by: Douglas Grant
To celebrate All Hallows’ Eve we remember one of fright night’s most infamous sons…
Halloween (1978): On Halloween night, 1963, in Haddonfield, Illinois, six year old Michael Myers perused the kitchen for a large butcher knife as his sister, Judith, was having carnal relations with her boyfriend upstairs. Waiting until Judith’s boyfriend has satisfied himself and then stolen off into the night, young Michael donned the clown mask of his Halloween costume, and then crept upstairs and walked into Judith’s bedroom to repeatedly stab his sister until she bled to death. Perhaps he’d been upset that she’d chosen sex over taking him trick-or-treating. Regardless, this act of savagery placed him on his chosen career path of psychotic serial killer. After killing Judith, he unapologetically waits on the front porch for his parents to arrive home from their relaxing evening out.
Fifteen years later, a fully grown Michael—who hasn’t uttered a word since his fratricide—escapes from the psychiatric ward he’s called home for the last decade and a half. He finds his way back to Haddonfield, killing a trucker for his blue coveralls and inexplicably stealing a Halloween mask from a costume shop while en route, and then proceeds to stalk high school student Laurie Strode, a shy and demure girl of seventeen. Laurie first notices Michael watching her outside of her classroom at school, and then later in the backyard of her house. Her friends think she’s being silly, and Michael seems to have an uncanny knack for disappearing like Batman whenever Laurie gives him a double take.
Meanwhile, the only person who seems to see the impending danger is Dr. Sam Loomis, Michael’s childhood psychiatrist and the only one who recognizes the significance that today is Halloween. He approaches Sheriff Leigh Bracket in order to conscript him into his cause. Sheriff Bracket is also the father of Laurie’s best friend, Annie. He reluctantly agrees to aid Loomis in his search for the wayward Michael.
That night Laurie and Annie are both babysitting two trick-or-treaters: Tommy Doyle and Lindsey Wallace. Annie leaves Lindsey in Laurie’s care while she goes to pick up her boyfriend, but she doesn’t make it very far. Michael cuts her throat before she can even start the car. Tommy, a strong believer in “The Boogeyman”, sees Michael carrying Annie’s body in the street, but his horror is dismissed by Laurie as being fantastic. Laurie, probably the only person in all of Haddonfield besides Loomis to have reason to believe Tommy, goes about her business as Michael, across the street at the Wallace house, impales her friend Bob with a kitchen knife and then chokes the life out of her other friend Lydia while dressed as a white sheet ghost.
Laurie is eventually overcome with a feeling of trepidation that causes her to cross the street and enter the Wallace house. There she finds the splayed out bodies of her three friends ornamented with the stolen headstone of Judith Myers. What ensues next is a bloody chase back across the street to the Doyle house, during which Laurie gets a few good stabs at Michael, but makes the repeated mistake of letting her guard down and turning her back to him once she’s under the impression that she’s killed him. She sends the children for help, ignoring Michael’s prone form on the floor, and then leans against a door jamb to catch her breath. A weaponless Michael rises and then proceeds to strangle Laurie with his bare hands until Dr. Loomis, who’s heard the screams of the children in the street and has entered the Doyle’s home, intervenes. After Laurie pulls Michael’s mask off (this is the only glimpse the audience will get of Michael’s face for the entirety of the series), Loomis unloads all six shots of his revolver on Michael, sending him off the balcony of the master bedroom where he lands on the front lawn. When Laurie asks her stranger-savior if that was the boogeyman, Loomis responds, “Yes, I do believe it was.” When Loomis moves to the balcony to view the body, he is surprised to find that Michael has disappeared. The movie then fades to black to Michael’s heavy breathing and theme music.
This movie was received by critics and fans alike as an instant classic, and although it was clearly inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Norman Bates and Toby Jones’ Leatherface, it reinvigorated the slasher genre and paved the way for the likes of Jason Voorhies, Freddy Krueger, Chucky, and all other psycho-killers who followed. Perhaps as iconic as the character of Michael Myers himself was the score, a dark and moody piano melody written by director John Carpenter himself.
