Director: Joe Chappelle
Writer: Daniel Farrands
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Paul Rudd, Marianne Hagan, Mitchell Ryan
Rating: R (USA), 18 (UK), MA (Australia)
In the years since the release of Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, the slasher film had all but dried up and the genre had all but dried up. With the franchise seemingly dead in the water, rumours began to circulate as to what the future may hold for their favourite boogeyman. Suddenly, a bidding war began between New Line Cinema (who had recently acquired the Friday the 13th series) and Miramax, who had begun to produce horror films under their Dimension banner, with their previous efforts including the straight-to-video disaster Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice. With Dimension finally outbidding their rival, discussions immediately began on how Michael could make his big comeback. Both the last Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street entries, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, had failed to kick-start each respective franchise, and so Dimension‘s owners, Bob and Harvey Weinstein, knew they had to make something truly something.
Despite being backed by a major studio, series producer Moustapha Akkad (this time accompanied by his son, Malek) was still allowed to contribute with important decisions and approached young director Joe Chappelle about helming the latest instalment. Chappelle had graduated from Illinois’ Northwestern University before making a start in the advertising industry, eventually focusing his interests on filmmaking with the independently produced Thieves Quartet in 1994. When various other concepts had failed, Akkad turned to twenty-five year old Daniel Farrands, who he had first met around the time of the release of Halloween 5. Impressed with the fan’s knowledge and love of the series, Akkad invited Farrands in to pitch an idea to himself, his son and producer Paul Freeman. Referencing not only the original movie but also Roman Polanski’s supernatural classic Rosemary’s Baby, Farrands stated that his premise would be deeply psychological and would also explain just why Michael is both evil and immortal.
Halloween 6 would be set a few years after its predecessor, with Jamie Lloyd now fifteen years old and delivering an illegitimate baby. Michael finally manages to track her down kills her, but not before she manages to hide the child. Tommy Doyle (Laurie’s babysitting charge from the first film) finds the baby and takes it home, where he has been obsessively watching the Strode family that live across the street. The mysterious Man in Black, who made his first appearance in The Revenge of Michael Myers, is now revealed to be the leader of a druid cult who worship the runic symbol Thorn and pray to the murderous Michael. Dr. Loomis once again attempts to bring all the killing to an end, only to discover that his old friend, Dr. Wynn (from the original movie), is really the Man in Black and intent on allowing Michael to fulfil his prophecy. Origin stories had become a standard in the slasher genre when all other concepts had been exhausted, with Jason Goes to Hell, Psycho 4: The Beginning and Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare revealing secrets and motives that had until then remained unexplored. With the atrocities of Halloween 5 leaving many unanswered questions, Farrand attempted to iron out the various inconsistencies with the plot.
Although Donald Pleasence once again returned to portray the eccentric psychiatrist Dr. Loomis, despite suffering from ill health, the rest of the cast would made up of newcomers to the series. Danielle Harris was once again approached about about reprising her role as Jamie, although upon reading Farrands’ screenplay she was less than impressed with the treatment of her character. The studio then refused to pay her a higher salary than she had been paid when she was twelve and so eventually decided to decline the offer. Instead, producers offered the part to eighteen-year old JC Brandy, whose previous work had included the television series Wolf. In the role of Tommy Doyle, the movie’s hero, Clueless actor Paul Rudd was cast, who would be the one to reveal the Thorn subplot. For Michael Myers, Akkad once again suggested Halloween 4‘s George P. Wilbur, having been impressed with their previous collaboration. Marianne Hagan, who played the film’s heroine, Kara Strode, almost lost out on the role as the studio felt that she lacked the right look for the character.
Principal photography began on 28 October 1994, once again in Salt Lake City, Utah. The shooting was the most unpleasant and troublesome of the franchise, with Chappelle’s vision conflicting against Farrand’s script. Chappelle lacked passion for the project, having only accepted the film as part of a three-picture deal with Dimension (it is worth noting that he would also reshoot sequences for the studio’s next feature, Hellraiser: Bloodline, when director Kevin Yagher took his name off the credits). Shot on a budget of $5m, much like the last two instalments, the Weinsteins (Bob and Harvey Weinstein, who owned both Miramax and Dimension) had drafted in special effects master John Carl Buechler – who had also worked a few days on Halloween 4 to add additional gore – to produce an array of elaborate and gruesome effects. Recruiting a host of talented artists, the producers eventually decided to cut back on the effects and thus Buechler and his assistants were left with little to do on the project. But, while the shooting proved to be a challenge, nothing prepared the filmmakers for what was to follow.
Once the movie was submitted to Dimension, the studio set up several test screenings to gage fan interest. Designed to gain feedback, both positive and negative, from a film’s potential target audience, these methods are in theory a sound notion though at this same time placing the fate of a movie of a few selection cinemagoers. In the case of Halloween 6 – which Farrands had jokingly dubbed The Curse of Michael Myers – the audience was made up of teenage boys who scrutinised every last aspect of the movie, particularly the ending, during the Q&A sessions which followed. Dimension, nervous at the criticism, immediately rushed the film back into production for a succession of reshoots, without the participation of Pleasence or Farrands. The studio demanded more action and a more extravagant climax, as well as a new death scene for Jamie and various other changes. A new voice-over was added to the prologue, with Pleasence’s narrative being replaced by that of Rudd. Sadly, Pleasence passed away in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France, on February 2 1995 from complications after heart surgery. The role which had come to define his career had also been his swansong, with the movie including a dedication to his memory during the end credits.
Whilst the new sequences would be included in the theatrical release, the original edit – which fans have dubbed the ‘Producer’s Cut‘ (or The Origin of Michael Myers) – has so far failed to receive an official release from the studio. Literally months after the release of the film, bootleg copies began to circulate, which would feature the remastered footage with previously unreleased (and thus, poor quality) material. The resulting edits meant that almost a half of the running time was comprised of alternative or extended footage, adding several new plot points and upping the ante of the gruesome effects somewhat. Several scenes have been added to television broadcasts of the film, however, in an effort to increase the running time to fill a two hour slot (much like they had done with the first film in 1981). Whilst the theatrical cut ran at a mere eighty-four minutes, the original version was ninety-three. Despite various petitions from both fans and those involved in the movie, the Producer’s Cut currently remains unavailable, though Fangoria hinted recently that the newfound interest in the franchise may prompt the studio to finally release it onto DVD.
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers was released in North America on September 29 1995 and was a critical failure. Dimension‘s overzealous approach to re-editing the film did little to save it at the box office, grossing a merge $15,116,634 in the US. Whilst Halloween 5 may have been inconsistent, the director had at least demonstrated style, yet the critical reception that The Curse of Michael Myers received almost brought the franchise to a permanent halt. With Pleasence now deceased and fan favourites Jamie Lee Curtis and Danielle Harris no longer involved in the series, there was little left to recommend Halloween except a villain whose appeal was starting to grow stale. Halloween was in danger of becoming another straight-to-video franchise (like Dimension had done with both Halloween and Children of the Corn) and it would take something truly extraordinary to bring Michael Myers back from the dead.