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Top 10 Kills From the ‘Halloween’ Series!

Originally published on October 25, 2010.

Of all the slasher franchises that have sprung up over the last 30 years, I find that I have the most personal connection with Halloween. The 1978 original was the first horror movie I genuinely fell in love with – those elegant wide shots, that spine-tingling score, those autumn leaves twirling through frame – and it was a staple of my late-night movie-watching ritual as a teenager. The rest of the series doesn’t hold quite the same nostalgia for me (although Halloween II comes close, due to it so often being screened back-to-back with the first movie in the weeks leading up to Halloween), but luckily every single one of the films – minus the anomaly of the third installment – feature Michael Myers, for my money the greatest of all slasher-movie killers.

And he’s nothing if not prolific. As a matter of fact, in the span of films stretching from Carpenter’s 1978 original to Rob Zombie’s highly polemical Halloween 2 “remake” released just last year, Myers has claimed a whopping 110 victims. And while he’s not as creative a killer as contemporaries Jason Voorhees or Freddy Krueger (though with Krueger it’s really not a fair comparison – he can manipulate people’s dreams for chrissakes), none of those others are capable of wielding a good old fashioned kitchen knife in quite the same way. Sometimes, simplicity is key.

Now, after much contemplation – and in honor of the quickly-approaching holiday that shares the series’ name – following are my picks for the top ten kills in the Halloween franchise (yes, that includes the Rob Zombie films!), culled from a field of over one hundred. My process was simple – I simply watched every single kill from every single film (ah, such a tough life) while judging them on their creativity, realism, atmosphere, and overall visceral impact – and then narrowed it down, slowly, to my top ten (not an easy task; for me it was kind of like having to choose which child I loved the best). At the end of the day I know many B-D readers will wholeheartedly disagree with my choices, but no one can say I didn’t do my research.

#10

Victim: Karen (Pamela Susan Shoop)
Film: Halloween II (1981)
Method: Scalded/Drowned in Jacuzzi Tub

Instead of watching her infant patients like a good healthcare provider would, smokin’-hot nurse Karen just had to fuck around by taking a skinny dip in the hospital’s Jacuzzi with boyfriend Budd (that’s two “d”s). In other words, she kind of had it coming. Her death – definitely a highlight of the film – is particularly memorable due to the fact that it’s just so damn disgusting. After poor, wolfish Budd is dispatched with a tight cord around the neck, a clueless Karen – following a brief make-out session with Michael Myers’ hand – is repeatedly dunked by the merciless killer into the scalding-hot water of the Jacuzzi tub, until you can actually spot the nasty flaps of burnt skin hanging off her face. I know it sounds bad, but I actually really enjoy watching the final dead-weight flop of her right arm as she’s brought up for the last time and then dumped to the cold, cold floor like a dead fish. Gee, now who’s going to neglect the newborns?

#9

Victim: Doctor (Fred Lerner)
Film: Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
Method: Face Smashed Through Bars

This super-raunchy kill just goes to show that even the most minor of characters can sometimes suffer the most heinous deaths. Rushing from an operating room where the rest of his colleagues have just been massacred by Myers, the unfortunate doctor has his head smashed through a set of bars by the maniac after the two hit a dead end and, well…Myers needs to get to the other side. The awesomeness of the kill pretty much speaks for itself, but it does go along with a couple interesting bits of trivia: 1) This scene was part of the extensive re-shoots (an entire new ending was filmed) done on the movie after some less-than-stellar test screenings. Due to an apparent conflict in George P. Wilbur’s schedule, A. Michael Lerner was hired to play Myers for these additional scenes, meaning the Myers you see on screen during this kill is not portrayed by the same actor as in the first 2/3 of the film. 2) Even more interestingly, the man playing the doctor is none other than Lerner’s father Fred Lerner, who was a stunt coordinator on Halloween 4 (patricide!) 3) The original kill scene in the “producer’s cut” was much gorier than what was actually shown in the theatrical version. Due to fears of being slapped with an NC-17 rating, the messiest bits – shots of the doctor’s face actually separating into three sections and flopping to the floor – had to be excised by the director. Luckily, bootleg copies of the producer’s cut have been widely circulated around the Internet for the last several years, and below you can view a side-by-side comparison of both versions of the face-through-the-bars kill scene by one of the series’ (presumably virginal) uber-fans. Ladies…he’s available.

