the story of halloween in haddonfield, illinois has been told time and time again: the night in 1963 when an angelic 6-year-old michael myers, dressed in a clown suit, brutally murdered his teenage sister, followed by the night 15 years later, again on halloween, when he escaped from a mental institution wearing his famously mutilated william shatner mask to terrorize virgin nanny laurie strode, aka jamie lee curtis, into the role that would make her the ultimate scream queen.
As Laurie, Curtis has battled the indestructible, silent but determined Michael Myers in five of the 11 films in John Carpenter’s Halloween franchise, including the most recent entry, a sequel of sorts, a remake of sorts directed by david gordon green coming out this weekend.
Of all the iconic horror franchises, none is as quirky and erratic as this one. Although the original film, Halloween (1978), is Carpenter’s signature film, it is the only one in the series that he directed. He went on to co-write and co-produce a sequel with collaborator Debra Hill, but his subsequent attempt to keep the series from becoming formulaic would end up veering off in random and truncated directions.
As a result, where most horror franchises stick to their main story concept and expand it over time, the Halloween franchise keeps getting lost and rebooted, hence the shaky continuity of the last movie. the only thing we can say for sure about the timeline is that the first two movies are paired together and occur in sequential order on the same night. after that, the franchise goes haywire, spinning through one-offs, sequels, and remakes that perpetually overlap each other.
Of course, this cyclical quality may also be why Halloween is so popular. You definitely don’t need to have seen every movie in the franchise to understand what’s going on or to enjoy the next one.
Of course, there’s another facet to the series’ enduring popularity that can’t be overlooked, and that’s the game of cat and mouse between Laurie and the horror genre’s most ruthless killer. So if you’re a fan of Michael Myers, you’ve come to the right place: let us walk you through the movies and tell you which ones are a must-have for the casual Halloween fan and which ones are skippable (mostly).
michael myers rules
Before we begin: With such an inconsistent franchise, it’s good to establish which parts of the movies are consistent. That way, when you go through your Halloween movies, it won’t matter if you skip a few. here are the main rules of the franchise, all of which, unsurprisingly, involve its iconic villain.
1) michael myers always wears his mask, and never speaks.
He is rarely seen without his mask in any of the movies. shatner masks have become the legend of horror movies. As for his voice, you only hear him speak in a movie that explores his childhood, before he became a monster. beyond that? nothing.
2) michael is usually credited as “the shape” and is always known at some point as the boogeyman.
A crediting tradition that began in the first two films and was revived on and off over the years, “the shape” returns for the 2018 sequel. The boogeyman has remained a constant.
3) michael is always obsessed with laurie strode or her closest relatives.
The reason for this is revealed in the second movie, and all subsequent movies have retained this explanation for their connection.
4) michael never runs. he always walks slowly behind his victims, and is never in a hurry.
Part of what’s so scary about michael is that he’s probably the most casual serial killer in history. he never quickens his pace beyond a leisurely walk and often appears to be almost unconcerned in his attempts to throw off his prey. Of course, he almost always gets them last.
5) michael cannot be killed.
this one is obvious, but worth noting for the record. Throughout the franchise, you’ll survive multiple gunshots, stabbings, explosions, car crashes, electrocution, being run over, crushed in the skull, set on fire multiple times, and (sort of) decapitated.
do you have all that? great. Let’s trick-or-treat!
halloween (1978): the one that started a whole genre
Tagline: “The night HE came home!”
is it a trick or a treat? definitely a treat.
Halloween is famous for many reasons. single-handedly launched the slasher movie era. It’s John Carpenter’s breakout movie, a low-budget independent film that made astronomical profits and launched his career. It has one of the most famous horror film and theme scores in history, written by the carpenter himself. It’s still an incredibly creepy movie, filled with lingering and now iconic shots of his killer stalking through idyllic suburbia, biding his time or casually watching his murders. And, more importantly, it introduced us to one of horror’s most famous villains, destined to be eternally mentioned alongside Freddy and Jason.
Halloween is often credited as the first example of the slasher horror subgenre and for introducing the world to the concept of the final girl: the only girl, usually noted for her virginal qualities, who manages to survive the movie. massacre of all her counterparts.
except none of those things are true. The slash-merry giallo genre of Italian noir thrillers predates Halloween by about a decade, and two previous slasher movies gave us the prototypical Final Girls: Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Canadian cult classic Black Christmas. , which premiered within a few months of each other in 1974.
