The original Halloween is arguably the finest horror film ever made, but its sequels range from the good to the very-much-not-so-good. Among horror franchises, the Halloween series also has to be considered the most jumbled both in quality and in continuation. While, for example, the first eight installments of the Friday the 13th series have more or less the same kind of stories, pacing, and gore, as well as the same studio — Paramount — almost all of the Halloween movies are handled in different decades by different directors and different studios with different story-lines. It’s a tricky series to wade through, but there are definitely some gems in the mix. Here are the five best…
5. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers: The Producer’s Cut (1995)
This one’s probably the most problematic and cluttered of all the Halloween films. Made six years after the previous installment by a new studio with a director who clearly didn’t understand how to tell a good horror tale, let alone a good Michael Myers tale, Halloween 6 is worth checking out for the die hards. But later, an alternate cut was released through bootlegs, and then it was released officially in 2014 on Blu Ray. This Producer’s Cut is still a mess, but a more focused mess, with a payoff that stays more true to what’s come before. This was Donald Pleasance’s final appearance as Dr. Loomis (as well as his last film ever), and it was the film debut for none other than Paul Rudd.
4. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
Halloween 5 is a clunky bore that is by far the most pedestrian of all the movies, and it’s a shame that it doesn’t follow through with the eerie cliffhanger ending of the previous film. But Halloween 4, released a whopping seven years after its previous installment that left Michael Myers blind and burning to death in a hospital hallway (and not just burning, like, disintegrating into skull and ash), is possibly the best sequel of all in terms of its consistency. It lacks the continuation factor of Halloween II and the triumphant return of Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween: H20, but it’s moody and atmospheric, with a crazy good performance by the returning Donald Pleasance.
3. Halloween II (1981)
Boy, this sequel is a mixed blessing. On the one hand it’s a pure joy to watch a sequel that picks up only seconds following the original classic. This is the only sequel that still in some respect had the collaboration of both Debra Hill and John Carpenter, as well as the brief re-teaming of Donald Pleasance and Jamie Lee Curtis. It’s also the only other installment to feature cinematography by the great Dean Cundey, who lended a classy, rich texture to the first two installments of the series. On the other hand, this film falters in more ways the one. Most of the lovable characters in the first film have been replaced here by a bland set of disposable bores. Curtis is given almost nothing to do, and the hospital setting doesn’t invite a whole lot of terror. Worst of all, the gore is amped to the max, obviously done in 1981 for the film to stay relevant among all the gory slasher flicks that had come out after the original’s success. It’s a worthwhile sequel, one that is definitely good enough to stand on its own, but in comparison to the original, it’s a sprawling mess.
2. Halloween: H20 (1998)
If only Donald Pleasance had lived a few more years to be a part of this film, who knows what the result might have been? He’s sorely missed in this installment, but the returning scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis makes up for his absence. Has this kind of movie ever been made before or since? A now famous actress returning twenty or more years later to the role that started her career, turning that former vulnerable protagonist into a kick-ass super heroine (well, sure, in 2018’s Halloween!)? While as a movie H20 is only decent — there are plenty of lulls and extraneous characters in the far too short eighty-minute run time, and it does feel very much today like the product of that post-Scream horror era — the final twenty minutes are the most powerful of any Halloween sequel. Of course Resurrection took a crap on the triumphant ending of this film, but that’s besides the point. It’s great to see Curtis back to kick Michael Myers’ ass.
1. Halloween (1978)
The one. The only. It’s almost ridiculous to include this magnificent piece of cinema history in a list that includes these other four lesser motion pictures, but here goes. It’s been studied and analyzed and discussed almost as much as Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, and it’s truly a film that never gets old. It’s one of those rare timeless classics — even though it’s shot and set in 1978, it still feels like a film for today. The movie wasn’t following any film trends or rehashing the same styles of previous horror movies. It was made by a group of young, hungry filmmakers, who, with little money and few resources, used what they could at the time to tell the best scary story possible. There will never be another movie like Halloween — never. It’s a brilliant, haunting, mesmerizing product of its time, so simple and classy and genuinely terrifying that it is judged by many as the best horror movie ever made. It launched the careers of John Carpenter, Debra Hill, and Jamie Lee Curtis, made an icon out of Donald Pleasance, and started an onslaught of slasher films that wouldn’t ebb until the early 1990’s. It’s seasonal. It’s beautiful. It’s perfection. It’s Halloween.