Reviewing a Cult Franchise – Halloween VI: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

First, a history. What happened in between Halloween 5 & 6 is a bit sketchy. There’s not a lot of information out there about the six years in between the two films. The next paragraph is what I understand happened.

After another disappointment with ‘Halloween V’ the series was put on hold to ‘re-evaluate’. Eventually, it was decided that Halloween VI would be a good idea and for some reason that I still haven’t found or figured out, major studios began bidding for the film. Newline and Miramax both placed in bids and Miramax won. Under the ‘Dimension’ sub-division of Miramax which deals with the horror side of the film industry, sought out a script writer. The job went to Daniel Farrands, a longtime fan of the series who had already come up with a concept for the sixth film. Quentin Tarantino had also written a version of the sixth film but his script was not shot. What follows next is a brief summary of what happens in Daniel Farrands script.

Six years after Michael (George Wilbur returns since playing Michael Myers in ‘Halloween IV’) and Jamie are taken from the Haddonfield Police Station by the mysterious Man in Black, a teenage Jamie (J.C. Brandy) gives birth to a baby boy in a weird underground place with weird cult members surrounding her. Michael comes out to play and chases Jamie and her new born to a farm where he kills Jamie and begins to hunt down the baby. Baby boy Lloyd is found by a grown up Tommy Doyle (Paul Rudd) who lives across the road to the Strode Family who are living in the Myers house. Kara Strode’s (Marianne Hagan) son, Danny (Devin Gardner) has been seeing things and is being influenced to go over to the dark side. Meanwhile, Tommy has found Jamie’s baby and has taken him in, naming him, Stephen. Tommy meets Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasence) and asks for his help. Kara, Danny and baby Stephen are kidnapped by the cultists and together, Tommy and Dr Loomis join forces for the final showdown with Michael at the Smithsgrove Sanitarium.

First, lets address the biggest change to the opening scene, the absence of Danielle Harris. At the time of shooting, Harris was not approached to play her character, rather her part was advertised out to other actresses. The issue was that they wanted an actress who was aged 18 or over and Harris was 17. Actresses who are 18 are considered to be adults and therefore are not subject to any restrictions regarding shooting times, etc. To be considered for the role, Harris had to be emancipated (legally considered an adult in the eyes of the courts). After some time and a few thousand dollars in legal fees, Harris succeeded and met with the producers to discuss her role. She was immediately dismayed at the script and nature of which her character died. After a certain amount of negotiation regarding the script, the studio was not willing to change the script. Since Harris had spent a lot of money in order to be considered for the role, the studio also was not prepared to offer her a subsequent paycheck for her involvement to cover the costs of being emancipated because her character dies in the first act and therefore is in a certain pay bracket. Harris then left the project and J.C. Brandy was brought in as Jamie.

Since Harris’ portrayal of Jamie was so popular among the Halloween fans, the appearance of a new Jamie was not well received and most of the anger was thrown towards J.C. Brandy rather than the producers who made the decision.

My opinion on the whole fiasco? I don’t think J.C. Brandy deserves any of the hatred that she was subject to when the film was released. Ask yourself, If you were offered a chance to appear in a popular horror franchise, would you turn it down? I wouldn’t. If everything that I’ve heard is right, I think that part of the reason why Harris didn’t come back was due to the fact that this was first Halloween film that was under a studio. I think that if it had just been the people that Harris had worked with over the last two movies that she’d appeared in, some kind of compromise could have been reached and Harris would have appeared in ‘Halloween VI’. Personally, I think the decision to recast was a bad idea in the first place. I demand a certain kind of continuity with an ongoing franchise and if Harris was not going to come back for ‘Halloween VI’, then they should have written her character out all together. Maybe given a few lines as to Jamie’s whereabouts. Considering that her character was going to die in the first act anyway, I don’t think it would have been completely unreasonable. For what it’s worth, on the short time she was on the screen, J.C. Brandy did an alright job and no offence but I would have preferred to see Danielle Harris back as Jamie.

Moving on.

One of the biggest aspects of the script that was widely criticised was the Curse of Thorn. What Farrands was trying to do was expand what was put in place in the last film so he cannot be blamed for it being there. In my opinion it either should never have been but in ‘Halloween V’ or it should have been explained in ‘Halloween V’ so the series can move on because the thorn on the wrist did was add more questions that it didn’t answer. Farrands could have forgotten completely about the ‘thorn’ thing but then it would just have remained a question that wasn’t answered so in some way, Farrands efforts were commendable. On the other hand, what the Curse of Thorn did in ‘Halloween VI’ was add a method to Michael’s madness which was not appreciated.

I can’t remember the exact specifics but I think the Curse of Thorn is one of a load of runic symbols and one child from a tribe would be selected to be inflicted with the Curse of Thorn. This person would go on to kill their next of kin on the night of Halloween in order to save an entire tribe. Thorn is also a constellation of stars that appears on Halloween night. This constellation is a trigger for Michael. Who knew that a psychotic killer would appear under a wandering star.

Again, this film made the same mistake that ‘Halloween V’ did by having a load of boring and inconsequential characters that are just there for Michael to kill. The radio DJ is one of them. Why is he there? For Michael to kill, of course. The sister and her boyfriend are others. They also put in a hate figure, Kara’s dad, John (Bradford English) that gets the most gruesome death. I get the feeling that the series did try to go back to basics, something that they like doing, by bring back some elements from the first film. The elements are of course, the Strode family and Tommy Doyle played by Paul Rudd. It’s a bit of a mystery to me why Paul Rudd went into comedy films because he did a really good job in ‘Halloween VI’. In fact, he did such a great job that Tommy is the most interesting character. Paul Rudd shined in this film and I’m not surprised that he’s had such a great career.

