Director: Rick Rosenthal
Writers: Larry Brand, Sean Hood
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Brad Loree, Busta Rhymes, Bianca Kajlich
Rating: R (USA), 15 (UK), MA (Australia)
It would be a further four years before Dimension would greenlight another Halloween feature, with the show-stopping climax of H20 seemingly bringing the series to an end. It had been the ideal marketing opportunity, with the original star returning for the twentieth anniversary to face off against her psychotic brother, franchise antagonist Michael Myers. Having brought his reign of terror to an end with one swift blow of an axe, it seemed that the legacy had finally come to an end. It had been a good run but now it was time to lay the boogeyman to rest. But, as Hollywood has demonstrated time and time again, never say never, especially when profit is concerned. After their first venture, The Curse of Michael Myers, had been a critical and commercial failure, Dimension were understandably impressed with the box office takings of H20 and began thinking of ways to bring him back.
By the turn of the decade, the popularity of the explicit slasher film had made way for the more suggestive and subtle supernatural tales such as The Sixth Sense, The Others and The Blair Witch Project, with the latter also leading the way for a string of pseudo-documentaries that were heavily influenced by the notorious Italian classic Cannibal Holocaust. Another trend to flood the genre was greatly influenced by the recent popularity of reality TV, most notably Big Brother, and the imitators that followed in its wake. Efforts such as My Little Eye and Series 7: The Contenders exploited society’s obsession with hidden camera shows and the power of the internet. Perhaps it was only a matter of time before the slasher film, always eager to capitalise on the current trend (3D, remakes), would follow suit, although Halloween 8 may have been an unexpected choice. Whilst the concept a webcam broadcast may go against the very nature of slashers, which have always renounced technology in favour of more primal methods of survival, the genre was always willing to adapt and move with the times. And the image of Michael’s white mask slowly appearing behind some scared teen as he closes in for the kill, whilst viewers at home scream senselessly at the computer screen.
With the storyline reaching a closure with H20, Dimension considered taking the franchise in a new direction and not featuring Michael, but remembering the commercial disaster that was Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, Moustapha Akkad insisted that the new movie not stray too far from the tried and tested formula. The task of bringing Michael back from the dead fell to screenwriter Larry Brand, who had received his first break in the industry years earlier as an assistant to screen legend Orson Welles. As a tribute to his mentor, Brand’s concept for Halloween 8 would act as a reverse of what Welles had done with his 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds, in which he had fooled an entire nation into believing that the reports of an alien invasion that he had been narrating were in fact real. For Brand’s story, a webcam show would be shown live on the internet, in which Michael would slash his way through a series of victims, only for the viewers to think that it was a hoax. To help adapt the screenplay, Brand was joined by Sean Hood, a graduate of USC who had penned his debut, a short entitled The Shy and the Naked, in 1998.
The story for Halloween 8, or The Homecoming has it had become known, was set three years after the events of H20 and saw Laurie Strode now a resident of the Grace Anderson Sanitarium, where she has remained since discovering that she had in fact decapitated a paramedic whom her brother, Michael, had passed off as himself in order to escape. But soon he comes looking for her and, after a violent rooftop struggle, she is stabbed and falls to her death. He then heads back to Haddonfield where he discovers that a webcam show has been set up in his old family home, where a group of college students have pledged to spend a night in the dreaded house, under the watchful eye of ambitious producer Freddie Harris. One-by-one, Michael slashes his way through each of the hopefuls, eventually falling foul of the fast-talking Freddie, though the final shot indicates that he is still very much alive and ready for another sequel.
With a script in place, the studio set out to find a suitable director to follow in the footsteps of Steve Miner, who had succeeded in revamping the franchise with H20. Initially considering Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers helmer Dwight H. Little, who had also delivered a popular addition to the series, as well as television director Whitney Ransick, Dimension eventually settled on Rick Rosenthal, who had already been part of the legacy due to his involvement in the first sequel. Despite constant interference from John Carpenter, Rosenthal was convinced that this time he would be able to bring his own personal vision to the screen. One aspect that he had considered exploring was the human side of Michael, by presenting old super-8 footage during the opening credits, which would help audiences understand that he was once an innocent young boy. Instead, they opted to avoid humanising the character and keeping him as a faceless boogeyman. The biggest obstacle that Rosenthal faced this time was in justifying how Michael could have survived when he was beheaded at the end of the previous film. A simple explanation from a nurse at the beginning would provide viewers with a reason, it was not Michael.
Following Dimension‘s decision to cast LL Cool J in H20, they once again opted to offer a lead role to well known rapper, in this instance Busta Rhymes. This caused outrage among the fanbase, with the studio’s transparent attempt to appeal to the MTV market, along with its hip internet concept, diluting the horror aspects that the film should employ. The story would also feature a selection of generic students for Michael to cut to pieces, with the principal role of ‘final girl’ Sara Moyer going to 10 Things I Hate About You star Bianca Kajlich. Incidentally, it was reported that the actress was unable to scream properly at the appropriate moments, resulting in a dub required during post production. Filming commenced in Vancouver, British Columbia on 14 May 2001 for approximately five weeks, with the Myers house built on a stage as opposed to shot on location. In the role of Michael was 6ft 2in Canadian stuntman Brad Loree, whose previous credits included Timecop, Mission to Mars and the Hollywood remake of Get Carter. Loree was often nervous before performing a stunt, although this time the character would be subjected to less action than he had in the last few films, due to one central location.
Whilst Laurie’s death had always been the basis for the first act, just how she was to have died was changed dramatically during the writing. The studio, determined to start the film off with a strong shock moment, had suggested that Laurie, wracked with guilt over accidentally killing an innocent man, would eventually commit suicide. Both Curtis, who felt a responsibility to the character and the fans, and Brand, felt that this idea was rather tasteless and chose a more dignified, if less emotional, demise. In the spirit of William Castle, Rosenthal had several inventive gimmicks that he intended to utilise in order to avoid a predictable and boring sequel. The first was to have shot four separate endings, all of which would have been released as part of the movie but cinemagoers would not be aware which one would be used for each showing. Another was to have been added to the DVD release, in which the viewer would have had the ability to switch between the webcams that the characters had attached to their foreheads, placing the audience directly in the action. Whilst this version of the movie is yet to be released, segments of the footage are available on the DVD, which give a sneak peak into what the director really intended.
Eventually retitled Halloween Resurrection, the feature was released in America on July 12, 2002 and made $12,292,121 on a budget of $15m. By the end of the month it had earned $26,941,784, an impressive amount although falling short of H20‘s sweeping of the box office. Critically, the movie was a disaster, with reviews barely able to find anything positive to say, scrutinising everything from the poor script to the casting, most notably Busta Rhymes, who would continue his ghetto speak even whilst facing down Michael Myers. But where Resurrection fared the worst was with the fanbase, who expressed their outrage at not only the killing of Laurie Strode but also the generic storyline and clichéd script. Effectively marking the true end to the franchise, there would be no more Halloween movies that would follow this timeline. Despite Michael opening his eyes in the last moments of the film, there would be no more sequels and the character would finally be laid to rest. In a manner of speaking.