big-screen viewing of a series entry, but more significant is the fact that it was also the first time I became aware that movies got tampered with before they were released. You see, Fangoria (sacred text) had mentioned scenes in their review that didn't appear in the film, and thus I knew something was amiss (the fact that the movie didn't make a lot of sense was another clue). Fittingly, the first time I ever used the internet (!) was to poke around various Halloween fanpages to see why the film was missing these scenes and explanations, like Loomis explaining why he didn't have scars anymore. It was then that I learned about the infamous "Producer's Cut", but we'll get into that later.
Don't get me wrong, I like the movie (either version) OK enough - it's just not one I can really DEFEND in any way. There are some really strong sequences, like the tense bus station sequence near the beginning, or when heroine Kara Strode (cousin to Laurie's character) has to run into her now blood-soaked home to rescue her son, knowing that Myers is still inside. The mask looks good, Alan Howarth's score (in P-cut) is REALLY good, there's a strong mix of adults and teens, and I dare say that it probably offers the strongest sense of genuine Halloween atmosphere in the entire Myers part of the series (nothing can top Halloween III in that department). And most importantly, it's a wonderful and occasionally hilarious showcase for the abilities of Paul Stephen Rudd, who was given an "introducing" credit despite having appeared in Clueless a few months earlier (H6 shot first, so I guess they got bragging rights for casting him with zero film experience). It's baffling that it took (literally!) 20 years for him to get the lead role in a big blockbuster (Ant-Man), because even when Halloween 6 goes completely off the deep end (both versions have ridiculous climaxes), you can tell that he's got the chops to be a star. That's the biggest tragedy about the fact that the movie didn't do slightly better (it made its money back, but performed below average for the series) - if it was a bigger hit we'd likely have another Halloween movie with Paul Rudd to enjoy today.
On the other hand, a good chunk of the movie is devoted to the Man in Black nonsense that was set up (by different writers) in Halloween 5, and that stuff never sat well with me. Over time I've read earlier drafts of the script (and, of course, seen the producer's cut), but no matter what this element was NEVER going to be a big draw to me no matter how it was presented. I know they were boxed in by the end of H5 (this was back when continuity was still a thing to respect), so I don't blame screenwriter Dan Farrands or anyone else for this stuff - I just don't care about any other villains in Haddonfield besides Michael Myers. For four other films (well, three and a half) he had been clearly operating on his own, killing his family members for some unknown reason... and that's how I liked him. Not to mention how disappointing the reveal of who the Man in Black was - fan theories included Laurie (yeah, right), Loomis himself (impossible since they appear in the same shot in H5), Sheriff Brackett (I would have played along with that one), etc - but NO ONE would have guessed the mustachioed doctor who argues with Loomis in the first film, whose name is only given to those who watch the credits and match it up with the actor. Sure, it pays off Loomis' "Maybe someone around here gave him [driving] lessons!" line, but that guy was too forgettable; I assume a number of fans never even made the connection that he was the same character Mitchell Ryan was playing in Curse. Indeed, I always wondered why they didn't just use Michael Pataki's Dr. Hoffman character from Halloween 4 if they wanted to go down this route - at least he had a name and some presence! It'd be like if Die Hard 3's villain was revealed to be that guy John beat to the payphone in Die Hard 2.
"I'll have my revenge, McClane!!!"
When the movie is ignoring the cult nonsense and just focusing on good ol' slasher mayhem (the type that had mostly been absent from the genre in the 90s, until Scream came along a year and change later) it's a lot better, but it's still noticeably compromised. Most upsetting to me at the time (and still today) is the near total absence of Loomis in the theatrical version, with many of his trailer lines not making the final cut. A year or so later we'd learn why - the film was largely reshot after Donald Pleasence had passed away, so many of his scenes no longer fit the new narrative. That didn't stop them from occasionally using some of the footage (like when Loomis meets Tommy at the hospital - why was Loomis even there? Jamie was dead in this version, there was no reason for him to be in the lobby), but most had to go, especially considering the Weinsteins and other people involved with the production didn't like the character anyway, on account that he was "old". Pleasence still got top billing, but he's reduced to a glorified cameo in the theatrical version.
