Dangertainment Presents: In Defense of Halloween: Resurrection

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Let’s make one thing clear. The Halloween sequels, all of them, have never come close to measuring up to John Carpenter’s original 1978 horror masterpiece. But while fans of the groundbreaking original have allowed themselves to kick back and enjoy the majority of its sequels for what they are, Halloween: Resurrection is typically regarded as the most unwatchable of the bunch. Why? Because it features Busta Rhymes using skills he learned from watching old kung fu movies to bring the smack down on Michael Myers. Yep, turns out pure evil’s one weakness is badass rappers.

Obviously Resurrection is ‘bad’ from a perspective of film critique, but the movie certainly isn’t shy about being a schlocky slasher. In fact, it embraces its silliness and invites the audience along for the ride. Try not to look at Resurrection as a Halloween sequel meant to be taken seriously. Instead, try seeing it more like an absurdist-horror-comedy featuring everyone’s favorite masked killer. And really, why anyone interprets a movie featuring Busta Rhymes vs. Michael Myers as anything less will forever remain a mystery.

Now, you may be thinking, “Resurrection was a direct sequel to H20, a movie that finally brought back a standard of quality the franchise had lost, Resurrection killed the series with comedy just as it got back in tune with its roots, that’s unforgivable. “ This is a fair perspective, but H20’s function was never to rejuvenate the franchise for sequels to come, it was meant to end the series once and for all. That movie finishes with Laurie Strode finally confronting the monster she feels responsible for and lobbing his head off with an axe! With that definitive of an ending, the franchise should have been concluded, or at least shelved for a solid ten years before an inevitable reboot. But H20 was successful enough that the studio was going to make a sequel regardless. Michael Meyers returning after having his head chopped off his body was going to be laughable no matter what, so camp was the only worthwhile route to take. Now that we can accept the movie for what it is, let’s examine how Halloween: Resurrection is a good-time rollercoaster ride of comedy, horror and themes that, dare I say, were ahead of their time.

Resurrection opens on Laurie Strode, now a patient in a mental institution after Michael pulled a classic body switch maneuver, leading to Laurie getting committed for killing an innocent man. Just as you start wondering if this movie really expects you to take it seriously, Michael gloriously busts through a solid locked door as if it’s paper. A convoluted chase ensues and concludes with Michael’s knife in Laurie’s back as they both dangle from the side of the hospital building. “I’ll see you in hell,” Laurie proclaims after kissing Michael and then thrusting herself to the whopping two stories below. Aggressively over the top and unexpected, this moment is an all timer in horror-comedy

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Barring the opening prologue with Laurie, which almost feels like its own separate short story, Resurrection actually returns Michael to what he hadn’t been portrayed as since the first movie, a serial killer with no clear motive that gets off on killing teens, especially ones that wonder in or around his childhood home. That’s right, before Halloween 2018 made it cool, this movie (again, with exception to the prologue) dropped the “crazed sibling hunting down his bloodline” angle that had plagued the series since Halloween 2, and returned Michael to the mysterious murdering shape he was originally intended to be.

What originally made Michael Myers so terrifying is the notion that any ordinary human being can snap and commit such inhumane acts for no apparent logical reason. Michael’s six-year-old life shows no hint of being any different than your average middle class American child. Yet, he picks up a knife, puts on a mask and slaughters his older sister as casual as can be. This lack of rationale allows the audience to consider the darkness within themselves. It makes you wonder just how thin the line is between the sensible mind and the instinctive darkness kept buried in the deepest crevasses of the psyche. Despite all its silliness, Resurrection still shows a fundamental understanding of this crucial ingredient that many other Halloween sequels blatantly ignored.

The main narrative begins as a professor lectures to a class of exaggeratedly tired and disinterested Haddonfield college students,  “A figment of ourselves that even the collective unconscious deny. Inside all of us, there lurks a dark and malevolent figure…the shadow,” But one student stands out as particularly engaged, Sara Moyer, the latest ‘final girl’ of the series. Sara has a genuine curiosity and fascination with the shadow self. But her social introversion and timid nature tells that although she recognizes her darkness, she is weighed down by fear of its very existence. Yet, Sara’s ability to recognize her shadow self is what sets her apart from the supporting cast, who all revel in it. Also, she rides her moped through the school’s outer hallways. Edgy!

