Countdown to Halloween #1: Michael Myers

And finally we’re down to the very last in our countdown, the biggest, the best, the #1. Of course, I’m talking about Michael Myers. His name is literally tied to Halloween, and will be for all future generations to come. When it’s Halloween and you’re at a party with a bunch of friends, what movie are you gonna put on first? Hallo-frikkin-ween. What is it that exactly makes him #1? Well first and foremost, he’s one of the most innovative characters of his time, in THE iconic Halloween movie.

He’s a curious character, whose appearance and mannerisms practically invented a whole new genre of horror film. Without Michael Myers you wouldn’t have the slasher genre as it is today. Sure it may have been predated by 1974’s Black Christmas, or even Hitchcock’s Psycho, but Halloween is the one that did it big. Nearly every old horror film cliche was properly established in Halloween, but it still holds up today because of how scary Michael Myers is. When it first came out, Halloween was lambasted by the critics, but has since been recognized as a masterpiece of horror.  Michael Myers’ look is iconic, and his opaque mask hid the true face underneath. That simple detail allowed the viewer to project whatever terrible thing they imagined upon it. As we watched him relentlessly stalk a teenaged Laurie Strode, played excellently by a young Jamie Lee Curtis, you begin to question the nature of this deranged, seemingly ethereal killer.

How creepy is this scene?

What does he want? Why does he want to kill Laurie? Why is he so hard to kill? Nowadays every slasher killer is supernaturally strong, disappears with the wind, and can seemingly resurrect from death at will. Back then, all of those traits made Michael Myers impossibly scary, and more than just a man with a knife. Dr. Loomis himself even says it better than we all could, that the boy he took care of, was pure evil.

What made and still makes Michael Myers so scary, is that he’s not out to kill for any particular reason. It’s only in later films that the connection between Laurie and Michael is made, as their familial relationship is revealed. In the first film, Michael Myers is a terrifying enigma. The fact that he stalks Laurie first is particularly unsettling, and his bright white mask contrasted with his plain coveralls creates an unforgettable image, especially against the fairly cheery autumnal backdrop of the film. He’s unknowable, unreachable, and thusly unstoppable, as is proved by the film’s ending.

Dr. Loomis tracks him down, and right as the film builds to a climax, he fires his gun six times into Michael Myers causing him to fall out of a window to his alleged death. It’s only after taking time to comfort Laurie does Dr. Loomis check to see if Myers is still there, and of course he’s not. The look on Loomis’ face is telling, as a wave of dreadful acceptance washes over him. He realized only too late the true horror that he had confronted, and knew this would happen.

 

A lot of the greatness of Halloween would be undone by it’s sequels, as Halloween 2 picks up right where Halloween left off. It’s not terrible in its own right, but it is inferior to its predecessor. The movies would only get more and more complicated, as each number affixed to the title added further complications, retcons, and nonsense to the incredibly simple yet effective tale that is Halloween. After the first sequel, there was a brief attempt to turn Halloween into an anthology type franchise, with Halloween 3: Season Of The Witch. It’s a movie that mostly revolves around masks, a witch and some other stuff that doesn’t matter. Audiences were confused and angry at the lack of Michael Myers, and rightly so. While I applaud the attempt to take the Halloween brand name into that fairly creative direction, it just didn’t work.

The people wanted Michael Myers, and would get him in droves in sequels to come. Up to 7 sequels in total, also including a remake, and its own sequel. As the sequels went on the story got more and more complicated. We learned that Michael Myers was actually a victim of a cult, who had chosen him for their dark ritual. The ritual basically compelled him to murder his family and gave him supernatural powers in order to achieve this. It sounds about as bad as it seems, and pretty much killed the franchise until it was brought back by Halloween: H20. Which was the 7th film in the franchise, and pretty damn good in its own right.

H20 was the classic reboot style film, that ignored every movie after 2, and showed us Laurie Strode maintaining her daily life in present times. Of course, Michael Myers shows up to ruin all of that again, and we got an ending to the Michael Myers character, as Laurie Strode herself finally does what nobody else had thought of until that moment, and just cuts his damn head off. The movie was really good, and supposed to end things in finality. But it made too much money, and got it’s own unnecessary sequel; Halloween: Resurrection. That movie was terrible, but it did give us a scene of Busta Rhymes electrocuting Michael Myers’ balls:

Admittedly this scene is pretty hilariously awesome.

That movie pretty much killed the franchise dead. Until it mirrored Michael Myers’ own resilience, and was brought back & remade by Rob Zombie. The remake was more or less a failure, mostly because it couldn’t commit to what it wanted to be in terms of a reimagining, or a direct remake. Regardless, no nonsense about some cult, resurrections, or any of those things are needed. The original is about as perfect a slasher film can be.

I’ve seen all of the Halloween films, and have been a fan of them my whole life. I have fond memories each Halloween of renting them with my friends, heading home, and marathoning the lot of them in one night until we all passed out. We had long debates about the minutiae of the Halloween Mythos. Stuff like what Samhain meant, or who ran the cult? Have their been other Michael Myers’s’s in the past? What would you do if your sibling tried to kill you? All of those questions and more, usually while one of the lamer entries in the series was playing. But I assure you when it came time to pop in the first one, me and all of my friends sat there spellbound. We were utterly captivated by The Shape, as he was originally billed in the credits of the original. We had long discussions about what that exactly meant. I always argued the same thing I’ve said in this article, that it makes him infinitely more interesting than another other horror movie character, due to his intangible nature.

All shitty sequels and remakes aside, the first film is a masterpiece. Michael Myers is more than a man, and yet just so. He’s a perfect mix of the ethereal, and the substantial. He’s the boogeyman, the crazy guy next door, and the escaped asylum lunatic all wrapped in one. What’s scarier than that? That’s what makes him #1.


Check out the other characters on the Countdown HERE.

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