‘Halloween VI’ as it stands is very different from the first cut which has become known as the ‘Producers Cut’. Whilst there are some small additional scenes to The Producers Cut, this version has a different outcome to the beginning. In the beginning of the Producers Cut, Jamie doesn’t die after her encounter, rather she is badly injured and remain comatose in hospital until Dr Wynn (Mitchell Ryan) arrives and shoots her in the head. It’s also strongly suggested that Jamie’s baby is a result of forced incest between Jamie and Michael. I’m not quite sure how they engineered that but then this film is filled with plot holes and no one on the production seemed to care.

The main difference between the two is the final act. At the start of the final act, Kara is kidnapped by the cultists and awakens in the sanitarium in a locked room. Tommy later comes to rescue her. In the producers cut, Kara wakes up on a slab, waiting to be sacrificed by Michael which is a bit confusing because Michael is after the baby. Michael is stopped by Tommy who places runes in Michael’s path and it saps him of his power, rendering him useless.

Dr Loomis goes back into the sanitarium after Tommy, Kara, Danny and baby Stephen escape and goes to Michael. He takes his mask off but it is revealed that Michael swapped clothes with Dr Wynn in order to escape. Dr Wynn takes Dr Loomis’ wrist and transfers the Thorn symbol, making Dr Loomis the new leader of the cult. Dr Loomis screams and that is the end of the film.

Because ‘Halloween VI’ was distributed by a proper studio, that meant that the film was subject to a ‘test screening’ which (for those of you who don’t know) is used to test if the film works or maybe if some things need to be changed. Attendees of a test audience must fill out a questionnaire at the end of the film to see what they liked and what they didn’t like. The problem was (according to interviews) that the test audience was filled with teenagers and asking a teenager to offer advice to professional film makers on how to change a film would be like me (a pathetic internet guttersnipe) telling NASA how to get to the moon. The general consensus among the prepubescent audience was that they didn’t like the ending. This led to the film going back into production to re-film the final act but it was at that time, the cast and crew suffered a great loss.

On the 2nd February, 1995, Donald Pleasence passed away at the age of 75. It’s fair to say that since 1978, Donald Pleasence had been a dedicated, important and popular influence in the series. His impeccable grace and remarkable performance gave a touch of class to the movies and with over 200 credits to his name, Donald Pleasence was an actor like no other and he will always be dearly missed.

‘Halloween VI: The Curse of Michael Myers’, ‘Halloween H20: 20 Years Later’ and ‘Halloween: Resurrection’ are all dedicated to the memory of Donald Pleasence.

Following the death of a well respected colleague, the production went ahead with the re-shoot and a different spin was placed on the ending, dramatically reducing the cult aspect and therefore confusing and complicating the whole point of the movie. Instead of a mystical aspect which is actually in keeping with Michael’s supernatural abilities, it ends with a punch up in a lab of some description and Michael is injected with a corrosive chemical then beaten with a pipe. Dr Loomis still goes back in but one of the final shots is Michael’s mask lying on the ground and Dr Loomis screaming.

The Producers Cut was not released to the public but someone got a hold of it and had been selling it on the internet with relative success. A petition was drafted, asking for the Producers Cut to be given an official DVD release. The people were listened to and the Producers Cut was given an official release on Blu-ray in 2014. Having seen both the theatrical version and the producers cut, I would think that the producers cut was a better version. It has more continuity with Michael’s supernatural-ness and maybe it was time that needed to be explained. Maybe putting the cult in was a bit of a flop. The only problem I have with the ‘Curse of Thorn’ is that it would be difficult to sustain. That’s probably why the writers got rid of it in the very next movie… along with some other things.

With an estimated budget of $5 Million, ‘Halloween VI: The Curse of Michael Myers’ took in an unimpressive $15.1 Million although it did manage to match Halloween II for it’s takings on it’s opening weekend with around $7 Million.

The film was also met in an overwhelmingly negative critical reception. My thoughts? It’s a terrible shame. I think that after the last film, the series was given very few places that it could go. It fell into some very bad habits and made a lot of mistakes but it did make an effort to explain the reasons behind Michael’s evil. I just think that it could have been handled better.

It should be said that it was a very bad time for this film to come out. The 1980’s was really the decade for slasher films and the three main horror franchises dominated the box office; ‘Halloween’, ‘Friday the 13th‘ and ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’. But up until the mid 90’s, all that was coming out were endless sequels and very few original IP all up until a fan of the Halloween series wrote a very special little movie that would give the horror genre the electric shock to the testicles that it so desperately needed.

2 responses to “Reviewing a Cult Franchise – Halloween VI: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

  1. I still need to see the Producers Cut. I found the cult thing a bit confusing as well. I never really picked up the incest element leading to Jamie’s baby…but now that I think about it, I can see what they were hinting at.

    Alas, I’ll look forward to the new Halloween film which apparently follows on from H1 & H2.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks very much for reading. I’m really looking forward to the new film aswell only because John Carpenter is coming back to the franchise to sort everything out. I’m happy that Jamie Lee Curtis is returning. There’s not a lot of information about it just now but I’m looking forward to a trailer to see what they’ll do with it. It’s a bold move to start removing film continuity again like they did with H20 but then again H20 was successful so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about.

      Liked by 1 person

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