The original take on the Halloween film franchise seems to have had more comebacks than Tom Brady. Michael Myers was first discarded as a villain with the love-it-or-hate-it (or never seen it, or several other options, probably), Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Part of me wishes that that movie had been successful enough for the idea behind it–turning the franchise into an “anthology” film series with a different Halloween-based story for every entry–to have taken off. We could’ve had something somewhat similar to the Filipino film series Shake, Rattle & Roll, a horror film franchise featuring three new stories every movie, with every film in the franchise released on the same date (Christmas Day in the case of Shake, Rattle & Roll, for the Halloween flicks…I dunno, St. Patrick’s Day?).
Alas, it was not to be, so Halloween 4 marked “The Return of Michael Myers,” who somehow survived being fully engulfed in flames in part 2. It was at this point that series continuity was officially established as being super-loose. Once parts 5 and 6 took the series over a cliff by introducing largely unpopular occult angles to explain what was originally designed to be inexplicable, yet another return to the series’ roots was in order.
In came Halloween: H20, arriving with much fanfare on August 5th, 1998. This was near the peak of the teen slasher resurgence kicked off by Scream just two years earlier. The series continuity was reset back to the conclusion of the second movie, so that Michael could return unencumbered by any “Curse / Cult of Thorn” craziness and just get back to regular ol’ murderin’. It felt at the time like the great-grandfather of the most recent horror “trend” had come back one last time to show all these new-school kids how it was supposed to be done. And it was, in many ways, a clear success. While unable to live up to the original–an almost impossible feat–it did cap the series with a fitting coda, and made more at the box office than fellow 1998 slasher / teen-horror pictures I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend and The Faculty. Audiences didn’t fall head-over-heels for it, but seemed content to see Laurie Strode’s story gain some closure, with a relatively “happy” ending, to boot.
So of course, of course, it had to be undone with the abysmal Halloween: Resurrection a few years later. Which was bad enough to warrant a new palate cleanser, opening the door for Rob Zombie’s… let’s say “misguided” take on the franchise. Which opened the door for yet another comeback and retcon, the forthcoming Halloween of 2018, which will go even further than H20 in erasing previous entries by being a direct sequel to the first film. Now instead of having to explain how Michael survived immolation, they just have to sell us on this 61-year-old dude still being a threat. Based on the trailers released so far, they may just succeed, against all odds.
For a classic horror story franchise with a considerably simpler history, look no further than The Blob.
The original film, from 1958, is an indy horror hit that doesn’t hold up well. If Psycho didn’t render it obsolete just two years later, Night of the Living Dead definitely did so in ’68. Far and away the best thing it has going for it is Steve McQueen, but most of the rest of the acting is tough to endure, and the titular monster just looks like a gross dessert run clumsily amok.
Three decades later, The Blob would come to theaters again, this time reinvented as the courier of some of the most imaginative cinematic grotesquery to grace the screen at the time, in great company with The Thing and Cronenberg’s The Fly. The ’88 Blob remake has effects that hold up very well, even as the squeamish (and even not-so-squeamish) among us may wish they didn’t. Directed by Chuck Russell, who also gave us the third Elm Street film, The Mask, and one of the many great episodes from the best season of Fringe, The Blob pulls no punches in depicting how horrific it must be to get slowly devoured by an ever-growing space amoeba. It is a gooey, gruesome feat of a movie that single-handedly makes a case for the potential of remakes. Today marks the 40th anniversary of its theatrical wide release.
Finally, August 5th marks the North American release date of Silent Hill 3, currently (and possibly forever) the last universally beloved game in the series (don’t look at me, I love Silent Hill 4: The Room, but it’s always had detractors who think it veered too far off course from the series origins). I have a Confessions of a Fearphile entry that covers my love for the Silent Hill franchise as a whole, but Silent Hill 3 is perhaps where the franchise should have ended. While its “good” ending is too brief and almost too whimsical to be truly satisfactory, everything up to it feels like a perfect combination of what preceded it. The story is more personal than the first game (though not quite as personal as the second), but also keeps a greater focus on the overall mythology and stakes than does Silent Hill 2. It also has some of the most harrowing, frightening moments in the series, and that’s really, really, really saying something.