In 1978 John Carpenter and Debra Hill gave us one of the greatest indie movies of all time in Halloween. It has become a true classic, the theme music iconically representing the season, and the blank stare of the mask now synonymous with evil.
The story goes that on Halloween night, when he was only six, little Michael Myers killed his sister Judith with a butcher knife. He then spent the next 15 years institutionalized, and his parents died in a car crash, leaving behind his baby sister named Cynthia. At the age of 21, Michael escapes the hospital and returns home to murder the last remaining member of his family. The guy is thorough.
Cynthia, now renamed Laurie Strode by her adopted parents, is unknowingly turned into the target of Michael’s wrath. What should have been a quiet Halloween night spent babysitting, turns into a horrific evening that sees Laurie stalked and terrorized, while several of her closest friends murdered before the credits roll.
The second movie (also written by Carpenter) picks up right at the end of the first, as Laurie is being treated for wounds sustained during her escape from Michael. This is bad news for the people at the Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, because before anytime at all, Michael shows up and starts killing nurses and hospital staff at a ridiculous rate.
Random Observation: Seems to be a lot sex going on and very few patients in this hospital. I have my doubts about
how well this place was run to begin with.
During the events of ‘the night he came home,’ Michael’s childhood doctor from Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, Samuel Loomis (named after the character from Psycho), has been hunting down the masked killer, warning anyone who will listen that there is “evil behind those eyes.” Few people listen. The climax of Halloween II results in a fire at the hospital, leaving Laurie traumatized, Michael comatose, and Loomis badly burned in the process. This is where things get tricky.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), has nothing to do with the Myers mythology, and resulted in just confusing the hell out of a lot of theater goers. It generated incredible backlash that has just subsided in recent years as more and more people now seem willing to accept the film for what it is, rather than who isn’t in it.
This is where the timeline splits. There are seven more movies that feature the pale-faced monster, and among them 3 timelines.
The next two timelines both keep the Carpenter foundation as their starting point, but they take the story very different places.
The Loomis Timeline
- Halloween II
- Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
- Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers
- Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers
The first of the three timelines follows Dr. Loomis as our hero. In this lineage Michael returns to Haddonfield after ten years. He does so to kill Laurie’s daughter (his niece) Jamie Lloyd. In this storyline, Laurie and her husband die (offscreen) in an automobile accident, much like her parents did. And just as the Strodes took in Laurie, the Carruthers family takes in Jamie. The next three movies (4,5,6) revolve around Jamie, and the seemingly supernatural connection to her uncle. Rachel Carruthers plays the role of the teen babysitter for the fourth movie, and does her best to protect little Jamie while Michael effortlessly cuts through her friends, classmates, and Haddonfield PD.
For the previous decade, following the events of the second film, Michael had remained catatonic. When he finally wakes up and returns home however, he does so with Sam Loomis in tow. At the end of the movie, just before Michael is shot six thousand times and falls into the underground water reservoir, he and Jamie touch hands. When she returns home that night, wearing a costume eerily similar to the one we see in the beginning of the original film, she attempts to kill her foster-mother with a kitchen knife.
A year passes, and the fifth movie begins; Jamie has been hospitalized, and elicits little sympathy from Loomis, who believes she now shares a psychic connection with Michael (which she does). Rachel is quickly killed off with very little fanfare, and Michael cuts through a series of victims that the audience could not possibly care about. Perhaps that is the greatest weakness of this installment; aside from Rachel, there isn’t another victim that demands any sort of reaction from the viewer. This installment ends upon Jamie’s arrival at the police station, where she finds the whole place in ruins and what appears to be the entire police force slain following a mysterious gunman breaking Michael Myers out of jail.
In these two movies, some of the rules of nature and science seem not to matter, like the fact that cars will explode for seemingly no reason at all, engulfing people in flames. Haddonfield also seems to be a town whose residents have almost no survival instincts whatsoever. For a place that is famously the setting for a masked lunatic who has not only murdered several teens, but killed plenty of cops as well, an unbelievable amount of people think it a good idea to dress as said killer and taunt police, even those who have their guns drawn. At least one of these people pay the ultimate price, and our trigger happy Dr. Loomis almost ends things for a couple others. The most blatantly supernatural part (aside from Jamie’s visions and internal Michael GPS) is just how invincible he seems to have become. In the first movie he got stabbed with a coat hanger, and shot a few times by Loomis and survives. But by the time this stuff rolls out, he’s so impervious to death they could of cast A Good Day to Die Hard-era Bruce Willis to play him.
