Today I will be celebrating 40 years since the release of John Carpenter’s horror classic Halloween by seeing a special anniversary showing at our local Picture House. In light of this milestone, as well as the coinciding release of the as ever imaginatively titled ‘Halloween 2018,’ I am posting a series on the lore of the Halloween franchise. I will cover Halloween 1-3 individually, 5-6 together, and 7-8 together with maybe a brief note on Rob Zombie’s ‘re-imaginings.’
Worse than a sequel
In my eyes, what is so much worse than a bad sequel or the modern ‘re-imagining’ of a classic film is the current craze for erasing the history and lore of a franchise so that it can run on and on unencumbered in a new direction. The Halloween films are undoubtedly the worst offenders with the latest installment, ‘Halloween 2018,’ depicting a Back to the Future 2 style vision of a possible outcome for Laurie Strode had she not died (technically more than once) earlier in the franchise. The series now has as many dead ends as dead bodies and it’s a shame; as nearly all the Halloween sequels have achieved some level of cult status and are beloved by fans if not critics.
One of the key messages put across in the ‘Halloween 2018‘ trailer is that the timeline in which Laurie Strode was Michael Myers brother is a rumor or FAKE NEWS as right-wing America might say. To me, this is a great pity. A sequel can be ‘of its time,’ relevant, and attract a new audience while still ‘making good on its promises’ if you will.
However, Loyal fans are rightly excited (as am I) to see Jamie Lee Curtis return to Haddonfield in full female action hero mode. And perhaps pop culture is merely reflecting the polarisation in our current climate, but my ideal Halloween sequel would build a bridge between the lore of Curse of Michael Myers and H20 rather than a wall.
Halloween 1978 The night he came home
The film opens with six-year-old Michael Myers murdering his older sister on Halloween night after witnessing her have sex with her boyfriend. We see the crime through the eyes of the killer and it is only after we get the shocking reveal that he is merely a child.
Michael Myers is stunted, trapped in that hideous moment and doomed to forever re-live it. His psychiatrist Sam Loomis, played by the late great Donald Pleasence, recognises this describing him with one of the greatest monologues in cinema:
“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.” – Sam Loomis, Halloween
There is no Michael Myers after this point, he has no personality, no puberty, no adulthood. He instead becomes what John Carpenter likes to refer to as ‘the shape;’ a signifier for the terror or the unknown. His one drive is to return to Haddonfield to re-live the moment he killed his sister over and over. Which of course he does, escaping the Sanitarium and terrorising teenager Laurie Strode and her girlfriends.
Heroine Laurie Strode, played by the sublime Jamie Lee-Curtis in her debut film role, has very little backstory in the original movie. We know her dad is an estate agent because we briefly see him ask Laurie to drop off some keys at the old Myers house. (It is loosely suggested that this is the point at which she becomes a target for Myers) Her two best friends are the high-spirited, ill-fated Lynda (P.J. Soles) and Annie (Nancy Keyes) Laurie is the more studious, practical one of the three, taking her babysitter role the most seriously, but she does have a crush on a boy named Ben Tramer and she is happy to smoke pot with Annie on the way to babysitting.