Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
Making Michael Myers and Laurie Strode siblings in the original Halloween films was a mistake.
Michael Myers is the perfect personification of random violence – but what happens when you reveal too much? When we know the man behind the mask, we learn that’s all he is. A man. This mistake is what lead to the devolution of the Halloween franchise for years, and this all started by making Micheal Myers and Laurie Strode siblings.
With a sub-genre as oversaturated as the slasher sub-genre is, the fact that John Carpenter’s 1978 masterpiece Halloween maintains its terrifying reputation is admirable. One of the reasons I feel Halloween feels so scary is how it captures a very real fear in modern society: random violence. The fact you could be minding your own business at home, only to be attacked by a random stranger is beyond chilling!
It’s a reminder that this world can be uncaring and no matter hard you try, death may come for you in any form. The film’s antagonist Michael Myers represents that perfectly. From his lack of a clear motivation for wanting to murder our protagonist Laurie Strode to how Donald Pleasance’s character Samuel Loomis almost describes him as a force of evil rather than a human being.
The Devil’s Eyes
During the late 1970s, America was experiencing what can be grimly dubbed ‘The Golden Age of Serial Killers’ with many notable cases of serial killings were reported almost constantly, and this can be reflected in the horror films at the time. With the release of Alfred Hitchock’s groundbreaking film Psycho, horror media turned away from gothic fiction and found a new, more terrifying monster: people. This was essentially the birth of the Slasher sub-genre which became more refined with films such as 1974’s Black Christmas and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. But it was John Carpenter who perfected the genre in a sense with Halloween. Carpenter was always socially minded in his films, and as such he decided to destroy the idyllic image of suburban America that was already eroded with this rise of serial killings in the real world.
You can clearly see this in how Micheal was portrayed in the first film. The film opens with a first-person POV sequence of Michael stalking his older sister and proceeding to murder her violently with no rhyme or reason, only to reveal to the audience he was a child. What made this scene even more chilling is that the film offers no reason to what motivated Michael into doing this. When he escapes the mental institution decades later, he begins stalking Laurie Strode and her friends for no apparent reason. This almost reflects many fears of being stalked by real disturbed individuals and as seen in serial killers like Ed Kemper and Son of Sam, it can happen anywhere. That’s the true horror of Michael Myers, while he is widely inaccurate in someone with a real psychosis, he’s almost a supernatural manifestation of the very fear of random violence. This idea that someone out there could be stalking you and wanting you dead for some unexplained reason and that no environment is truly safe.
We had this idea of Michael Myers being not quite a human but almost a supernatural force…Evil as a force of nature in the personification of this man. So we put him in a mask so he wouldn’t have human features.John Carpenter via BBC
This works in the film’s favor. Halloween became both a commercial and even a critical success with audiences and critics with even Roger Ebert praising it as one of the best in the genre. While Michael Myers instantly became a horror icon, Laurie Strode also garnered positive reception as one of the earliest final girls with her character using her wits to fight off Michael and launching Jamie Lee Curtis as the first “Scream Queen”. But this success would not last as the desire for a sequel would be on the horizon.
The Franchise Killer
After the release of Halloween, Carpenter and frequent collaborator Debra Hill went on to make 1980’s The Fog, but producers of the original Halloween Irwin Yablans and Moustapha Al Akkad wanted a sequel to the original ASAP. Carpenter wasn’t interested in a sequel and after some back and forth (and one lawsuit), Carpenter and Hill decided to return to Halloween, but with the guarantee that the second film would conclude the Myers/Strode narrative. The plan was to create a horror anthology based on the holiday of Halloween. Yablans and Akkad agreed and the production of Halloween II began. While Carpenter wanted to make sure he’d write the story along with Hill, they elected Rick Rosenthal to direct the sequel.
Making Michael Myers and Laurie Strode Siblings
This frustration would haunt the franchise for years as Carpenter would make it clear he didn’t want to continue the narrative, but he had to think of something to add. Carpenter would describe the writing of the screenplay “mainly dealt with a lot of beer, sitting in front of a typewriter saying ‘What the fuck am I doing? I don’t know.’” Making Michael Myers and Laurie Strode siblings would be the major revelation of the film. Michael Myers was Laurie Strode’s biological brother and she was adopted after her sister’s murder. They even went as far as making new footage for the TV airing of the first Halloween connecting the revelation from the first to the second film. Despite these frustrations, Halloween II would be released in 1981. A direct sequel to Halloween, the film follows Laurie as she is taken to a local hospital as Michael continues his murderous rampage, fixated on killing his younger sister. The film ends with Myers and Loomis burning to death in a fiery explosion.
While Halloween II is a very decent sequel, all the mystique of Myers has eroded knowing his reason for returning to his home town of Haddonfield. As said before Michael worked as an unknowable source of violence, but with the reveal of him being related to Laurie, it comes across as…not so random. Many films fall into the trapping of revealing too much in the narrative in a desperate attempt to not repeat the previous film, which can ruin something that worked in its predecessor. One could argue that Michael could work in the random violence angle as now the threat is more personal with a loved one has snapped, but because that wasn’t planned at first it comes across inorganic and awkward. Despite this Halloween II was also a hit and with the rise of franchise slasher films such as Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, audiences were hungry for more.