The last chapter of the Loomis Line was Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers, and it introduced us to Paul Stephen Rudd!
This time around, a grown up Tommy Doyle (the kid Laurie was sitting for in the original) helps out the Strode family (cousins to Laurie), who have moved into the old Myers place, and Loomis returns to Haddonfield one last time. This movie seems a lot stronger on the surface than the previous two, but that is only because it tries so hard to distance itself. We start out with an adult Jamie Lloyd, having just given birth to another member of the Myers bloodline, and doing her best to escape what appears to be a cult run hospital. (HMO?) While the 4th and 5th movies went out of their way to not explain anything, this film stumbles right out of the gate by trying to explain everything. Apparently Michael carries the curse of the Thorn, and this cult has plans for Jamie’s baby. It’s all very convoluted, and again features a lot of victims that we aren’t exactly sad to see go.
So the Loomis Line adds a trio of movies to the mythology, all about Jamie Lloyd and her baby. They see also see Laurie Strode killed off and the return of Tommy Doyle. None of the three movies are any good, and the best thing that can be said is they gave us Scream Queen Danielle Harris and Ant-Man’s Paul Rudd. The whole trio made a mess of the original story, and no one was all that upset to see them scraped, maybe John Carpenter least of all;
DEADLINE: How do you take it when Hollywood keeps milking your career by recycling movies like Halloween, Assault On Precinct 13, and The Thing, and why didn’t you direct any of the Halloween sequels yourself?
CARPENTER: I didn’t think there was any more story, and I didn’t want to do it again. All of my ideas were for the first Halloween – there shouldn’t have been any more! I’m flattered by the fact that people want to remake them, but they remake everything these days, so it doesn’t make me that special. But Michael Myers was an absence of character. And yet all the sequels are trying to explain that. That’s silliness – it just misses the whole point of the first movie, to me. He’s part person, part supernatural force. The sequels rooted around in motivation. I thought that was a mistake. However, I couldn’t stop them from making sequels. So my agents said, ‘Why don’t you become an executive producer and you can share the revenue?’ But I had to write the second movie, and every night I sat there and wrote with a six pack of beer trying to get through this thing. And I didn’t do a very good job, but that was it. I couldn’t do any more.
The Laurie Timeline
- Halloween II
- Halloween: H20 – 20 Years Later
- Halloween: Resurrection
While Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) appeared in five of the films from the series, the franchise’s most recognizable name will always be Jamie Lee Curtis, though she only appears in four. These four movies represent the split in the mythology. In this timeline Laurie leaves Haddonfield sometime after that night in 1978, and the auto accident that took her life in the Loomis Timeline, now turns out to have been faked by her, with some help from the good doctor. In this continuity there is no Jamie Lloyd, so Michael never returned to Haddonfield in 1988, and Laurie has been living for the past two decades under the assumed name of Keri Tate.
This bit of retcon action really cleans up some messy story, and should have made Halloween: H20 a definitive finale to the Laurie Strode trilogy. Not only would it culminate two decades of running with a fitting end to the Boogie Man, but the film itself really pays strong homage to the genre. Likely influenced by the success of Scream just two years earlier, we see the self referential nature of horror films really take off here.
For example, the influence of Psycho, not just on the slasher genre as a whole, but specifically with Halloween. The 1960 Hitchcock classic starred Janet Leigh (Jamie Lee Curtis’ mother), whom in the scene below has a bit part as “Norma”, which happens to be the name of Norman Bates’ mother in the Psycho mythology. Movies!
In the short scene, Norma is accompanied by both the score and the car from the 1960 film. In addition, she actually quotes what Sheriff Leigh Brackett told Laurie in 1978;
It’s Halloween, everyone’s entitled to one good scare.
Janet Leigh – Leigh Brackett, this stuff is eveywhere.
So the sub-90 minute feature (which introduced us to Josh Hartnett) comes to a climax with Cynthia/Laurie/Keri stealing Michael’s believed-to-be-dead body, pinning it to a tree with a van, and lopping his head off with a fire axe.
Or so that’s what I told my mother when I got home from the theater on August 5th of 1998. “Mom, they cut off his head – that’s it.” Sure enough, they proved her right for laughing at me that night, because 4 years later, they gave us Halloween Resurrection.
