Amazing. I'd been expecting the worst of Halloween 6, yet it still managed to disappoint me. Had I thought it might be good? Hell, no. All I'd dared hope for was a little madness, that last spark of glory as a film goes down in flames. In fairness in synopsis this thing would indeed sound insane, but sadly the execution lacks even the energy to stand out that far. I'd hoped for something at least a bit different, but in fact it's just pedestrian and badly constructed.
The insanity begins with the climax to Halloween 5 and its crazed last-minute revelation of sinister conspiracies and black-clad trenchcoat-wearing men with runes on their hands and a mysterious link to Michael Myers. Unfortunately this film follows up on that. Admittedly I'd have probably screamed blue murder if they hadn't, but that's what they did to the punchline of Halloween 4. Sometimes one must be cruel to be kind. All films and TV would be improved by cutting out the conspiracies. The problem with all these Cigarette-Smoking Men, etc. is that they're stupid! "Bwahahaha, my organisation has been plotting for decades to use the wisdom of the ancient Druids to... oh, and by the way, I'm a twat." I'm not joking, by the way. They really do wibble on about celtic mythology and Samhain. Of all the films in this series to steal from, Halloween 3 is absolutely not the one to choose. In fairness though, being dumb doesn't stop them from being evil too.
The Thorn cult's baleful influence doesn't end there, though. They also have the power to make Michael Myers an annoying distraction in his own movie. A significant feature of the slasher genre is its built-in mindlessness. Random killings are random. (D'oh.) This makes it hard to impose any kind of complex story, as this film demonstrates. The moment you introduce secrets, conspiracies and other such story elements, we have an actual story to follow that distracts us from the gratuitous scenes of Michael Myers butchering his way through the cast with all the apparent intelligence of a frog in a boiling saucepan.
This script went through eleven drafts, but none of its writers ever reconciled the irreconcilable. Watching this film is like sitting beside someone who keeps changing the TV channel.
It doesn't help that we're being asked to believe that the Thorn cult are what turned Michael Myers into a killer. Various questions spring to mind, such as... 1. Just how stupid are you? In the end Michael meets the conspirators and does exactly what you'd expect, which is very satisfying indeed. 2. Um, how did you do this, exactly? Sounds tricky. I'm going to need more than mumbled mentions of "genetic engineering".
There are hints, though. In particular I liked this film's take on the idea of Haddonfield children becoming killers. The latest candidate is a six-year-old called Danny and although he never tips over the edge, it's clear that he's at least standing on the road to slasher-dom. Even before we see him being groomed by a Man in Black, Danny's very first scene sees him pulling a knife on his grandfather. There are mentions of a "voice" that only certain children can hear, which suggests psychic abilities. That's already part of the series, of course. Jamie Lloyd and perhaps even Michael himself (through Jamie) have demonstrated psychic abilities, so perhaps Danny is gifted too. If it's genetic, that might even be connected to Michael's drive to murder all his family. This side of things is never fully explored, which is probably why I like it so much. It's still only an undertone to be detected.
Another good thing is getting a little of that "shellshocked survivors" psychological angle that John Carpenter had in mind for Halloween 4. A major character is Tommy Doyle, now grown up after being a small boy in the original Halloween. The producers even went looking for Brian Andrews, who'd played him back then, to reprise the role. Unfortunately he didn't have an agent, so they couldn't find him and one Paul Rudd got the part. Mind you, the producers also recast Jamie because Danielle Harris wanted $5,000. Her absence isn't the loss that it might have been since it's a pretty thankless role this time around, but I still wish they'd used her. It might have made things ickier, though. The first thing she does in this film is to give birth, which is disquieting since we're also told that the last film took place six years ago, when she was nine.
This film was famously hacked about with reshoots and a re-edit so sweeping as to make many of the cast and crew swear off ever making a Halloween film again. Bootlegs of the Producer's Cut are widely available and apparently make much more sense, although whether that version is actually a good film is another question entirely. (I hasten to say that I haven't seen it.) In that other cut, the father of Jamie's child is apparently Michael Myers. Ewwww. Although since she'd been a captive of the Thorn cult throughout those six years, I'm going to tell myself that her impregnation involved nothing more than medical procedures. Yes, I am.
Oh, and Jamie's last words are, "You can't have the baby, Michael. You can't have the baby." You know, in case he hadn't realised it was there in the first place. I'd like to hope that the Producer's Cut makes this less stupid.
Michael himself is back to his old superhuman ways. You can see the film itching to prove that yes, he can still crush necks with his bare hands and lift you up by the knife on which he's impaled you. I have no problem with that. What I'm less happy with is Michael's increasing showiness. He carries one corpse up a tree and strings it up with what look like Christmas lights. He puts bodies in beds, or arranges them so that they'll fall and hang in front of you at an oh-so-convenient moment. It looks great. It's also dumb. In fact this film has a regrettable tendency to wink at its audience, with lines like "tonight's going to be killer" and a heavy-handed establishing shot of an axe that might as well have had neon lights saying "Michael Myers Will Use This". Okay, I get it. I'm not an idiot, thank you. Oh, and the exploding head is ridiculous too.
Michael also gets a chase sequence, which is amusing for a character who's famous for never running. It's startling enough just to see him walk briskly.
Dr Loomis is here, thank heavens, although you'd hardly notice. This was the last film Donald Pleasence ever made before his death from heart surgery complications, but the director Joe Chappelle cut out lots of his scenes because he thought he was boring! Wow, I didn't know they let retards shoot films. Er, Mr Chappelle? I'd sooner watch those deleted scenes than your finished movie. This time Dr Loomis is laid-back and happy! He's retired. This makes for a less memorable performance than we're used to, but he's still awesome anyway. I also like the fact that he gets the movie's last line. "Come with us." "No, I have a little business to attend to here." Goodbye, Donald Pleasence. You were one of the greats.
Production-wise, it's very obviously a 1990s film. The days of 1970s cinematography in that dusty, rough-edged style had gone. Instead it's glossy and professional-looking, with an electric guitar rock soundtrack at inappropriate moments and even a flash of nudity at the 56 minute mark. It's nothing much, but we hadn't seen a nipple since Halloween II. Overall, this film is less laughable than I'd expected it to be, but more anonymous. It could be any of a hundred generic slasher movies, since the Thorn conspiracy stuff detracts from the film rather than adding to it. In its favour, it's enthusiastically old-school about Michael's murder scenes, with some nice gore and darkness. You can tell they were trying. However I don't think it's possible to get a good Halloween film from a director who thinks Donald Pleasence is boring.