Halloween II (1981): That very same Halloween night, the carnage continued. The audience at this point has no clear picture of Michael’s motivation for returning to Haddonfield and killing the local residents. If it was pure bloodlust, then killing his fellow patients at Smith’s Grove psychiatric hospital probably would have sufficed. But where the original movie posed questions, the sequel held answers.
As Laurie is rushed to the hospital to treat her injuries, Dr. Loomis and Sheriff Bracket continue their hunt for the wounded Michael. Michael continues his killing spree as he searches for Laurie, and he eventually learns of her location via a local radio broadcast. It’s important to note here that Michael begins killing people that the audience has barely gotten to know and cares little about, and already the series is in decline. However, the development of the story continues as Laurie, recuperating in the hospital under sedation, begins to experience repressed memories of being adopted by the Strodes, as well as visits to a strange boy in a mental hospital. At the same time, a nurse from Smith’s Grove arrives on the scene and informs Dr. Loomis that Michael Myers is really Laurie’s brother, while Loomis pieces together clues that Michael’s obsession with murder on Halloween night stems from Samhain, an occult Gaelic festival that marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, the darker half of the year. Loomis suspects that this is where Michael’s apparent invulnerability may originate from.
As Michael maims and kills his way into the Haddonfield hospital, Laurie begins to form a romantic attachment with her friend Jimmy Lloyd, a side story not even worth mentioning if didn’t bear relevance to future entries in the series. In the hospital, a few more murders happen to people we don’t care about, with enough variety in style to keep us entertained, and after Dr. Loomis shows up, a showdown happens in the hospital boiler room where Michael stabs Dr. Loomis in the stomach and Laurie shoots out both of Michael’s eyes. Michael swings his knife wildly in an effort to slash Laurie, but Dr. Loomis has other plans. While filling the room with gas he gives Laurie a chance to escape, and as Michael closes in Loomis lights up his Zippo, setting the boiler room ablaze and seemingly taking both him and Michael down in the ensuing inferno.
The next morning at dawn, Laurie is taken away in yet another ambulance with visions of Michael’s burning body to the tune of “Mr. Sandman”, Michael’s alternate B-side theme song. This would, at the moment, seem to be a satisfactory closure to a thrilling sequel.
Although the movie was directed by Rick Rosenthal, John Carpenter was still attached to the film as both writer and producer. He would not return for any more sequels, which as we will see, get more and more ludicrous with the unveiling of each chapter.
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988): Ten years have passed, and of course Michael Myers is not dead. He’s been in a coma ever since he was incinerated, and is awaiting transfer from one sanitarium to another. No big surprise, he wakes up en route to his next destination, and kills two EMT drivers in the process. Dr. Loomis returns to the scene, burned on one side of his face but not burned enough for us to suspend disbelief, and has a brief scuffle with Michael that leaves him marooned in a sea of corn fields, while Michael returns to Haddonfield in a stolen Mac truck.
So here’s what we learn: Laurie and Jimmy’s daughter, eight year old Jamie, is living in Haddonfield with her foster parents, the Carruthers. Apparently Laurie and Jimmy were killed in an auto accident, an anticlimactic explanation for Laurie’s absence in the film, but young Jamie seems to know who Michael Myers is and regularly has nightmares about him. Her foster sister, Rachel, has little patience for Jamie’s anxieties.
Michael miraculously reacquires the same William Shatner Halloween mask and blue coveralls that he wore in the first two films, and once again slaughters his way through a bunch of characters we are not invested in, in order to get to Jamie. At this point we know enough about Michael to know that he wishes death upon every last one of his family members. If he can’t kill his sister, then he’ll kill his niece instead.
