September 25, 2012

Death Rattle Double Feature: The Rise and Fall of Jamie Lloyd

In this week's Double Feature, I'll be reviewing two films that cover the "rise and fall" of the fictional Jamie Lloyd character. Those two films are the fourth and fifth chapters of the HALLOWEEN series. I realize that "rise and fall" is inaccurate when referring to Jamie's character arc, and I also realize that, in order to cover her entire arc, I'd have to review the sixth HALLOWEEN film as well. But "rise and fall" just sounds cool! And, to me, and with all due respect to J.C. Brandy, Jamie Lloyd will always be Danielle Harris. And, yes, there will be spoilers.

Both Danielle Harris and the character of Jamie Lloyd have always been important figures to me, which is why I wanted to do a post dedicated to these two particular HALLOWEEN films. I watched these movies growing up, and even though Danielle is a few years older than me, she appeared to be the same age as me by the time I watched them. Danielle was blessed with good genetics; even to this day in her mid-30s, she still looks incredibly young and baby-faced. That being said, I could relate to her character in a way. While there were a lot of movies back then that featured children in fairly adult situations, seeing Jamie Lloyd in the HALLOWEEN movies stuck with me considerably more than young characters in other films. I had never seen a character as young as hers being terrorized in such a manner, and not just terrorized, but stalked and menaced by one of the scariest horror icons of all time, Michael Myers. The thing is, I wasn't traumatized or frightened by seeing Jamie getting chased and attacked by an enigmatic, soulless killer who towered over her. Even at a young age, horror movies didn't really bother me that way. I could distinguish reality from fiction as it pertains to cinema, and I was never prone to have nightmares. I saw Jamie Lloyd as a heroic figure more than anything else; not a victim. Last year, I teamed up with Behind the Couch to put together a list of our favorite Final Girls. Jamie Lloyd was my #1 pick. We purposely left out the obvious choices like Ginny, Laurie, and Nancy, but even if we did include those mighty heroines of Slasher lore, Jamie would probably still be at the top of my list.

Jamie's story begins in HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS. It's ten years after the events of PART 2 (the last time we saw Michael Myers), which saw both Myers and Dr. Loomis being engulfed in flames as Laurie Strode barely escaped from a hospital with her life. In HALLOWEEN 4, even ten years later, Myers is wrapped in bandages like the invisible man and has apparently been in a coma the entire time. As he's being transported from one sanitarium to another, he suddenly awakens and kills the paramedics who are escorting him. Myers, like a robot programmed to kill, immediately embarks on a journey back to his old stomping grounds of Haddonfield, IL. Waiting for him there is Jamie Lloyd, the daughter of Laurie Strode. Jamie lives with a foster family since her mother "died" in a car accident. Little does poor Jamie know, Michael's reign of terror in Haddonfield is far from over, and the mythical boogeyman is about to show up at her front door.

Of course it goes without saying that Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode is the quintessential Final Girl. Big Mike put her through hell, but is it possible that she went through such a harrowing experience in the first two HALLOWEEN movies that she passed the trauma on to her unborn child? It's established right away at the beginning of HALLOWEEN 4 when the angelic Jamie is introduced that she suffers from nightmares and hallucinations. She sees Michael Myers in her sleep before ever getting a glimpse of him in real life. Michael Myers is such a terrifying figure that Jamie Lloyd was literally born afraid of him. I know I'm just looking too deeply into things by suggesting theories, but it's fun to dissect things like this every once in a while. Whatever the case, what we do know (not right away, but eventually) is that Jamie and Michael have some sort of psychic bond, and this is something that's touched on even further in HALLOWEEN 5. It's not often you see a connection like that between a killer and potential victim in a horror movie, and this is one of the reasons why I find these two films to be interesting viewing experiences despite their many flaws.

To pull back the curtain and talk about the film's conceptualization and production would simply be re-hashing old news that's been around for many years. I can sit here and suggest theories all day long, but the truth of the matter is that Jamie Lee Curtis wanted to separate herself from the horror genre, and therefore her character was phased out of the story and a new damsel-in-distress was ushered in. The writers at the time needed to come up with a way to bring Michael Myers back and connect him to a new female victim, and that's about all there is to it. But even though the Laurie Strode character was removed from the picture as a physical presence, an important piece of the puzzle had returned.