Sadly, even in the producer's cut he's not exactly front and center. As we learned over the years, while the restored version certainly improved some parts of the film, it was still a mess, as the movie had been second guessed, re-written, cheaply made (that's why Danielle Harris doesn't reprise her role as Jamie Lloyd - Dimension wouldn't pay her fee), and generally fucked from the start. I pity the people who had long avoided bootlegs and shelled out 150 bucks for the boxed set for the sole purpose of seeing the "true" version of the film, because it's only a slight improvement, and in some ways is even worse (you get more of that awful child actor playing Danny, for starters). I have long dreamed of taking the two versions and editing together the best possible version, but it'd still be a not-great film; it wouldn't even move up a place in my ranking (1, 3, 4, 2, 5, RZ H2 (d-cut form), 6, H20, RZ 1 (either version), Resurrection). Ideally, Farrands would take his original draft and refashion it into an original slasher and make that someday with a director who cared about such things (Joe Chappelle does not seem to be a hardcore genre fan), because there's just no way that the footage for Halloween 6 can ever be really worked into something great ("Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic" is the phrase that comes to mind). Plus, an original killer working for a cult would be more enticing to me than reshaping (pun intended) Myers' 17 years of slasher service as some bizarre long con plan for a bunch of druids.
That said, even though the Producer's Cut version contains even more of that stuff (including the full explanation for who Jamie's baby daddy is; ew), I am still proud as proud can be that I hosted the first ever legal screening of that version, and on 35mm no less! It was originally just planned to be the theatrical cut, but when Farrands informed me that a 35mm print of the P-cut existed, we got Dimension to OK the swap. We toyed with the idea of making it a surprise, but realized too many fans had been waiting to see it (can't blame them, those DVD bootlegs were of horrible quality even by the standards of these things), and given that it was the Saturday before Halloween that year we knew it'd probably be an empty house if we were just showing the "lesser" version. This screening reportedly helped get the ball rolling on the film's official release on the boxed set the following year, which meant the world to this Halloween-obsessed fanboy. I'm a footnote!
However you feel about either cut of the film, I think we can all agree it's certainly the most fascinating of the Dimension era of the series, at least until Rob Zombie's completely batshit sequel to his polarizing 2007 remake. H20 is fine, maybe even a technically better movie, but short of a reveal that someone was murdered on the set I doubt anyone would rush to flip to that chapter of the tell-all book of the Halloween series, because it's just such a bland, meat and potatoes kind of movie, with its only really good scene ruined by the next movie**. Resurrection is just terrible garbage through and through, and since we have a four hour documentary on its production already I doubt there's much else to learn about Rob Zombie's first film that we don't know already. But for The Curse of Michael Myers, the crazy history (Quentin Tarantino was going to produce it at one point!), the long journey of getting the alternate version released (now available on its own, I should mention), Rudd's appearance, and the fact that it was Pleasence's swan song all boost its reputation. For some fans the series actually ended here, as they chose not to acknowledge the next film's undoing of the canon post-Halloween II (or just stopped out of respect for Pleasence, the heart of the series). But for me, it's always going to have that special little place in my heart as the first one that I got to plunk down my $6.25 and buy a ticket. If time allows I'll be watching it tonight (after I send my mom a thank you email), celebrating a full 20 years of wondering what the fuck those green tubes were all about in the climax. Bless you, Halloween 6.
P.S. Props to Brother Cane. Biggest problem with the P-cut? No "And Fools Shine On" in that one.
* I was 15. I wasn't smart enough to appreciate Halloween III yet, and thus didn't count it. I think I was in college when I finally came around to the right side of the matter.
** For years I thought the "It was another guy wearing Michael's mask" thing was an invention of the Resurrection writers, but it turns out that all that flashback stuff we saw in Resurrection explaining how it was done was actually shot by the H20 crew. Apparently, the only way Moustapha Akkad (RIP) would allow Myers' head to get cut off at the end of H20 was if he already had a way to undo it should the film be successful enough to continue the series. If only he had that foresight when they shot the end of the first Halloween II!