November 25, 2022

How Donald Pleasence Became a Halloween Mainstay

Jamie Lee Curtis Bows as Laurie Strode in Halloween ends (2022). Her return is a great reminder that you can’t hold back a Final Girl. But Laurie isn’t Michael Myers’ only longtime nemesis. From 1978 to 1995, Donald pleaseit is Sam Loomis constantly pursued the slasher icon in the original film series, ranting and haunting throughout. It consumes him, and even in the less successful installments, Pleasence remains a constant presence. In a signature trench coat, speaking poetic words of doom, Pleasence’s intense blue eyes widen in fear and understanding of the monster he faces. Dr. Loomis’ paranoia might escalate, but it’s really a logical evolution of the character. An obsession like this takes its toll, but it persists. In legacy sequels made after his death, voiceovers and a brief prosthetic recreation ensured that Pleasence’s legacy to the Halloween The franchise continues to thrive. No matter how convoluted the storylines got, Pleasence remained the show’s early anchor.

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Loomis opposed Michael from the start

At the beginning of the original HalloweenDr. Loomis already knows Michael Myers (Nick’s Castle) is capable of horrible deeds. “Don’t underestimate him,” Dr. Loomis tells Nurse Marion (Nancy Stephens) as she approaches Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. The torrential downpours make this nighttime drive treacherous enough without this warning. In a fraction of a second, Michael escapes and Loomis is in charge of finding his ex-patient. Until Haddonfield, Loomis is cause for concern. Once in Haddonfield, he forces Sheriff Brackett (Charlie’s figures) to keep the cops away longer. But no sign of Michael makes Loomis look like the doc who yelled at the monster.

RELATED: ‘Halloween Ends’ review: Michael and Laurie face off in a mediocre movie with a satisfying conclusion

He is undeterred, patrolling the quiet neighborhood streets, in and out of the shadows. He stands guard at the Myers house, scaring a group of children with wicked glee. His trench coat flutters in the wind like a cape. All of this makes for a beautiful picture. Six bullets from Loomis’ pistol didn’t stop Michael, and in 1981 Halloween 2 the night is not over yet. Loomis hits the ground where Michael’s body should be, finding blood. Hands glistening red, Loomis alerts a concerned neighbor to call the police ASAP! The man laments being cheated or treated to death earlier that night. Loomis assures him: “You don’t know what death is!” Cue the revamped, heavily synthesized Halloween 2 theme by John Charpentier and Alan Howarth.

Loomis and his “fancy talk” are highlights of films featuring the character. In Halloween 2they start to become imbalance. “The tribe, one of their own has been slaughtered — it’s a vigil!” he shouts hysterically, watching the townspeople ransack the Myers house. Although Pleasence didn’t pronounce “Samhain” correctly (it’s pronounced “Sah-win”), all can be forgiven for how entertainingly he delivers his lines. It all adds up to a flamboyant side to Loomis, a dramatic flair that extends to the way he moves. Before running, the doc wobbles to one side. He is theatrical with his arms. Halloween 2 ends with a chase through the city’s desolate hospital. Here we see Pleasence perform those moves for a rare and exciting setting. The two Lauries and Loomis is forced to escape from Michael, rush through the halls and reach a dead end – an operating room to lock himself in. It’s a shame that Laurie and Loomis couldn’t share the screen more during these movies. And, at the end of Halloween 2we learn that even a massive fireball can’t destroy old Sam.

Pleasence maintained continuity after Curtis left

Without Curtis in the cast, the 1998s Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) relies heavily on the powerful presence of Pleasence to bring the story of Michael Myers to life. And he often holds the screen, even when sharing it with hulking characters, like muscle cops or an increasingly tall Michael. Whether you love or hate Halloween 4 and its immediate sequel, 1989’s Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, Loomis is a highlight. “I prayed for him to burn in hell,” he laments. “But in my heart, I knew hell wouldn’t have it. Later, hoping to be heard, he shouts into the dark woods, “Michael, go home. Go home!” In the years 1995 Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, Pleasence is older but just as engaged in what would be his last full appearance before his death. Sporting a snow-white beard and moving slower than ever, Dr. Loomis remains a respected character, a stark contrast to Jamie’s unfortunate fate (Danielle Harris) and Rachel (Ellie Cornell). He visits Debra (Kim Darby), her family living in the Myers household, with the goal of having her leave immediately. “That force – that thing that lived inside of him – came from a source too violent, too deadly for you to imagine,” he implores. “She grew inside him, contaminating his soul. It was…pure evil. And he gives sleazy Dr. Wynn a death stare (Michael Ryan), Pleasence’s blue eyes are still piercing.

In these last three episodes, there are still small quirks in the performance. At the beginning of Revenge, Loomis plays with the stringy hair of a pumpkin decoration in the establishment where Jamie is. At the Myers’, a dead animal suddenly falls beside him, scaring the poor man, to which he then lets out a relieved chuckle. But Come back and Curse show an increasingly paranoid and nervous Loomis. The way he gets upset that Jamie can’t talk as fast as he wants doesn’t paint a good picture of what he was like with other younger patients, either. But it’s a slasher series. There is no evidence that Michael Myers can be helped, child or adult. It will only bring death. Loomis does not seek the rehabilitation of his ex-patient but extermination. Coming face to face with the human embodiment of evil and destruction, as Loomis has done time and time again, could push anyone over the edge. One character mentions that Loomis holds a position “more ceremonial than medical”. Isn’t that the truth. He doesn’t have time to be on time. When Michael goes into self-induced hibernation. Loomis sits, waiting for the beast to stir. Through it all, it’s obvious that Pleasence is having a great time. If you smile at any of Loomis’ lines or actions, so be it. Pleasence knew what he was doing. He said so in a 1989 interview with Marc Shaprio, while filming for Halloween 5.

“I tended to play Loomis with a light touch – not totally comedic, but in a way that matches those films’ attention to suspense and tension. To play Loomis totally heavy, the way the director [Dominique Othenin-Girard] on this movie trying to get me to do, seems to be at odds with how the character was set up. But I have no problem taking their money and dancing their dance, as long as I can take their dancing away from them. I’m doing that on this movie right now. They just haven’t realized it yet.”

In February 1995, Donald Pleasence died and Curse was dedicated to him. It would not be the last tribute. Voiceovers appeared with Tom Kane please do your best imitation for Halloween: H20 (1998) and Colin Mahon do his for Halloween (2018). By far, Loomis’ cameo in halloween kills (2021) is the most impressive act honoring Pleasence. Not only does the make-up and neat lighting sell the recreation, but the movements of the construction foreman Tom Jones Jr. are also absolutely flawless. He enters the Myers house with a slight jump and a bounce. Leaving to watch a Michael who will soon be apprehended, he staggers towards the exit. It could be mistaken for a Pleasence performance. Chris Nelson, the visual effects makeup artist, explained that no CGI was used. Instead, an “11-piece prosthetic makeup with hairpieces” did the job of bringing Loomis back to the franchise. And while Curtis returned to the franchise twice with reset continuity and a clean slate, Pleasence continued to plug into the confines of the show’s muddled mythology. In all the crazy directions of the first batch of sequels, the late actor was in for it. Whether it was beating Michael with a plank of wood or struggling with the rituals of the Cult of Thorn, Loomis was in the thick of the action. And Pleasence made sure the character never wavered.