It is usually a large combination of factors, both internal and external, that lead to the death of an entertainment franchise, but in the case of the Halloween movies the blame falls squarely on the failures of Halloween: Resurrection.
By most accounts the worst of the currently ten film franchise, 2002’s Resurrection could only be counted as a true follow-up to John Carpenters seminal 1978 horror classic Halloween because it features both Michael Myers and Jamie Lee Curtis’s original scream queen character, Laurie Strode. Otherwise, its tired haunted house motif and paper thin characters offer nothing but worn out clichés. And yet for all its faults — of which there are many — Resurrection is the most puzzlingly prescient installment of the whole franchise. Its dot-com gimmick anticipated the rise of social media and introduced eventual technology like live-streaming years before it went mainstream.
The plot of Resurrection is deceptively simple. Its introduction makes most Halloween fans cringe: Michael tracks his sister Laurie down (again) and murders her after the events of the previous installment sent her to a mental hospital. Then, Michael returns home. The so-called Shape sets up shop in his family’s ramshackle house in Haddonfield, IL only to find that it’s been overtaken by an entrepreneur named Freddie Harris (played by Busta Rhymes) and his girlfriend Nora (Tyra Banks), who have outfitted the notorious abandoned former household for their company, Dangertainment.
Freddie and Nora have wired dozens of tiny cameras throughout the house, equiped a handful of opportunistic local college-aged teenagers — “We’re gonna be bigger than the Osbournes!” says one — and tasks them with spending the night in the Boogeyman’s house, with POV cams to capture the whole ordeal. They’ll receive a handsome cash prize if they last until sun-up, and unbeknownst to them, Michael Myers is dead set on making sure they won’t be able to collect.
The catch is that it’s not on TV. Random worldwide internet viewers can log on and follow the spooky action themselves by choosing to track it all in multiple perspectives or focus on one hapless teenager they want to to see sliced and diced through Dangertainment’s interactive website. The gimmick works both for the characters in the film and for the movie itself.
The video cameras are initially a ruse for Freddy to scare the players with fake skeletons and his own Michael Myers get-up to drum up ratings until — gasp! — Michael Myers is there actually killing off the participants one by one. This gimmick was also a way for the director, Rick Rosenthal, to ferry a franchise that had been defined by a 1970s aesthetic into a more contemporary age with a post-Blair Witch Project flair; it boasted then-cutting edge technology like dial-up modems, Palm Pilots, and those multicolored iMacs.
Rosenthal never really manages to do anything significant with the premise, and the POV setup is nothing more than a mere contrivance for boring horror kills. It’s as if the filmmakers watched MTV’s early-aughts horror reality show Fear —where contestants wore similar camera rigs and explored supposedly haunted locales — and figured they could just put that in a movie. It doesn’t make the narrative any more astute, but it’s thematically fascinating in retrospect, especially for such a terrible movie.
Dangertainment’s arrangement mirrors the event-based activity that social media platforms like Twitter are trying to incorporate to drive traffic. Resurrection’s idea of collective participation in digital events is based around what is ostensibly a Facebook live stream that literally saves lives.
A character named Deckard (Ryan Merriman), who was in an email exchange with Dangertainment participant Sara (Bianca Kajlich), watches the Myers house event at a Halloween party with a huge group of friends. When the contestants start getting picked off, the characters are already desensitized to online violence that they perceive as fake. “She really is a very talented actress,” says a partygoer after watching Michael Myers brutally murder a female contestant. “How’d they do that?” another inquires after Myers decapitates someone. But when Deckard catches wind of the reality of what’s going on — making the viewers complicit in the violence — his interactions with Sara via a messaging program help him steer clear of Myers throughout the house to safety without the pair ever meeting in the movie.
Halloween: Resurrection had the surprising foresight of predicting the way younger audiences would want to simultaneously absorb different forms of entertainment in the digital space, and how that could go very wrong. Mark Zuckerberg should thank Michael Myers. Who knew?