When Dr. Loomis shows up in Haddonfield and alerts the new sheriff to the danger of Michael’s presence, the duo intercept Rachel and Jamie and whisk them away to the sheriff’s house under the assumption that there they’ll be safe. Loomis goes on the hunt for Michael, while Michael (of course) lacerates his way into the house and begins killing people in ways that are about as interesting as they are believable (i.e. impaling the sheriff’s daughter with a double-barrel shotgun). Jamie manages to escape, leaving an unconscious Rachel behind, and reunites with Loomis before the two head to a nearby school to hide. Michael shows up in a timely fashion and throws Loomis through a plate-glass window before pursuing Jamie. Rachel saves the day by arriving just in time and spraying Michael with a fire extinguisher (yes, a fire extinguisher). A lynch mob on the hunt for Michael finds the girls and attempts to move them to safety, unaware of the fact that Michael has hidden under the pickup truck, Cape Fear style. Michael attacks, is thrown clear of the truck onto the lip of an abandoned mine, and appears dead. Jamie briefly touches his hand before he rises, and then the police arrive to unload every last gun in their arsenal on Michael, who falls into the mine shaft.
The story would have ended there, but at the end of the movie, Jamie savagely attacks her foster mother with a pair of scissors, dressed in the same clown style costume that Michael wore when he killed his sister Judith at six. This ridiculous movie ends with Loomis screaming “No!” as he attempts to line up a shot at Jamie. Apparently Michael has possessed her through his physical contact with her. Fade to black.
You may have noticed that I jumped from Halloween II to Halloween 4 here. That’s because Halloween III: Season of the Witch has nothing whatsoever to do with the Michael Myers storyline, and involves Halloween masks that devour children from the inside out and a cult that turns people into robots. (Throat clearing….)
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989): When we left Michael he had fallen down a mine shaft. For good measure, and not wanting to take any chances, the police dynamite the mine. But wily old Michael has escaped through an irrigation canal, and floats down a stream until he wades out and stumbles upon a dwelling. There he finds a local hermit, and at first opportunity tries to choke out the river rat. But because of his wounds, he collapses. The river rat takes pity on Michael, despite being attacked by the man, and gives Michael shelter. A recluse such as he probably doesn’t watch tv or listen to the radio, and apparently he has no interest in discovering the identity of the savage man in the mask who tried to murder him. He continues on with day-to-day caring for Michael and doing whatever backwoods country bumpkins do, until a year later on Halloween when Michael wakes up and swiftly ends his life.
Jamie is in a children’s psychiatric ward, and has inexplicably lost the ability to speak. Dr. Loomis continues to hover over her, convinced that Michael is alive and hoping to exploit Jamie’s psychic bond with him. Loomis’ obsession with Michael at this point might almost be pathetic if he wasn’t always right when it comes to all things Michael. Meanwhile, Michael returns to Haddonfield and stalks Rachel up into her second story bedroom. He stabs her with a pair of scissors. In the first act, he kills one of the survivors he’d been chasing for the entirety of the previous movie.
For the rest of the movie, no one really notices Rachel’s absence, but ever-present is another teenage girl, Tina, a person we haven’t met who has a sisterly bond with Jamie. Although very attractive, she is extremely annoying, and we relish the moment when Michael finally dispatches her.
Michael chases Jamie, kills a bunch of minor characters, and then chases her some more. It all culminates in a coup-de-grace in the old Myers house, where Jamie, ready to die, calls Michael “Uncle”, and convinces him to unmask. What a disappointment for the audience when all we see is a shadowy silhouette with a single tear escaping one eye. Dr. Loomis, after being bloodied up something fierce for trying to reason with Michael (Really, Doctor?), reappears and traps Michael underneath a chain-link net. He then attempts to cave Michael’s skull in with a two-by-four, until they both collapse, one on top of the other.
In the next scene, Michael is sitting in a jail cell with his back turned to Jamie as she tells the sheriff that her uncle will never die. And that might have been the end of it . . .
