Slasherthon Revisited: Pre-Slasherthon Ranking of the Halloween Series

jack o lantern halloween decor

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on

Before I do a full re-watch, I thought it would be fun to rank the films and then, during wrap up, I’d re-rank them.

  1.  Halloween (1978):  Made on a tiny budget ($325,000 in 1978 or about $1.3 million in 2020 dollars), this was John Carpenter’s first major success-in fact, for a time it was the highest grossing  ($47 million in 1978, or $185 million in 2020 dollars) independent film of all time.  As a low-budget film from a relatively inexperienced cast and crew, Halloween is is not without gaffs or limitations (it’s best to never read or forget trivia if you want to keep the magic), and I will accept complaints that it is, intentionally or otherwise, reactionary and a bad thing for horror.  Outside of these issues?  The film is a masterpiece of suspense and building dread. Carpenter takes a simple story and builds it into a fairy tale confrontation between a smart, capable, and good hearted every girl and elemental evil embodied in a neighborhood boogeyman.  It’s a trick that could be pulled exactly once, and the chill the ending delivers is so good that most of the time I pretend the story ended there.  Hard to argue with that as a sign that this is my favorite!
  2. Halloween II (1981): Carpenter was convinced to write a sequel, however, with Charles Cyphers, Donald Pleasance, and Jamie Lee Curtis reprising their roles.  Carpenter reportedly wanted it to not feature Myers at all, but, overruled, drank a lot of beer and came up with the twist that completely changes the meaning of the original film.  Is this any good? I can resent its twist that forever made Halloween into this weird thing about family. I can resent its execution, from director Rick Rosenthal’s apparently kill light and suspense heavy work beefed up 2nd unit by Carpenter to have more and more creative kills, I can find the use of Samhain dumb. I can think all those things, but this is the only sequel with the original creative team and cast in place we’ll ever get. Dean Cundey’s cinematography can work wonders I guess?  I also saw this before Halloween (1978), when I was 12 and dumb, through my aunt who introduced me to the franchise and who loved it, so I always give it a higher rating than those not afflicted by toxic nostalgia.
  3. Halloween (2018):  9 years after the last installment, and 16 years after Jamie Lee Curtis last played Laurie Strode, she returned to the role that made her career in a strange hybrid of remake, reboot and sequel that ignored all other sequels and was nearly as big a hit as the first film. This is the one I expect most to move in my rankings. I saw this 2 years ago with my siblings, right before we went to work at a haunted house attraction and I said then that it was “the best or one of the best sequels” despite a lot of misgivings.  How will it play 2 years later and in the context of re-watching all ten Halloween films before it!
  4. Halloween III: Season of the Witch:  1982.  After Halloween II made money ($70 million in 2020 dollars), but not as much money, Carpenter and company got to make what they’d hope to do in 1981-a non-Myers entry.  The concept of a series of horror films called Halloween, released every year in October, unrelated except by the name, might actually work these days-though maybe only as a prestige TV mini-series.  In 1982 it didn’t do as well at the box office ($37 million in 2020 dollars) but it made it’s money back.  At the time fans were confused and annoyed that Myers wasn’t back, and it was six years before Halloween 4. Over the years it gained a reputation as one of the better sequels (#4 by Rotten Tomatoes’s scale, but still only 42% fresh), particularly among people who appreciate it’s supernatural, apocalyptic horrors over the slasher film thrills of the first two films. Do I think it is any good?  I rated it lower than most of the rest of the films in 2004 but like Halloween II (1981) it features most of the same team behind the camera as the original film.  Dean Cundey is still the Cinematographer, Tommy Lee Wallace, editor of Halloween, is now the director and writer, Carpenter and Debra Hill are again producers.  For another, I love it’s lead, Tom Atkins, who could only ever have been a lead (with his grouchy dad looks and manner) in the early 80s.  Mostly I just enjoy that they tried something different and didn’t further twist, bend and break the magic of the first film.
