The scariest time of the year is upon us. And what better way to celebrate than by taking a close-up look at the movie franchise that bears the name of Halloween? It’s been running (well, more lumbering and slashing) since the Seventies and shows no signs of being buried.
Central figure Michael Myers is in the Horror Hall of Fame, having terrorized the state of Illinois over the course of ten bloody chapters. The hollow-eyed messenger of death is set to return again in a year’s time for a whole new abbatoir-style adventure.
The history of the character is a tangled and fascinating one, so let’s try and bring some order to the chaos with an A-Z of Haddonfield’s infamous son…
A is for ASYLUM
Smith’s Grove Sanitarium was where Michael grew up, following the gruesome crime that saw him sent there in 1963. Experts hoped to get to the bottom of the evil that drove their young patient. Turned out the only therapy little Myers needed involved a big knife and a rubber mask. Years later, he managed to escape and continue his reign of terror.
B is for BABYSITTING
Michael’s home turf wasn’t the ideal place to be a babysitter. You’re home alone, it’s dark outside… you may be up to no good, either drinking or inviting boyfriends and girlfriends over. If you haven’t learned by now that Myers may break in and cut you to ribbons, there’s no saving you!
C is for CARPENTER
The creator of Michael (alongside Debra Hill) is John Carpenter, the legendary writer/director who also brought us Escape From New York‘s mercenary Snake Plissken and trucker turned supernatural ass-kicker Jack Burton (Big Trouble In Little China). Like Wes Craven with Nightmare On Elm Street, he’s tried to steer the franchise in new and interesting directions, though even he couldn’t stop the brand decomposing over the years.
As well as earning a few bucks performing his self-composed soundtrack live, he’s also lending his electronic talents to the upcoming sequel.
D is for DOCTOR
Doctor Sam Loomis attempted to keep Michael on the straight and narrow. As it transpired, he was more likely to put bullets in his patient than pills. Still, he never gave up on his quest to help the marauding master of massacre, getting himself blown up, stabbed to death and cursed in the process (depending on which timeline you follow).
British character actor Donald Pleasence played Loomis for five films. Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers (1995) became one of his final big screen roles. Malcolm McDowell had a brief stint as the conflicted shrink in 9 and 10, albeit as a different version of the character.
E is for ELECTRICITY
It isn’t just cutlery that fuels Michael’s endless murder sprees. He’s been known to get creative when it comes to bumping people off, notably with electricity. In Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers (1988) he found a novel way of cutting off the power by hurling an unfortunate dude onto a substation.
Two movies later, and actor Bradford English found himself getting fried in his own home when Myers decided to “take charge”, so to speak:
Payback of sorts was exacted on Michael in later entry Resurrection (2002), when he was killed by a massive electrical current.
F is for FRANCHISE
The Halloween saga is ever-expanding. 1978’s original had a novelization (by Dennis Etchison) that offered an explanation for Michael’s activities rooted in ancient ritual. Halloween II (1981) followed on directly before producers tried a whole new story for Part 3 two years later.
Then the much-missed Myers came back for the remaining flicks. Part 7 erased everything from II onwards before 9 and 10 remade the whole shebang. Number 11 adds to the narrative smorgasbord by sequelizing the first film. Confused? You should be.
Books, comics and toys have helped keep the myth alive over the decades. And of course it was only a matter of time before this anti-hero showed up on your games console…
G is for GAMING
Michael appeared as part of a cast of famous horror characters (including Leatherface and Freddy Krueger) for the Dead By Daylight survival game. The Halloween mode put you in the place of Myers’ unsuspecting relative Laurie Strode. Or you could play as her impassive attacker, giving you double the morally dubious fun!
With Friday The 13th‘s Jason Vorhees getting a CGI thrill ride to himself, surely the time is right for a platform romp based solely on the white-faced windpipe-crusher’s exploits…?
H is for HOWARTH
Composer and sound designer Alan Howarth collaborated with John Carpenter on the soundtracks to Halloween II and III, before taking up the bloodied baton for himself over ensuing chapters. Like Carpenter, he performs these scores live and has become an invaluable element of the Myers’ soundscape.