However, The Carpenter’s Tale served to incorporate both the slasher flick and the final girl, thanks in no small part to the magnetism of Jamie Lee Curtis as the cunning, if mostly defenseless, Laurie strode along.
laurie typified the final female trope from the start: she was “too smart” for boys and dressed like a scruffy housewife, contrasting the other girls with their modern fashion and sexual exploration; in other words, she embodied the kind of chaste virtue that ensured her survival. But Curtis managed to pull off this role with a kind of fierce, gleaming cunning beneath the passive exterior, and two decades later, in his return to the franchise after a long hiatus, he really got rid of the helpless act of Once for all.
Halloween’s other main character is unlikely, but a fan favorite nonetheless: Michael’s jealous therapist, Dr. loomis, played by the always crazy donald pleasence, who would remain the heart of the franchise until his death.
Then there is the specter of Michael himself, played primarily by actor (and later established director) Nick Castle. As horror villains go, Michael ranks very high on the “too awesome to be effective” meter, but there’s something really and indelibly terrifying about him, from the moment he shows up for his first kill as a kid, dressed in a harlequin. he suit, until the moment he returns to quietly prowl around laurie’s suburban neighborhood, dangling a knife and wearing a mask that’s dirty, mottled, and still creepy as hell.
halloween ii (1981): the one who sealed the formula
Tagline: “More of the night HE came home.” (I guess modern horror was still working out how to really market this franchise thing, huh.)
is it a direct sequel? yes.
Is it a trick or a treat? For true Halloween fans, it’s a treat, albeit a laborious one.
halloween 2, also written by carpenter and hill, picks up right after the first movie, still on halloween night itself. With Loomis leading the police across the city in search of Michael, our killer naturally heads to the hospital where Laurie is recovering from her injuries and proceeds to kill every member of the staff to get to her. The film concludes with the shocking revelation that Laurie is Michael’s other sister, born too young to know him and shielded from the truth all her life, until, of course, her past literally catches up with her on Halloween.
What makes this film notable among the franchise is that it sets up Michael’s central conflict against the people of Haddonfield themselves. haddonfield is the only “character” to appear consistently throughout the halloween series (minus the outlier that is the third movie), and his relationship with michael changes in interesting ways over the decades. p>
As the movies go though, Halloween 2 isn’t very good. Laurie is relegated to an even more useless role than in the first film, spending the film disabled due to her injuries. and even though we’re only in the second film, the murders already feel formulated and perfunctory; Gone are the creatively displayed bodies and carefully arranged murder charts, staged to heighten the horror of all who encounter them.
maybe because it’s the same night and he’s been up all day running from the law, and oh yeah at some point he apparently absorbed six bullets in his chest and head, in halloween ii michael’s pretty “lo whatever” about how bodies fall. however, she manages to fool a really dumb cop by pretending to be dead, and she clearly enjoys that moment, so you mikey.
halloween 3: season of the witch: the one with a completely different story
Tagline: “The night no one comes home.”
is it a direct sequel? no, it has nothing to do with any other halloween movie.
is it a trick or a treat? This movie is a dirty trick for all you Halloween fans out there, but it’s worth checking out for the weirdness alone, especially for John Carpenter completionists.
After Halloween 2, Carpenter and Hill had a combined vision for the future of Halloween: make it an anthology film series rather than continue the Michael Myers story. As such, Season of the Witch, directed and written by Halloween production designer Tommy Lee Wallace, has nothing to do with the previous two films, aside from recalling a single vague line in the second film about how Samhain, on October 31, it was a druidic festival. often accompanied by a ritual sacrifice.
Nowadays, we’re used to horror franchises expanding from their original stories and going in different directions, thanks to more recent series like paranormal activity and conjuring. but the season of the witch lacked connective tissue with its predecessors and strayed too far from the formula fans had come to expect. In fact, Season of the Witch actually made the original Halloween a movie that exists within its story, completely destroying any semblance of continuity.