The plot gets moving when Sara and her two oddball friends are selected to participate in a viral event where they will join a handful of other contestants to spend Halloween night in Michael Myers’ childhood home. The mission: search for clues to what made the legendary serial killer snap so many years ago. Busta Rhymes plays the head producer of Dangertainment, Freddie Harris, who is cartoonishly eager to exploit the fears of his contestants. As he interviews the youngsters, it becomes quickly apparent that they are more interested in being on camera and being seen than they are in investigating the origins of pure evil. When they are each given small, point-of-view cameras to wear throughout the night, the contestants immediately begin sexualizing themselves and each other. Sara, however, is the outlier of the group. She is uncomfortable in front of the camera and particularly frightened about spending the night in the Myer’s home. Sara attempts to back out of the event, telling Freddie that she has no interest in being famous, but Freddie pep talks her back into the game, “What do you mean you don’t want to be famous, that’s the American dream…Fear motivates. Fear gives you the feeling of being alive.”

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While not exceptionally deep or subtle, there is pertinent satirical commentary on fame in modern culture happening here. And although this was no doubt a response to the rise of reality television sweeping the nation in 2002, it actually holds doubly relevant to the influence of social media today, where one must be seen at all times in order to be relevant. In Resurrection, the entire supporting cast of contestants is blind to the inevitable danger lurking around them. In any other situation, these students may have had their wits about them, but while the cameras are focused in, they are more than happy to engage their carnal desires to please an audience. One particularly interesting example of this is with the character, Donna. “I’m interested in how Michael Myers embodies the politics of violence embedded in pop mythology,” she claims while being interviewed early in the movie. Dona is clearly an intelligent, well-read young woman. Unlike the rest of the contestants and more like Sara, Donna seems to have a perceptive curiosity for the darkness that is Michael Myers’ psychology. She even rejects some (very creepy) flirtation from fellow contestant Jim in favor of the investigation as the night begins. But her integrity is only so strong, as she eventually gives in to her base sexual desire by getting intimate with Jim later in the night. And in fitting with the movie’s commentary on sensationalism for the camera, Donna, Jim and all the other young participants that abandon their decency for fame get a brutal killing from Michael himself.

Included within the bloody fun and satire, there is also a layer of meta, self-awareness in Resurrection. Much like Scream, the dominating horror series at the time, Resurrection playfully turns the camera on its audience. Since the dawn of the slasher subgenre, there have always been two opposing views on the depiction of graphic, on-screen violence. One prominent camp affirms that such alarming acts of cruelty desensitizes its audience and dangerously turns what should be interpreted as disturbing into commonplace entertainment. The opposing camp believes audiences can separate reality from fiction, that the depiction of violence provides a cathartic experience for the viewer, allowing them to experience the feeling of fear in a healthy, cleansing manner. In the movie, Sara represents the latter, while the rest of her supporting contestants represent the former.

These supporting characters are satirical representations of moviegoers who enjoy slashers solely for the sex and violence they feature. Every one of them is portrayed as one-dimensional, flesh-obsessed simpletons. “Come on Jen, one flash and you can light up a thousand computer screens,” one horny youngster, Bill, says to his co-contestant, Jen, in hope of getting her to bare it all for the camera. It’s no coincidence that Jen sits on the very chair that a naked Judith Myers was killed on in the opening moments of the original Halloween. The very idea that the Myers sister had been murdered in that room makes Bill oddly frisky, and Jen even more oddly okay with it. But these shallow characters mirror the allegedly shallow audience they represent, so their absurdity checks out. Later, as the group wonders where an already dead Bill has gone, Jen insists that he must be planning to pop out and scare her. “You watch,” she emphasizes while looking directly down the barrel of her attached camera. Jen is, on a deeper level, mocking the real life audience, pointing out that she exists only as an excuse to be terrorized and murdered for mass entertainment, nothing more. Like a ritual, we watch. She dies. We are satisfied.