Despite the growing market, Carpenter was promised to continue the third Halloween film as the beginning of an anthology series. As such he and Hill produced Halloween III: Season of the Witch with Tommy Lee Wallace directing. The film is completely divorced from the Michael Myers story (to a point that a commercial to the first Halloween is seen in the film) as it deals with witchcraft and the occult. While modern horror fans appreciate Halloween III, when it was it was torn to shreds by critics and audiences, with the central (and unfair) complaint being “Where is Michael Myers?!” This negative response made the film a flop at the box office and would be the last film Carpenter would associate himself with the Halloween series until 2018’s Halloween (we’ll get to that film later).
Unmasking the Boogieman
After the release of Halloween III, Moustapha Akkad wanted to continue the series with Michael Myers returning as the central antagonist. Carpenter and Hill even signed away ownership of the franchise as it was clear their vision isn’t what audiences wanted at the time. Now having full ownership of the franchise, Akkad would begin production of the first in a convoluted and bizarre series of films in the Halloween series fans dubbed “The Thorn Trilogy” consisting of Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers, Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.
To summarize this trilogy, both Michael Myers and Samuel Loomis somehow survived the events of Halloween II with Michael stalking not Laurie (as Jamie Lee Curtis didn’t want to return to the franchise at the time), but instead her daughter Jamie Lloyd. Throughout these films, a mysterious cult known as ‘Thorn’ is revealed to have manipulated the events of the series as they debuted in the fifth film with the character “The Man In Black”. It turns out Michael has been inflicted by a druidic curse by the cult that compels him to kill his family.
Also, these films continue the mistakes started with Halloween II as all the mystery of Michael is gone as he’s nothing more than a pawn of some cult that even the filmmakers had trouble integrating into the series as the introduction of the “The Man in Black” was conceived halfway through production of Halloween 5 with none of the crew have any true ideas what it meant besides sequel bait. This lack of planning and foresight led to this trilogy completely ruining Michael’s character all the while Akkad wanted Michael to return, but had no real narrative in mind for the series. This is especially apparent in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers as it was plagued with production troubles and reshoots to a point there are two cuts of the film. All these issues made these films lack the terror of the original Halloween and are now just average slasher films that blend in an oversaturated genre that was already on the decline with the release of The Curse of Michael Myers.
These films became infamous among fans and put the franchise on hiatus until 1998 (the series 20th anniversary) with the release of Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. At this point, horror films and slashers began a resurgence with audiences since the release of 1996’s Scream with many slashers having a level of self-awareness. As such H20 retcons away events of the Thorn Trilogy and is a sequel to Halloween II, taking place 20 years after the events of Myers’ first escape. While the film acknowledges that Michael Myers and Laurie Strode are siblings, screenwriter Robert Zappia honed in more on Laurie’s trauma and sees Michael more like the monster we saw in Carpenter’s original vision and not a sibling, a detail that’s brought up more like an obligation. While H20 wasn’t a perfect film, it did feel more akin to Carpenter’s vision and Curtis brings home a strong performance.
In fact, since Curtis was a much bigger named actress and had more say in the film’s production, she even wanted Carpenter to return to the directing chair to complete the “reunion”, Carpenter would quit after feeling producer Akkad wouldn’t pay him the royalties he was owed since the first film. Curtis even originally wanted this film to conclude the story and while Akkad filmed a sequence hinting at another sequel, Curtis almost quit the film unless the scene was removed, which Akkad agreed to. And despite H20 almost feeling like a finale to the franchise, sadly a sequel was made with the much-maligned Halloween: Ressurection. Without going into detail Curtis made it clear she wanted the series to end and while she did reprise her role and Laurie Strode, her character was immediately killed in the first act and it seemed that Halloween again lost all the terror from the first film.
It wasn’t until 2007 that Halloween would return with what is inevitable to all horror films of the late 2000s, a remake. Helmed by Rob Zombie, 2007’s remake of Halloween and its sequel Halloween II had their own issues. Zombie also made Michael Myers and Laurie Strode siblings but created it more organically. Since this was a fresh start to the story, we see Michael’s complete origin, and while a bit cliche at times, it strangely captures Michael’s disturbing psychosis. The scene of him holding his baby sister after murdering his father and older sister is beyond chilling. Though Zombie did have the hindsight to this plot point and while Michael isn’t a metaphor of random violence, he does come across as scary (at least in Zombie’s first film), but this is also due to the performance of Tyler Mane as Michael Myers.
Undoing the Michael Myers and Laurie Strode Sibling Rivalry
So now this leads us to Blumhouse taking a stab at Halloween with their 2018 reboot/sequel. One thing that is rectified with this film is the complete removal of Michael Myers and Laurie Strode as siblings (played once again by Jamie Lee Curtis). This maintains Michael’s mysterious nature which is a big element of this film as he now represents Laurie’s trauma of the events of the first film. In a way, he now represents the modern world’s view of violence – with America’s debate on mass shootings and the current obsession of true crime, Michael is very much a perfect boogieman of this generation, just as he was in 1978. With Carpenter returning as a story consultant and executive producer, it’s clear he had an influence on this new Myers.
So with Halloween Kills ready to make its release on October 16, 2020, can Michael remain as scary as he was? Honestly, Michael works as a simple character, in fact, Carpenter credited him as “The Shape” in the original Halloween and is often referred to as “The Boogieman”. Michael represents our fear of violence in society and how random and cruel death can be. Do you believe in the Boogieman?