. . . but then in a very bizarre twist in the story, a mysterious stranger clad in a black fedora, trench coat, and spurred boots shoots his way into the police station with an automatic weapon. As Jamie wanders through the police station that is half on fire, she approaches Michael’s cell, which is of course empty. We are left with Jamie moaning “No!” as the shot fades to black, scratching our heads and asking ourselves what the hell just happened, and do we even care.
It’s hard to tell whether this baffling final scene was meant to set up another sequel, or if the writers just gave up. This definitely marked the end of the young Jamie story arc, though.
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995): This movie is the absolute low point of the series, and I don’t want to dwell on it too long. The story is mind-boggling, but here goes: Six years after the events of the previous film, Michael and the man in black have absconded with a kidnapped Jamie, who has been recast by an actress who looks nothing like Danielle Harris, the actress who portrayed Jamie in the previous films. She is fifteen, and has been impregnated, presumably in a rape from her Uncle Michael. She gives birth ceremoniously in some dark compound with an audience of creepy druids, and then a guilt-ridden nurse helps Jamie escape with her baby. Right now we’re still wondering why Michael has chosen to forgo killing his niece in favor of creating an incestuous child with her, since he doesn’t speak and has no apparent interest in sex. Those of us still interested in the franchise waited six years for answers, and this was the best the writers could do.
So Jamie gets her baby to safety before Michael tracks her to a remote barnyard, where the tosses her onto a corn thresher and turns it on, tearing apart her insides. In the first act, he kills one of the survivors he’d been chasing for the entirety of the previous two movies.
So what’s next? Laurie’s dead. Jamie’s dead. Is there anyone left in clan Myers to kill? There’s the inbred baby, but why go to the trouble of making him if you were just going to kill him? We don’t know, and we barely care. Dr. Loomis’ life is given meaning again when he learns of Michael’s return, and he comes out of retirement. No big surprise there. Paul Rudd, just before the takeoff of his career, shamelessly takes on the role of Tommy Doyle, the little boy that Laurie babysat for in the original, the boy who believed in the boogeyman. Tommy has spent the last sixteen years learning of Michael’s origins, and here the Samhain subplot that was introduced in Halloween II is expanded. Tommy believes Michael is under the curse of Thorn by the Druid cult. Thorn is an ancient Druid symbol that represented a demon that spread sickness and caused destruction. To prevent this, a child from each tribe was chosen to inherit the curse of Thorn to offer a blood sacrifice of its next of kin on the night of Samhain (Halloween). When the corresponding Thorn constellation appears, Michael appears. The curse explains why Michael is out to kill his family and also accounts for his superhuman abilities. Tommy believes that the incest baby will be Michael’s final sacrifice.
Michael serial-kills the family that’s moved into the old Myers house, and eventually has a final confrontation with Tommy, Dr. Loomis, and some other characters not even worth mentioning. The murders give the impression that Michael is just going through the motions, that the audience is simple-minded, and that the writers simply aren’t hungry anymore. The movie has its “Michael dies, or does he?” finale with Michael’s mask on the ground but no body, and hard core fans were left to mourn the loss of one of their most beloved psychopaths, if not in death, then at least in story-telling quality.
This would be the last time we would see Donald Pleasance reprise his role as Dr. Sam Loomis before the actor passed away in late 1995. Aside from Michael, Loomis was the one beige waist-coated constant we could count on to add some depth and entertainment to the story.
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998): A clever play on words. Not really a reboot, but not really a continuation of the story. Or if it was, it certainly swept some of the series’ continuity under the rug.