The Season of the Witch instead draws a line between Lovecraftian horror and a sci-fi corporate dystopia, planting itself in California instead of Illinois and hinting at a terrifying global conspiracy for Halloween night, all originating from a small rural town of the company. The Carpenter’s frequent collaborator, Tom Atkins, stars as a middle-aged doctor who is thrown into madness after a patient is killed by mysterious accomplices dressed in costume for a corporation that sells Halloween masks. yes, that’s a real sentence I just wrote.
The film weaves between Atkins’ often-improbable investigation and the sinister goings-on surrounding the factory and its town, as the company’s owner, a cross between evil Willy Wonka and Lord Summerisle, oversees everything. the entire ridiculous plot comes to a head with as much incoherence as you’d expect based on everything I just wrote.
Unsurprisingly, Season of the Witch was a box office flop, ending Carpenter and Hill’s hopes of turning the franchise into an anthology series. but then it gradually became a cult classic among horror fans; Its influence can be seen in modern horror films like Cabin in the Woods, and its fans argue that if it had been a standalone film called Season of the Witch, its reception would have been very different.
also, the season of the witch soundtrack, again composed by carpenter, contains a theme called “pumpkin carts” and it’s fantastic.
halloween 4: michael myers returns, halloween 5: michael myers revenge and halloween: the curse of michael myers: those who abandoned laurie for cute boys and evil druids
Taglines: “Tonight, HE’S BACK!”; “Michael lives. AND THIS TIME THEY’RE READY!”; “Terror never rests in peace.”
are they direct sequels? yes, very vaguely.
Are they tricks or treats? tricks, don’t be fooled: we watched these movies so you don’t have to.
I must state that Donald Pleasence is a great actor. his performance in the outback horror wake at night is unforgettable. he was a perfect bond villain. He was nominated for four tony awards! But he also loved to chew on the scenery, and the middle period of the Halloween franchise gave him plenty to sink his teeth into.
The fourth and fifth films, mass-produced in 1988 and 1989, attempt to continue the saga of Strodes and Michael Myers without Jamie Lee Curtis. A host of new writers and directors were brought into the franchise, and the fourth film replaced Laurie Strode after he killed her in a car accident, unseen, by inventing her 8-year-old daughter, an irritatingly angelic girl named Jamie.
Nothing that happens in halloween 4 or 5 or 6 ultimately matters because they’re all generic teen slashers with spielbergian toddlers and delusional complacency at their cores, and because the sixth movie quickly kills off jamie to make way for a new set of victims (including paul rudd from the clueless era) and a lot of wacky new plotting: michael apparently fathered a child with his niece jamie (wtf) while she was held hostage for, like, a decade (wtf !) into a full gothic cult (!!!) as part of another grand druidic conspiracy orchestrated by the head of michael’s sanatorium to mystically implant michael with superhuman sociopathy, because halloween.
but none of that matters either, because halloween 6 was so hated, it flopped at the box office and then its stupid plot was also totally ignored by every other movie after it.
however, one thing that is interesting in these films is the development of haddonfield as a self-aware character in the michael myers story. The police force becomes an overly anxious and hapless army facing Michael’s eventual return, while the townspeople, believing he is finally gone, make him a true urban legend.
The main draw in this ill-conceived middle part of the Halloween saga is Dr. pleasure. Armed only with a pathetic and puny gun, Loomis seems to be the only character capable of taking on Michael over and over again and surviving to tell the tale. and complacency always manages to walk a line between stone-cold sanity and insanity that keeps Looms vulnerable and endearing even in its cheesiest form.
Unfortunately, Pleasence died after filming but before the release of the sixth film, which is dedicated to his memory. And without him, there was really only one other person who could keep the Halloween flame burning.
halloween h20: 20 years later (1998): the one with laurie’s back
Taglines: “The night SHE fought back!”; “This summer, terror won’t be taking a vacation.” (This one makes sense when you realize the film was released in August.)
is it a direct sequel? yes, as the title indicates.
is it a trick or a treat? honestly, this is a treat.