#8

Victim: John Strode (Bradford English)
Film: Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
Method: Electrocuted

As quite possibly the worst sequel in the history of the original franchise (though once could also make an argument for both Part 5 and Resurrection), Halloween 6 nevertheless boasts its share of sweet-ass kills. This one features Michael’s relative John Strode, as he’s electrocuted in the basement of the original Myers home in spectacular fashion. Let me lay it out for you, since the below clip doesn’t really do it justice: 1) Michael stabs Strode through the belly and out the other side; 2) Michael lifts the heavy man off the floor (in an incredible display of strength, I might add); 3) Michael stabs the blade poking out of Strode’s back into the fuse box, with Strode caught in the middle; 4) Strode convulses wildly as the electrical current courses through his body; 5) We get an exterior shot of the house, where the lights can be seen flickering on and off rapidly through the windows; 6) Back on Strode, now foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog as sparks shoot out all around him; 7) Close up on Strode’s hand, which now resembles a hunk of meat left too long on the barbeque; 8) BOOM! Strode’s body blows the fuck up. See what I mean?

#7

Victim: Lynda van der Klok (P.J. Soles)
Film: Halloween (1978)
Method: Strangulation with telephone cord

True to the nearly blood-free nature of the first film there’s none of the red stuff to be seen, but this is nevertheless (arguably) the most iconic kill in Carpenter’s original. This one was partially so effective due to the great, suspenseful build-up, as the clueless Lynda can’t see past her need for beer to realize that the dude under the sheet with the glasses is in fact not her boyfriend (he’s downstairs pinned to the kitchen wall, see), and then Myers’ slow, agonizing march toward the poor dumb girl as she gets up to dial Laurie on the telephone (“this night is going nowhere!”). For me, the creepiest element of the scene is the fact that Laurie doesn’t realize that her friend is being murdered at the other end of the receiver (not to mention just across that eerily still suburban street). When you think about it, the scene is really a pure distillation of the unholy alliance between sex and death that’s so often trafficked in by the slasher film; the combination of Myers’ frantic, murderous breathing and Soles’ strangled, orgasmic cries as she fights for her life is the stuff of nightmares.

#6

Victim: Misty Dawn (Sylvia Jefferies)
Film: Halloween 2 (2009)
Method: Face Smashed Repeatedly Against Mirror

I love myself a creative kill as much as the next horror freak, but sometimes there’s no substitute for a good ol’ head-bashing – particularly if its filmed by Rob Zombie, who has few peers when it comes to the bone-crunching fury of his murder scenes. In this one, trashy stripper Misty is grabbed by the back of the head and, well, smashed to a bloody pulp in the nightmarishly red-and-blue-tinged back hallway of a seedy small-town strip club (the swirling lights of the disco ball are also a nice touch). Like most of the deaths in the film, there’s just something so horribly real about it (much of that is due to the top-notch editing job; the first time I watched it the cuts truly never registered). The film itself certainly has more detractors than fans (my opinion lies somewhere in between), but if you watch the kill scenes in isolation they are a triumph of no-holds-barred realism; the fact that you come away from them feeling the need for a scalding-hot shower certainly isn’t something you can say about the kills in most slasher flicks.

#5

Victim: Judith Myers (Hanna Hall)
Film: Halloween (2007)
Method: Stabbed

I know what you’re thinking: how could I have chosen Judith’s death from the remake over the far more iconic P.O.V. kill in the original? My answer: because I can. The 1978 version of the murder is certainly effective, but I actually prefer Zombie’s take on it – and this is coming from someone who absolutely hated the film. It again goes back to my argument that while the director (so far) lacks the focus needed of a great storyteller (not to mention an ear for dialogue that isn’t groaningly hammer-headed), he has a real knack for staging visceral, unsettlingly realistic murder scenes. Watch it again if you don’t believe me. From that first vicious stab to the gut, to the prolonged, bloody stalk down the hallway followed by a vicious slashing from behind (accompanied by great screaming from actress Hanna Hall and some wicked knife-slicing-flesh sounds), it’s hard to deny just how well the scene works in isolation as a slice of pure-blooded, unsentimental horror that couldn’t be much different from Carpenter’s original interpretation.