The iconic Ahab that is Dr. Loomis has returned to catch his own personal Moby Dick. This is another element of the HALLOWEEN films that I love so much. You have a killer relentlessly hunting down a specific female victim, and on the other hand you have a man who's driven by obsession relentlessly hunting down the killer throughout a series of films. It's suggested in this one that Loomis's sanity is slipping away, and in the next film it's clear that he's lost his goddamn mind.

Even though Jamie Lloyd is very much an important part of HALLOWEEN 4, she's actually not in it that much, and she doesn't really assume the Final Girl role until the next film. Jamie's irresponsible foster sister, Rachel, plays a big part in this film and gradually assumes the role of the heroic Final Girl as she stops worrying about boys and realizes she needs to protect Jamie from Myers. The character of Dr. Loomis plays a big part in the film as well, which also doesn't leave much room for Jamie. And then, of course, you have Michael Myers killing EVERYONE. Mike is really on a fucking roll in this movie; he even destroys an entire police station and kills all of the cops inside of it. That's dedication.

It really goes without saying to people who have seen this that it's got problems. Some would argue that it's even disgraceful to its predecessors. I'm obviously biased here, but I'm not necessarily blinded by love. I'll never call HALLOWEEN 4 a great movie, and there isn't a viewing of this film that goes by where I don't wish it still had the same style and sense of dread as the earlier HALLOWEEN films. Cinematographer Dean Cundey is indeed missed this time around (and in future HALLOWEEN films as well). Cundey had a masterful way of working with shadows and minimal lighting to create an utterly spooky and unsettling atmosphere that we just don't get in this film or any of the following ones for that matter. To be fair, there are moments of style here and there, but if one were to watch these films in order, the change in appearance from the previous movie to this one would be pretty drastic. Also, the amount of name-calling in this movie is almost comedic. And by name-calling I mean every character, it seems, is addressed by their name whenever they're spoken to - in some cases even multiple times per conversation. But, despite its problems, I'll always be able and willing to make an argument for it and especially the next one.

The story continues in HALLOWEEN 5, known to some with the sub-title THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS. At the end of the previous film, Myers was shot to shit by whatever cops in Haddonfield that hadn't killed yet and Jamie Lloyd was seemingly set up to follow in Michael's footsteps and be the new killer. Of course as you all know that ended up being a big cocktease. Myers somehow survived being hit by a tsunami of shotgun rounds and got carried away down a stream, where he climbed out of the water to his safety and was rescued by an old hermit. When we see Jamie, it's a year later and she's now a mute who resides in a clinic for troubled children. She's still having nightmares, and her premonitions of Myers are more intense and vivid than ever. Jamie has a serious meltdown that coincides with Myers suddenly awakening from a coma and killing the poor hermit who saved his life. On a side note, I would love to see a movie about the hermit that takes place over a course of the year that he looked after the comatose Myers. I often wonder what happened during that year. Did he hook Myers up to an IV? Did he bathe him? Or perhaps Myers wasn't even in a coma at all and he occasionally awoke to go fishing in the nearby stream with the old man. I guess we'll never know.

One of the first times we see Myers in this film, there's a certain reveal that, to some, marks the HALLOWEEN franchise taking a step beyond the point of no return (that is, unless you were gonna reboot the series). For some reason, Myers has a tattoo on his wrist that would later be revealed to be the Thorn symbol, which is representative of a cult that Myers apparently has ties with. The idea of a cult is introduced in this film but never fully elaborated on until the next movie (specifically the Producer's Cut, which only saw the light of day in bootleg form), but the introduction of a mysterious Man in Black certainly steers things in that direction. Myers, apparently, has had someone pulling the strings all along, or so it seems. This could have been an interesting direction for the series, and I for one was certainly excited by this film's cliffhanger ending when I first saw it back in the day, but of course we all know how that ultimately turned out.