The Halloween theme itself is one of the most recognizable pieces of horror music. Aside from Carpenter and Howarth’s takes, there’s been an orchestral arrangement from John Ottman (for 1998’s H20). Most recently Nine Inch Nails‘ Trent Reznor had a pop alongside Atticus Ross:
I is for INNOVATION
Halloween is widely credited as being an influential “slasher” picture, giving rise to many of the conventions we associate with the genre. From the first person perspective Carpenter applies to Michael, to the slaughtering of fornicating teenagers by way of punishment, it set the tone for many similar movies arriving in its willies-inducing wake.
J is for JAMIE
Jamie Lloyd was the daughter of Jamie Lee Curtis‘s Laurie Strode. On the outside she was an innocent child caught up in terrible events. However inside she was doomed to suffer from an affliction that would force her to continue in Uncle Michael’s red-spattered footsteps. Doctor Loomis did his best to protect her during Halloweens 4 – 6 but the family tree was simply too twisted.
Danielle Harris played Jamie up until Part 5, when J.C. Brandy took over following a financial dispute. Harris had the last laugh though, returning for a different role in the last two entries.
K is for KILLS
Above all else, Michael Myers is a killer. It’s a career he’s made a raging success out of. Whatever version of Michael you watch, it’s guaranteed he’ll wipe out at least a few people per movie. Combine that with the deaths depicted in other media and you’re easily into the hundreds.
This questionable record establishes Myers as an ender of existence par excellence. And something tells me when he retires he’s going to make a hell of a whittler!
L is for LAURIE
As with any long-standing pursuit, such as mass slaughter, there’s always going to be that “one that got away”. In Michael’s case the honour goes to his sister Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis). She didn’t know he was her sibling as he slashed his way into her life. But she came to understand the dark tragedy that had befallen the clan and why his existence had been kept quiet.
This trend-setting “final girl” was thought to have been killed in a car crash but she’d actually faked her own demise to escape the Myers’ legacy. Halloween H20 saw her living a new life as a headteacher, though of course it wasn’t long before Michael tracked her down. Lee Curtis also appeared in the next film Resurrection, where she was ultimately despatched off a roof. Scout Taylor-Compton played a new version of Laurie in the next two movies.
M is for MASKS
Michael isn’t the only mask-wearer of the franchise. As well as niece Jamie sharing his interest in disguises, 1982’s Halloween III took the concept of masks in a whole new direction. Subtitled Season Of The Witch, it abandoned the Michael Myers plotline in favour of a sci-fi horror hyrbid.
The novelty company Silver Shamrock was a front for an evil scheme to destroy the population with booby-trapped facewear. Operated via a TV-based trigger, the masks would brutally destroy the purchaser. Not a great business move but the perfect marketing strategy for the end of society.
This deviation from the established formula didn’t exactly carve the audience’s pumpkin, so the iconic knife-wielder was recommissioned for future instalments.
N is for NICK
Nick Castle was the very first person to take the role of Myers. He gave form to the character known in that first entry as “The Shape” and provided a template for future performers climbing into the blue boiler suit. Castle also collaborated with John Carpenter on Dark Star (as a beach ball-shaped alien!) and Escape From New York (which he co-wrote).
O is for ONLINE
The ill-advised Resurrection saw Michael become an unexpected internet star. This is what happens when you use the family home as the venue for a horror-themed webcast. Freddie Harris (Busta Rhymes) and Nora Winston (Tyra Banks) hoped to get the world clicking. They achieved this but viewers were checking out a real life tale of terror when Myers himself appeared to join the online antics.
P is for PAUL
Before he got that shrinking feeling in Ant-Man, future Avenger Paul Rudd had an early starring role in Part 6. He played the grown up Tommy Doyle, who Laurie was babysitting in the first flick. The character survived the ordeal and so did Rudd, going on to a successful acting career.
Q is for QUOTES
I met him fifteen years ago. I was told there was nothing left. No reason, no, uh, conscience, no understanding and even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, of good or evil, right or wrong. I met this six year old child with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes, the devil’s eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply…evil.