#4

Victim: Jamie Lloyd (J.C. Brandy)
Film: Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
Method: Impaled on a Corn Thresher

Talk about creativity – whoever came up with this kill must surely be some kind of a twisted genius. While it would’ve certainly been great to see Danielle Harris – the original “Jamie Lloyd” – speared through with the blades of a corn threshing machine (I mean that as a compliment), this is still a strikingly effective and horrific murder that lingers in the memory long after the muddled awfulness of the film has subsided. Not to say that its effectiveness was merely due to the creativity of the method – even the most unique of murders can fall flat if not filmed properly – but rather the way in which it was conceived as a rather protracted and multi-layered kill. First there’s the shock of the initial impalement – so surprising due to the fact that the corn-threshing machine isn’t even set up – which is then followed by a deeper impalement (owie), before finally…Myers turns the damn thing on. Now that’s some shit.

#3

Victim: Annie Brackett (Danielle Harris)
Film: Halloween 2 (2009)
Method: Slashed/stabbed to death

Yes, I know the initial “kill” takes place off-screen (though we do witness Annie in her dying, blood-soaked throes later on), but nevertheless it works so well precisely for what we don’t see. One thing I will say for Rob Zombie’s Halloween remakes (particularly the second film) is that he’s able to sporadically wring some genuine pathos from them; despite all of his indulgences as a filmmaker (and there are many, some welcome and many not) he clearly has a soft spot for these characters. Case in point: Annie Brackett, who unlike in Carpenter’s original lives to see the sequel, albeit with facial scars that have rendered her a near-recluse. As a result we get to know her much better than we did in the ’78 film (in which she was essentially written as a clueless victim with no indication of a deeper emotional life), and so when her death actually comes it’s actually kinda heartbreaking, not to mention horrifying. While Zombie certainly deserves much of the credit – that slo-mo shot could have been cheesy but instead seems ripped from a nightmare – some must also go to star Danielle Harris. The Halloween veteran can scream with the best of them, and her painful wailing during the off-screen attack – at one point you can actually hear her bellowing “owowow!” – is undeniably hair-raising.

#2

Victim: Nurse Daniels (Octavia Spencer)
Film: Halloween 2 (2009)
Method: Stabbing

In spite of its uneven overall quality, Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2 is nevertheless an ambitious piece of work that features some incredibly brutal and disturbing kills; this one, featuring a nurse being stabbed repeatedly in the back by Myers as she crawls along the floor, is possibly the most brutal of all. It’s really a perfect combination of elements – Spencer’s pitch-perfect wail as Myers mercilessly stabs her over and over (and over and over and over) again, the startlingly persuasive sound effects as the knife plunges through flesh and bone, the masterful editing, the convincing heaps of gore (blood has rarely looked so real on screen). I much prefer Carpenter’s original incarnation of Myers as a silent and mysterious killer, but there is also something to be said for the no-holds-barred, brutal honesty of Zombie’s murder scenes. I heard one critic describe the kills in Halloween 2 as being akin to real-life war footage, and I have to agree – they’re nothing if not convincing, and this is the one that has stuck most in my mind.

#1

Victim: Annie Brackett (Nancy Loomis)
Film: Halloween (1978)
Method: Strangulation/Slit Throat

Bitch all you want, but it’s not my fault the character of Annie Brackett has inspired two great kill scenes. I first watched the original Halloween in my early teenage years on broadcast cable, and as a result Annie’s death was edited down to a brief “grab and slash”. Not until I saw the original, unedited version on VHS a couple years later did I realize just how horrifyingly drawn-out her murder really was. The strangulation alone is a full 30 seconds of writhing, gasping, and honking, as Annie desperately attempts to alert the neighbors to her plight, but really the entire scene is a masterstroke of suspense – from the close-up shot of the car door handle (wasn’t it locked just a minute ago?), to the fogged up windshield, to that first burst of nerve-jangling music and then on to the strangle and slice, for my money this is the greatest kill ever in the Halloween franchise. Sure, it might not be the goriest or the most clever, but therein lies a clue to its power – its simplicity and comparative realism puts us right in that driver’s seat with Annie, in those high yellow socks and plaid overshirt, squirming and choking and then…dying. If nothing else it’s that final, brilliant shot through the fogged-up window that truly makes this scene a work of art: Annie’s eyes going wide as Myers opens up her throat…the light leaving them as she slumps to the steering wheel…the final blast of the car’s horn substituting for the awful human scream that never came, and never will again.



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