Aside from Jamie and of course Dr. Loomis, we see the return of Jamie's foster sister, Rachel, as well as her annoying best friend Tina. I'm sure many saw it as a surprise when Rachel - a main character in the previous film - was killed so early in this one, but I think it's an interesting and almost logical creative choice. Jamie was carried (literally and figuratively) by Rachel in the previous film; now the chord has basically been cut, so to speak, with Rachel out of the picture for good, and the torch has been passed on to Jamie to take her place as the new Final Girl. All bets are off and Jamie Lloyd is now on her own without someone to protect her. Sure, there's Tina, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out that she'll be a goner by the time the movie ends.

One slight advantage that this film has over PART 4 is style. There's some interesting camera work in this one - a lot more Michael Myers POV camera shots, an unnecessary but cool POV shot from behind a piece of paper than Jamie is frantically drawing on, and a POV shot of Jamie falling down a laundry chute just to name a few. However, the mystique of Michael Myers is almost completely gone by this point. Myers is a lot more exposed and accessible this time around, and he's pretty much reduced from a living breathing boogeyman to just some masked killer who's raking up a body count, especially when you see him driving a car for a small portion of the film, which is something that humanizes the character and, in a way, makes him less terrifying.

I personally prefer HALLOWEEN 5 to its predecessor, but, again, that doesn't mean it's a great movie, or even a good one for that matter. If I were to critique both of these films fairly and without bias, I would say that PART 4 has a slight advantage over this one in terms of overall quality, or that they're both somewhat equal at the very least, with each having strengths over the other in certain areas. But I do love me some HALLOWEEN 5, and the main reason for that is obviously Jamie Lloyd. She overcomes a lot in this movie: severe trauma, a physical disability, careless and irresponsible adults who are supposed to be protecting her, and at one point she's even used as fucking bait to lure out Michael Myers. That's a lot for a little girl to go through, and on top of that it seemed to be a demanding role for actress Danielle Harris - if not mentally or emotionally, then at least physically. As I said in my aforementioned Final Girl article, Jamie Lloyd, in this film, has enough sense to play on the mental instability of Michael Myers as a means of buying some time and distracting him while in survival mode during their big showdown; while it's ultimately not Jamie who's responsible for the downfall of Myers, her fighting spirit and survival instincts allowed her to overcome a seemingly unstoppable force almost twice her size. I hope this write-up will at least allow people to look at Jamie in a different light the next time they watch either one of these movies and see her for the little warrior that she really is. Part of me will never forgive HALLOWEEN 6 for killing her off. Viva la Jamie Lloyd, motherfuckers.


  1. Great article, Aaron! I saw part 4 in the theater and was pretty psyched to see it. I like it less now than I did at the time. I did enjoy some of the moody theatricality of some of the sets, but Meyers was too sophisticated in this movie. He was just Jason in a blank mask which is arguably the worst looking of the series (although there's a reason for that).

    Part 5 is the runner up for worst series entry in my book. An atrocious movie on par with that Robbie Z bowel movement some two decades later.

    Regarding the driving of the car, Meyers drove a car for a good portion of the first movie and also in the fourth film. To me, this doesn't detract from him at all. What ruins this series is trying to explain or hint at what drives him. This was already sufficiently explained in the second film, which itself was adding to the mythology, but at least in a realistic fashion.

    However, I did like the opening ten minutes or so of part 5 until after Meyers kills the old man. The sequence towards the end in the school(?) was good too. Loomis was supposed to have died in this one and I think this was the only one he disliked appearing in.

  2. Thanks, Brian! Even though I'm biased, I don't think Part 5 is even close to being the worst, but that's just my opinion. Part 6 and RESURRECTION are my least favorites, although I would like to re-watch Part 6 soon since I haven't seen it in years. If I were to count Rob Zombie's version, I'd easily put that in the bottom three of the HALLOWEEN films as well. And yes, I'm aware that Myers drove a car in other movies besides this one, but I think they showed way too much of it in Part 5, and for someone who's apparently been in a coma off-and-on for the last 11 or 12 years, I was annoyed by the fact that he pretty much drifted the car at one point. Even I don't know how to do that!