Director Steve Miner wisely brought Jamie Lee Curtis back into the franchise for H20 by completely ignoring everything that happened in movies 3 through 6, other than the barely mentioned car accident that killed Laurie Strode to begin with. Here we learn that she faked her own death, moved to California and became a high school principal under an assumed identity. Michael finds her anyway, just in time for her son’s 17th birthday, and the madness starts all over again.
two things are evident when you look at h20. The first is how much the ’90s did to advance the treatment of women in horror movies, and how markedly different adult Laurie is from her lukewarm, terrified younger self. Although she is still clearly traumatized by what happened to her, she also built an incredible life for herself as an academic and a mother, and now she is prepared to fight to maintain that life. h20 is the first movie where any of the women attacked by michael, or indeed any of the victims, actually try to fight back instead of just running around in terror for most of the movie. And the movie goes one step further by having Laurie choose to stay and confront Michael even as she is given the opportunity to escape from her.
The second is the immediate impact scream had on horror movies of the late 90s. (At one point, the film shows a group of teenagers watching scream 2 on halloween night). h20 is much more character-driven than any of its predecessors, and revolves around laurie and her relationship with her son (josh hartnett). This is the moment you can see the producers of Halloween finally realizing that horror franchises can be about more than just horror.
halloween: resurrection (2001): the one where michael kills laurie
Tagline: “Evil finds its way home.”
Is it a direct sequel? It is supposedly a free sequel to h20, but we reject this premise.
Is this a trick or a treat? worst trick, stay away unless you like internet kitsch nostalgia and lots of fuzzy found footage tricks.
Halloween: Resurrection is so hot for the summer of 2001 that it’s almost worth checking out the cheesy aspects of the time capsule: the shock of early reality TV, the advent of online relationships, and of course, the way they scream and blair the witch project had given rise to a trend of such painful horror films experimenting with found footage and shaky cameras. this one sees a group of college students watching and cheering on a group of other college students, and busta rhymes, for some reason, as they invade the old myers house for a live televised reality show that, of course, turns into a house of horrors when michael shows up for some slices and dice.
where is laurie during all this? Gone is assertive survivor laurie from h20. the film strips her of her new life and plants her in an institution as a result of the ending of that previous film. she then kills her in the first 10 minutes, which gives the series its lowest point for her when she kisses michael on her mouth and promises to “see you in hell”.
What Resurrection completely misses is that Halloween just isn’t Halloween without Michael fighting a specific set of characters. To the extent that Halloween 4-6 worked, it worked because Michael was still going after the Strode family and still fighting Dr. looms away that connection and you’re left with a formulaic slasher movie that no amount of clever styling can cover up.
halloween (2007) and halloween ii (2009): the rob zombie ones
Taglines: “Evil has a destiny”; “Family is forever.”
Are they direct sequels? no, these are spiritually faithful remakes of both.
Are they tricks or treats? Very sharp treats.
From the emotionally violent opening scene, in which we gradually realize we’re looking at a picture of michael myers’ deeply dysfunctional home life before he broke out and went on his child killing spree, halloween’s version of rob zombie is billed as something different, a cut above every other movie in the franchise except the first.
By giving Michael a backstory similar to those often spawned by real-life serial killers, the film humanizes him and belies the idyllic “terror hits the suburbs” aspect of all the previous films. the film also delves into an aspect of his story that until now had only been described in hindsight: his psychotherapy sessions with dr. loomis, here played by malcolm mcdowell. The second film, Halloween II, also extends this interest in psychology to Laurie Strode (played this time by Scout Taylor-Compton), exploring the emotional and psychological connection between her and Michael.
Like all rob zombie movies, this one is full of violence and obscenity, but the deranged atmosphere makes michael feel more interesting than all the movies before it: he’s both a superhuman killer and a child clearly driven by sociological factors. that convert it. people into sociopaths. As horror movies go, these are among the best offerings of the aughts’ crop of gritty slashers, à la Wolf Creek. And because it’s still about Michael Myers, it all feels epic and larger than life in a way that few of those other movies do.
halloween (2018): the new one
Of course, we can’t tell you much about the new movie, except that it will look very familiar to Halloween fans. Laurie De Curtis is back in Survivor (and Survivor) mode. And this time, her entire family has to face Michael with her, whether they’re ready or not.
This version of Halloween pays direct homage to the original Halloween in many ways. he hopes his viewers will know and love the original film, and react to its echoes years later. Above all, this Halloween is fully aware of what Halloween movies do best: let Michael Myers terrify viewers as he leads his regularly scheduled spooky rampage through Haddonfield. so prepare to face pure evil, for the tenth time in four decades.