  5. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers:  Horror was booming in 1988, and franchises were particularly strong, with Friday the 13th on it’s 7th entry in 8 years and A Nightmare on Elm Street on its 4th in 5! If you had to try and loop Myers into the late 80s horror scene, with only the producer and Donald Pleasance returning, this was a credible way to do it. It plays with the formula and key moments of the first film, Pleasance is good in it, and it features a bold ending. I have fond memories of this one from childhood (I believe it was the first Halloween film I saw start to finish), but, as John Hodgman says, nostalgia is a toxic impulse.  In 2004 I liked many of Halloween 4‘s ideas, but quibbled with the execution, and I expect the same will be true this time. I am interested to see how it plays widescreen and with a better quality print-it is possible that I last saw this on VHS!
  6. Halloween: Resurrection:   The only sequel to a (financially) successful reboot (before we even called them reboots!), Halloween: Resurrection came out four years after Halloween: H20: 20 Years Later to half the box office.  Hated by fans, who disliked the film’s cavalier disregard of H20‘s unambiguous ending and its pathetic fate for Laurie Strode, Halloween: Resurrection is an idiosyncratic choice (Rotten Tomatoes put it at 10 with 11%) for number 6. Why? Quite simply the last, and second time, I saw it, I thought it was so dumb it was fun.  I’m hoping that 18 years will add “amusingly dated” to the list of things to enjoy about this terrible film.
  7. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later: This film gets a lot of mileage from fans for featuring the return of Jamie Lee Curtis, the presence of her mom (and star of the grandfather of the Slasher film, Psycho) Janet Leigh, and the fact it plays relatively straight forward and drops all of the weird cults and pagan baggage the series acquired between 1978 and 1998.  Replacing all of that is Halloween filtered through the mega hit of Scream, which reinvigorated the slasher film genre by carefully stealing from older films and giving dialog a distinctive, media soaked voice. Personally, I didn’t think much of H20 in 1998, and I thought even less of it in 2004.  2004 was a lot closer to 1998 than 2020, so I’m very curious to see how this plays now.
  8. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers:  1989’s Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers squandered the good will and improved box office Halloween 4 earned badly (all time worse Halloween box office, adjusted or not and the 3rd worst rating on Rotten Tomatoes at 13%). It took six years for a sequel to come out.  I still recall seeing a tiny print ad for it in 1995 and being amazed anyone bothered-and wondering why no one was advertising it (little surprise it earned the second lowest box office adjusted for inflation).  I can’t really remember my only viewing of this, but I do know that on our “RUDD BUDD RUDD DAY” marathon we balked at watching it (yes, Paul Rudd is in a major role). Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 9% rating, the worst for the whole series.  On the plus side it has Paul Rudd, the last appearance of Donald Pleasance and it brings the continuity stream started in 4 to an end?
  9. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers:  This came out one year after 4, and it is very disappointing in comparison.  I often considered this to be the worst Halloween film…but somehow I’m dreading Rob Zombie’s trashy reboot more, because I suspect that it’s dated even worse than this has.
  10. Halloween (2007):  Someone decided it made sense to let Rob Zombie remake Halloween. The 2000s cycle of horror film remakes prompted by the extremely successful 2003 remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre seems forgettable now and Rob Zombie’s Halloween seems no exception.  I put this one so low because I never wanted to see it again or watch the sequel. Yet in my original, now retired blog, I had good things to say about it, so I look forward to seeing it again with an open mind.  I’m also curious if it feels as dated 11 years on as Curse and Revenge felt in 2004.
  11. Halloween II (2009): Rob Zombie’s remake made a lot of money (#2 or #4 if adjusted for inflation) so it got a sequel that made less (#5 or #7 if adjusted for inflation). I’ve never seen it and I have only rarely heard anything good about it (#8 on Rotten Tomatoes with a 22% rating). Should make Halloween (2018) look better when we see it right before, at least, right?

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