So here’s the plot: It turns out that Laurie Strode is alive and well, and living in California with her son, John, played by Josh Hartnett. Apparently she faked her own death for fear of Michael finding her, even though he’s supposed to be dead. Absent without explanation is Jimmy Lloyd, presumably John’s father. Laurie hasn’t forgotten about Halloween night, 1978, and Michael still haunts her nightmares. What she has forgotten about though is the daughter she left behind in Haddonfield, and we’ll never know if she’s learned the fate of the brutally murdered Jamie, or that she’s a grandmother/aunt. We’ll also never know why she kept the son and left the daughter, but are we really worried about character motivation at this point? Dr. Loomis has passed away, and Michael has uncovered Laurie’s whereabouts. He makes a masked journey across the country to kill his sister twenty years to the night that he first terrorized her. He kills a lot of people, we have to suffer LL Cool J’s presence as an actor, and there is a chilling reunion between Michael and Laurie. When Laurie “kills” Michael with a butcher’s knife, they load his corpse onto an ambulance in a body bag, but then Laurie, axe in hand, steals the ambulance to make sure the job gets done right once and for all. Michael wakes up and after a brief scuffle the ambulance flies off of the highway and rolls down a steep hill. Michael and Laurie are thrown clear, but Michael in crushed between the ambulance and a tree limb. Laurie has a brief but tender moment with Michael, eyes locked on each other, before she uses the axe to separate his head from his shoulders. This should be the end of it, right?
This actually was a decent horror film that breathed some life back into the franchise. It was great to have Jaime Lee Curtis back as Laurie Strode. This enthusiasm from long time fans, however, would be short lived.
Halloween: Resurrection (2002): Some aspiring Hollywood hacks just don’t know how to leave well enough alone. Not when major studios keep funding these farces. Okay, where to begin? Well, it wasn’t actually Michael that Laurie beheaded; it was an EMT with a crushed throat who Michael, with his mask, pulled the old switcheroo with. The EMT simply couldn’t tell Laurie the truth of his identity. This plot-line is a desperate act to keep the story going, and a slap in the face to longtime fans who are reluctant to dignify it by acknowledging it. I don’t even have the energy to attempt to explain it in full.
Anyway, Laurie herself is now in a mental institution in a state of extreme guilt over the mistake she’s made. Ever since Sarah Connor, all these strong female characters seem to be sent to the loony bin as a penance for doing what needs to be done. So she lures Michael in, trying to trap and kill him, but that goes terribly wrong and he stabs her in the chest. After kissing his masked face, her final uttering to him is to say, “See you in hell, Michael.” And then she dies. In the first act, Michael kills one of the survivors he’s been chasing for the entirety of the series.
You might wonder what was next for Michael now that he’s killed Laurie. Well, it turns out he just wants rest and relaxation after achieving his life’s ambition, and returns to the old Myers house in Haddonfield. There he finds a reality show based on his local legend being filmed in his childhood home. Needless to say, he’s pissed. He murders all of the contestants, one-by-by one, and then moves on to the show’s producers, played by Tyra Banks and Busta Rhymes. Busta’s character, Freddie, has a showdown with Michael where he displays his martial arts prowess, and by now long time fans have left the theater. Freddie, after defeating Michael in chains and flames, changes his ways, contrite for his exploitation of the horror that’s plagued Haddonfield for two decades, and expresses this sentiment in a charged press conference. Michael, meanwhile, has been transported to the local morgue, where he is left alone with an attractive female mortician who should know better. Michael’s eyes pop open before the shot switches to the ending credits, and guys like me who used to love this character were praying that that would just be the end of it. You see, Michael Myers can’t die, and since he can’t die, Hollywood can keep making these movies as much as it wants, with the scripts getting dumber and the producers laughing all the way to the bank.
I have no intention of getting into Rob Zombie’s reboot, where everyone is grimy and long-haired just like Rob Zombie himself, and the audience thinks that it’s the seventies until one of the characters takes out a cell phone. I won’t get into how Dr. Loomis is portrayed as a camera whore who’s in love with his own celebrity rather than a psychiatrist who wants to bring a killer to justice. I won’t get into the outlandish alternate ending, to the tune of “Love Hurts”, of the second installment. Maybe next year. I’m actually a fan of Zombie’s reimagining. Truth be told, even after all the shit I’ve talked above, I’m still a very big fan of all of these movies. I’m a fan, and I’ll keep going to see them, because they all star my favorite maniacal slasher from the genre, Michael Myers. Happy Halloween, everyone.