Thursday, October 24, 2013

How HALLOWEEN Became The 'Choose Your Own Adventure' Of Horror Franchises (Guest Article)

Folks, this is kind of a big deal here on Naptown Nerd.  The tables turn here, as I am proud to give you FORBES writer Scott Mendelson's first guest article for the site.  As you all probably know, I got my start doing guest pieces for his old blog Mendelson's Memos.  

Let's say you want to celebrate the month of October by doing a marathon viewing of that most appropriate of franchises for the month of October, the Halloween films. Now with most franchises, like say the Harry Potter films or the Friday the 13th series, you simply grab your DVDs or Blu-rays, line them up in an OCD-approved row and grab the first installment.  But Halloween is a bit more complicated...
The Halloween franchise presents a unique problem. If you're attempting to basically watch the whole Michael Myers story, the first question you have to ask yourself is what that actually contains? Thanks to discarded sequels, retconned installments and utter confusion about which entries actually count, the Halloween franchise is basically the "Choose Your Own Adventure" of horror films.

Not counting the two Rob Zombie remakes (of which there are at least two versions of each to choose from), you get eight Halloween films released between 1978 and 2002. So the simplest solution would be to merely grab all eight installments in their original theatrical form and hit "play". But wait!  Halloween III: Season of the Witch isn't technically a Michael Myers-centric film, and, depending on how you read the ending, may more-or-less involve the end of the world.

Okay, so you skip part III, easy enough. But wait, Halloween is available in both its original theatrical version "and" the version that includes about ten minutes of worthwhile footage that was shot for its television premiere and can be found edited back into the film on an older DVD release. Decisions, decisions!
Okay, so you've decided on which original Halloween film to watch and you've decided whether or not Season of the Witch counts. Halloween, Halloween II and (possibly) Halloween III have been watched, so onto Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, right?  Well, maybe.  Here's the rub: According to whom you ask, Halloween: H20 may be Halloween 7 or it may be a direct sequel only to Halloween II if not merely a direct sequel to Halloween only, thus discarding Halloween II and the other five sequels.

So now you have to decide if you should skip Halloween 4, Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers or skip every prior sequel and go straight and go straight from Halloween to Halloween 7. But let's assume you say "To hell with this, everything counts!" you still have a choice to make.

Provided you have access to it, you have the choice of watching the theatrical cut of Halloween 6 or the vastly superior "Producer's Cut" that can be found in various back-alleys, drug-dens and houses of ill-repute.  Presuming you're among the 99.99% who have no access to the superior version of Halloween 6 (the extra Donald Pleasence footage is heartbreaking even if you didn't know he died while filming), you're pretty much good to go.
The good news is that every path leads to Halloween: H20, the surprisingly strong series relaunch that brought Jamie Lee Curtis back into the fold (even if counting the sequels means that Laurie is now someone who ditched her daughter, faked her death and ran away to have another child...that's cold). The bad news is that every path also leads, without exception, to Halloween: Resurrection, the abysmal "Michael stalks an internet broadcast" adventure that sadly closed out the franchise while giving a certain major character one of the most anti-climactic death scenes in cinematic history. No matter which path you choose, it ends in bitter disappointment.

So these are the incredibly complicated choices that every Halloween enthusiast must make if he or she decides to marathon the franchise. You've got two versions of the first film, a third film that is mostly out-of-continuity, three additional sequels that got ret-conned by the seventh film, and a mysterious but worthwhile alternate cut of the sixth entry. Heck, even if you just decide to watch the two Rob Zombie remakes you have four possible combinations thanks to (arguably superior) director's cuts of both the 2007 remake and the 2009 sequel.
There is no easy answer to the question of which films make up the Halloween saga.  I suppose the core question is whether or not you want more Donald Pleasence mixed in with your Jamie Lee Curtis, which then makes it a pretty easy answer. I say if you're going to watch the Halloween saga, watch every single one of them and damn the consequences. To wit:

Halloween (Television Cut)>Halloween II>Halloween III: Season of the Witch>Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers>Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers>Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (Producer's Cut)>Halloween: H20>Halloween: Resurrection

And yes, just for completion sake, finish it off with the director's cuts of Rob Zombie's Halloween and Halloween II.  If you're going for it, you might as well go all-out. But in the end that's a choice that every franchise enthusiast has to make for themselves. Because Halloween is the one franchise that doesn't just give you a choice about which films to watch, but choice upon choice with seemingly endless combinations to compile for your own personal marathon.

You can find Scott's work over at  He heads up 'The Ticket Booth at Forbes'

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Here are a couple fantastic Horror movie related pieces he's done this month for Halloween

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