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Yet, Sara’s existence as the main character defends the argument that horror can be interpreted as so much more than mere exploitation. She is empathetic and alert. She represents a horror audience that wants to feel the visceral effects of danger and see the projected main character fight their way to survival. This side of the horror audience coin is further expressed through the character, Deckard, who literally watches Sara’s on-screen fight for survival with an audience. Deckard is Sara’s cyber friend who Sara believes is her age but is secretly only a freshman in high school. At a house party, Deckard finds a computer room to watch the Dangertainment unfold. Throughout the night, more and more youngsters join Deckard to watch the live stream. Once the stabbing begins, Deckard is sure that the shocking violence is real, but everyone else in the room sees it only as a cheap trick. They laugh and mock the cheesy attempts at shock. But Deckard knows better, he can feel the reality of the situation and empathizes with the victims. At first, the eye rolling group of teens mock Deckard for his overreaction to the cheap thrills. But as the blood gets heavier and Sara’s panic becomes more engrossing, these kids start fathoming the reality of the situation. By the time the climax of the movie is reached, the entire group is fully absorbed in Sara’s fight for survival. They yell at the screen for Sara to escape Michael’s wrath, completely consumed and captivated by the visceral experience before them.

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This group of youngsters portrays both prominent camps of horror consumers: those that enjoy the sexual, gore-filled entertainment, and those that gain a sense of empathy and cathartic purge from the gripping experience. The fact that these kids change from one camp to the next through the course of the narrative promotes the idea that horror audiences are capable of utilizing both mindsets with their entertainment. The key ingredient being Sara, an endearing protagonist that viewers can identify with and root for.

Diving ever deeper into the meta, Busta Rhymes’ character, Freddie, can be interpreted as a satirical take on the stereotypical horror movie producer. Motivated only by the money and notoriety his program can bring, Freddie manipulates the set of the Myers’ home in any way necessary. Adding grisly props and even dressing up as Michael Myers to scare the contestants, Freddie’s dream of making it big in reality entertainment won’t be held back by petty principles like ethics and integrity. He embodies the kind of horror movie producer motivated by exploiting the genre. To this kind of filmmaker, sex and gore are the essential ingredients to win over an audience, leaving the heart of a likable protagonist and cerebral themes of human darkness as disposable seconds.

But rather than stay the unlikable goon, Freddie learns from his toxic greed once everybody involved in his project, with exception to Sara, ends up dead. This results in a hilariously entertaining climax where Sara and Freddie team up to pass through the gauntlet that is Michael Myers. Toward the end of the action packed showdown, Sara stands up against the darkness she fears most by attacking Myers with a chainsaw! An empowering moment for any respectable horror audience indeed. But just as Sara’s weapon fails her, Freddie busts through the door to end the shape once and for all. “Trick or treat, mother fucker!” Move over Freddy and Jason, the real clash of the early 2000s belongs to Michael and Busta.

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After Freddie gives Michael a stern genital electrocuting, he and Sara flee to safety, leaving the shape to burn in flames. Now, after confronting true evil, both survivors have faced their inner demon and made it out the other side. Sara peered into the eyes of the malevolent shadow figure she so greatly feared, while Freddie confronted the evil he so arrogantly exploited. When the media rushes the two with cameras, Freddie brings it all home, “Michael Myers is a killer shark…that gets his kicks off of killing everyone and everything he comes across.” He is no longer interested in exploiting the darkness after witnessing its devastating outcome. Also, as Michael is shuffled away on a stretcher, Freddie takes a moment to tell him he looks “like some chicken fried mother fucker.” Burn.

Halloween: Resurrection may not provide the most profound viewing experience you’ll ever have, but upon close examination, you may find its widely accepted position as worst Halloween movie in the franchise a bit harsh. As far as slashers go, it’s not trying to reinvent the wheel, it simply wants to have some good old fashion fun with a healthy side of satirical commentary on horror audiences and fame. And most importantly, it does so without sacrificing the essential elements that make Michael Myers the mysterious murdering machine that he is. That’s more than a lot of entries in the Halloween series can claim to say.

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