While not great, H20 has some poetry to it. Michael had waited 15 years after killing Judith Myers before coming back for Laurie. Then he waited 20 years before trying again, this time going to the house of the recently departed Dr. Loomis, killing the nurse from the first movie and acquiring Laurie’s new whereabouts. He also learned about the existence of his nephew, who is now the same age Laurie was in the first movie. This time around there is no Loomis to save her, and Laurie must stand her ground and end the terror once and for all. And she does. Then Resurrection comes out and undoes it all.
Like David Fincher killing Newt in the opening credits of Alien3, all of H20 is totally invalidated right at the start of the next movie. Laurie, whom we last saw running a school, raising a son, and killing evil – is now locked away in a hospital (this seems familiar). As it turns out, the Michael Myers from the end of H20 (which was clearly the real Myers) wasn’t the real Myers! Somehow he switched spots with a paramedic, and no one noticed.
So now, Laurie is the murderer of a paramedic, and no mention is ever made of her son. After a few minutes, Michael shows up and kills her. Three movies worth of watching her fight for her life, all for not, and from here a new story!
Busta Rhymes, along with Tyra Banks, Katee Sackhoff, and the kid from Rookie of the Year are going into the Myers house with cameras as part of a live internet streamed reality show. That’s about all we need to say about this one, except to note they returned Halloween II director Rick Rosenthal, who is the only 2-time director in the series prior to the reboot.
The Zombie Timeline
- Halloween (2007)
- Halloween II (2009)
Rob Zombie rebooted the franchise in 2007 to mixed reviews. As with the recent A Nightmare on Elm Street remake, this version is, content-wise, darker than the original. This time around Michael isn’t the member of a regular family who just starts killing mysteriously. No, in the Zombie Timeline we get to see much more of his backstory, and he’s quite a bit older when the killing starts. It’s all rather unsettling.
Another big difference here is how Loomis is portrayed. In the older movies, he seemed concerned only with stopping Micheal and saving lives, while in the reboot he is much more concerned with selling his book. Probably a more realistic, though cynical approach, with Loomis now played by Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange).
Rob Zombie’s take is much more cringe worthy, no doubt. It’s gritty and more real, and certainly more gruesome, but it lacks the charm of the original. And the followup movie in 2009, while not well-received, did show the director’s fandom for the earlier films. While the 2007 movie remakes the 1978 original, the 2009 sequel starts off in a hospital, appearing to be a direct remake of 1981’s Halloween II. As it turns out, this lasts only a short time, and we then see a dream sequence that would seem to represent Halloween III: Season of the Witch. And from there, more nods to the older sequels.
Something these movies did do right though, is casting. In addition to McDowell, genre icon and Oscar nominee Brad Dourif (Chucky) was cast to play the new Sheriff Brackett, and to play his daughter, they brought back Danielle Harris, all grown up. After playing Jamie Lloyd in the 4th and 5th movies, here she took up the role of the Annie Brackett. She lives longer than the orignal Annie too, surviving into the second movie. That ties her at four movies with Jamie Lee Curtis. Other familiar faces thrown in to appease horror fans included Dee Wallace (Cujo), Udo Kier (Suspiria), Danny Trejo (From Dusk Till Dawn), Lew Temple (The Walking Dead), Bill Moseley (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), Richmond Arquette (Zodiac), Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead), Sybil Danning (Howling II), and Courtney Gains (the ‘burbs). Add in the usual Rob Zombie regulars and it’s a rather impressive cast. And that doesn’t even factor in Daeg Faerch who very creepily portrayed the young Michael, or Scout Taylor-Compton who was impressive in her own right as the new Laurie Strode.
Ultimately though, the remakes seem mostly overlooked and it’s all about that 1978 classic. If you like the Laurie Strode movies or the Sam Loomis line, of if you just love what RZ did with the reboot, there are no shortage of films to choose from. And hopefully now, when you randomly catch Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers on cable and wonder “what ever happened to Jamie?” or you’re curious why Season of the Witch doesn’t feature your favorite knife wielding, babysitter killing, silent maniac, this article will have helped you make sense of it all. Happy Halloween!
Images: Compass International Pictures,
Dimension, Miramax, Universal Pictures,
and Galaxy International Releasing