John Carpenter’s Halloween will always be remembered as the quintessential movie of the season. Being one of the first popular and financially successful slasher films, Halloween introduced the world to the one and only Michael Myers. Sporting a William Shatner mask, Myers slowly walked into our lives, knife in hand, with one goal in mind: to return to his hometown of Haddonfield and kill anyone he comes across.
The original Halloween still holds up wonderfully. The premise is rather simple, and yet the execution is extremely effective. While there’s no rhyme or reason to Michael’s killings, the less we know about him adds to his menace and mystery. We’re satisfied only knowing that he murdered his older sister at just six years old and was then committed to a psychiatric hospital. When he ends up escaping 15 years later and starts killing people in his hometown, it somehow makes sense. We don’t feel compelled to ask any further questions, we just sit back and enjoy the movie.
Michael Myers is at his most realistically unstoppable and menacing in the first Halloween. Even re-watching it years later it’s hard not to actually be scared of him. In an ideal world, Halloween would have been the perfect one-off, which is what John Carpenter intended. Instead the studio insisted that he and his writing partner Debra Hill make a sequel, which they did begrudgingly. Thus, the long and utterly inconsistent Michael Myers cinematic universe was born.
The most fascinating aspect of the Halloween franchise is the refusal to let Michael Myers die. This results in his steady decline as an intimidating horror villain. Halloween II attempts to bring meaning to Michael’s madness by making him the brother of Laurie Strode, the sole survivor of his killings in the first movie. Despite John Carpenter hating it, it’s not a terrible sequel, but it certainly doesn’t have what makes the first one so memorable. Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie makes the film worth watching, and Michael does what he does best at an alarmingly slow pace. If Michael’s story stopped there, it would have been a blessing.
Alas, Michael’s tale continues in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (Halloween III: Season of the Witch famously does not feature Michael Myers). This is when the momentum of the series truly begins to slow down and more familial connections to Michael are made. In a desperate attempt to keep the franchise going without Laurie Strode, the writers introduce seven-year-old Jamie Lloyd, Laurie Strode’s daughter and therefore Michael’s niece. The next two Halloween films, Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers and Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers, continue with Jamie’s storyline, going to some pretty extreme lengths in the sixth one.
In these three films, Michael is turned into an almost other-worldly being. Doctor Loomis, Michael’s psychiatrist, loudly proclaims in all of these movies that Michael is no longer human but the epitome of pure evil. This is mainly to justify how he is able to survive for so long despite being shot several times throughout the franchise. The possibility of any real tension is lost because of this. It also doesn’t help that from Halloween 4 and on, Michael’s look changes from film to film. His appearance in the first Halloween is iconic. The mask has the bumps and features of an actual human face, the hair is disheveled, and most importantly, he is very large in build and stature. While Halloween II maintains this physical appearance for the most part, the other films manage to get at least one of these elements wrong. In Halloween 4, Michael’s mask is almost laughable. The hair looks like it’s been thoroughly combed, the mask itself has an almost porcelain look to it, making Michael look anything but threatening. In Halloween 5, the mask straight up doesn’t fit properly, sticking out weirdly at the neck. And in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, his signature sturdy build is replaced with an oddly scrawny physique.
These criticisms might come off as nitpicks, but they’re important to point out in terms of the decline of the franchise and of Michael Myers himself. The attention that went into making Michael who and what he is drops off steadily throughout the series, largely due to the fact that John Carpenter and Debra Hill stopped being involved after the third movie. As seen with other horror franchises like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, movie studios and producers tend to latch on to a film that does very well financially and don’t let go of it until they’ve run it into the ground. This is seen clearly in Halloween: Resurrection, the eighth addition to the series. While admittedly being a wildly entertaining film, it reduces Michael Myers to the subject of a reality TV show. Any menace he had left is totally absent, making him a rather goofy horror movie villain.
Despite the schlocky turn that the franchise took, people are still insistent on bringing Michael Myers back to the big screen. Rob Zombie had his turn in 2007 with his reimagining, making two films produced by Dimension Films, a company owned by the Weinstein brothers who had been with the franchise since Halloween 6. With those movies not being very well received, Michael Myers remained unseen in a new light until 2018. Writer and director David Gordon Green decided to go back to basics and create a Halloween sequel/reboot trilogy that only recognizes the first movie in its continuity. While being the most well-made sequel that does justice to Michael Myers in terms of his physical presence, it still raises the question: do we need more Michael Myers movies?
The original Halloween is still known as a great horror film, and from what its subsequent movies have shown, you can’t beat it or even come close to matching it. David Gordon Green is clearly a fan of the franchise and there’s no doubt that the rest of his new series of films will look good and be entertaining, but it’s a safe bet that they’re not going to give us anything new. Halloween (2018) is essentially less a reboot and more of a collection of the best moments from each of the movies. While it technically has all of the elements that make a Halloween movie (Michael Myers, Laurie Strode, Haddonfield), it doesn’t attempt to go beyond those boundaries. It may have John Carpenter’s stamp of approval, but it’s clear that he has no real attachment to the franchise or Michael Myers anymore. If he’s able to let go of this monster that he’s created, the rest of us should be able to as well.