(Doctor Loomis, Halloween)
Why won’t he die?
(Laurie Strode, Halloween II)
R is for RESURRECTION
It took Laurie Strode a long while to die at the hands of her blade-happy brother. Coming back from the dead on the other hand took a swift bit of retooling. Having returned for II, H20 and Resurrection, Jamie Lee Curtis is getting one last roll of the dice in 2018’s Halloween movie.
This one disregards everything after the climax of the first chapter, in which Michael disappeared after being presumed deceased. It seems he’s back for another shot at his sister, possibly before his hip gives out.
S is for SAMHAIN
Michael’s predilection for evil stemmed from Samhain, the Celtic celebration of Winter’s beginnings and the origin of our Halloween. Dennis Etchison‘s novelization detailed the source of Myers’ evil: the spirit of a disfigured lad from hundreds of years ago, who committed an act of vengeful brutality against the object of his affection and her lover during the festivities. The modern day slasher is compelled by this unearthly influence to re-enact the deeds every October.
Part 6 introduced an alternate explanation via the Cult of Thorn, an ancient druidic society who bore the dreadful curse whereby an individual would kill their family to appease the gods. A distinctive triangular symbol would appear on the skin of those affected by the curse. This complex mythology was discarded in later films.
T is for TOWN
Haddonfield is the destination of choice for Michael’s assorted slayings. He spent his childhood there and the presence of his family means he is destined to revisit the old place again and again to do what he does best – raise the local bodycount. No doubt the new movie will see the town play host to yet another carnage-laden homecoming.
U is for UNDYING
No matter how hard you try, you can’t keep a bad man down. Michael has been in the frame to shuffle off his mortal coil on frequent occasions, yet just won’t quit in his determination to carry on carving. Whether his strength derives from ancient times, or whether he’s merely eating his Weetabix, this is one show that’ll run and run. Infamously he was decapitated by Laurie in H20, only for it to be revealed she’d killed another man Myers had put in his place.
V is for VISCERA
Michael has left a bloody trail of destruction on his terrifying travels. As namesake Mikey (Jonathan Chapin, above from Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers) can attest, this brutal killer doesn’t mess around, and causes plenty of mess as a result. Myers has even been known to drive his fingers into the skulls of those he has a grudge against. Talk about getting a grip!
W is for WILLIAM
The starting point for the Michael Myers mask came from an unlikely source – William Shatner. Production designer Tommy Lee Wallace bought a Star Trek novelty item of James T. Kirk and painted it white. His efforts passed into horror history. Wallace went on to helm Halloween III, as well as the miniseries of Stephen King’s It.
X is for X-CELLENT
There’s an unnerving connection between the Halloween series and another film franchise… Wayne’s World. Yep, you read that right! Comedian Dana Carvey had a walk on role in the second movie, before achieving worldwide fame as Garth Algar. His co-star in the sketch turned cultural phenomenon…? One Mike Myers.
Y is for YOUTH
Michael was “Shape”d by his upbringing in more ways than most. For it was as a seemingly wide-eyed six year old that he picked up his first knife and stabbed sister Judith to a pulp. This shocking crime was only the start of his horrifying sequence of slaughter. Haddonfield thought they could keep it secret. When Myers broke out of his sanitarium fifteen years later, the cat was well and truly out of the bag.
Z is for ZOMBIE
John Carpenter is acknowledged as the driving force behind Halloween. But between 2007 – 09, malevolent maestro Rob Zombie was handed the keys to the franchise for a limited engagement. His version of the classic cadaver-maker aimed to be more psychological, exploring the reasons why Myers wound up the way he did.
Daeg Faerch laid the groundwork as young Michael, with the hulking presence of X-Men‘s Tyler Mane putting on the mask to continue where the likes of Nick Castle and George P. Wilbur left off. Whereas the Zombified Myers chronicle had its fans, the association didn’t last long and the reset button is being pressed for the latest offering, to be directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express). Jamie Lee Curtis is joined by Judy Greer and – just announced – Zac Efron! Now that’s true horror…
Happy Halloween everybody!